CBD Oil Guide: Benefits, What It Is, Risks (& More) – Holland & Barrett

  • Whether you have heard all about CBD oil and would like to try it for yourself, or you are simply CBD-curious, you have come to the right place.

    In this guide we will run through all the different ways you can consume CBD oil, as well as the different benefits for each method.

    Hopefully this will help you decide to-CBD or not-to-CBD and how it may be able to help you – let’s get started!

    What is CBD oil?

    Let’s get the basics covered first: what is CBD and what is CBD used for?

    What is CBD?

    CBD – short for cannabidiol – is a compound derived from the hemp plant. Not to be confused with the marijuana that some people smoke, CBD oil is legal and contains very little of the ‘psychoactive’ compound THC.1

    The hemp cultivated for CBD oil will always be high-CBD and low-THC. With THC only present in trace amounts, this allows the users to enjoy CBD without the psychoactive intoxication that THC is associated with.

    What is CBD used for?

    When we take a CBD product, it interacts with our endocannabinoid system – that’s right, we already have a natural system for these endocannabinoids to interact with!

    In human and other mammal bodies, this physiological system is made up of millions of CB1 and CB2 receptor sites.2

    6 of the best ways to use CBD oil

    How to take CBD oil

    CBD comes in a variety of formats, so you should be able to find one that can work for you. Whether it’s straight-up CBD oil you’re interested in or balms, capsules or beauty products, read about them and how they work below.

    1. CBD oil

    The original – and maybe – the best? CBD oil is likely the easiest to get your hands on and perhaps the simplest to use. The brand and product type will dictate how many drops or the dosage (e.g. 2ml) per day it is recommended that your take.

    It is usually taken under the tongue to help absorption. This could make it somewhat difficult for some people to swallow, so if you have a sensitive palate, a different method could be better for you!

    CBD oil with food

    Taking your CBD oil with food can improve its bioavailability3 – the rate and degree that a substance is absorbed and sent to the bloodstream. What’s more, choosing to take your CBD oil when consuming certain food types can improve the bioavailability of CBD compounds even more.

    Some of the best foods to eat alongside taking CBD oil is medium-chain and long-chain fatty acids. These fatty acids ‘bind’ to the cannabinoids before they reach the liver (with less CBD concentration loss), where they get metabolised instantly together – ready for your body to put to work straight away.4 

    Studies have been conducted to test the link between fatty foods and how bioavailable CBD supplements can be. They found that eating fatty foods alongside supplementing CBD may ‘substantially increase the systemic exposure to orally administered cannabis-based medicines.’5

    Here are some of the best foods to eat in conjunction with supplementing CBD:

    • Olive oil
    • Coconut oil
    • Sesame oil
    • Soybean oil
    • Fish
    • Avocado
    • Nuts
    • Eggs
    • Meat

    You could easily combine some of those ingredients to make a healthy, CBD-friendly meal that helps you make the most of your supplements.

    Try making a hearty guacamole with olive oil, avocado, tomatoes, onion and garlic. Or why not treat yourself to some coconut oil in your morning fruit smoothie to get your day started off right.

    Here’s our round up of the best CBD oils.

    CBD oil for pets

    Some CBD is specially formulated for pets so that they can feel the natural benefits too. Always make sure to find a pet-friendly product and consult your vet before administering, though!

    2. CBD balm

    Many product manufacturers recommend that CBD balms are best used when massaged into the skin. When used like this, it may cause pleasant warming and cooling sensations.

    3. CBD beauty products

    In a very similar way to CBD balms, the CBD in beauty products like CBD-enriched moisturisers, serums and facial oils gets absorbed through the skin.

    What are some CBD cream benefits?

    • It can soothe the skin, especially when it features in a CBD muscle balm
    • It is very moisturising and can help your skin achieve the correct balance of oil production for your skin type
    • It’s an antioxidant, which help to protect your skin from free radical damage caused by oxidative stress
    • It can help protect your skin

    Here’s our roundup of the best CBD topicals: Creams, balms, serums & more.

    4. CBD capsules

    CBD capsules are a great option for people who don’t get on with the Earthy taste of CBD oil. They usually contain similar recommended dosages to CBD oils, so you can use them in the same way.

    Some CBD capsules also contain added vitamins and nutrients, e.g. B vitamins, so you can enjoy additional health benefits with your dose of CBD.

    Here’s our roundup of the best CBD capsules and supplements.

    5. CBD gummies

    In the same way as CBD capsules do, CBD gummies take away the sometimes-unpalatable taste of CBD without taking away any of the benefits. If anything, CBD gummies take it one step further, with their fruity flavours.

    They’re great for travelling too, as you can take them without a drink. Here’s our roundup of the best CBD gummies.

    6. CBD oral sprays

    Quick, simple oral sprays are also an option when it comes to taking CBD. Most have a pleasant flavour or are flavourless – ticking the ‘I don’t like the taste of hemp’ box. In addition, some of them also contain vitamins and other nutrients so you can enjoy even more benefits with each spray.

    As it is administered onto the tongue via spray, this CBD will enter your bloodstream faster than capsules and edibles, as they don’t have to pass through the digestive system. You don’t need a drink to ‘wash them down’ either, making CBD sprays perfect for travelling.

    What forms of CBD are available at Holland & Barrett?

    CBD oils

    Jacob Hooy drops are non-psychoactive and the content of THC is tested on every batch to meet specification requirements of less than 0.05%. CBD+ Oil has a ‘distinctive’ taste – have a small drink of water after taking the oil and the taste will be gone within 30 seconds.

    Produced with care and top quality ingredients this bottle which contains 500mg of CBD also contains vitamin D which contributes to normal muscle function.

    CBD oils


    Each Naturopathica+ Wellbeing capsule contains a concentrated dose of full-spectrum CBD. It also contains vitamins A, B1, B12, C, D2 & E for a broad range of health benefits, including contributing to the normal function of the immune system.

    5mg of super-concentrated, full spectrum CBD per capsule.

    Naturopathica CBD Plus capsules make it easy to get a daily dose of CBD Plus a supplement all in one, with just one capsule per day.


    Oil spray

    Holistic Herbs uniquely micro-emulsified CBD does not degrade in the stomach, enhancing its transport to the bloodstream, ensuring total bioavailability.

    This THC free product which is also vegan friendly has a natural taste and comes in a range of different strengths and flavours.

    Oil spray


    Reakiro’s Raw Hemp Extract RxPen is an innovative way to take CBD. The RxPen has an expertly designed applicator which keeps it fresh while allowing multiple users to hygienically share the product.

    One click of the pen provides one serving and 25mg of CBD.



    Naturopathica’s CBD lozenges are the first of their kind in the UK. They contain Niacin (vitamin B1), B6, B12, and vitamin C which contribute to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue and normal energy-yielding metabolism. They also include Zinc, which supports your brain health by contributing to normal cognitive function. This blend of essential nutrients also helps maintain the health of your hair, skin and nails.

    The unique format of these lozenges allows them to be easily dissolved in the mouth, which provides quick and effective delivery into your bloodstream.


    CBD gummies

    These tasty, green, apple flavoured CBD gummies provide a dose of 15mg per gummy. Starpowa CBD gummies contain no additives, synthetic chemicals, or other impurities.

    These gummies are THC free, are vegan friendly and contain no added sugar.

    CBD gummies

    Food enhancers

    AddCBD has created a CBD Food Enhancer to provide flexible options to add CBD to your day.

    Simply add a drop as an ingredient to your favourite foods or drinks.

    Food enhancers


    The first soft drink in the UK infused with CBD, taking one of the most culturally significant botanicals of the last century to a new level of sophistication.

    Botanic Lab Tea Drink combines cannabidiol, hibiscus, sour cherry and ginger.  A refreshing and sophisticated alternative to soda drinks, this is the answer to the lack of interesting and premium non-alcoholic drinks for adults.



    Part of a range of vitamin, mineral and CBD infused teas from TEA+. TEA+ CBD delivers 3mg of CBD per tea bag. Delivered in an organic caffeine free blend of rooibos, apple & baobab, TEA+ CBD offers a new, refreshing way to consume CBD.

    The first tea in the UK to be infused with CBD in every teabag.



    Warm, cooling and 100% natural, CBD muscle balm combines CBD with capsicum and other botanicals to be massaged into affected areas.

    Available in a range of strengths and sizes.



    This CBD hand cream has been developed to make dry hands smooth again. The hand cream is quickly absorbed by the skin, without leaving a greasy feeling.

    Vegan friendly and based on natural ingredients only, this product also contains vitamin E which acts as a natural antioxidant.



    • CBD or cannabidiol is a compound derived from the hemp plant
    • CBD products interact with our endocannabinoid system
    • CBD is available in the following forms: oil, balm, beauty products, capsules, gummies and oral sprays

    Why is CBD oil now in beauty products?

    Scientists are only beginning to discover the benefits of CBD oil but emerging research shows it has a positive effect on a number skin conditions including acne, dermatitis and psoriasis.6 CBD also has an antioxidant effect, helping to protect skin cells from the potentially damaging effects of free radicals.7

    So, exactly how could CBD oil give your beauty regime a boost?

    It can tackle oily skin and acne

    While oily skin can be caused by genetics, hormones or your diet, CBD oil can help control it. In 2014, researchers from University of Debrecen, Hungary, discovered that CBD oil could stop sebaceous glands in the skin producing excess sebum – the oil that causes a shiny appearance – and also prevented ‘pro-acne’ agents such as inflammatory proteins from being activated.8

    A later study by the same team concluded that CBD oil could be a ‘highly efficient, novel anti-acne agent’.9

    It fights the appearance of wrinkles

    CBD is a powerful antioxidant, which means it can help protect the body from harmful free-radical damage. In the skin, this largely means preventing visible signs of ageing, such as wrinkles.10 CBD could also stimulate the growth of new skin cells. A study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology in 2011 found that manipulating the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) – the production of our own cannabinoids that bind to specific receptors in the body and brain – can regulate the life cycle of basal skin cells, which may lead to younger-looking skin.11 It’s thought that CBD can influence the body to use more of its own cannabidinoids.12

    It’s good for dry or itchy skin

    In 2006 German scientists discovered that 14 patients with dry or itchy skin conditions – either prurigo, lichen simplex or pruritus – who were given a cream containing a substance that could stimulate the ECS, reported an 86.4% reduction in itch.13 The skin also has its own ECS receptors, which may make topical application of CBD oil particularly effective.14 According to evidence presented by the American Academy of Dermatologists, further studies have found that CBD can ease symptoms of atopic dermatitis, psoriasis and eczema.15

    It can soothe sore muscles

    CBD could help ease aching muscles after a workout, too. It’s well known that cannabinoids have muscle-relaxant properties, while medicinal cannabis is often prescribed for adults with multiple sclerosis suffering from muscle stiffness.16 The results of a controlled trial by Bath’s Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases in 2006 revealed that CBD could tackle symptoms of the inflammatory condition rheumatoid arthritis.17 Patients using a cannabis-based medicine were better able to move around and also experienced greater quality of sleep.

    Want to start using CBD skin-care products? Take your pick from luxury brands all the way through to the high street. Remember to do a patch-test 24-hours before use, and be aware that CBD effects include interacting with some medications; talk to your GP if you’ve got any questions.

    Why can’t I find any health claims on CBD products?

    Demand for CBD food supplements has arisen from information generally available to consumers on CBD, based on global consumer experience and emerging science.

    In the EU, compliant manufacturers and retailers market their products in accordance with EU Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation and only utilise authorised health claims for the food supplements they sell.

    Due to the time and specific format of studies required to gain authorised health claims in the EU, there have been no CBD specific health claims authorised at this time.

    Is CBD a medicine?

    The most widely available CBD is sold as a food supplement, and no medicinal claims are permitted on these products, as with any other food supplement. CBD food supplements should not be confused with medicinal CBD products for conditions such as epilepsy, which are not available for general sale.

    Is CBD psychoactive?

    Unlike THC, CBD is not psychoactive and any residues of THC from the processing of hemp are negligible (<0.05%).

    Can CBD make me high?

    No. As mentioned above, CBD does not contain the psychoactive component that makes you high.

    Are CBD products safe?

    The World Health Organisation’s 2018 Critical Review Report on CBD states that CBD is generally well tolerated with a good safety profile.18

    What is meant by broad-spectrum CBD?

    You may have heard this term before which is more commonly used in industry, but broad-spectrum CBD products are manufactured from cannabis plants that have been processed to remove all THC. What you are left with is CBD and other permitted cannabinoids and substances including terpenoids and essential oils.

    What is meant by full-spectrum CBD?

    Sometimes referred to as ‘whole-plant CBD’, this form of CBD is extracted from the cannabis plant along with THC, all other cannabinoids, terpenes, and essential oils.

    How much CBD should I take?

    Like with most things, a ‘one dose fits all’ approach to supplementing CBD is rarely advised. Everybody is different.

    Some people will get on with the ‘average’ dose of CBD just fine, whereas others may need just a fraction of the dose.

    We have put together some resource to help you figure out what dose of CBD may suit you best, keep reading to find out more.


    • No health claims can be made about CBD oil, which is sold as a food supplement, rather than a medicinal product
    • CBD is not psychoactive and cannot make you ‘high’
    • The World Health Organisation has found CBD to be generally well tolerated, with a good safety profile

    What strength CBD should I use?

    Our answer: Take things slowly…

    If you haven’t taken CBD products before and would like to try, it is recommended that you start off small, e.g. a lower potency product with a small dose.

    Then you can start to increase it little by little over a period of time until you reach the daily allowance advised on label.

    The Food Standards Agency consumer guidance advises no more than 70mg daily. It’s impossible to know what dose to use before you’ve done a little experimenting

    Different CBD supplements and different formulations may also influence how much and how frequently you take CBD. Keep reading for more information on that.

    How much CBD is in CBD products?

    A good way to determine how much CBD you should be taking is by looking at which products appeal to you, e.g. CBD oil, balms, capsules, gummies, and seeing how much CBD they contain.

    How much CBD is in CBD oil?

    When you buy a tincture of CBD oil, it’s handy to know that it’s not often pure CBD oil. Instead, the contents are commonly made up of a mixture of hemp oil, hemp paste (leaves and flowers) and an emulsifier which is usually another plant oil.

    Concentrated CBD is commonly sourced from the leaves and flowers of the hemp plant. This is why you need to make sure you’re buying CBD oil with a clear CBD content, and not just plain old hemp oil! Not to slate hemp oil – that has its own unique benefits. But it’s the CBD you’re after, right? That’s what the 2.75% or 5% is referring to – how much CBD is inside.

    Lets talk numbers

    As well as percentages to show how much CBD is inside, you may also see the CBD content referred to in mgs, e.g. 8mg.

    If you then go and look at the recommended dosage, e.g. 3 drops per day, this typically means that in those 3 drops, there will be 2.66mg (2.66mg x 3 = 8mg).

    Meaning, you may have to do a little maths to compare different products.

    Here are some of the CBD oils we sell here at Holland & Barrett, from the lowest to the highest concentration:

    Jacob Hooy CBD Oil 2.75%

    A great one to try first, this lower dosage CBD oil comes in 10ml (256mg CBD per bottle and 1.15mg per drop) and 30ml (768mg per bottle and 1.15mg per drop)19, so you could purchase the smaller one if you want to try before you commit. The 30ml is great for people who already know they get on with this dosage.

    Jacob Hooy CBD Oil 5%

    The same company as we have mentioned above, Jacob Hooy, also have a 5% CBD oil in the same 10ml (465mg per bottle and 2.1mg per drop)20 and 30ml format (1395mg per bottle and 2.1mg per drop).21 Allowing you to try the smaller bottle before committing to the larger one.

    Want to know how CBD oil can help you?

    Discover CBD oil reviews from people who have taken CBD oil in capsule, liquid and other forms – plus what Jacob Hooy, one of the best-known CBD suppliers, has to say about them!  

    Holistic Herb Premium CBD Oil

    Holistic Herb are another CBD brand we stock here at H&B, and they have just launched a double strength formula.

    Each dose contains 8.1mg of CBD and each dose consists of 9 drops, e.g. take 3 drops with breakfast, 3 drops with lunch, 3 drops with dinner.

    Other CBD products and their CBD content

    CBD capsules

    Another way to take CBD is capsules. If you don’t mind swallowing pills, and would rather that than tasting the CBD oil, capsules could be for you.

    Monitoring your dose can be easier with capsules too, as you usually only have to take one or two capsules a day – like taking your multivitamin.

    However, this does also mean you have less room for experimentation than if you were using CBD oil. They’re perfect for taking when you have found your favourite dose, though.

    The highest dose capsule we sell is from Reakiro and contains 50mg of CBD per dose: Reakiro CBD Gel 1500mg 30 Capsules We also sell CBD gummiesCBD sprays and CBD lozenges with varying doses.

    CBD doses

    Use the below guide to help you find the right product with the right dosage for you.

    Product Dose (mg)
    Love Hemp CBD 300mg 60 Capsules 5
    Holistic Herb Premium CBD 60 Capsules 10mg 10
    Jacob Hooy CBD 60 Capsules 10mg 10
    Reakiro CBD Gel 450mg 30 Capsules 15
    Jacob Hooy CBD 20mg 60 Capsules 20
    Love Hemp CBD 1200mg 60 Capsules 20
    Reakiro CBD Gel 750mg 30 Capsules 25
    Reakiro CBD Gel 1500mg 30 Capsules 50
    Product Dose (mg)
    Jacob Hooy CBD Oil 2.75% 10ml 4.1
    Holistic Herb Premium CBD Oil Double Strength 15ml* 4.2
    Reakiro CBD Oil 300mg 10ml 5
    Jacob Hooy CBD Oil 5% 10ml 7.5
    Love Hemp 1200mg CBD Oil Valencia Orange 30ml 10
    Pureis® Ultra Pure CBD Fast Absorbing Oil 280mg Unflavoured Oral Drops 10ml 10
    Reakiro CBD Oil 1000mg 10 ml 16.7
    AddCBD Food Enhancer 300mg 20
    Reakiro CBD Oil 1500mg 10ml 25
    Product Dose (mg)
    Holistic Herb Premium CBD Oral Spray Single Strength 15ml Mint Flavour 4.95
    BetterYou CBD Daily Oral Spray 25ml 7.6
    Love Hemp 400mg CBD Oil Spray Orange 30ml 8
    Love Hemp 300mg CBD Spray Valencia Orange 30ml 10
    Love hemp 600mg CBD Spray Valencia Orange 30ml 10
    Pureis® Ultra Pure CBD Fast Absorbing Oil 280mg Spearmint Oral Spray 10ml 10
    Love Hemp 1200mg CBD Spray Natural 30ml 15
    Love Hemp 1200mg CBD Spray Peppermint 30ml 15
    Product Dose (mg)
    Starpowa CBD 5mg Apple Flavoured 60 Gummies 5
    Naturopathica CBD 10mg Citrus 20 Lozenges 10
    Starpowa CBD 15mg Apple Flavoured 60 Gummies 15
    Reakiro Rx Pen 1000mg 10ml 25

    Why does CBD taste bad?

    CBD is derived from hemp plants, so if you are not a fan of the natural flavour, there are many different unflavoured, and flavoured, options available.

    Capsules or tablets are a great option if you don’t like the natural hemp flavour. You could also try flavoured sprays or try adding suitable CBD oil to your drinks or food.

    Why is CBD expensive?

    We believe the costs of our CBD products to be fair, given the work that goes into every batch from seed to shelf.

    Every CBD product that we stock uses only high-quality hemp species approved by the EU and undergoes several specialist manufacturing processes whilst maintaining the quality of these products at each stage.

    After the final product is produced brands also test their products to ensure customers get the best in quality and safety.

    How long does it take to absorb CBD?

    Sprays and oils will likely work faster as they bypass the digestive system and enter your blood stream quickly. Whereas capsules and gummies will have to be digested for the CBD to be released.

    How long does CBD stay in my system?

    Many different factors will influence how long CBD will remain in the body. These include the form of CBD used (gummies, oral sprays, creams, oils) and the dose you are using. It is widely accepted that CBD ingested on an empty stomach is metabolised faster, than when CBD is taken with food. The elimination half-life of CBD (the time it takes for the amount of CBD in the body to half) is thought to be between 18-32 hours.

    Are CBD products age-restricted? Can I take them during pregnancy?

    Responsible producers and retailers exercise an abundance of caution towards groups with particular health sensitivities for which there is presently less data on use.

    Thus, whilst CBD products are generally safe, many traders ensure products are only sold to adults and make advisory statements such as: ‘Do not use during pregnancy and breastfeeding’.

    All our CBD food supplements and the vast majority of our CBD based beauty products are restricted for sale to those aged 18 years and above.

    Can CBD interact with my medications?

    Responsible producers and retailers exercise an abundance of caution towards groups with particular health sensitivities for which there is presently less data on use.

    Unfortunately, there is no definitive list of medications that are known to interact with CBD, and therefore as a responsible retailer, we would advise that if you are on medication you should always check with your GP first before using any CBD product.

    Is CBD addictive? Can products be abused?

    The World Health Organisation’s 2018 Critical Review Report on CBD[22] stated that to that date, there is no evidence of recreational use of CBD or any public health-related problems associated with its use.

    Furthermore, individuals cannot readily recover any negligible quantity of THC residues present in quality products. This is due to its near absence in the first place and the technical difficulties that it would pose to obtain a yield that constitutes a risk to health and could therefore be misused.

    What about tests for cannabis abuse and CBD?

    The responsible CBD industry appreciates that individuals should not be under the influence of substances impairing their judgment during daily duties, and therefore, employs quality controls to ensure that residues of THC in CBD products are negligible – most importantly ensuring that residual levels have no psychoactive effect.

    The actual amount of THC residue may vary from product to product and batch to batch. Health and safety considerations demand that individuals in certain roles are subject to substance testing to safeguard colleagues and the public. We are aware that CBD supplements have been subject to monitoring as part of official controls (under (EU) 2016/2115) using tests for THC residues that detect a limit of quantification of 200ppm.

    In light of this limit used independently for testing, we believe that it is unlikely that quality-controlled CBD products should give rise to adverse test results. As both sensitivities of tests and THC content of products can vary, Holland & Barrett cannot take any responsibility for positive test results and we would suggest that this investigated with the tester before taking CBD.

    A final note

    Everybody is different – some products will suit you nicely, and others will not work for you and your lifestyle.

    We recommend seeking the advice of a medical professional before you decide to supplement CBD oil for the best advice.

    Here at H&B, we only sell CBD that meets our highest standards for purity, quality, and safety, as backed by leading trade associations (HFMA & EIHA) and expert laboratories so you can find the CBD you can trust. And in the format, flavour and strength you want too.

    The advice in this article is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP or healthcare professional before trying any supplements, treatments or remedies. Food supplements must not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.

    Last updated: 15 March 2021

    Bhupesh Panchal

    Author: Bhupesh Panchal, Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate

    Joined Holland & Barrett: Apr 2019

    Masters Degree in Toxicology and BSc Hons in Medical Biochemistry

    Bhupesh started his career as a Clinical Toxicologist for Public Health England, advising healthcare professionals all around the country on how to manage clinical cases of adverse exposure to supplements, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, industrial chemicals and agricultural products.

    After 7 years in this role and a further year working as a drug safety officer in the pharmaceutical industry, Bhupesh joined Holland & Barrett as a Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate in 2019.

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