What is CBD oil? Everything you need to know, plus the 14 best products

Learn what the oil actually is, what its side effects are, plus what benefits to expect, should you use it.

cbd oil

Learn what the oil actually is, what its side effects are, plus what benefits to expect, should you use it.

CBD oil is officially mainstream, with the fitness, wellness and beauty industries embracing its many potential benefits.

Kim Kardashian, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Aniston are all said to be fans of the anxiety-reducing, sleep-boosting oil - a bit like collagen supplements, it's popularity has soared in recent years, with Forbes predicting the US CBD market to surpass $20 billion by 2024. You can now buy everything from CBD oil, to CBD gummies, to CBD tampons, but for your complete guide to the oily stuff, keep reading.

Learn what CBD oil is - plus, how you're supposed to actually use it, and how it could benefit your day-to-day - with our complete Marie Claire UK guide.

What is CBD Oil?

CBD, short for cannabidiol, is an oil derived from the cannabis plant. It is different to THC (tetrohydrocannabinol), which is the part of the plant that creates the ‘high’ associated with smoking weed.

‘THC is the compound in cannabis that gets you high but CBD alone won’t get you high at all,’ explains Charlotte Ferguson-Quilter, psychotherapist and founder of Disciple skincare.

‘It is important to check that your CBD products contain minimal THC if you don’t want to feel high – also any products with more than 2% THC are considered psychoactive in the UK and are therefore illegal.’

How does CBD work?

Let’s start with how CBD works. We all have internal Endocannabinoid System (ECS for short), which affects things like our mood, appetite and memory. CBD can support the ECS, helping with things like anxiety.

Benefits of CBD: What are they?

Read our extensive guide to the many CBD benefits, here, but for a more brief overview, know this: CBD can help with everything from sleep, to joint pain, to anxiety, to pain relief.

‘The popularity of CBD says something about how stressed and anxious we are as a society,’ Ferguson-Quilter explains. ‘By far the most popular benefits are pain relief and anxiety. It’s thought that CBD interacts with receptors in the brain and immune system to reduce inflammation and alleviate pain. CBD is also great for sleep issues and insomnia.'

Although more research is needed, studies conducted in recent years have suggested CBD oil can help with a range of problems. Recent studies cited by Medical News Today are an interesting read, highlighting the effectiveness of CBD oil with anxiety, arthritis and a whole other host of symptoms.

CBD side effects: will I get high? 

Short answer and as above: no.

There aren't any side effects of CBD, per se: as Rosie Joly, beauty and wellness director at OTO explains, taking CBD has no negative side effects. "During the day, when you are already alert, it will not make you feel drowsy or tired," she explains. "Instead, CBD can help to maintain balance within the body."

Positive side effects can include help with sleep, stress, mood, and certain skin conditions, she shares, as well as pain management and inflammation. "It’s also important to note here that CBD will not make you ‘high’ - rather, it is a naturally occurring substance that's used in products to impart a feeling of relaxation while targeting specific issues." Got it?

Another positive side effect of CBD can come at nighttime - Joly explains that, if you use CBD before bed when your body’s circadian rhythm or sleep-wake cycle is already primed for sleep, you can calm certain anxieties that may interfere with you falling (and staying) asleep.

"Remember, CBD is not a sedative, so it will not make you sleepy if your body is not already at that point in its circadian cycle," she adds. "Instead, CBD assists with naturally calming excess nervous activity which can interfere with the circadian cycle."

Side effects can also include anti-inflammatory effects on joints and muscles - "it can reduce our perception of pain in the affected area," she concludes.

How to take CBD

On board with CBD? There are a number of ways to try out the trend, from sipping a smoothie to smothering it onto your skin.

Drink it

Several boujee health food cafes now serve smoothies or coffees with CBD extract in the ingredients list. Glow Bar in central London, for example, serves a moon milk (golden, available hot or iced) that contains Wunder Workshop Golden Mylk and CBD. Planet Organic also offers CBD Oil Coffee, which features espresso, butter, coconut oil and CBD oil.

While drinking your CBD at cafés is a treat, this is obviously not an ideal daily consumption method due to money and time constraints. Another option is to eat your CBD; Green Goddess Wellness now offer a 'Bliss Bar,' which uses vanilla flavouring, dark chocolate and CBD oil. Delish.

CBD oil drops

Perhaps the most versatile way to incorporate CBD into your life, CBD oils can be taken orally or applied topically onto skin. We'd recommend checking out Disciple's range of Miracle Drops, which offer CBD levels of 2.5%, 5% and 1000mg.

All you need to do is swallow half a dropper's worth (of the actual glass dropper, not just half a drop), or mix it into a drink to take it orally. Alternatively, you can apply it directly onto skin.

CBD in skincare

Skincare is another realm of the beauty and wellness industry that is embracing CBD oil. CBD Oil has great moisturising properties, notes Charlotte, making it great for dehydrated complexions. It's also good for acne-prone skin:

'CBD creates a highly effective sebostatic effect; this essentially means that it is amazing at balancing sebum and skin oils. Both of which are catalysts for the series of issues that result in skin breakouts and acne,' explains Charlotte. 

While many brands are taking time to perfect CBD formulas that we hope to see in future, there are a few options you can already buy. Revolution's Nourishing Oil – CBD Oil is perfect for dry, dull skin that needs soothing, while MGC Derma has a whole range of CBD Oil-based skincare, from creams to serums.

One of the brands we're most excited about is CUBID, sustainably sourced and containing 65% CBD with zero trace of THC. The core collection includes a hand cream, face cream, along with body butter and the hero Stay Active Cream, £30, a CBD-infused tea tree cream which helps relieve tension and inflammation and with daily use, can help acne, psoriasis and eczema - a perfect, post-workout cream, that'll help sooth and de-stress joints.

Where to buy CBD

Lots of online beauty retailers now offer CBD (Lookfantastic and Cult Beauty we're looking at you), but you're also able to shop for it IRL. Founded by industry experts Johan Obel and Clemens Böninger, The Drug Store is a new dedicated store in Marylebone for all things CBD – two whole floors of it, in fact – where you can ask any questions you may have about products and useage before you buy.

'The brands and products sold by The Drug Store are all personally handpicked by myself and Clemens,' Johan said shortly after the launch. 'We feel passionately about incorporating a careful edit of boundary-pushing brands with innovative formulations of the highest quality.' Amen to that.

In short, CBD oil is definitely worth a try for anyone suffering from anxiety or pain-related symptoms. Scroll on for our favourite CBD oil buys below.

14 CBD oils and products to shop now: 

Rebecca Fearn

Rebecca is a freelance beauty journalist and contributor to Marie Claire. She has written for titles including Refinery29, The Independent, Grazia, Coveteur, Dazed, Stylist, and Glamour. She is also a brand consultant and has worked with the likes of The Inkey List on campaign messaging and branded copy. She’s obsessed with skincare, nail art and fragrance, and outside of beauty, Rebecca likes to travel, watch true crime docs, pet sausage dogs and drink coffee. Rebecca is also passionate about American politics and mental health awareness.