The issues surrounding medical marijuana and the legalization of CBD in the United States are pretty well known. Unfortunately, this is not yet the case across the pond, where many people are still in an utter state of confusion regarding the legality of CBD oil in the UK – as well as the legality of medicinal cannabis in general.
If you’re a U.K. resident, you likely won’t be surprised to learn that CBD oil is commonly sold on the high street, including places like Boots, Holland and Barrett, and others. Furthermore, an increasing amount of cafes and coffee shops have started to incorporate CBD into their menu items, maintaining the widespread assumption that CBD oil is legal in the UK.
| The legality of CBD oil in the U.K. has been a confounding topic in years past; in this article, we try and get to the bottom of it all.
In this article, we try and get to the bottom of this as best as possible, as unfortunately the exact U.K. laws are a little more complex than this. We also outline what CBD is, which types of products are available in the United Kingdom, how they may be able to help you, and what some of the most reputable U.K. companies are.
Before We Talk About CBD Oil in the UK… What Even is CBD?
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 (THC), but in some strains, it is actually the most abundant compound. Unlike THC, however, CBD is entirely non-psychoactive; which means it does not have any intoxicating or mind-altering effects. In other words, CBD in no way shape or form gets you high.
In terms of how they work in the human body, phytocannabinoids (‘phyto’ refers to plant-based) are known to interact with cellular endocannabinoid receptors (‘endo’ refers to inside the human body) to regulate and influence a wide range of physiological processes.
Endocannabinoid receptors are found all throughout the body: in the dermal (skin) layer, in the digestive tract, inside our organs, and within our central nervous system (which includes both the brain and spinal cord). When we consume CBD, we are ingesting a phytocannabinoid that interacts with millions of receptors in the body; as a whole, these millions of receptors make up our endocannabinoid system, or ECS.
The ECS is an enormous network of receptor proteins that appear to perform an unlimited range of functions. Among other things, studies have shown the ECS to be involved (either directly or indirectly) in the regulation of things like:
- Immune function
- Pain perception
The ECS also appears to have regulatory functions that help maintain internal homeostatic balance, which includes things like energy levels, immune response, stress recovery, sleep/wake cycles, and nerve cell protection.
| In a basic sense, CBD oil interacts with our homeostatic “balancing system” to provide users with a host of potential benefits.
In short, the CBD molecule has a similar composition to chemicals created naturally by the body. These chemicals (known as “endocannabinoids,” as previously mentioned) essentially provide the underlying foundation of the therapeutic cannabis response.
Rather than getting bogged down by scientific details about why CBD works, though, let’s check out a few potential benefits of the natural compound, and what residents of the UK can expect it to be able to do for them when taken under a wide range of physiological conditions.
CBD Oil UK Benefits… How Does It All Work?
Over the last few decades, the rising demand for high-THC cannabis strains has meant that CBD has taken a spot on the proverbial “back burner” of marijuana culture and therapy. Of course, given the obvious illicit status surrounding THC, the development of a “legal” UK CBD oil market (we’ll talk more about this later) was only inevitable.
Due to the fact that the compound has no mind-altering properties whatsoever, individuals of all ages and orientations have been wanting to use it in place of other forms of conventional medication. And of course, recent national news headlines (such as the case of young Charlotte Figi over in the United States) have only helped to bring CBD into the international spotlight.
If you haven’t heard Charlotte’s story, she is a young American girl that suffers from Dravet’s Syndrome – a rare form of epilepsy that can produce hundreds of seizures a week. After taking a cannabis strain with a high-CBD content and practically zero THC, Charlotte’s seizures were reduced to just a couple per month.
Research soon found that CBD was indeed applicable for epilepsy on a clinical level, which led to the development of Epidiolex; the first ever FDA-approved CBD medication. While CBD oil in the U.K. still has a ways to go in order to catch up with the United States, cases like these will certainly only serve to promote its prevalence throughout the world.
And of course, studies have suggested that CBD oil may have far more uses other than simply helping treat seizures in epileptic patients. For example, an increasing number of people have been taking CBD oil (not only in the U.K. but across the globe as well) in order to try and find relief from things like:
- Chronic pain
- Stress disorders
- Sleep trouble
- Fatigue and lack of focus
Moreover, there have been a variety of studies that have suggested CBD may hold potential in helping patients with other conditions as well. While the compound should by no means be considered a ‘cure’ for anything, the published scientific literature that’s available certainly shows a host of potential applications that we will hopefully be learning more about in the future.
| While the use of CBD in the UK has been increasing in recent years, we still are awaiting additional clinical research to help define its specific applications.
Furthermore, the World Health Organisation has recently issued an updated global report on the status of CBD oil, claiming that it is “generally well tolerated with a good safety profile,” and that it may be able to offer therapeutic relief for victims suffering from:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- General pain
For these reasons, an increasing number of folks that have been using CBD oil in the U.K. have been hoping to dump dangerous, costly, addictive prescription medications in favor of the all-natural cannabis-based compound.
However, you’re probably wondering – what is the current legal status of CBD in the UK? Is the stuff that you can find on the high street and in places like Holland and Barrett the real deal? Is it the same kind of stuff that’s available medically in places like Amsterdam, Colorado, and California? Let’s take a little deeper look to find out.
A Brief History of CBD Oil UK Laws
On October 13, 2016, the Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) decided to classify CBD oil in the U.K. as a medicinal ingredient, when “used for medical purposes.” This of course was a significant change to the law in Britain, as it meant that CBD could be utilized as more than just a ‘food supplement’ (which is how many companies were – and still are – marketing it).
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 had been for years) using the product in an effort to treat a long list of ailments and medical conditions.
All in all, it appeared to be a decision designed to improve the standard of CBD oil in the U.K. market, which seemed like great news initially for consumers. There was concern, however, that the new criteria would be too strict, and would potentially lead to a shortage of CBD in the UK as companies struggled to manufacture products that met the MHRA’s guidelines.
| Medicinal cannabis is now legal in Britian – what will this mean in terms of the availability of hemp-based CBD oil in the UK?
In other words, CBD was identified by the MHRA as a ‘medicine’ (when used for medicinal purposes), but companies were not allowed to sell it as such unless they had applied for and obtained proper medicinal licensing.
To get around this dilemma, companies simply marketed their products as ‘nutrition supplements,’ making sure to avoid any claims that they offered medicinal or therapeutic benefits — even though this was the reason why most people were buying them.
Then, in November 2018 the British government legalised medicinal cannabis as a prescription medication, which finally set in place a proper regulatory pathway for UK citizens to access high-quality medicinal CBD oil – as well as other cannabis-based products.
The confusing part of all of this is that “legal” (non-medicinal) CBD oils are still being sold all over the UK, without any need for a special doctor’s prescription. This is because the products are made from hemp, which is a legal (albeit regulated) crop in the United Kingdom.
To try and help clear things up a little bit, let’s take a closer look at what this actually means, and what types of CBD oils in the UK are currently available for people who do not have (and do not intend on getting) a doctor’s prescription to access medical cannabis.
Types of CBD Products Sold in the UK
Simply put, CBD oil can be made from either hemp or marijuana – both of which are classified under the broad term ‘cannabis.’ Without going into a massive explanation on what the differences are between the two, hemp basically has very little THC content (less than 0.2%, meaning it doesn’t get you high), while marijuana has much larger percentages of THC in it – meaning it does get you high.
Furthermore, since hemp is a legal crop in the UK, CBD oil manufacturers have been “getting around the system” so to speak by extracting from these plants (rather than marijuana) and then marketing them as nutrition supplements rather than medicines (as described earlier).
In other words, CBD oil in the UK can either be made from hemp (these are the products that you see available for sale online and in places like Holland and Barrett), or from marijuana plants, which are the products you would need a doctor’s prescription for.
Does this make sense? Well, hopefully it does because we don’t really know how to explain it any other way! Anyway, let’s take a closer look at these different forms of CBD oil in the UK, and what kinds of effects you might expect to receive from each.
CBD Hemp Oil
CBD hemp oil is no doubt the most popular product sold in the UK, and it is available in different strengths. Most of the best products will have been extracted using supercritical CO2 methods, and will contain a full-spectrum of cannabinoids. This means that in addition to benefitting from the CBD itself, you may also benefit from the “entourage effect” of other various terpenes and phytocannabinoids that are found in the raw hemp material.
| Studies have shown that the effects of CBD are more “potent” when consumed along with other compounds, rather than by itself as an isolate.
To consume CBD oil, simply place a few drops beneath your tongue (it will say on the bottle the exact amount you should be using), and hold it there for about 60-90 seconds before swallowing. The active compound will be absorbed via small blood vessels before entering the bloodstream to be utilized as needed throughout the body.
Some folks who buy CBD oil in the UK simply do not like the taste of the tinctures, or otherwise have trouble holding the drops under their tongue. In these instances, 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.
The only downfall of CBD capsules, however, is that the cannabidiol is exposed to “first pass metabolism” in the digestive system. This means that a portion of the active compound will be broken down before it can incorporate its potentially beneficial effects. (In other words, CBD oil is – generally speaking – more potent and efficient when taken in tincture form).
If you have a sweet tooth or otherwise want a “tastier” way to consume your CBD dose, you can try CBD edibles. Most UK-based manufacturers offer things like CBD gummy bears, taffy, mints, and CBD candies that are filled with potent quantities of the active compound. These can be a great way to take your CBD on the go, as surely no one will bat an eye at work or out in public if you pop a gummy bear or other candy in your mouth.
CBD Lotion & Balms
Many folks have been using CBD-infused creams and lotions to try and find relief as it allows them to apply the compound directly to the affected area, rather than consume it orally. 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 CBD oil in the UK is offered specifically in the form of flavored treats for cats and dogs. After all, 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 positive effects of cannabis? (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 Britain:
Is There a Difference Between CBD Oil and Hemp Oil?
The CBD oil in the UK that you see for sale in places like Brooks or Holland and Barrett comes from industrial hemp that has negligible amounts of THC (less than 0.2%). 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.
Now that medicinal cannabis has been legalised in Britain however, qualified patients will start having access to “cannabis CBD oils” that have higher amounts of THC in them. These will differ from the hemp-derived products that you find online and on the high street.
What’s the Difference Between Hemp Seed Oil and CBD Hemp Oil?
Products that come from the seeds of the hemp plant do not contain useful quantities of CBD. Since seeds of the hemp plant do not have high volumes of active cannabinoids, their oil should be used almost exclusively for health and nutritional benefits. Among other things, hemp seeds are known to be 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 can contain high amounts of active phytocannabinoids.
What’s the Difference Between CBD Hemp oil and Other Types of Hemp Products?
Again, hemp products (i.e. hemp milk, hemp protein powder, etc) are mostly used for their nutritional benefits, while CBD hemp oil is used for its potential therapeutic benefit (as discussed earlier in the article).
Is CBD Oil Legal in the UK?
As discussed earlier in the article, legislation has made the possession and use of cannabis-based CBD oil legal in the UK with a specialist doctor’s prescription. However, you can also buy hemp-based CBD oils in stores (no prescription needed) or online, and have them shipped directly to your home throughout the UK.
Do You Need a Medical Prescription or a Medical Marijuana Card to Use CBD Oil in the UK?
You do not need a medical marijuana card or a medical recommendation to use a hemp-derived CBD oil in the UK.
How Much CBD Oil Can I Take?
One of the incredible things about CBD and CBD oil is that it does not seem to be toxic at any levels or doses. Remember, the World Health Organization has claimed in their global report that the compound is both non-addictive and non-toxic. Many epilepsy patients, for example, take well over 1 gram (1,000 mg) of CBD per day, with no apparent adverse effects.
However, the majority of people who use CBD oil daily for a variety of purposes will find an effective dose between 10 and 75 mg per day.
How Much Does CBD oil Cost in the UK?
This is a difficult question to answer, as you can find “CBD oil” products in some stores for as little as £10 a bottle, or as much as £100 (or more). Generally speaking, the cheaper products will be made from hemp seed oil, in which case they will have virtually no active CBD.
Your best bet in terms of getting a good, potent product is probably to order from one of the reputable online UK sellers (see below for some specific brands). Most sellers offer various strengths and potencies to choose from, but in general, you can expect to pay between £30 and £100 for a quality, potent hemp-based 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, full-spectrum CBD oil may contain minuscule, trace amounts of THC (generally less than 0.2% 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 of our articles on methods people routinely use to reduce the risk of testing positive for cannabinoids].
Where to Buy CBD Oil [UK Top Brands]
Although the new medical cannabis laws should improve the quality and standard of CBD in the UK market, it is still best to focus on reputable companies that have maintained an established reputation and quality customer feedbacl.
Provacan , for example, is a world-renowned CBD seller and their oil tinctures have been featured in dozens of publications. CBD in general has received lots of coverage on news-centric sites such as CNN, National Geographic, Newsweek, and CBS, just to name a few.
The Provacan label was founded by CiiTECH, which is a leading research organization that specializes in the hemp and cannabis fields. As well as selling CBD oil in the UK, Provacan also offers CBD oil capsules, topical CBD balm, e-Liquids for vaping, and CBD edibles.
| From what we’ve seen, Provacan offers hands-down the highest-quality CBD oil in the UK — there really is no other comparison.
Of course, there is also the U.S. brand PureKana. While PureKana does not have a manufacturing facility in Britain, they do have an office in the U.K. and are usually able to ship internationally for a reasonable price. This firm holds an incredible reputation in the American market, and they’re known to sell one of the best CBD oil formulas in the world.
They of course specialize mostly in CBD oil, but like Provacan, they also offer CBD Gummies, CBD Capsules, topical CBD Ointment, and several other progressive new products (including “CBD Pure Picks,” which you can suck/chew on like toothpicks for up to 45 minutes for a potent CBD dose that’s absorbed through oral capillaries that enter into the main bloodstream).
Final Thoughts on CBD Oil in the UK
All in all, the CBD UK market is far from saturated (at least right now). Even still, we recommend performing due diligence when purchasing CBD oil — or any other CBD-based product for that matter. There are a lot of people out there that say CBD is capable of improving the challenges of day-to-day life, and for some folks, it has offered a natural alternative to costly prescription drugs and harsh side effects.
The new medical cannabis ruling should improve the quality of CBD oil in UK regions, but like we said, it may also lead to an air of uncertainty in terms of which sellers will be producing the most potent and highest-quality products.
While there are still plenty of unanswered questions out there, it should be seen as a positive thing that CBD oil in the UK is becoming more accepted and more accessible. Things have no doubt changed for the better, and we assume that the market will only continue to grow and improve in the coming years.
Top CBD Oil UK Brands
- Over 10 Years Experience
- Products meet EU & UK Standards
- Full Spectrum CBD Oil
- Price Range (£39.99 - £49.99)
- Full-spectrum, entourage effect oil
- Lab Tested for Guaranteed Quality
- Made in the U.K with organically grown hemp
- Price Range (£24.99-£69.99)
- Maximum potency and purity
- Market leader in the U.K
- Organic hemp CO2 extracts
- Price Range (Price Range (£24.95 - £49.95)
- Full-Spectrum Extract, 99% pure
- No pesticides, solvents or chemical fertilizers
- 3rd party laboratory tested
- Price Range (£29.99-£99.99)