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CBD | Science

What is CBD Oil? Every Question You Wondered About – Answered!

Dr Abraham Benavides


Dr Abraham Benavides

Medical Doctor

If you haven’t been paying too much attention, it might seem like local CBD products have sprung up out of nowhere. Many people interested in using CBD have a lot of questions and it’s difficult to find answers backed by science.

As a result, we’re going to take this chance to answer some of the most common questions about Cannabidiol (CBD), discussing what is CBD oil and interlink with authoritative sources on the subject.

Let’s get started!

What is CBD?

CBD Oil in hands

CBD is short for cannabidiol, which is a cannabinoid.

There are over 113 cannabinoids within the cannabis plant, many of which still need further research in order to be understood.

However, the two most well known are CBD and THC.

THC, short for Tetrahydrocannabinol, is the psychoactive compound in cannabis and the reason why recreational users typically enjoy cannabis.

CBD, however, is non-intoxicating, and according to the WHO it carries no risk of addiction. CBD is legal in many more places than THC and has also been found to yield a variety of potential benefits in research settings.

CBD oil is simply a type of CBD extract diluted in a carrier oil to make it easier to dose. The carrier oil is often either MCT oil or hemp seed oil.

Yes, CBD is legal in the USA if its produced from Hemp and contains <0.3% THC.

For other countries, such as the UK, the rules can be a little more complex.

For example, while it’s often quoted that CBD products are legal in the UK if they contain less than 0.2% THC this is incorrect. This threshold only applies if used for industrial use and not for products for human consumption.

So, What is Hemp Oil?

Hemp oil is another term you’ve likely heard thrown around recently, but is it just another term for CBD oil or something different?

There are two main categorizations of the cannabis plant, known as hemp and marijuana where the hemp plant is a species of Cannabis Sativa.

Both contain CBD, but marijuana also has high levels of THC and is used for recreational purposes along with medical cannabis where legal. .

While hemp contains both CBD and THC, the THC content is less than 0.2% (0.3% in USA) on average. As a result, it is used primarily for industrial purposes and for the production of non-intoxicating CBD products.

This level of THC present in the plant is so low that it is not plausible that anybody will experience any intoxicating effects from products made from hemp.

Hemp oil is often used interchangeably for CBD oil, but it can also be used by companies retailing products without any CBD content in an attempt to deceive new CBD users.

Always look at the ingredients, and look for one of either: CBD extract, CBD distillate, hemp extract, hemp paste, CBD paste. 

Hemp oil made from one of the ingredients mentioned above is a type of CBD extract that is made from hemp flowers diluted in hemp seed oil. 

However, it is essential to be aware of the difference between hemp seed oil and hemp oil, too, in order to avoid any confusion.

Hemp seed oil is used in cooking and is packed with nutrition. However, it contains trace amounts of THC and no CBD, and will not give you any of the effects you might be looking for (due to the lack of CBD content).

How Does CBD Work Within The Body?

CBD works through a network in our body called the endocannabinoid system (ECS).

Most of us haven’t heard of the ECS, but its discovery in the 1990s has outlined it to be one of the most important systems in our body. So what is it?

The ECS is a massive neurotransmitter system, inside of the bodies of all animals except insects. It’s in charge of keeping us in balance (homeostasis) and healthy. As a result, it modulates and controls nearly every physiological system you can think of in our body.

Even the most well-established systems in our body, such as the endocrine system or the immune system are influenced by the ECS.

Cannabinoids both produced internally and consumed through plants (near exclusively cannabis) interact with this system which leads to a wide variety of downstream effects.

The reason why CBD is so interesting is the fact the ECS is connected to so many other systems in our body, and as a result can impact a variety of functions. CBD itself acts as a modulator of cannabinoid receptors.

Now that we know how cannabidiol works, the next logical question is how you should use CBD products for optimal results?

Let’s take a look:

How Should I Take CBD?

There are a variety of ways to get a dose of CBD oil, but the most popular way is simply to add a drop (or more, depending on the CBD concentration) under the tongue and leave it to absorb for 45 seconds.

cbd oil dropper and model

In general, this method provides the second greatest absorption rate (after vaping) and gets cannabidiol into your system quickly, but there are other methods that may be better for certain people.

For example, using a CBD vape pen is very popular as the effects are felt near instantaneously. Although, not all CBD products contain the same type of CBD (confusing, we agree).

Consequently, it’s important to highlight that there are a variety of different types of CBD. Each type varies significantly in terms of its overall chemical profile due to the fact some contain other compounds in addition to CBD (we will cover the different types later in this article). 

Generally, CBD vape liquids are made from CBD isolate which is made from 99% CBD and doesn’t contain many of the other compounds found in full or broad spectrum CBD oil such as terpenes, flavonoids, vitamins, and minerals.

However, this isn’t always the case, and it is possible to buy full spectrum CBD flower. This is often outlined as the most useful type of CBD as research suggests a whole plant extract works synergistically for a broader set of effects at a lower dose.

Edibles such as CBD gummies or brownies are also popular for people who dislike the taste of natural unflavoured CBD oil, and topical CBD ointments provide an opportunity for CBD to be used for localized effects.

As you can see the best way to take CBD does depend on both yourself and what you’re attempting to help get out of it. In general, simply adding CBD drops under the tongue is usually the easiest way to start your journey!

How Do I know if CBD Oil Is Genuine?

Good Vibes

Unfortunately, the growth in popularity of CBD products has also led to some less than ethical brands rushing to get on the bandwagon with sub-par products.

If you’re using CBD oil, you want to be sure you’re using safe and correctly labelled CBD supplements to ensure they actually contain CBD, especially if you’re using it regularly.

Here are some things to look out for:

CBD Oil infographic

Does it Claim to Cure Diseases?

CBD is sold as a food supplement, and as a result, It’s illegal to claim it treats, prevents, or helps cure an illness or disease. 

If the company does make such claims, it is a prosecutable offence, and you as a consumer should walk away from such brands.

Can You Find Certificates Of Analysis?

Globally, the CBD industry is largely unregulated, and quality can be hit or miss.

As a result, It’s critical to ensure any CBD supplements you buy have been tested by an independent third party to ensure they contain the labeled amount of CBD and other cannabinoids if relevant.

These tests also confirm if the product is legal (<0.3% D9 THC) and safe to consume (free from pesticides and heavy metals).

Many CBD companies are able to provide third-party test results and certificates of analysis to confirm the validity of their ingredients – enough that you shouldn’t waste your money and time dealing with ones that don’t provide this information in a transparent and honest manner.

Is it Broad Or Full Spectrum?

We briefly noted earlier that cannabinoids are said to work better together in harmony than in silo; this is known as the entourage effect.

CBD comes in many different formats, and for the purpose of this post, we are going to talk about the main ones: Full spectrum, Broad spectrum and CBD Isolate.

Full or broad-spectrum products contain multiple cannabinoids, and other essential oils which science suggests helps CBD work. 

The difference between full-spectrum CBD oil and broad-spectrum is that THC levels become undetectable in the latter; making it ‘THC Free CBD oil’.

CBD Isolate is 99%+ CBD, and it comes in a white powder form which is tasteless. Although CBD Isolate isn’t used in CBD oil much in the EU as ingestible hemp, it’s used more significantly in the states to create ‘tasteless’ CBD oils.

nature and bloom cbd oil purple image

Research has discovered that while terpenes (essential oils in cannabis) are not as potent as cannabinoids when it comes to their effects and their interactions with the endocannabinoid system, they are still an incredibly beneficial component of the hemp and cannabis plant.

While further studies are required to understand the part terpenes and other ingredients play in increasing the effectiveness of CBD, the fact they do so is pretty well established.

This means that it’s always better to purchase a broad (0% THC) or full spectrum CBD oil that contains other cannabinoids and beneficial ingredients in order to get the most out of your CBD oil.

Will Using CBD Make Me Fail A Drug Test?

This is another common concern for those interested in taking CBD oil, especially for those in highly regarded careers or positions that involve heavy machinery.

Although full spectrum CBD oil contains trace THC, this usually isn’t much to be worried about. However, if you are drug tested and frequently use CBD, you can select a broad spectrum CBD oil or CBD concentrates, which contains 0% THC.

Note that over time and depending on your body composition, even such trace amounts of THC may possibly build up over time enough to trigger a positive result.

Professional athletes may have to be additionally careful as the drug tests taken by them can often be a lot more sensitive, and are subject to cross-contamination more so than the standard workplace drug tests.

Are there any side effects to taking CBD?

CBD can lead to some side effects. However, they have thus far been infrequent and minor. With the most significant kind being associated with higher levels of liver enzymes.

Since cannabis causes drowsiness and can even cause people to fall asleep, people often wonder whether CBD can make them drowsy too as one of the side effects.

While science suggests CBD can be useful for promoting sleep, people often find CBD slightly energizing in small doses, and its lack of psychotropic effects means it usually won’t make you feel drowsy or less alert with a small dose.

Despite this, it is more likely that you could experience mild side effects such as drowsiness if you decide to take a large volume during a small amount of time.

As a result, it’s always good practice to titrate your dosage then increase it at will to avoid the higher likelihood of adverse side effects. You should also wait to see how CBD oil affects you before driving or operating heavy machinery. 

Nonetheless, if you currently take prescription medications, always talk to your doctor for advice prior to using any CBD supplements.

Can pets take CBD?

pet dog

If people take CBD and experience some health benefits, they may be tempted to share it with their pets in the hopes of achieving the same results.

But, is this likely to be helpful, or could it be risky? There’s currently little data available, and you should follow the advice of your veterinarian if this interests you.

To learn more about the connection between human and pet CBD oil check out this resource.

Why is CBD only growing in popularity now?

A big reason for this is that for decades, cannabis has been illegal across most of the world, making it extremely difficult for thorough research to be carried out anywhere.

It is the recent growing legalization in numerous locations that have led to new research studies being carried out, and the following growth in popularity of CBD products.

However, if we go back to before cannabis was outlawed, the plant has thousands of years of history of being used as a product prized for potential health benefits.

The earliest written record of cannabis use comes from 6,000 BC in China, but the earliest evidence of it being used for health and wellness purposes comes from 2,700 BC.

Such evidence has also been found from the Roman Empire and India, and cannabis has been found buried in tombs in Egypt and Greece. All of this helps paint the picture of using cannabis as a popular historical treatment from as far back as human civilisation has existed, which makes it all the more a shame that recent research has been interrupted for so long.

Final Tips on Taking CBD Oil

Work Up to your Ideal Dose

Ideal doses vary wildly by person, and it’s impossible to give a single rule that works for everyone. 

It also depends on what type of CBD you are taking, your own pre-disposed sensitivity to the compound and of course, your endocannabinoid system.

All these variable factors make standardizing dosing a complete nightmare.

The best idea is to simply start low and slow by taking a small amount of CBD (say 10-15mg), and increasing it slowly over time until you find your own ideal dosage across time. Monitoring how you feel and how your body reacts to the substance, only you will know when you’ve found your ‘sweet spot’.

To learn more check out our guide on CBD oil dosage to learn how to find your sweet spot.

Find a Product You Like, & Stick With It!

Since ingredients and doses vary a lot, switching up your usual product from time to time can interrupt any of the benefits of CBD you’re experiencing, or even stop them entirely. You may also have to reset your dosing routine to find a new sweet spot.

Spend some time doing your research to find a CBD oil you trust that’s ideally both broad or full-spectrum and third party tested.

Once you’ve found the one you like, and it works for your intended purpose, you don’t need to continue trying your luck with other brands!


You are probably starting to realise now that taking CBD can be a much more complicated endeavour than anticipated for new users.

But, it’s important to note that while it can indeed take some time to find a high-quality CBD oil and find your sweet spot, it can help to reference the fact that so many other people have been through this exact process too and found success.