What is CBD: The Ultimate Guide

What is CBD: 17 Burning Questions Answered

So you’ve heard about the incredible health benefits of CBD.

And perhaps you would like to try CBD yourself.

But hold on.

What is CBD exactly?

Is it safe and legal to use?

What CBD products should you buy? 

Worry not!

Find the answers to all your burning questions on CBD in our definitive guide. 

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Everything You Need to Know About CBD: 17 Questions Answered 

Use this as a quick reference to navigate your CBD journey and make informed purchase decisions.

1. What is CBD?

CBD (cannabidiol) is one of the 100+ chemical compounds (read: cannabinoids) found in hemp and cannabis plants. 

What’s so special about CBD?

CBD has various therapeutic properties.

It has long been a popular natural remedy in different parts of the world. Scientific studies and researchers also confirm its efficacy in treating many ailments.

But how does CBD help?

CBD use can:

(More on this later.)

A. How is CBD extracted?

Usually, CBD is extracted from a hemp or cannabis plant using two methods:

  • CO2 extraction: Uses pressurised CO2 to pull CBD from cannabis or hemp extract. It’s expensive but results in precise extraction with minimal contamination. 
  • Alcohol extraction: Uses solvents like ethanol, butane, or isopropyl alcohol to extract CBD from the cannabis or hemp extract.
    It’s the easiest and cheapest method, but it also extracts unwanted plant matter like chlorophyll, resulting in a bitter-tasting CBD extract.

Manufacturers further process the CBD extract to remove THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), residual cannabis plant compounds, and contaminants.

B. Types of CBD

When shopping for CBD products, you’ll come across three types of CBD:  

How are they different? 

Type of CBD Full Spectrum CBD  Broad Spectrum CBD Distillate  CBD Isolate 
CBD Percentage  55-70%  75-90%  99+% 
 Ingredients All cannabinoids (including CBD, THC, CBG, CBN), terpenes, flavonoids, chlorophyll, lipids  All cannabinoids (except THC), high boiling point terpenes, flavonoids  Pure CBD 
Advantages 
  • Offers the full entourage effect
  • Least processed form of CBD 
  • No risk of THC’s intoxicating effects
  • More potent than isolates 
  • Most concentrated form of CBD
  • Suitable for first-time CBD users, neutral taste 
 Disadvantages
  • Can show up on a drug test
  • Has a strong grassy taste that could put off some users 
  • Entourage effect isn’t as strong as full spectrum CBD 
  • No entourage effect 

We know what you’re thinking… 

What are terpenes and flavonoids?

  • Terpenes are organic plant compounds that give the hemp or cannabis plant its unique flavour and aroma. They have mood-enhancing and anti-microbial effects on the body.
  • Flavonoids are plant compounds that contribute to both the flavour and pigmentation of the cannabis or hemp strain. They lend antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties to CBD.

(P.S. Both terpenes and flavonoids also contribute to the entourage effect.)

What is the entourage effect?

It’s the theory that when you take all compounds in a cannabis plant together, they produce a stronger effect than when taken individually.

Read More: Explore the Different Types of CBD, their extraction processes, and their advantages in detail.

C. CBD vs THC

THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is another major cannabinoid in Cannabis sativa plants. 

What’s the real story here?

Unlike CBD, THC has a strong psychoactive effect on the body and can be highly addictive. 

In other words: it gives you that feeling of being ‘high’! (think: marijuana)

The bad news?

CBD products containing THC are illegal in the UK  — except for medical cannabis products. 

Read More: Discover the 7 Key Differences Between CBD and THC, including their effects and legality.

D. What is Medical Cannabis?

Medical cannabis (or medical marijuana) is a controlled substance used to treat certain ailments. 

Why is medical marijuana controlled?

It contains a high amount of THC.

So it’s NOT available to the general public — ONLY a doctor can prescribe medical cannabis as part of a treatment.

Fun fact: The hemp plant has a higher concentration of CBD than THC (and vice-versa for the cannabis plant). 

That’s why most CBD products are made from hemp extract, specifically industrial hemp.

E. What is Industrial Hemp?

Industrial hemp is a hemp plant variety containing less than 0.2% THC.  

The kicker:

Many countries require manufacturers to make CBD products using industrial hemp derived CBD (instead of cannabis-derived).

That’s why you’ll often see ‘hemp extract’ on a product label instead of ‘CBD extract’.

F. CBD vs CBG

While scouting for CBD products, you may have come across “CBG”.

What is CBG?

Like CBD and THC, CBG (cannabigerol) is a cannabinoid found in Cannabis sativa plants. 

But look:

Unlike CBD and THC, CBG makes up only a small percentage of the total cannabinoid spectrum in the plant. 

So it’s much harder to extract than CBD or THC — making it expensive. 

The good news?

It doesn’t give that THC-like high.

Plus, CBG can help with chronic pain and anxiety management. Studies show it can potentially help with medical conditions like glaucoma and Huntington’s Disease.

But is CBG legal?

There are no specific laws around CBG in the UK. When opting for a CBG product, it’s best to confirm the product is 100% THC-free.

G. CBD Oil vs Hemp Oil (Hemp Seed Oil)

Is hemp oil different from CBD oil? 

Yes!

Here’s how they are different:

  • CBD oil: Extracted from the flower, leaves, and stem of the Cannabis sativa plant. 
  • Hemp oil (hemp seed oil): Made from the seeds of the Cannabis sativa plant and contains almost no cannabinoids.
    It’s often used as a carrier oil (to dilute the pure CBD extract) in CBD oil products. 
Side Note: Some retailers sell hemp seed oil as CBD oil. 

Use these tips to avoid getting duped:

  • Ensure the ingredient list has ‘hemp extract’ or ‘CBD extract’ listed.
  • Anything less than £12 will most likely be hemp oil. 

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2. What are the Health Benefits of CBD?

CBD can improve your well-being in several ways, including:  

Let’s explore each benefit in detail.

A. Improved Sleep

Studies show around 45% of adults globally suffer from sleep-related disorders.

How does CBD help with sleep?

CBD offers relief from sleep disorders and can help you:

Read More: Learn how to Use CBD To Improve Your Sleep.

B. Relief from Stress and Anxiety

Anxiety and stress usually come with symptoms like restlessness, panic attacks, fatigue, and more. 

The good news?

CBD can help manage your stress and anxiety levels at any time of the day. 

Users report effects like a deep sense of calm and less mind chatter after taking their CBD dose.

C. Acute and Chronic Pain Management

CBD works wonders for pain relief and management!Be it low-grade muscle pain after a workout or chronic pain due to some medical conditions (think: arthritis).

Psst…CBD oils and topical CBD balms and rubs work best for pain relief.

D. Healthy Skin

CBD’s anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties make it a potent skin elixir.

How can you use CBD for healthy skin?

Use a CBD topical product (CBD balms, creams, lotions) to protect your skin from UV exposure, free radicals, and other harmful stressors.

Or use a specialised topical product to get relief from skin conditions like:

  • Acne and skin breakouts
  • Excessive dryness
  • Wrinkles and fine lines
  • Psoriasis and eczema

E. Other Potential Health Benefits

New clinical trials are starting to uncover CBD’s healing potential for many health conditions.

These studies show that CBD may:

Important:

A CBD product is NOT a medicine (except licensed medicinal cannabis products) and can only be sold as a food supplement.

3. How Does CBD Interact With the Human Body?

CBD interacts with our body via our endocannabinoid system (ECS).

What is the ECS?

The endocannabinoid system helps maintain the body’s natural and healthy balance (AKA homeostasis). 

It regulates sleep, mood, appetite, pain control, immune system response, and other key functions.

So how does CBD influence the ECS?  

It interacts with the CB1 receptor and CB2 receptor in the ECS to produce the desired effects. 

But there’s a catch. 

 The jury is still out on how CBD stimulates these cannabinoid receptors.

What do scientific studies say?

Studies suggest CBD does NOT bind to the cannabinoid receptors (CB2 & CB1 receptor) at all. 

Rather, it slows the breakdown of neurotransmitters, making them stay longer in your body.

Other studies indicate that instead of the cannabinoid receptors, CBD binds to serotonin receptors and some other undiscovered receptors.

Bottom line:

CBD helps the endocannabinoid system function normally and maintain the natural balance of the human body.

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4. Is CBD Safe to Use?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), naturally derived CBD is safe and well-tolerated in humans and animals.

Here are some more findings by the World Health Organization: 

  • CBD is non-addictive.
  • No reports of fatal CBD overdose exist as of now. Even at high doses, you may only experience mild symptoms like nausea, upset stomach, drowsiness, dry mouth, etc.
  • In normal doses, CBD does NOT affect any psychological or psychomotor functions.
  • Adverse effects may happen due to the possible interactions of CBD with other prescription drugs and substances.

But hold on.

What if I consume a CBD product that also contains THC?

While there are no major side effects of CBD,  THC may have a few.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):Using Marijuana (rich in THC) may cause psychoactive effects like:

  • Temporary disorientation 
  • Temporary psychosis
  • Temporary hallucinations 
  • Schizophrenia
  • Long-term brain and mental health disorders.

Bottom line:

CBD is a safe health supplement. 

But you should follow some precautions when taking your hemp extract supplement — like with any dietary supplement.

5. What Precautions Should I Take When Taking a CBD Product?

Some safety measures you should follow when taking CBD include:

  • Always consult your healthcare provider before taking any CBD or cannabis product — especially if you’re on other medication.  
  • Avoid taking CBD during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.
  • Avoid mixing CBD with alcohol and other psychoactive substances due to the risk of toxicity.
  • Opt for broad spectrum and CBD isolate-based products, so you don’t accidentally ingest THC.
  • Always get a CBD product from safe and trustworthy CBD companies with proper documentation, such as Love Hemp and Vitality CBD.

6. How Should I Take CBD?

So you’re all set to hop on the CBD train. 

Great!

But how do I use CBD?

There are many ways to enjoy CBD’s health benefits, like:

  • Oral (via mouth)
  • Sublingual (under the tongue)
  • Topical (applied on the skin)
  • Transdermal (applied on the skin)
  • Inhalation (inhaled through the mouth)
  • Intranasal (inhaled through the nose)

Now look: 

Each method has its pros and cons.

For instance, inhaling CBD offers higher bioavailability — more CBD gets absorbed and used by the body. 

But if you prefer a discreet dose, taking an oral CBD edible (think: CBD capsule or gummy) may be better. 

Ultimately, it boils down to your requirements. 

Here’s a handy chart comparing each CBD intake method:

Method of Intake  CBD Absorbed Via  Bioavailability (higher is better)  Onset of Effects After Intake 
Oral  Digestive system  6-20%  1.5-4 hours 
 Sublingual Mucous membranes under the tongue  13-35%   15-30 minutes
 Topical  Skin  <5%  15-60 minutes
 Transdermal  Skin  N/A  Around 1 hour
 Inhalation  Lungs  31-56%  3-15 minutes
 Intranasal  Lungs  34-46%  3-15 minutes

 

Disclaimer: The bioavailability figures are taken from clinical trials conducted in controlled environments and under specific conditions. The exact CBD uptake may vary from person to person.

Psst… 

Did you know that you can add CBD to food preparations?

It’s a delicious way to enjoy CBD’s therapeutic benefits! 

From tea and smoothies to pasta and chocolates, CBD pairs well with almost any food item.

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7. What Types of CBD Products are Available in the Market?

Here’s a list of CBD products available based on the intake method:

Method of Intake  Types of Products Available 
Oral & sublingual consumption  CBD oil, tincture, spray, capsule, gummies, beverages 
 Topical & transdermal application  CBD creams, balm, serum, lotion, bath bombs, bath salts, skin patches
 Inhalation CBD oil inhaler, CBD vape oil, vape juice 

8. How Much CBD Should I Take?

There’s NO one-size-fits-all CBD dose.

Your ideal CBD dosage depends on various factors like your body weight, CBD type, CBD strength, desired benefits, and more.

Starting out with CBD?

GreenBox recommends: taking a low dose of 20-35mg/day and gradually increasing it for the desired effects.     

Side Note: 

The UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) recommends a safe limit of 70 mg/day.

Hot Tip: Easily calculate your CBD dosage with our free-to-use CBD Dosage Calculator.

9. When Should I Take CBD?

There is NO right or wrong time to take CBD.

Use CBD as and when needed to experience its beneficial effects:

  • Take a few drops of CBD oil before hitting the gym to boost your workout sessions.
  • Pop a CBD capsule or gummy to keep your work hours stress and anxiety-free.
  • Unwind with a deeply rejuvenating CBD bath in the evening or before bed.

No matter when you take it, ensure to stay regular with your dose. 

Why is a consistent CBD dose important?

Like with any other wellness supplement, it takes time to notice visible results from your CBD supplement.

10. How Long Do CBD Effects Last?

The effects of CBD typically last from two to six hours.

The exception?

Transdermal patches slowly release CBD into the body, and its effects may last for up to a few days.

Now:

The exact duration depends on factors like how much CBD you’ve taken and the type of cannabis product.

But that’s just one side of the story!

While its perceivable effects last for a few hours, CBD itself can stay in the body for much longer.

How long does CBD remain in your system?

From a couple of days up to a few weeks — again, depending on factors like quantity consumed, type of product used, etc. 

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11. What Does CBD Taste Like?

Natural CBD has a grassy, earthy, and somewhat herbal taste. 

You may also experience nutty, spicy, or citrus overtones. 

The exact taste depends on the aromatic terpenes, flavonoids, and other plant compounds in the CBD extract.

But don’t worry!

Your CBD product will likely have a more enjoyable flavour.

Why?

Most commercial products blend CBD extract with carrier oil and flavours. They may also contain some additional ingredients that may affect the final taste of the product.

12. Is CBD Legal?

Here’s the deal:

CBD is a perfectly safe natural supplement. 

But there are many legal constraints around it.

Why is that?

CBD is derived from the same plant that also contains THC, which is illegal or highly regulated in most parts of the world.

That being said, CBD products with no THC (or trace amounts of it) are legal in many countries.

A. The UK

Finished CBD products containing 0.0% THC are legal in the UK.  

Read more: Here’s the low-down on the UK’s CBD Law.

B. The US

The 2018 Farm Bill legalized all hemp derived CBD products (with THC < 0.3%) by removing them from the Controlled Substances Act. 

C. Other Regions

Some countries and regions where CBD products are legal (provided their THC content is within the permissible limit set by the local jurisdiction) include:

Europe

  • Austria
  • Bulgaria
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Finland
  • Denmark
  • Germany
  • France (only CBD isolate products)
  • Switzerland
  • Luxembourg

The Americas

  • Canada
  • Mexico (restricted use)
  • Belize (medicinal use)
  • The Cayman Islands (medicinal use)
  • Costa Rica (restricted use)
  • Panama (medicinal use)
  • Argentina (medicinal use)
  • Brazil (medicinal use)
  • Chile (medicinal use)
  • Colombia
  • Paraguay (medicinal use)
  • Peru (medicinal use)
  • Uruguay

Asia

  • Japan (restricted use)
  • Hong Kong
  • South Korea (restricted use)
  • India (restricted use)
  • Israel (restricted use)
  • Malaysia (restricted use)
  • The Philippines (restricted use)
  • Russia (restricted use)
  • Taiwan (restricted use)
  • Thailand
  • Turkey (restricted use)

Africa

  • Eswatini (medical use)
  • Ghana (restricted use)
  • Lesotho
  • Zimbabwe
Important: 

For the permissible limit of THC in CBD products, refer to the relevant laws in the country.

13. Does CBD Show Up in Drug Tests?

The short answer:

CBD may show up on a workplace or athletic drug test.

But it shouldn’t be a concern.

Why?

Hemp-derived CBD is legal in the UK and many other regions. It’s on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) list of permitted substances for athletes.

But there’s a catch: 

Drug tests do check for cannabinoids like THC.

So your test may return positive if you’ve used a product with traceable levels of THC.

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14. Do I Need a Medical Prescription to Buy CBD Products in the UK?

It depends on the type of CBD product.

Let’s consider the two scenarios:

a. When You DO NOT Need a Medical Prescription

You can lawfully buy CBD products without a medical prescription — provided they are sold as a food supplement in the UK. 

Such products do not claim to diagnose, prevent, treat, or cure any disease or medical condition.

A word of caution:

Since the UK’s CBD scene is largely unregulated, there may be sub-par products in the market.

Always source your CBD supplements from trusted brands that are compliant with UK laws and have high-quality control standards. 

b. When You DO Need a Medical Prescription

You need a medical prescription from a specialist hospital doctor when buying a cannabis product that’s sold and advertised as medicine. 

Such medical cannabis products may contain both CBD and THC. 

These products must have a valid MHRA license to be marketed and sold legally.

Currently, there are three medicinal cannabis products approved by the MHRA for use in the UK:

  • Sativex (by GW Pharmaceuticals): prescribed for moderate to severe cases of muscle stiffness due to multiple sclerosis.
  • Epidiolex (by GW Pharmaceuticals): prescribed for seizure disorders in severe forms of epilepsy, such as Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome.
  • Nabilone (aka Cesamet): synthetic cannabinoid medicine prescribed for nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy. 

15. Is CBD Safe for Pets?

Research suggests that hemp-derived CBD is safe and well-tolerated in animals. 

So a CBD product should be safe for your furry friends, as long as it’s free from THC.

(P.S. All animals have endocannabinoid systems similar to humans

But hold on. 

Is CBD for pets legal in the UK?

Technically, no! 

Unlike humans, there’s no definitive clinical trial yet to assess the safe amounts of CBD for pet animals.

The good news?

Your vet can prescribe a legally obtained human CBD product for your pet.

Read more: 

  • Learn what UK law says about CBD Use for Cats and discover 5 CBD oils safe for cats.

16. What Should I Look for When Shopping for CBD Products?

When shopping for CBD supplements online or offline, check the product’s:

  • Certificate of Analysis (COA) that details third-party lab test results, THC content, CBD potency, and more.
  • Ingredient list to screen for potential allergens and harmful substances like THC, pesticides, heavy metals, parabens, and more.
    (P.S. This also helps ensure Halal and Kosher friendliness).
  • Expiration date.
  • Vegan and cruelty-free labels for your dietary preferences.
  • Labels for recyclable packaging and sustainably sourced ingredients (for the eco-conscious buyer!)

Want more tips?

Here you go:

  • Prioritize quality over price.
  • Go with reputed CBD companies like Love Hemp, Vitality CBD, and Provacan, which have proper documentation and great reviews.
  • Check for hemp seed or hemp oil in the ingredient list (Remember: hemp seed oil isn’t the same as CBD oil!).
  • Store your CBD oils and other products in a cool, dark place, away from pets and children.

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17. What are the Best CBD Products I Can Try Today?

Here’re some of the best CBD products available in the UK:

A. CBD Edible Products

B. CBD Sublingual Products

C. CBD Topical Products 

GreenBox: Safe, Effective & Legal CBD Supplements at Your Doorstep!

CBD is a fantastic healing potion. 

It’s safe, effective and most importantly, natural

Ready to kickstart your CBD journey?

Browse GreenBox’s impressive range of high-quality, THC-free, and lab-tested CBD products. 

From CBD oils and topicals to CBD gummies and capsules, we have something for everyone!