The issues surrounding medical marijuana and the legalization of CBD in the United States are pretty well known. This is not the case in the United Kingdom, so you may be surprised to learn that CBD oil sold in the UK is legal, with caveats. In this article, we outline what CBD is, how it can help you, what its current legal status is in the UK, which types of products are available to you, and what some of the most reputable companies are.
What is CBD in the UK?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of over 100 identified compounds (called cannabinoids, or phytocannabinoids) in the cannabis plant. It is probably the second-best known behind tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, but in some strains it is actually the most abundant compound.
Unlike THC, however, which is known to get you ‘high,’ CBD is non-psychoactive which means it does not have any intoxicating or mind-altering effects.
These phytocannabinoids, such as CBD, are compounds that bind directly to endocannabinoid receptors in your cells (‘phyto’ refers to plant-based cannabinoids, while ‘endo’ refers to naturally-occurring cannabinoids in the human body).
Cannabinoid receptors are found all over the body, especially on the skin, in the digestive tract, and in your reproductive organs. When you consume cannabis, you are ingesting cannabinoids that interact with various cannabinoid receptors in the body. These receptors are part of the larger endocannabinoid system, or ECS.
The ECS is an enormous network of cell receptor proteins with various functions. Among other things, your ECS is believed to be involved in the regulation of mood, immune function, motor control, memory, sleep, appetite, pain perception, bone development and much more.
The ECS also has several regulatory functions that maintain the homeostatic balance of things like energy levels, immune response, stress recovery and nerve cell protection. CBD interacts with this natural homeostatic “balancing system” to provide users with medicinal and therapeutic benefits.
The CBD molecule has a similar composition to chemicals created naturally by the body. These chemicals, as previously mentioned, are known as “endocannabinoids.” Rather than getting bogged down by scientific details about why CBD works, let’s check out a few benefits of the natural compound.
How Does CBD Oil Work?
Over the last few decades, the rising demand for high-THC cannabis strains has meant that CBD has taken a spot in the “back seat” for far too long. However, in recent years legal issues surrounding THC have sparked the development of a CBD-based market, given that the compound has no mind-altering properties whatsoever. And of course, over in the United States the case of Charlotte Figi has helped to bring CBD into the international spotlight.
If you haven’t heard Charlotte’s story, she is a young girl that suffers from Dravet’s Syndrome, which is a rare form of epilepsy that results in hundreds of seizures a week. After taking a cannabis strain with a high CBD content and practically zero THC, her seizures were reduced to just a couple per month. Soon, medical research found that CBD was not only useful for epilepsy, but also for a vast range of medical conditions and serious, potentially life-threatening diseases. For example, an increasing number of people have been taking CBD oil to relieve the symptoms of (among other things):
- Chronic pain
- Anxiety disorders
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Motor disorders
- Cancer (and the effects of cancer-related treatments)
- Psychotic disorders
Moreover, there have been a variety of medical studies which show that CBD is capable of helping patients with each of the above conditions. While the compound is by no means considered a ‘cure’ for any of these conditions, the published literature has shown that its effects may be able to improve your mood and ease associated symptoms with relatively no side effects.
And crucially, an increasing number of patients have been dumping their dangerous, costly, and addictive prescription medications in favor of the all-natural therapeutic effects of CBD.
However, as you’ve probably been wondering, what is the current legal status of CBD oil in the UK?
A Brief History of CBD Oil in the U.K.
On October 13, 2016, the Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) decided to classify CBD oil in the U.K. as a medicinal ingredient. It confirmed and updated the decision on December 30, 2016.
This of course was a significant change to the law in Britain, as it meant CBD could now be utilized legally as more than just a ‘food supplement’ (which is what the compound is currently classed as in the United States).
According to Gerald Heddel, Director of Inspection and Enforcement at the MHRA, the government agency decided that CBD should be classed as a medicine given the evidence-based conclusion that people are (and have been) using the product to help treat a long list of ailments and medical conditions.
All in all, it was a decision designed to improve the standard of CBD oil in the U.K. market, which of course is great news for consumers. (Before the change in legislation, people were largely forced to purchase their CBD oil online from unregulated and potentially unreliable sellers).
Now, manufacturers have to prove that their CBD products meet a set level of quality, safety and effectiveness standards. There is some concern, however, that the MHRA’s set of criteria may actually be too strict, which could potentially lead to a shortage of CBD in the U.K. as companies struggle to manufacture products that meet the rigid guidelines.
This is of course bad news for small suppliers, because they now require a specific license to register their CBD products as ‘traditional herbal remedies,’ which costs a small fortune (the application alone is over £100,000!).
Also, even though CBD is a direct extract from the plant, it is important to note that whole-plant cannabis is still illegal in the U.K., as it is not considered to have therapeutic value. As a result, you can still be arrested and charged with possession.
Regardless, we hope the landmark decision on CBD is just the beginning of a drive to legalize marijuana in the UK (at least for medicinal purposes), but we have to admit that such a ruling still seems a long way off — if it ever happens at all.
Types of CBD Products Sold in the UK
Even though the 2016 ruling was excellent news for those considering to start a CBD oil treatment regimen, it’s worth noting that only certain CBD products are available for manufacturing and sale within the country. These products include:
CBD Hemp Oil
CBD oil is the most popular product sold in the UK, and it is available in different strengths and comes in a form that has been extracted from the cannabis plant via supercritical CO2 extraction. The best brands sell full-spectrum CBD oil, which means that in addition to benefitting from the CBD compound itself, you also benefit from the “entourage effect” of other various terpenes and phytocannabinoids found in the raw hemp material. (Studies have actually shown that CBD is more potent and effective in the body when consumed along with these other compounds, rather than by itself as an isolate).
To consume CBD oil, simply place a few drops beneath your tongue, hold it for about 30-90 seconds, and swallow. The active compound is absorbed via tiny capillary beds, at which point it enters the bloodstream directly without being subject to metabolic breakdown in the digestive system.
(Alternatively, you could create an e-liquid form of CBD oil and vape in the same way as you normally would an e-cigarette).
If you don’t like the taste of the CBD oil or otherwise have trouble holding it under your tongue, you can get CBD in capsule form from most sellers. Capsules are super easy to take (simply swallow them with water), and they have the advantage of being pre-measured so you know the exact dose you’re getting every time. Their only downfall however is that the CBD is exposed to “first pass metabolism” in the digestive system, which means that a portion of the active compound will be broken down before it can incorporate its therapeutic or pain-relieving effects.
If you have a sweet tooth or otherwise want a “tastier” way to consume your CBD dose, you can try CBD edibles. Most U.K. based manufacturers offer things like CBD gummy bears, taffy, mints, and CBD candies that are filled with therapeutic quantities of the active compound.
CBD Lotion & Balms
If you suffer from arthritic joint pain or chronic pain in a specific part of the body, a CBD-infused lotion may be a good option for therapeutic relief as it allows you to apply the compound directly to the affected area. Topical lotions do take a little longer to work than oil, but some say their effects are longer lasting.
CBD Oil for Pets
Believe it not, a lot of sellers in the U.K. are offering CBD treats for cats and dogs. After all, it’s understood that all mammals on earth have an endocannabinoid system with receptors that respond to CBD, so why should humans be the only ones to benefit from the therapeutic and pain-relieving effects? (You can check out this article on CBD for Pets for more information on where to buy).
FAQs About CBD Oil in the UK
Hopefully by now you have a general understanding of the basic legalities of CBD oil in the UK, what some of its typical uses are, and what some of the most commonly manufactured forms of CBD are. In an effort to clear up any additional confusion or potential questions you may have, however, here is a short list of some of the most common questions we get regarding the use of CBD in UK regions:
Is There a Difference between CBD oil and Hemp oil?
Legal CBD oil in the UK comes from industrial hemp plants with negligible amounts of THC. As such, depending on the specific brand or manufacturer you may see products labeled either ‘CBD oil’ or ‘CBD hemp oil.’ For all extensive purposes, these are the same thing.
Products labeled simply ‘Hemp oil,’ on the other hand, are generally nutritional supplements made from hemp seeds. These contain no CBD, and therefore do not have the same medicinal/therapeutic properties as actual CBD oil.
What’s the Difference Between Hemp Seed Oil and CBD Hemp oil?
This question was pretty much answered in the above FAQ, but again – products that come from hemp seeds (i.e. hempseed oil or hemp oil) do not contain CBD (or more appropriately, they do not contain enough of it to have any medicinal/therapeutic effects).
Since seeds of the hemp plant do not have high volumes of active cannabinoids, their oil is used almost exclusively for health and nutritional benefits (among other things, hemp seeds are high in protein, vitamins, minerals, and Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids).
CBD hemp oil, on the other hand, is made from the stalk, stems, leaves, and flowers of the hemp plant, which (depending on the strain) contain high amounts of active, therapeutic cannabinoids.
What’s the Difference Between Hemp Products and CBD Hemp oil?
Again, hemp products are mostly used for their nutritional benefits, while CBD hemp oils are used for their medicinal and therapeutic benefits (as discussed earlier in the article).
Is CBD Oil Legal in the UK?
As discussed earlier in the article, recent legislation has made the possession and use of CBD oil legal in the UK. You can either buy it from stores (these are typically cheap, low-quality hempseed products) or you can order more potent, “therapeutically active” products online and have them shipped to your home.
Do you Need a Medical Prescription or a Medical Marijuana Card to Use CBD Oil in UK?
You do not need a medical marijuana card or a medical recommendation to use CBD oil in the UK.
How Much CBD oil Can I Take?
One of the incredible things about CBD and CBD oil is it does not seem to be toxic at any levels or doses. In fact, the World Health Organization has recently claimed in a global report that the active compound is both non-addictive and non-toxic. Many epilepsy patients take well over 1 g (1,000 mg) of CBD per day, with no apparent side effects.
However, the vast majority of people who use CBD oil daily for a variety of different purposes will find an effective dose between 5 and 75 mg per day.
How Much Does CBD oil in the UK Cost?
This is a difficult question to answer, as you can find “CBD oil” products in some stores for as little as £10 or as much as £100 (or more) for a single bottle. Like we said, however, the cheaper products are made the majority of time from hemp seed oil, in which case the have virtually no active CBD.
Your best bet, as we’ve mentioned, is probably to order from one of the reputable online sellers we have mentioned above. Most sellers offer various strengths and potencies to choose from, but in general you should expect to pay between about £30 and £130 for a quality, potent CBD oil.
How Long Does CBD Oil Stay in Your System?
There are many variables that might determine how long CBD and its metabolites stay in your system, including (among other things) age, diet, weight, exercise routine, and how long you’ve been taking the compound.
Coincidentally, we recently did an entire article on this very topic, and after reviewing several scientific studies, determined that in most instances CBD stays in your system between 2 and 5 days. (According to one study, however, this “magic number” was as much as 25 days).
*[Use this information at your own risk – we are NOT responsible for any misinformation or any misguided use of CBD or any other products based on information in this article – no matter the source it was referenced from].
Will CBD Make Me Fail a Drug Test?
The majority of drug tests test for the presence of THC and its metabolites — not CBD. However, all full-spectrum CBD oils contain minuscule, trace amounts of THC (generally less than 0.3% by volume). While it is unlikely that you will fail a drug test after taking full-spectrum CBD products, it is possible, and it has happened before.
[If you are concerned about an upcoming drug test, check out some our articles on methods people routinely use to reduce the risk of testing positive for cannabinoids].
Where to Buy CBD Oil in the UK
Although the MHRA ruling should improve the quality and standard of CBD in the UK market, it is still best to focus on reputable companies with an established reputation in the industry.
Elixinol, for example, is a world-renowned CBD seller and their oil tinctures have been featured in publications such as CNN, National Geographic, Newsweek, and CBS, just to name a few.
The company was founded by Paul Benhaim, who has been involved in hemp and cannabis industries since 1991. As well as selling CBD oil in the UK, Elixinol also offers hemp oil liposomes, Respira hemp oil, and balm.
Then, of course, there is PureKana. While PureKana does not yet have a manufacturing facility in Britain, they do have an office in the U.K. and are able to ship internationally for a very reasonable price. These guys have been known to sell one of the best forms of CBD oil in the world, and even though they are a relatively new company, they have already gained brand recognition around the globe. They specialize in CBD oil, but also offers CBD Gummies, CBD Capsules, topical CBD Ointment, and a cool new product called “CBD Pure Picks,” which you suck/chew on like toothpicks for up to 45 minutes for a potent CBD dose.
Final Thoughts on CBD Oil in the UK
The CBD UK market is far from saturated (at least right now), but you must still perform due diligence when purchasing CBD oil – or any other CBD-based product. CBD has been shown to be capable of reducing the painful symptoms of a wide range of illnesses, and for some people, it has been a natural alternative to costly prescription drugs with harsh side effects.
The MHRA ruling should improve the quality of CBD oil in UK regions, but like we said, it has also led to an air of uncertainty in terms of whether or not all sellers will be able to obtain the proper licensing, and whether or not they will be prosecuted if they choose to sell without said licenses. While there are still plenty of unanswered questions out there, it should be seen as nothing but a positive that UK CBD laws have changed for the better, and we hope things are made more clear sooner rather than later.