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As CBD becomes more popular, the range of options available grows. In the UK we have a thriving CBD market but not all products are equal, and sadly not all suppliers are what they seem. So how do you decide what CBD products to try and how do you avoid being ripped off? How do you choose a safe, legal and effective CBD product for your needs?

The following is designed as an aid to guide beginners in choosing effective and safe CBD products. The amount of information may seem overwhelming to begin with but taking the time to educate yourself now could save you a lot of money and frustration in the long run.

What is CBD?

Firstly, let’s establish what CBD is. In simple terms, Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the most prevalent chemical compounds (cannabinoids) in the cannabis plant. Unlike the more famous molecule, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD is non psychoactive so therefore will not get you high. It’s legal and safe, and has been shown to have many potential therapeutic benefits.

How does CBD work within our bodies?

Without getting too technical, CBD and other cannabinoids in CBD products, interact with the body’s native endocannabinoid system. This system, found in all mammals, is tasked with regulating a wide array of the body’s functions like mood, appetite, sleep, hormone production, and even pain and immune system responses. The endocannabinoid system is regularly adjusting these functions in an effort to keep them in balance.

A properly functioning endocannabinoid system is crucial for our health and well-being. It serves the vital purpose of ensuring our cells maintain optimum performance. CBD helps our endocannabinoid system make adjustments to bring our bodies back into balance, or homeostasis.

If you would like to take a more detailed look into CBD and how it works within the body please read my article; How CBD Works: The Endocannabinoid System Explained.

CBD delivery methods

CBD comes in many forms including oil and paste (oral use), vape liquids, capsules, edibles, tea and topical balms or creams. Which method of consumption you choose is largely down to personal preference but the bioavailability (absorption rate) varies with each method. I will discuss this further in a later post.

What are you looking to treat?

Your reason for taking CBD will affect the product you buy. Different cannabinoids and terpenes have different potential therapeutic benefits. By looking at the lab reports for each CBD product you can match a CBD product to your individual needs.

What are cannabinoids?

Cannabinoids are a large class of chemical compounds produced by the cannabis plant. CBD is not the only Cannabinoid found in Cannabis. In fact, scientists have identified over 113 different cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, each interacts with the endocannabinoid system in different ways. For example, a CBD product with high levels of CBDa may be effective for pain conditions because CBDa is a good anti inflammatory. While a CBD product with added CBG may be good for anxiety and insomnia, due to it’s relaxing properties.

Some of the main cannabinoids and their characteristics:

CBD – Antibacterial. Promotes bone growth, Reduces seizures. Reduces blood sugar. Reduces inflammation. Reduces vomiting and nausea. Relieves pain. Neuro- protective. Inhibits cancer cell growth. Relieves anxiety.

CBDa – Reduces inflammation. Inhibits cancer cell growth

CBG – Aids sleep. Relieves anxiety. Muscle relaxant. Slows bacterial growth. Promotes bone growth. Relieves pain.

CBC – Inhibits cancer cell growth. Promotes bone growth. Reduces inflammation. Relieves pain.  

THC and CBN are controlled substances in the UK. Therefore, for a CBD product to be legal, it must only contain trace amounts (below 0.2%) of these compounds.

If you would like to take a more detailed look at these cannabinoids please read my article; The Main Cannabinoids and Their Therapeutic Properties

What are terpenes?

Cannabinoids are not the only compounds found in Cannabis. Terpenes are fragrant oils that give cannabis its aromatic diversity. Terpenes, like cannabinoids, interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system. They also have their own individual beneficial properties, and when taken alongside cannabinoids, produce what’s called the Entourage Effect. So when looking for the right CBD product for you, the terpene profile is also an important consideration.

Some if the main terpenes and their characteristics:

Pinene – Anti inflammatory. Anti bacterial. Aids memory. Promotes alertness.

Myrcene – Sedative. Sleep aid. Muscle relaxant.

Limonene – Treats acid reflux. Anti anxiety. Antidepressant. Relaxing.

Terpinolene – Analgesic. Pain reduction. Digestive aid.

Linalool – Anti convulsive. Analgesic. Anti anxiety. Promotes relaxation.

Terpineol– Calming aid. Antibacterial. Antiviral.

Caryophyllene– Anti inflammatory. Analgesic.

Humulene – Anti inflammatory.

Extraction method

The most popular extraction method is CO2 extraction – this allows for plant extraction without using harmful chemicals.  Alcohol extraction is another method used but if, like myself, you are sensitive to alcohol, this should be avoided. Alcohol extraction in the hands of amateurs or scammers can lead to an unsafe CBD product but in the hands of experienced professionals it is an effective and safe extraction process.

Carrier oil

CBD oil contains a hemp extract which is mixed with a carrier oil. Hemp oil, olive oil and MCT oil are popular choices. For some people, like myself, the type of carrier oil is important. Whether down to personal taste (some carrier oils are more palatable) or allergies or intolerances, the type carrier oil may need to be considered when choosing your CBD oil. I personally avoid olive oil as it aggravates my IBS and acid reflux, but we all react differently.

How to stay safe and avoid scammers

As CBD becomes more popular, more amateurs and scammers are jumping on the bandwagon. Please stay safe by following some simple rules. By carrying out the following checks you can minimise your likelihood of being ripped off:

Get recommendations. This could be from friends or from an unaffiliated CBD support group.

Do they provide third party verifiable lab reports on request? All reputable companies will be happy to provide lab reports that prove the purity and potency of their CBD products.

Does the price match the potency advertised? Price is often an indicator that a CBD product may not be as it seems. Whether misleading labelling or down right lying about the CBD content – if it seems to good to be true, it often is.

Are the company happy to answer your questions or do they seem guarded and suspicious? A reputable company will be happy to provide you with any information they have about their CBD products.

Are they members of the CTA UK? Although not a legal requirement, to become a CTA member certain checks have to take place.

Is the company making medical claims? CBD is sold as a food supplement in the UK. To sell CBD legally companies are not allowed to make medical claims. If a company is doing so, it may be an indication that they are not reputable.

The Cannabis Trades Association UK (CTA UK).

If you don’t feel confident carrying out your own checks on potential suppliers, then buying from a CTA member or registered company could be a good choice. The CTA UK works with all sectors of the hemp and cannabis industry to promote good practice, provide practical advice and ensure consumers of legal cannabis and hemp products have access to top quality information. They also carry out checks on all members. Please note it’s not a legal requirement for CBD companies to register with the CTA, so just because a company is not a member, does not mean they are not reputable.

For more information please visit their website http://cannabistrades.uk/

Labelling

CBD products are labelled with either milligrams (mg) of CBD or the percentage of CBD, and sometimes both are present. For example; 500mg of CBD within a 10ml bottle of CBD oil is 5% strength. The 500mg refers to the total CBD contained within the 10ml bottle, while the 5% refers to the concentration of CBD.

Unfortunately labelling is not standard across all CBD products. Some companies take advantage of potential customers lack of understanding. Educate yourself so you do not become a target. The labelling should state total amount of CBD per product but unfortunately some companies deliberately confuse customers by stating the amount of hemp extract in the product, or the percentage of CBD in the extract, rather than the total CBD.  For example; if the hemp extract used contains 15% CBD and they use 1000mg of extract to make a 10ml bottle of CBD oil – some companies would label this CBD oil as 15% or 1000mg (10%), when in reality it’s only 150mg (1.5%).

If in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask questions, ask for the lab report, be direct and ask if the percentage or mg refers to the total CBD in the product or just the extract. If you are still insure, join a CBD support group and ask lots of questions or even better, choose a supplier with clear and transparent labelling.

Lab reports

Reputable companies will provide lab reports for their CBD products. These are important as they confirm the safety and potency of the product, but they also allow you to match your needs to the individual CBD product. Some, or all of the following information should be on the report:

  • Potency testing
  • Pesticide testing
  • Microbiological testing
  • Terpene profile
  • Cannabinoid profile
  • Residual solvents testing

Unfortunately some unscrupulous suppliers may attempt to forge or edit lab reports, so it’s important you carry out a few simple checks. You need to be able to verify the report is genuine, and for the company and product stated. To do this you need to check the report has the following information:

  • Name and contact information of the lab company.
  • Is the name of the client the same as the name on the product you purchased (final product)?
  • Is the name of the product tested the same as label on the product you purchased (final product)?
  • Does the report look like it has been edited?

Strength of the CBD product

A common misconception is that you need a high strength CBD product for it to be effective. In most cases, starting with a high strength can actually be detrimental, and a low and slow method of introducing CBD is preferable.

There are a few reason to start low and slow:

  • You need to give your endocannabinoid receptors time to become more active.
  • CBD works in a bell curve so once you reach optimal symptom relief, more CBD does not mean more relief.
  • Cannabinoids like CBD has biphasic properties, which means that low and high doses of the same substance can produce opposite effects, so CBD can have different effects at different doses. For some that can mean high doses of CBD are sedating but for others, high doses cause heightened anxiety or paranoia.
  • Also, we all react differently, some people are naturally sensitive to CBD, while others may find they are allergic or intolerant to the ingredients in CBD products. Taking a low dose to begin with gives you the chance to test how your body reacts without overloading it.

Therefore, taking a CBD product that is too strong, too soon is not only a waste of money, but it can also have a negative effect on your health.

It needs to be noted that certain conditions, like epilepsy may need higher doses of CBD from the outset, so what condition you are looking to treat is also an important consideration.

CBD Dosing

While we all react differently to CBD, a low and slow approach to introducing CBD is often recommended. But what does this mean? In terms of CBD oils, a strength of between 2.5- 5% is ideal, starting with approximately 1 drop, 3 times a day. This equates to a starting dose of 2-3mg, 2-3 times a day. It’s best to stick to this dose for about a week and then slowly increase until you get the desired results. As I mentioned previously, the low and slow approach may not be suitable for conditions involving seizures, like epilepsy.

Full spectrum vs CBD isolate

There are CBD products on the market that contain CBD alone (made from CBD isolate), and others that contain an array of cannabinoids and terpenes. But what is the difference? As I have discussed, each cannabis compound has its own potential therapeutic benefits. Therefore a product containing a full array of cannabinoids and terpenes should have a more beneficial effect on the body than one made from CBD alone. The combined benefits of all the compounds found in Cannabis in known as the Entourage Effect – the combined effect is greater than the individual components. Therefore a full spectrum CBD product is seen as being superior to a CBD only product.

It is also worth noting that, CBD oils and edibles made from CBD isolate, are now banned under the Novel Foods Act.

Price

I know price is a big consideration for a lot of people but please don’t base your choice of CBD product solely on price. No matter how cheap a product is, it is still a waste of money if it doesn’t contain the cannabinoids and terpenes needed to be effective for your personal health challenges. Also, price does not always reflect quality. Just because a CBD product is expensive does not mean it’s superior or the right product for you.

Indica vs Sativa

Please don’t be mislead by the Indica/Sativa debate – it’s really just a marketing term. Apart from the legality of Indica strains (which I’m not going to delve into here), the truth is, once the THC has been removed from the equation, the strain is irrelevant. CBD is CBD no matter what strain it comes from. Whether a CBD product produces a relaxing or stimulating effect is due to the array of cannabinoids and terpenes present, not the strain.

For example a CBD product containing higher levels of CBG and Myrcene (terpene) will have a more relaxing effect, while one containing more Pinene (terpene) may cause you to be more alert. Also we all react differently to CBD. Some people naturally find CBD stimulating while for others it can have a sedating effect.

Join a CBD support group

I know there is a lot of information to take in, but by doing a bit of research before starting your CBD journey, you can save yourself a lot of time and money in the long run.

If you would like to find out more about CBD, I help run a CBD support group on Facebook. All advice and information given is impartial and unbiased. 

Thank you for reading

If you would like to find out more about CBD, or you have any specific questions you need answering, please head over to my Facebook page CBD Resource Centre. 

I have lots more CBD related articles on my website. Please click here to read them.

I’m also on Facebook if you would like to follow me.

Please note: I am not a medical professional. Although CBD is sold as a food supplement in the UK, it can interact with certain medication. I would always recommend you speak to your pharmacist or GP about any possible interactions.