Every year, researchers uncover more and more about the wonders of the cannabis plant and the therapeutic power of CBD. Although clinical research is ongoing, this hasn’t stopped the wellness industry from hopping on the CBD bandwagon.
It seems lots of people are keen to give it a go. But are consumers too spoilt for choice?
At leafie, we want to help you to navigate the world of CBD. In an ever-expanding market with hundreds of products to choose from, it can be hard to know how CBD could best be tailored to your needs. Can’t decide between a CBD oil or a CBD balm? We’re here to tell you the difference. So buckle up, because we’ve got a lot to cover.
What is CBD – and what does it do?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the major active ingredients in the Cannabis sativa plant. Unlike the plant’s mind-altering cannabinoid, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD is non-psychoactive so it cannot get you high.
In recent years, CBD has proven to be hugely popular amongst those seeking some of the medicinal benefits of whole-plant cannabis but without the intoxicating effects of THC. In the form of Epidiolex, CBD is an effective treatment for rare forms of epilepsy. CBD also shows immeasurable promise in the treatment of anxiety and inflammatory pain, but it is not yet an approved clinical treatment for these conditions.
How does CBD have such widespread effects on the body? It interacts with our body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), a complex cell-signalling network that is responsible for regulating our mood, appetite, sleep, pain levels, immune health, and much more. By coordinating these biological functions, the ECS strives to maintain stability in the body – and CBD can give it a helping hand with this process.
Whilst evidence in favour of this cannabinoid’s therapeutic power piles high, many people are turning to commercially available CBD products to support their mental and physical wellbeing.
The different ways to take CBD
There are countless options when it comes to using CBD and hundreds of products to choose from. So let’s take a look at some of leafie’s favourite ways to take CBD, as well as some other cool ways to get your daily dose in.
The purest and most popular way to take CBD is in the form of an oil. It is administered sublingually, meaning a few drops are placed and held under the tongue. This allows the CBD oil to quickly enter the bloodstream. This method, therefore, has a rapid onset of action so the benefits can be felt almost instantly.
As the name suggests, CBD capsules are simply CBD oil but in an encapsulated form. This allows you to ingest your daily dose of CBD, without the strong, “hempy” taste that puts some people off using oils.
However, let’s delve deeper into how this might impact the bioavailability of the product – that being, how much of the active ingredient is absorbed. Since CBD is lipid-soluble, it doesn’t dissolve very easily and much of it is broken down in the stomach before it is absorbed. So, to get the most out of your CBD capsules, be sure to take them with food as this has shown to increase the oil’s bioavailability.
Gummies are a simple and delicious way to take CBD. The beauty of CBD gummies is that they give you a consistent dose that builds up in your system over time. They do, however, tend to contain slightly lower doses than CBD oils, so you may need to take more than one, if necessary. Since gummies also need to go through the digestive system, the effects take slightly longer to kick in (between 30 minutes and 2 hours).
Vaping is another quick way to get CBD into the bloodstream, but this time via the lungs. As a vape pen is easily transportable, it can be used on the move for immediate relief.
With its rapid onset and impressive bioavailability, a vape might sound like the best option, but there are some concerns. The safety and long-term health effects of using vaping products are not yet known, so approach this method with caution.
CBD-infused balms, creams, and gels
Topical CBD products are proving hugely popular amongst those who wish to target specific aches and pains. When rubbed into a problem area, CBD can be absorbed through the skin barrier and provide local anti-inflammatory relief to muscles or joints.
However, only small doses of CBD can be absorbed by the skin at one time, so CBD oils may be your best bet if you’re after a larger dose.
CBD skin patches
You may already be familiar with the concept of nicotine patches, but CBD patches are also growing in popularity. This method is ideal for those seeking a slow, continuous delivery of CBD throughout the day.
As transdermal administration delivers CBD through the skin and into the bloodstream, this allows the CBD to bypass the digestive system which, according to one study, increases its bioavailability.
The growing interest in CBD has now made its mark on the world of makeup and skincare. CBD-infused cosmetics are becoming increasingly popular. Why? Because CBD appears to be hugely effective at reducing inflammation, redness, and scarring in those with acne and other skin conditions.
Popular products include moisturisers, face oils, cleansers, body lotions, bath bombs, and even CBD-infused hair products. Whilst the evidence is limited in terms of how effective these products are, it’s certainly a fun way to reap the benefits of this powerful cannabinoid.
The anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties of CBD are said to be hugely beneficial to people who suffer from period pain. One UK brand, Daye, is the first of its kind to produce organic CBD tampons, specifically tailored to help soothe menstrual cramps.
When absorbed through the vaginal mucosa, CBD is thought to provide local pain relief. During their period, many people now opt for CBD tampons over other CBD products, since this method bypasses the digestive system and has a more direct action.
Several brands have also ventured into the world of CBD coffee. When coffee beans are enriched with CBD extract, the resulting blend contains a small dose of CBD per cup. Although this hasn’t been explicitly tested, there is reason to believe that the anti-anxiety effects of CBD could help to balance out some of the effects of caffeine and, in turn, prevent the coffee jitters!
Another nifty trick to mask the taste of CBD oil is to add your daily dose to a shake or smoothie. This might be beneficial for those looking to improve their results in the gym or to enhance sports recovery, as CBD can be combined with other useful health supplements in a post-workout shake.
Though, again, this method of consumption brings us back to the bioavailability argument. An alternative option for those looking to add their CBD to liquids is a water-soluble CBD tincture. Since it readily dissolves in water, this form of CBD is more easily absorbed by the body.
Cooking & baking with CBD
You’re not just limited to smoothies. There are countless other ways in which you can combine CBD with food – you could, for example:
- Add it to a pancake, cake, or cookie batter
- Stir it into yoghurt
- Mix it with a soup or sauce
One rule of thumb for baked goods, however, is to stick with recipes that bake at 180 °C or less, as heat could lower the effectiveness of CBD.
Other health supplements
If you’re keen to try CBD for a specific purpose or to target a specific ailment, you may wish to opt for a CBD product with added vitamins and supplements, depending on your needs.
With public interest in CBD rising, there are now hundreds of products available that incorporate all of the latest health trends. In particular, many brands are combining CBD with medicinal mushrooms to create the ultimate cocktail of wellness ingredients.
However, do keep in mind that these products may contain lower doses of CBD than concentrated oil, so be sure to take a look at the ingredients and ensure that the product clearly discloses its potency.
CBD dosing 101
Looking to use CBD but have no idea where to start? Here is some useful information about how and when to take your dose.
How much CBD should I take?
There is no “perfect dose” of CBD; how much you take is largely dependent on how often you use CBD and what you want out of your dose. Although most human studies of CBD have found that high doses – up to a few hundred milligrams – are safe and well-tolerated, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) advises that healthy adults should not take more than 70 mg a day.
At high doses, CBD can have mild side effects. These could include fatigue, appetite changes, and nausea. When starting to use CBD, it’s best to take a low, 5 mg dose and work your way up over the course of a few weeks. This way, you can see how well your body reacts to CBD and determine which dose feels best.
How often should I take CBD?
Although a daily dose is optimal to fully experience its benefits, there are no rules surrounding how often you should take CBD. Some users might prefer to take lower doses, of about 5mg, two to three times a day, but others might want to take a larger dose in one go.
What time of day is best to take CBD?
Again, this is all personal preference and largely depends on what you want to get out of your product. Some people prefer to take CBD in the morning so that they can feel the effects throughout the day. Though, if you’re keen to use CBD to help you sleep better, you may wish to take your daily dose before bed.
One thing to consider, however, is whether you are taking any other medications. Since CBD has been shown to have mild interactions with some prescription drugs, it is advised that you space out your dosing throughout the day. Be sure to consult your doctor or a medical professional before adding CBD to your supplement regime.
Finding a high-quality CBD product
With the booming CBD industry, high-quality products are widely available. When on the hunt for a trustworthy brand, here are a couple of things to keep in mind:
As with any supplement, it’s important to know exactly what you’re putting in your body. Every CBD brand should display its lab reports from third-party laboratory testing to ensure that its products contain no harmful ingredients.
This also provides a useful indication of the potency of the product. You should be able to see exactly how much CBD it contains and if there are any other useful cannabinoids present in the product – including exactly how much THC the product contains.
Another crucial thing to consider is CBD traceability – that being, the ability to trace the CBD back to its origin. If a brand isn’t transparent about where its plants were grown or how its CBD was extracted, it’s time to look elsewhere.
The entourage effect
CBD can either be isolated from the cannabis plant and taken on its own or taken alongside its “entourage” of other cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids. Many researchers have proposed that these cannabis compounds have a synergistic relationship – meaning, they work better together. This is known as the “entourage effect”, and is why some people prefer to use CBD products that contain some of the other botanical compounds in cannabis.
If you wish to benefit from the entourage effect, you may wish to try a broad-spectrum or full-spectrum product, rather than CBD isolate – but what’s the difference?
- CBD isolate – the purest form of CBD on the market. As it does not contain any other plant compounds, you are able to get a much higher dose of the active compound.
- Broad-spectrum CBD – the middle ground of CBD. Users may benefit from the entourage effect as it contains some other cannabis compounds, but broad-spectrum products won’t contain any THC.
- Full-spectrum CBD – as close to the whole-plant cannabis extract as possible. In regions without restrictions on THC, it may contain higher concentrations of THC. However, in the UK, full-spectrum CBD contains negligible levels of THC (<0.2%).
For more information about the benefits of each, take a look at our latest guide to the different types of CBD oil.