Guide to CBD Oils

The popularity of CBD oil is on the rise—among medical professionals, their patients, and occasional users alike. A majority of CBD users (62%) take CBD oil to treat a medical condition. Of those, over a third report that the CBD effectively treats their condition all by itself.

CBD oil provides a wealth of benefits to a wide range of people, relieving conditions as varied as arthritis pain and anxiety to addiction recovery and epilepsy.

Are you wondering if CBD oil can help you, and if so, how you can take it safely? We review all this and more. Keep reading to learn how CBD works, what conditions CBD oil can help with, and how to find the best CBD oil for you.

What Is CBD Oil?

CBD stands for cannabidiol. Cannabidiol is one of over 100 chemical compounds found in the Cannabis Sativa plant. These compounds are known as cannabinoids, and they’re very similar to the endocannabinoids your own body produces as part of your endocannabinoid system (“endo” referring to the fact that these cannabinoid occur internally, or endogenously, in your body).

Your endocannabinoid system is responsible for keeping your body in a healthy state of balance. It helps regulate your mood, appetite, sleep, pain response, immune function, and more. When you use CBD oil, you introduce more cannabinoids into your body, boosting the effectiveness of your endocannabinoid system as a whole.

Depending on the specific condition you’re taking CBD for, the process differs in the details, but generally, CBD helps your endocannabinoid system do a better job bringing your body back into balance. For example, if you use a CBD topical to treat arthritis pain in your shoulders through massage, the CBD interacts with endocannabinoids in your peripheral nervous system to relieve pain. It also bonds to cannabinoid receptors in your brain, lifting your mood and adjusting your perception of the pain.

How Is CBD Oil Made?

Typically, CBD is extracted from cannabis using carbon dioxide or a solvent like olive oil that then evaporates away. After the extraction, the oil initially contains other cannabinoids, such as CBDV, CBDA, and THC. This type of CBD oil is called “full-spectrum.” If the extract is then cooled and purified to remove all other cannabinoids besides CBD, it is called “THC free” or “CBD isolate.”

Should you use full-spectrum or isolate CBD? Some users prefer full-spectrum CBD for the so-called “entourage effect” they produce. Due to other cannabinoids being present, some people believe they experience a more effective result with full-spectrum CBD, since there are more cannabinoids working together to relieve their condition. However, if you’re concerned about any THC being in the product, a CBD isolate may be the better choice for you.

Does CBD Oil Get You High?

CBD comes from the cannabis plant, as does THC, the cannabinoid responsible for the “high” of marijuana. Because CBD and THC can come from the same plant, people often confuse the two.

However, CBD contains no psychoactive properties, so CBD oil will not get you high. If anything, some people experience a feeling of relaxation when using CBD, but the primary effect will be relief for whatever condition you’re using it for.

It is important to note that CBD oils can come from either the hemp or marijuana strains of cannabis. Industrial hemp contains 0.3% THC or less, so CBD oils sourced from hemp will not produce a high. Marijuana, on the other hand, typically contains higher amounts of THC (between 5% to 20%). As a result, CBD oils sourced from marijuana may produce a “high.”

We recommend CBD oils sourced from hemp. These contain a higher concentration of CBD, are widely legal across the country, and will not produce a “high.”

What Can CBD Oil Help With?

The field of CBD research is very exciting, in large part because researchers keep unearthing new benefits of CBD. To date, CBD appears to be beneficial for a growing range of conditions, including:

  • Anxiety: CBD has been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety for individuals with social anxiety disorder.
  • Depression: CBD’s activation of 5-HT1A receptors in the brain creates an antidepressant-like effect.
  • PTSD: One case study found CBD improved sleep and anxiety symptoms in a pediatric patient resistant to traditional treatment for PTSD, while another study found CBD produces a sustained reduction in anxiety after exposure to a predator threat.
  • Insomnia: CBD can relieve general insomnia, as well as improve sleep-related symptoms for individuals with PTSD or rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Chronic pain: Multiple studies have demonstrated that CBD provides effective pain relief for individuals with arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and chronic nerve pain.
  • Chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting: For cancer patients, CBD can reduce nausea and vomiting symptoms by nearly 50%.
  • Acne and psoriasis: CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties help inhibit the production of oily sebocytes that contribute to acne, as well as slow the skin inflammation that leads to psoriasis.
  • Epilepsy: CBD can reduce the occurrence of monthly seizures anywhere between 36.5% to 52.4%.
  • Addiction withdrawal: For those in recovery, CBD has shown to significantly reduce an individual’s craving for nicotine or heroin.

People use CBD to help treat these conditions and more. Many people also use CBD on an occasional basis to deal with everyday stress or the occasional bout of insomnia.

Is CBD Oil Safe?

Part of what makes CBD so attractive is that it produces zero to few side effects. CBD is very safe and well-tolerated by most people, even in high doses and with chronic use. This has led many to seek out CBD as an alternative treatment, since it doesn’t produce the negative side effects that are present with many over-the-counter or prescription medications.

What Are the Side Effects of CBD Oil?

Although rare, it is possible to experience side effects with CBD. The most common of these is tiredness, which some people may experience when they first start taking CBD. Other side effects of CBD include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Dry mouth
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Low blood pressure

However, CBD is not recommended for anyone. If you fall into one of the below risk groups, exercise caution when using CBD or avoid it altogether.

  • People taking other medications: When side effects occur, they most commonly happen among people who are taking other prescription medication. Similar to grapefruit juice, CBD can affect the way your liver metabolizes drugs, so always check with your doctor before using CBD if you are taking other prescription medication.
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding women: Not enough studies have been conducted to assess whether CBD is safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women. However, some studies suggest it may increase the permeability of the placental barrier, thereby endangering the fetus.
  • Children: As with pregnant or breastfeeding women, not enough studies have been conducted in children to determine the safety of CBD among this population. Consult your pediatrician before introducing CBD to your child.

How to Use CBD Oil

CBD oil can be ingested in several ways: rubbed into the skin, inhaled, applied sublingually to the tongue, eaten, or otherwise orally ingested. There are a growing variety of products for each of these ingestion methods.

  • CBD oil tinctures come with a dropper, whereby you can apply the oil beneath your tongue or add it to food or drink.
  • CBD topicals are rubbed or massaged into the skin. These include lotions and creams, salves, and lip balms.
  • CBD sprays are spritzed directly into the mouth.
  • CBD vape oils are heated and inhaled using a vape pen or vaporizer.
  • CBD capsules resemble traditional medications and can be swallowed.
  • CBD edibles are eaten. These include CBD gummies, candies, chocolates, and baked goods.

CBD oil is effective, no matter what shape or form it comes in. However, some people find certain ingestion methods to be more effective than others.

For example, individuals taking CBD to cope with chronic pain might find it helpful to use a CBD topical, as rubbing the CBD into their skin provides the benefits of massage. Individuals taking CBD to cope with anxiety triggers may find a tincture or vape most effective, as the effects are felt almost immediately with either of these methods. Still others prefer CBD gummies or capsules, as they’re more discreet ways to take CBD. It’s really all up to your personal preference and what works best for you.

How Much CBD Oil Should You Take?

CBD oils are available in a wide range of concentrations, which are expressed in milligrams. The general rule of thumb is to take 1mg to 6mg of CBD for every 10 pounds of your body weight. That range is based on how strongly you wish to feel the desired effects.

For example, if you just want to relax after a stressful day at work, you might take just 1mg of CBD for every 10 pounds of your body weight. However, if you are taking CBD for severe chronic pain, you will likely require a dose towards the higher end of that spectrum (5mg to 6mg for every 10 pounds of your body weight).

We provide a general guide to CBD doses here, as well as recommended doses for anxiety, pain, and sleep.

We recommend starting with the lowest recommended dose for your body weight, and gradually increasing your dose from there until you feel the effects. At that point, you can stop increasing your dose. People do not develop a tolerance to CBD.

How Long Does It Take for CBD Oil to Be Effective?

One of the main reasons people choose one form of CBD over another is the length of onset—or, how long it takes until you start to feel the effects.

CBD edibles (including powders, gummies, and capsules) take the longest to begin working, since the CBD has to go through your digestive system first. This can take anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes.

Onset for the other methods of ingestion—including inhalation, sublingual, and topical application—is much faster. You’ll feel the effects within a few minutes.

Ingestion MethodLength of OnsetDuration of Effects
Oral30 to 90 minutes4 to 6 hours
Sublingual5 to 20 minutes4 to 6 hours
Topical1 to 3 minutes4 to 6 hours
Inhalation1 to 3 minutes2 to 3 hours*

* You’ll note that the duration of effects for inhalation is much shorter than with other methods. However, the effects are felt almost instantly. This makes inhaling CBD a better option for those taking CBD to manage acute symptoms, such as a panic attack or nausea.

Where Can You Buy CBD Oil?

CBD is widely available for purchase online, and to a growing extent in physical stores. You can find CBD oils at:

  • Manufacturer websites: Most CBD oils are available for purchase directly on the manufacturer’s websites. These are often the best place to get the lowest price for a particular product.
  • Retailer websites: Online retailers will sell CBD oils from several different brands, allowing you to enjoy the widest product range and selection.
  • Health or drug stores: You can also find hemp-derived CBD oils in some local health and drug stores. Depending on where you live, marijuana-sourced CBD oil may also be available.
  • Marijuana dispensaries: If you live in a state where marijuana is legal for recreational use, you can often purchase CBD oils at dispensaries as well.

Is CBD Oil Legal?

Yes, CBD oil sourced from industrial hemp is legal.

The same cannot be said for marijuana-based CBD. If you plan on purchasing CBD sourced from marijuana, you’ll want to check the laws in your state before doing so. Even if you’re able to purchase it online, it may not actually be legal where you live.

If you purchase hemp-sourced CBD, which describes all of the CBD brands we review below, you won’t have to worry about the legality. As of December 2018, with the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, industrial hemp—and CBD oil sourced from it—became federal at a legal level nationwide.

How to Find Quality CBD Oil

When shopping for CBD oil, it’s important to do a bit of research to ensure you find a quality product from a reputable manufacturer. A 2017 survey of 84 CBD oils sold online found that only a third were accurately labeled in regards to the concentration of CBD.

To know you can trust what you read on the label, use the following checklist to evaluate any CBD company you’re considering purchasing from.

Which extraction method do they use?

Chapter CBD oils tend to come from manufacturers who use less safe extraction methods. These manufacturers may go so far as to use toxic materials like butane to extract their CBD oils. We recommend CBD oils that use carbon dioxide (CO2) extraction. It’s the safest and most effective process.

Where do they grow their hemp?

Locally grown hemp reduces the potential for toxic ingredients to be present in your CBD oils. We recommend manufacturers who grow their hemp in the U.S., and make all of their CBD products from non-GMO, 100% pesticide-free industrial hemp.  

Do they use third-party testing?

Reputable CBD oil manufacturers use unbiased third-party labs to test the safety of their ingredients and concentration of CBD and other cannabinoids in their products. These manufacturers should not only use a third-party lab; they should also make these lab results readily available on their website or in the product packaging.

What do other consumers have to say?

Reviews can be a great place to mine for information as to what kind of conditions people are using the CBD oil for, what dosage they used, and whether they found it effective. Take a look at the product reviews on the company’s website, and feel free to ask for more opinions on online forums like the CBD subreddit.

What’s the price per mg?

For many, price is both a deciding factor and a way to assess the quality of a CBD oil. If a product seems priced too low to be true, it probably is. The cost of your CBD oil will mostly depend on the concentration and size of the product. It’s best to calculate the cost per milligram (we’ve done this for you in each of our reviews below). This way you can quickly tell whether you are paying a reasonable amount for the strength of the CBD you’re purchasing. A good-quality CBD oil can cost anywhere from $0.05/mg to over $0.20/mg.

Additional Resources

Are you looking for a specific type of CBD, or planning to use it to treat a particular condition? Check out our other reviews of the best CBD oils: