Once a completely banned substance, cannabis has made its way into our everyday lives in the form of CBD oil - extracts taken from the plant parts of hemp that may offer relief from a variety of mental and physical health problems without the hard-hitting hallucinogenic dosage of full-blown cannabis.
What was once seen as a controversial substance has become a well-established part of popular health culture – but is it worth the hype? We set out to try "miracle medicine" for ourselves. With troubles sleeping, relaxing and switching off, we hoped it might provide a natural antidote to the constantly switched-on, anxiety-inducing world we live in.
But where to start? There are so many different strains and strengths of CBD on the market, and the UK seems to be in a constant state of confusion over the legality of these products. Even the CBD producers themselves describe it as “a semi-cowboy market” that “somewhat resembles the Wild West.”
Trial and error is a necessary part of the process to find a product that works for you, because what works for one person won’t necessarily have the same effect on others.
There are also a few very important things to consider before buying CBD oil. So, let’s start with the basics.
What exactly is CBD oil?
CBD oil (also known as cannabidiol) is made from the stalk, stems, leaves and flowers of the hemp plant, which contain high amounts of active, therapeutic cannabinoids.
This is not to be confused with hemp oil used in food and beauty, which is made from the seeds of the same plant.
CBD oil cannot “get you high” as the Home Office "only issues licenses for cultivation of plants from approved seed types with a THC content not exceeding 0.2 per cent".
Gemma Colao, Founder of OTO explains, “CBD is one of the main cannabinoids found in the hemp plant. It is similar to cannabinoids naturally produced in our own bodies, which help to promote homeostasis – or balance – in the body. They also help regulate physiological functions like pain, inflammation, sleep, mood, stress and anxiety - to name just a few.”
Does CBD get you high?
Colao reveals, “CBD is a non-intoxicating and non-psychoactive component found in the cannabis plant - it does not contain THC. Unlike THC, it will not get you high and is not addictive.”
What are the benefits of CBD oil? What is CBD used for?
As CBD is only just beginning to be taken seriously in the medical industry, there are currently very few conclusive scientific studies on the topic. However, CBD is believed to have significant therapeutic properties.
The World Health Organisation claims that CBD oil is “generally well tolerated with a good safety profile”. There are also some studies that suggest it may be able to offer relief for victims suffering from:
Multiple sclerosis (MS)
Cancer (and related treatments)
OTO’s Colao adds, “Our own cannabinoid levels can deplete, and as a result, our sleep may suffer, or we may feel higher levels of anxiety or pain. By supplementing our natural cannabinoids with plant-based CBD, it can help restore the balance. This is why CBD is commonly used to alleviate pain, relieve anxiety, and improve sleep.”
How long does CBD oil take to work for anxiety?
“There is no definitive answer to how long it takes for CBD oil to work for anxiety”, says Colao. “Some people report feeling the effects almost immediately, while others find that it takes a few days or weeks of regular use before they notice a difference. It is most effective to take CBD oil on a daily basis, and that will ensure an optimum, consistent level (CBD is processed in your body like any other supplement). If you are concerned about a specific health issue or other medications, it is best to speak with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement.”
How to use CBD oil for pain
Colao tackles this too. She explains, “Living with pain and discomfort has both a physical and emotional component. CBD molecules absorbed by the skin can reach the hypodermis, where they interact with the receptors that mediate pain and inflammation.
“CBD is anantioxidant, and therefore has an anti-inflammatory effect on joints and muscles when applied topically. It can also have an analgesic (pain-relieving) effect by reducing our perception of the pain. Applying CBD topically is an effective way to benefit a particular area, as the absorption into the body is faster and more effective.”
Is CBD oil legal in the UK?
CBD is legal in the UK. According to The Home Office, the legal limit for cultivation is 0.2 per cent TCH and 1mg for products. It has also been declared safe by the World Health Organisation.
OTO’s founder details that “In the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA)‘s business guidance on cannabidiol listed under a ‘novel food’, it states that the sale of over-the-counter CBD products in the UK is allowed only for existing brands that are included in the CBD Public List.”
Are CBD vapes, tinctures, capsules or edibles better?
CBD oil is available in four main forms in the UK:
Vaping allows you to feel the benefits of CBD the fastest, but scientists warn that we still don’t know what the long term effects of vapes are.
CBD tinctures are the most popular, as they can be used to dispense as many drops of the oil as you wish under the tongue and gradually increase your dosage over time.
Capsules are a great option for those who don’t like the flavour of CBD oil, however they are confined to a fixed dosage.
Edible chocolates, sweets and lozenges can be taken to mask the flavour, but do not allow as much flexibility with dosage.
CBD oil dosage
Our endocannabinoid systems all react differently to various types and strengths of CBD oil. Therefore, if you haven’t taken CBD before, it’s best to start on a fairly low dosage and gradually build it up.
An effective dose can be anywhere between 5 and 75 mg per day. CBD oil is not addictive and you cannot “overdose” on it, however there can be mild side effects if too much is taken.
The real challenge is to find a CBD oil that is as pure and potent as possible. It’s worth spending more money on a strong CBD product that you’ll only need a few drops of each day, than going for something cheap that is likely to be low quality and ineffective.
How to take CBD oil
Use the tincture to dispense droplets under your tongue and hold there for 60 seconds before swallowing. This will help the CBD to enter your system and get to work faster.
What to look for when you buy CBD oil
The first CBD oil we ever bought turned out to be a fake. Lesson learnt: Don’t cheap out. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
To avoid making the same mistake, look out for these buzzwords:
Non-GMO and organic: For the sake of purity, you will want your CBD oil to be free from pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilisers and solvents.
The concentration of CBD: There should be a lab certificate of analysis (either packaged with the product or on the brand’s website) showing the amount of CBD in the product. The lowest is about 300mg (3%), but this personally had no effect on me. Depending on the severity of what you want to treat, I would recommend starting on 600mg (6%) or 800mg (8%).
The percentage of THC: If there is more than 0.2% THC in the product, then it is illegal in the UK and unregulated.
Super critical CO2 extraction: This is generally considered the cleanest, purest, non-toxic and most efficient method of extracting CBD, but it is expensive and can hike the price up.
Full spectrumCBD: This means that a wide range of cannabinoids are present in the oil (including vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, protein, chlorophyll, terpenes and flavonoids) which is thought to be more effective at fighting pain and inflammation, with a longer lasting effect than isolates.
Trusted brand: Always do your research, read reviews and the check the reputation of the brand.
Best CBD oil in the UK
Medterra CBD Isolate
You’ve heard of dress for success but to paraphrase, supplement your way to success with a daily dose of Medterra’s CBD. Start each day with a drop or two of the famed oil that is linked to so many benefits like easing muscle pain, encouraging better sleep and reducing stress. Take pre-emptively in advance of your workout in order to prevent delayed onset muscle soreness (aka DOMS).
Safe and easy to use, the brand’s bestselling oil comes in varying strengths of 500mg, 1000mg and 3000mg that you build up in stages. It is created using the label’s 99 per cent Premium CBD Isolate sourced from hemp-derived CBD that is combined with a coconut oil carrier. The CO2 extraction method also ensures its quality and stability.
Buy now £26.99, Medterra
CBII Oil Discovery Duo 2% + 5%
The ideal introduction to the world of CBD, luxury wellness label CBII has crafted this dynamic duo set. It contains both a 2 per cent and 5 per cent oil, so you can sample the lesser concentration for around a week or so before moving onto the higher percentage.
After placing the oil just under the tongue, it can take around 30 minutes to kick in. We found it best to create a routine and use it just before bed as it made us feel very mellow and had a great effect in promoting a deeper and longer sleep. It didn’t trigger any crazy dreams or anything out of the ordinary (which we would have liked!).
The oil itself doesn’t have a great taste. In fact, of all the CBD oils that we sampled, this was the most marijuana-like of flavours. There are some pros to this, of course, as a placebo, the medicinal taste really felt like something was working and it was doing the job. Keep a drink or a flavoured something on hand to help remove the taste straight after.
As well as better sleep, this variant really helped us drift off faster and feel calm and Zen-like.
Buy now £19.00, CBII
Puresport CBD 500mg CBD Oil Tincture – 30ml
If you’re newly entering the world of CBD, decoding and deciding between the different oil strengths can be a minefield - you don’t want too much but you still want to feel the effects. Luckily, Puresport has simplified the process with a helpful quiz. Simply answer the questions and it’ll find the right dose to suit your needs, removing any stress or confusion.
The range stems from 500mg to 3000mg strengths in 500mg increments and includes topical balms, capsules and good old traditional oil. The label offers one of the highest quality oils on the market after being put through its paces by a rigorous third-party testing process, gaining a certification from the Banned Substance Control Group to ensure its free from any contaminants and remains consistent throughout.
The products are vegan, paleo, gluten and dairy free as well as contain no genetically modified ingredients. The label uses only natural ingredients. The cannabidiol is offered alongside a specialised carrier that aids in absorption.
The 500mg is the label’s weakest strength and so is a good place for begin. You can up the dose as and when you feel it’s right but to play it safe, starting here and build up. The formula is specifically designed for post-exercise recovery and we noticed a lot less muscle pain the day after a workout when we consumed a few drops of the oil in the morning. It relaxes the body and mind, reducing inflammation as it goes.
For the optimal effects, place 1ml once or 0.5ml twice per day under your tongue. Give it about a minute to absorb. Do not exceed 70mg of CBD per day.
The brand is also beloved for its Muscle and Joint balm.
Buy now £38.00, Puresport
Cannaray Bright Days CBD Oil Drops
Cannaray has made a splash on the CBD scene with its bright yellow branding and has the chops to match. The brand focuses on making cannabidiol more accessible and less uncertain to those who are concerned about delving in.
The formula is marketed as the ‘Gold Standard’ by the label and the lab tests back this up with its premium extract product that has been triple-lab tested for purity. The label is scientifically backed and is consistently researching to innovate supported by CBD expert medical practitioners and scientists. You can trace the batch from farm to finish where it remains free from any toxins, specifically THC, genetically modified ingredients, artificial colours, sulphates or dairy. It’s also vegan and is crafted with sustainable practises - minimal packaging and limited carbon emissions.
The product itself is also designed to give you the perfect quantity. The dropper is measured to 1ml and this is the daily dose that should be placed under your tongue and left there for 90 seconds to absorb before you swallow.
The ever-growing range contains oils for night and day as well as balms and gummies. The latter mark a great introduction and an easy way to incorporate CBD into your schedule with the taste factor guaranteed (a lovely orange flavour) and the exact daily dosing. These capsules also combine CBD with Vitamin D3, C and Zinc for an added boost to energy levels and the immune system.
Yet it’s the brand’s Bright Days that is the bestseller and it’s clear why. Incorporate just one drop into your life and you may just feel a gentle lift. Slight aches and pains felt unremarkable and quality of sleep was greatly enhanced. The bonus of coconut oil and the lime and juniper flavouring marks a pleasant, revitalising way to start the day. The oil contains five per cent CBD.
Buy now £18.00, Cannaray
Provacan CBD oil, 1200mg
The flavour of Provacan is very strong and bitter, which takes a while to get used to – but it works wonderfully.
Just 3 or 4 drops of this relieved painful cramps as effectively as paracetamol. Provacan is a brand developed by CiiTech, who have partnered with leading cannabinoid researchers in Israel and the UK to develop the product. They publish detailed lab reports of ingredients, so you know exactly what you’re taking. It may be pricey, but a little goes a long way.
Buy now £69.99, Provacan
OTO CBD Roll-On Oil
Not your traditional CBD oil, OTO takes a more traditional wellness approach through its rollerball application. There are three varieties; Focus, Amplify and Balance that have different purposes.
Focus is designed to help you push aside anxiety, pain and stress so you can concentrate on the task at hand. It does so with a combination of CBD, rosemary, ylang ylang and peppermint. Amplify combines the powerhouse ingredient with bergamot, bitter orange and sandalwood to give you a boost of energy, improve your mood and also remove anxieties. Last but certainly not least, Balance is for times of stress and when you are feeling overwhelmed. It combines chamomile, lavender and cajeput with CBD to give you a moment of calm and also help you sleep.
With all the oils above, you simply roll the topical formula onto your temples and wrists - ideally in venous areas - so the CBD can be absorbed. This is handy for those who dislike the taste or would prefer not to ingest. The higher 20 per cent concentration ensures that you will feel the full effects of the product with the optimum quantity of 40-60mg of pure CBD per day.
Buy now £89.00, OTO
Love Hemp CBD Oil, 500mg
Love Hemp is a premium mid-strength CBD oil with an earthy flavour, rich texture and a gentle but effective result.
Taking around 8 drops before bed ensured I got a full night of good quality sleep. The Cannabidiol is CO2 extracted and lab tested, which ensures it is rich in natural cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids and phytonutrients. There are a range of potency ranging from mild to extra strong.
The brand offers natural, peppermint, orange and wild cherry so you can choose your favourite flavour.
Buy now £30.00, Boots
Trip CBD Oil
For many, the flavour of CBD oil can be a real turn off - if you’re not into that straw-like hemp flavour (which many people aren’t), you might want to turn to Trip. Only recently launched in the UK, this brand isn’t just a pretty face (and trust us, it is - the packaging is the amongst the best-looking we’ve seen on the market). Offering a Wild Mint or Orange Blossom CBD oil tincture, both are blended with chamomile to create a more flavoursome experience without forgoing the substance.
Extracted from organically-grown hemp, these oils are THC free and come in two strengths - 300mg and 1000mg - so are suitable for both new and seasoned users. They’re also third-party lab tested, meaning you can rest assured they’re high quality as well as vegan and gluten and palm oil free, making them inclusive to almost all diets and preferences.
Buy now £19.00, Holland & Barrett
Jacob Hooy - 5% CBD
Ok so this CBD oil is not going to be winning any taste competitions anytime soon. As the instructions suggest it is best not to swallow for as long as possible after you ingest. Squeeze the pipette under your tongue with 10 drops per day as the absolute maximum. Our tester suggests keeping a tasty treat on hand or at least some water to disguise the acrid taste. But as for the effects, that’s where this CBD oil hits its stride.
While we didn’t notice any immediate physical effects from the oil, we weren’t looking for any in particular. Our tester wants to emphasise that she’s in good health so not looking for specific pain relief or anti-inflammatory benefits. That being said, it worked wonders on her mood. After a stressful week, only a few days into using the drops thrice daily, she felt much happier, more positive and was much more easy going.
There was no lightheadedness or hallucinogenic feeling that people assume will come with CBD oil (it is of course not THC and shouldn’t make you feel this way), but instead seemed to push all negative thoughts to one side. Some weird dreams may have been caused by the oil - or the current uncertain times - but that is seen only as a positive and was relished by the tester.
This is a medium strength product at +5 per cent (and there is a lower +2.5 per cent too) and is made entirely from natural hemp seeds that have been cold pressed to maintain its nutritional content - packed with vitamins and omegas.
Buy now £29.99, Holland & Barrett
Holistic Herb Premium CBD Oil Single Strength 15ml
Holistic Herb may be one of the newer kids on the block when it comes to CBD oil but the brand makes up for it with its advanced technology. They use a method of micro-emulsification that, while removing all traces of THC, make the CBD itself water-soluble and have greater bioavailability. The latter means that more of the product reaches your bloodstream and thus, is more potent. This explains the lower strength and why it still packs an impressive punch.
The oil has a natural taste with a faint orange aroma. The aftertaste is bitter but less so than some of the others on this list. After three drops under your tongue, three times a day, our tested immediately noticed better and longer sleeps as well as reduced pain from current and residual injury.
Buy now £26.99, Holland & Barrett
Endoca Raw CBD Oil – 30mg 3% CBD+CBDa
Endoca takes our top pick for a few important reasons. This CBD oil is made with 100 per cent organic hemp and is vegan, gluten free and ânon-GMO. But perhaps most impressive is the fact Endoca manufacture everything themselves from seed to shelf — a rarity in CBD oil production.
The brand is completely transparent about its ingredients and actually offer certified batch reports on their website as well as 24/7 customer service.
Endoca uses a supercritical CO2 extraction process and the quality of the CBD oil is verified by GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) certification as well as third party laboratory testing.
Offered in two different strengths, I found just four drops one hour before bed noticeably shortened the amount of time it took me to fall asleep. There was no drugged or heavy feeling but more akin to the sensation you have after getting a very long massage. It also helped alleviate cramps far better than my usual over-the-counter pill and hot water bottle combo.
The taste is bitter and earthy but an encapsulated version is also available if you’re sensitive to the taste. This is a reliable and clean product that worked consistently well from the very first use.
Buy now £26.00, Endoca
Bud & Tender CBD oil, 1000mg
A small British brand that’s relatively new to the scene, Bud & Tender use both CO2 and ethanol for extraction and filtration.
Their CBD oil is light in colour and texture, and one of the best tasting on the market with its fruity, floral flavour.
It provided huge relief from physical pain and stress within around half an hour of taking 5 drops, allowing the body to completely relax. The oil is beautifully refined and you can find third party lab results on the company’s website, making this a brand you can trust.
Buy now £80.00, Bud & Tender
If you’d like to support a smaller boutique company, Holistic Hemp fits the bill. Using plants grown on small European farms, the pesticide and chemical free flowers are handpicked (unlike most on the market) meaning the oil is high quality. It even has a full floral flavour (thanks to the plants they choose) that offers a pleasant taste without interfering with the benefits. Offering 5, 10, 15 and 20 per cent options in various forms, this brand mixes hemp with cannabis seed carrier oil to create a full-spectrum product containing a variety of cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids.
Buy now £35.00, Holistic Hemp
Hempura CBD Oil
Hempura is a small and affordable CBD producer using supercritical CO2 extraction to refine their products, ensuring purity and safety.
Around 10 drops from their 250mg tincture enhanced my quality of sleep and helped me to unwind in the evenings. I also added a couple of drops to my moisturiser each night and found it reduced inflammation and evened my skin tone.
Buy now £19.99, CBD Shopy