Cannabidiol (CBD) is a natural food supplement which is extracted and purified from cannabis plants.

It is 100% legal as it has no psychoactive side-effects. Even though it shares its source with cannabis, there are none of the chemicals in it that affect you like cannabis alone would.

The hallucinogenic effects of cannabis are due to a compound called Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and it is the THC in cannabis that is illegal; that’s why products sold on the high street cannot contain any more than 1mg of THC in total, per bottle.

In the early 1990s scientists discovered we have specific cannabinoid receptors in almost every system in our body. This suggests cannabinoid compounds like CBD oil are likely to have a very broad range of benefits.

Our bodies make chemicals known as endocannabinoids, which are very similar in structure to the cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant and act on the same brain receptors as cannabis. The World Health Organisation has confirmed CBD oil is safe and not addictive.

A quarter of a million people are now using legal cannabis (CBD). Some take it in prescription-only medicines for epilepsy and multiple sclerosis, but the vast majority are using over-the-counter products to tackle a wide range of problems including pain, anxiety and insomnia.

There has been a recent resurgence in interest and research around cannabis. But cannabis, also known as hemp, has been used for a range of health problems for at least 5,000 years.

“When the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain set up a review of the evidence in 1998, we discovered Queen Victoria used a tincture of cannabis during childbirth and to relieve period pains,” says Sultan ‘Sid’ Dajani, who is a spokesman for the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and a community pharmacist with a special interest in the medical use of cannabis.

“Although it fell out of favour doctors could prescribe it up until 1971, when it was classified as a Class C drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act.”

The turning point came early last year, with the high-profile cases of Billy Caldwell and Alfie Dingley, two children with severe epilepsy whose parents had to fight for them to be allowed to take cannabis extracts to control their seizures.

Previous Home Secretary Sajid Javid announced a review of the law and allowed cannabis extracts to be used in exceptional circumstances. From November 1 last year, authorised doctors have been able to prescribe cannabis for a range of conditions.

“Medicinal cannabis, which is available only on prescription, should not be confused with CBD food supplements sold on the high street,” says Dr Saoirse O’Sullivan, associate professor at Nottingham University, who has been studying cannabis for more than 15 years. “The supplements have much lower concentrations of CBD, and the source plant cannot have more than 0.2% THC.”

Dr O’Sullivan says: “THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol; and CBD which is short for cannabidiol; are just two of more than 100 different chemical compounds, known as cannabinoids, found in the cannabis plant. Both have proven and sometimes similar medical benefits but research is focusing on CBD as it has no psychoactive side-effects.”

Dr O’Sullivan adds: “Clinical trials have shown CBD provides significant improvements in epilepsy, anxiety and Parkinson’s disease and based on pre-clinical evidence, there are more than 30 disorders that could benefit from treatment with CBD. These include chronic pain, anxiety, nausea and vomiting, dementia, stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis and insomnia.” But Mr Dajani warns: “Because cannabis seemed to relieve so many conditions, apothecaries often over-promised what it could do.”

“Over-the-counter CBD products are being sold under the rules governing food supplements, so the manufacturers are not allowed to make any medicinal or health claims,” explains Mr Dajani. “This means the concentrations and quality can vary significantly. With some brands there may even be variations between batches. And as there is no information about potential interactions with other medicines it’s important to speak to your GP before taking it.”

Many of the products that you will find when you search the internet won’t be CBD oil though, they will be hemp oil – and despite what you may read they are definitely not the same thing.

Mr Dajani points out: “Although extracted from the cannabis or hemp plant, CBD and hemp oil are not the same thing. So, first of all, make sure you are buying CBD oil.” His advice is to look for a high concentration of CBD and a brand which is THC free. However, he warns some products described as ‘high strength’ contain less CBD than the lowest dose of others.

Another issue facing users is that CBD oil isn’t the nicest of tastes and the most common way of taking it is by using a dropper into the mouth. Some providers have tried to use flavourings in the oil to make them more palatable, but this only works with low strength products – and for this reason flavoured oils are best avoided.

CBD Shield have collected some of the most beneficial and effective ways to achieve the considerable health benefits of CBD usage – and we have ensured that you have a choice of a range of ways to take it.