The ultimate beginner's guide to CBD

Everything you need to know about CBD

CBD is quickly becoming the supplement that everyone in the UK is trying. Everyone’s talking about it, from major publications discussing the benefits of it, to YouTube vloggers sharing their experience with trying CBD edibles. The whole world is now focusing on CBD. 

And it’s easy to see why. After all, who wouldn’t be interested when CBD is being cited as a miracle compound with claims it’s helped with everything from pain relief for chemotherapy patients, to preventing seizures, and even reducing anxiety.

But with so much information available it’s hard to know what to believe or even where to start. What exactly is CBD and what does it do? Is it legal and safe to ingest? Is CBD the same as marijuana and can it get you high?

We’ve created our ultimate beginner’s guide to CBD to explore everything you’ll ever need to know about CBD. We look at scientific research, examine how CBD works in your body, answer all of the questions you might have, and separate the facts from the fiction. 

Chapter 1: What is CBD

Chapter 2: Taking CBD

Chapter 3: Questions and myths

What is CBD - The ultimate beginners guide to CBD

Chapter 1: What is CBD

What is CBD?

Cannabis plants contain 113 unique and naturally occurring chemical compounds called cannabinoids. CBD (short for cannabidiol) is one of the main cannabinoids found in the plant, which accounts for around 40% of its extract.

The other notable cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant is THC (short for tetrahydrocannabinol). THC is psychoactive so is responsible for making people feel “high”.

Most of the other minor cannabinoids are only produced in trace amounts.

When was CBD discovered?

CBD was first discovered in 1940 by Dr Roger Adams and his team studying at the University of Illinois. CBD’s chemical structure was scientifically recognised in 1963.

CBD continues to be studied with scientific research and studies exploring its beneficial effects on the mind and body.

Cannabis, Hemp and Marijuana

Cannabis, hemp and marijuana aren’t the same things. Cannabis is a plant with two species, Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Indica. Hemp (or industrial hemp) is a variety of the Cannabis Sativa plant species, whilst marijuana is a variety of both the Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Indica plant species.

Hemp and marijuana plants do share some similarities but also have some significant differences. The main difference is in their chemical makeup and the level of THC they contain. Hemp naturally has high levels of CBD but only trace amounts of THC, whilst marijuana has high levels of THC.

For this reason, marijuana tends to be used solely for recreational and medical use, whereas hemp has thousands of uses including shoes, clothes, plastic, skin products, rope and paper.

The key differences between hemp and marijuana

Hemp Marijuana
Is it cannabis? Yes Yes
Chemical makeup High CBD and Low THC (<0.2%) High CBD and High THC (5%-30%)
Is it pychoactive? No Yes
Is it legal in the UK? Yes No
Cultivation Grown outside and is adaptable to most climates Typically grown inside and requires a carefully controlled environment
Applications Food, jewellery, shoes, plastic, skin products, paper, clothes, and thousands of other applications Recreational and medical use only

Where does CBD come from?

CBD can be found in both hemp and marijuana plants. Most CBD products on the market tend to use CBD that’s been extracted from hemp rather than marijuana. This is because hemp naturally contains only trace amounts of THC and laws allow for the legal farming, processing and selling of hemp and hemp products.


CBD and THC are both cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. Whilst CBD and THC share similar therapeutic properties, CBD is specifically known for its safe and beneficial benefits, whereas THC is psychoactive so is known for making people feel “high”.

For this reason, many people, especially those trying cannabis for the first time, tend to turn to CBD to enjoy the proposed health benefits of cannabis whilst being able to continue with their daily lives without feeling stoned or intoxicated.

How is CBD extracted from hemp?

There are 2 main ways to extract CBD from hemp; CO2 and ethanol.

CO2 is considered to be the cleanest method of extraction and results in a purer product. It involves filtering hemp through a series of CO2 chambers with controlled temperatures and pressure. When different temperatures and pressure are applied to the hemp it isolates cannabinoids to a 90% rate of efficiency. 

Ethanol extraction involves mixing ethanol with hemp. The liquid is evaporated leaving the concentrated compounds and flavours in oil form. This is the cheapest method of extraction but often produces oil with traces of impurities. It can also unintentionally strip the chlorophyll, and some cannabinoids and flavours from the plant which leaves the resulting oil tasting bitter.

Once the oil has been extracted, hemp goes through chromatography which removes any unwanted chemicals. It then undergoes a process called decarboxylation. This involves heating the remaining cannabinoids into a form that allows them to work better with the body.

The CBD hemp oil is then ready to be consumed directly, infused into edibles, turned into capsules or used in vaporisers.

How does CBD work?

Our bodies naturally have an endocannabinoid system (ECS) which plays a vital role in our physiology, mood, and overall health.

CBD works with our ECS to get our bodies into a place of homeostasis. Consuming CBD provides additional regulatory molecules to help our physiological systems function more efficiently.

To read more about the endocannabinoid system check out our guide. We explore the ECS in detail and highlight exactly how CBD helps to ensure our bodies maintain balance and stay healthy.

What does CBD do?

CBD isn’t a medicine that cures or treats any diseases, but instead is a food supplement that promotes everyday wellbeing.

Scientists have discovered that CBD interacts with the ECS and helps the body to maintain a balance called homeostasis. This can help to alleviate symptoms, such as anxiety, insomnia, and depression that are directly related to the ECS

What does full-spectrum CBD and CBD isolate mean?

Full-spectrum CBD means that the product contains CBD and the other cannabinoids from the hemp plant. It’s thought that all of these working together creates something called the entourage effect. Products in the UK containing full-spectrum CBD are 100% legal.

CBD isolate means that the product contains just CBD and no other cannabinoids. As of January 2019 and under EU laws any products containing CBD isolate is considered a novel food and can no longer be sold in the UK.

What’s the entourage effect?

The entourage effect was first suggested in a scientific study in 1998. Although it wasn’t specifically looking into the effects of cannabis, the study found that when compounds worked together they created positive biological responses that wouldn’t have been happened if the compounds were isolated. 

The term ‘the entourage effect’ now tends to refer to cannabis and the belief that the body experiences better responses to full-spectrum CBD rather than CBD isolate.

There hasn’t been a tremendous amount of scientific research into the entourage effect yet so some critics are sceptical that the effect is real. However, the research that has been conducted indicates that it is a measurable response. In 2015 scientists observed the effects of full-spectrum and CBD isolate on mice. They discovered that the mice taking the full-spectrum CBD had a significantly higher level of relief than those on isolate and the levels increased with a higher dose.

Taking CBD - The ultimate beginners guide to CBD

Chapter 2: Taking CBD

Who can take CBD?

Since it's a food supplement, it’s really easy to fit CBD into your life and can be enjoyed by anyone of any age. There are no age requirements or age limits related to using CBD so everyone from children to the elderly can experience the benefits.

It’s often enjoyed by those who prefer a natural product over traditional pharmaceuticals, particularly as there’s no side effects, no way to overdose and no addictive properties.

How do you take CBD?

There are so many ways you can take CBD and it mainly comes down to personal choice.

CBD oil tends to be a popular method of ingestion and involves placing the oil under the tongue. Many people don’t like the taste though so prefer to find more enjoyable ways to take CBD.

Another option is to consume CBD through edibles. This is often more convenient to take than the oil, tastier, and a more pleasant experience.

Other alternatives include vaping CBD-infused liquids, CBD capsules and CBD topicals.

What’s the recommended dose of CBD to take?

Again, this comes down to personal preference and is influenced by several factors including age, weight, lifestyle, genetics and tolerance.

There’s no one-size-fits-all and an effective dose for one person won’t be the same for someone else. 

Each CBD product will display the recommended starting dose so it’s always best to use that as a guide. With CBD less is always more. It’s better to start off with a small dose and adjust accordingly.

To find out if you need to adjust your dose of CBD consider comparing how you feel before and after taking it. If you feel relief from the symptoms you’re looking to address then you’ve found your optimum dose, if not then the dosage needs to be increased.

Is CBD safe to take? Can you overdose?

CBD is 100% safe to consume. CBD is safe, isn’t toxic to the body and doesn’t have any documented fatal overdose levels.

A scientific study in 2011 found that CBD doses of 1,500 mg per day were well tolerated in humans. Similarly, the Department of Health and Human Services advises that ‘no signs of toxicity or serious side effects have been observed following chronic administration of cannabidiol to healthy volunteers’.

The National Cancer Institute confirmed that “Because cannabinoid receptors, unlike opioid receptors, are not located in the brainstem areas controlling respiration, lethal overdoses from Cannabis and cannabinoids do not occur.”

Is CBD addictive?

Consuming addictive substances triggers dopamine to be released in the brain’s pleasure centres. With repeated uses, the body becomes dependent on the substance, experiencing withdrawal symptoms if the substance isn’t consumed.

CBD does not trigger dopamine to be released and is not addictive and your body won’t become dependent on taking it. You will not experience any withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking it.

This is why some people often prefer to take CBD over other potentially addictive supplements.

Can you build a tolerance to CBD?

Tolerance happens when the dose you’re taking doesn’t have the same effects anymore so you have to increase the dose to achieve the same results.

Tolerance tends to happen with THC because over time they reduce the effectiveness of cannabinoid receptors.

However, this isn’t the case with CBD. In fact, not only can you not build a tolerance to CBD, often you can get a reverse tolerance where the dose can be reduced to get the same desired effects. This is because CBD binds to cannabinoid receptors differently to THC.

Are there any side effects to taking CBD?

CBD is completely safe to take and the Department of Health and Human Services has ruled that ‘no signs of toxicity or serious side effects have been observed following chronic administration of cannabidiol to healthy volunteers’.

However, very minor side effects have been documented in some people. A 2011 study found that some people experienced fatigue, diarrhoea and changes in appetite.

The research stated that a “favourable safety profile of CBD in humans was confirmed and extended by the reviewed research. In comparison with other drugs, used for the treatment of these medical conditions, CBD has a better side effect profile”.

As with all food supplements, it’s always advisable to discuss using CBD with your doctor before taking it.

Questions and myths - The ultimate beginners guide to CBD

Chapter 3: Questions and myths

Is CBD legal?

Yes! In the UK, CBD is 100% legal to sell and buy. The Home Office has confirmed that CBD from hemp is 100% legal providing it contains less than 0.2% of THC.

Will I get high from CBD?

You cannot get “high" from CBD. The feeling of being “high” is experienced when consuming THC. CBD is not psychoactive. When you take CBD you will still be able to function normally.

Advocacy group Ministry of Hemp says: "Your lungs will fail before your brain attains any high from smoking industrial hemp”.

Will CBD make me fail a drugs test?

In the UK, CBD isn’t a controlled substance so it’s 100% legal to sell, buy and consume. THC, on the other hand, is illegal in the UK.

Drug tests typically test for illegal compounds so they’d be designed to detect levels of THC and not CBD.

CBD products in the UK by law must contain less than 0.2% of THC, you will have no problem passing any test for drugs.

Is CBD the same as marijuana, weed, pot and grass?

Marijuana is also known by various slang names such as weed, pot, grass, Mary Jane, bud, herb, amongst others.

CBD is a cannabinoid that’s extracted from hemp rather than marijuana so CBD is not the same as weed, pot, grass and other slang names for marijuana.

If CBD and THC both come from the Cannabis plant why does one make you high and the other doesn’t?

CBD and THC have different effects on the body because they react with different cannabinoid receptors in different ways.

There have never been any documented cases of hallucinations, intoxication or feeling “stoned” from CBD use.