Cannabidiol products are drawing a great deal of attention — so it was only a matter of time before you heard about CBD and became curious about its potential effects.
Knowing that CBD products come from Cannabis sativa plants, you might think, “Weed!” and wonder if the legally-available cannabidiol you’ll find on UK high streets and online stores can get you high.
We’re here to clear up that confusion.
Let’s Get It Out of the Way: Does CBD Get You High?
No. CBD products won’t get you high. THC does that.
Cannabis sativa plants contain over 100 different cannabinoids — active compounds that act on the endocannabinoid system in the human body.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC for short) is the main cannabinoid responsible for causing psychoactive effects and getting you high. The minor cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) also has mind-altering effects described as a “euphoric high”.
THC is a Class B controlled substance in the UK, and residents aren’t allowed to possess, use, or distribute it unless they have a medical marijuana license.
The CBD products legally available without a prescription in the UK have a maximum THC content of 0.02 per cent — not enough to get you high. While 0.02 per cent is the maximum, some CBD products only contain trace amounts, while others have no THC at all.
So, What Is CBD?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is the other major cannabinoid in Cannabis sativa plants. CBD is non-psychoactive, meaning it won’t get you high, and non-addictive.
Consumers will be interested to learn that Cannabis sativa is a plant species with two main varieties — marijuana and industrial hemp.
Marijuana is typically cultivated for its psychoactive effects, often illegally. This variety has a high THC content and therefore produces psychoactive effects.
Meanwhile, industrial hemp is an impressively versatile crop used for many purposes. This variety is more fibrous, naturally low in THC, and has a high CBD content. Industrial hemp is used to produce textiles, novel construction materials, and paper, among other things. It’s also where CBD products usually come from.
Manufacturers can use various techniques to extract CBD from industrial hemp. Because industrial hemp does contain some THC, the European Union and the UK have developed strict rules around its cultivation and set a maximum THC threshold of 0.02 per cent — not enough to get anyone high.
However, different types of CBD products exist, and their ingredient lists vary:
- Full-spectrum CBD products include other minor cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and essential oil as well as cannabidiol. They have a maximum THC content of 0.02 per cent.
- Broad-spectrum CBD products retain most ingredients but only contain trace amounts of THC.
- CBD isolates are pure CBD. While these products include carrier oils that deliver CBD to your body, they don’t have other cannabinoids, terpenes, or flavonoids.
How Does CBD Work in the Body?
All cannabinoids act on the endocannabinoid system in the human body. This vast network of receptors can be found in the brain, spinal cord, skin, and peripheral nervous system, among other places. The endocannabinoid system helps to regulate various bodily functions, including metabolism, memory and learning, behaviour, thermoregulation, inflammation, pain relief, and immune functioning.
The functioning of the endocannabinoid system isn’t just incredibly complex but also still not entirely understood. The interesting thing is that humans make their own cannabinoids (so-called endogenous cannabinoids), as well as responding to external (“exogenous”) cannabinoids that come from substances we consume.
What role does CBD play in this?
Research indicates cannabidiol doesn’t necessarily bind to the main endocannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2). Instead, it is believed to impact this system by blocking the action of an enzyme called fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH). This enzyme breaks cannabinoids down.
In other words, CBD may play a role in keeping the endocannabinoid system working optimally.
An Exploration: What Does CBD Make You Feel?
UK law classes cannabidiol as a novel food product — a product that has recently been introduced to the market for human consumption. Advertising rules place clear limits on what CBD manufacturers and stockists can say about the effects of this product.
There’s a good reason for that. Sharing the results of preliminary studies could give consumers the idea that CBD can be used to prevent, treat, or cure specific health conditions, but research hasn’t reached any clear conclusions yet. The potential effects and side effects of CBD are still being studied, and it’s vital for consumers to be fully informed.
A small 2020 study titled Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders indicates that CBD may have anti-anxiety effects, while the Cannabidiol Primer for Healthcare Professionals (2020) suggests potential anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antioxidant effects.
Research is still inconclusive at this point, however. Consumers would be advised to consult with their GP before taking cannabidiol. CBD should not be used to prevent, cure, or prevent specific medical conditions or complaints.
A Look at the Possible Side Effects of CBD
While CBD is generally well-tolerated in appropriate doses, using cannabidiol is not risk-free. Potential side effects include vomiting, diarrhoea, drowsiness, appetite changes, mood changes, and liver injury.
CBD products may also interact with prescription or over-the-counter medications, potentially rendering them less effective. For that reason, it is crucial for consumers who regularly use medications to consult a healthcare provider before taking CBD.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women are also advised to stay away from CBD, as the compound’s effects are not yet clear in this context.
CBD consumers who notice side effects are advised to stop taking cannabidiol and to consult their GP.
Taking CBD: Your Options
Have you decided to add CBD products to your wellness routine?
We’ve already established that you can choose from three different formulations. Full-spectrum CBD includes cannabidiol, other minor cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and essential oils. It has a maximum THC content of 0.02 per cent, which will not get you high. Broad-spectrum CBD has similar ingredients but only contains trace amounts of THC. Finally, CBD isolates only have CBD.
Besides these three different product profiles, consumers have numerous options:
- CBD oil comes in glass bottles with droppers. After measuring your desired dose, you can hold CBD oil under your tongue for 60 to 90 seconds and then swallow it. You can also cook with CBD oil or add it to cosmetics.
- CBD capsules contain CBD oil in soft gel capsules. You use them like you would use vitamin supplements, by swallowing the capsule with water.
- CBD gummies are tasty edibles consumed just like sweets.
- CBD creams and lotions act topically. Your skin absorbs the cannabidiol in these products.
- CBD vape liquids allow vapers to inhale CBD.
Besides those common products, you’ll also find novel ideas like CBD chocolates, shampoos, bath bombs, or protein bars.
CBD oil has a higher bioavailability than CBD edibles when held under the tongue, but edibles are more convenient for many people.
No matter which option you choose, starting with the lowest possible dose is vital. The UK Food Standards Agency advised consumers not to exceed a daily dose of 70 mg in 2020. However, you can also start with much less.
Many CBD gummies have a standard dose of 25 mg, reflecting the fact that it is less bioavailable (meaning less CBD will make it to your system). Should you choose gummies, you can use a dose as low as 2 mg.
CBD Doesn’t Get You High: A Recap
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that won’t get you high. THC is the compound responsible for psychoactive effects, and CBD products sold in the UK won’t contain more than 0.02 per cent.
CBD does act on the endocannabinoid system, where it can produce a variety of potential effects. Consumers interested in discovering how CBD feels for themselves can choose from numerous different CBD products. In doing so, they should look for quality products that have been lab-tested by neutral third parties.
Always start with the lowest possible dose of CBD, and build up gradually!