CBD oil has exploded onto the market in recent years as more people become aware of its potential health benefits. Available in a wide range of forms, CBD oil has offered many people convenient and low-impact relief from common conditions like anxiety and insomnia.
As a cannabis derivative, there is still plenty of confusion and misconception surrounding CBD, which can make buying the right CBD oil difficult. This is only made more confusing by sellers making exaggerated claims about their product’s effectiveness, which means consumers need to be knowledgeable.
CBD oil is typically sold in one of two types: crystalline isolate and full-spectrum CBD. Knowing what these are and which to choose is vital to choosing the right product.
In this guide, we take a look at the complex topic of CBD oil, what it is, how it can help, and whether it’s safe to use. We’ll also give you our top picks of the best CBD oil available on the market.
The Best CBD Oil: Our Top Picks
Best Overall: NuLeaf Naturals
Quality CBD oil in an array of concentrations.
Why We Picked It
In such a booming industry, transparency isn’t always available. That’s one reason NuLeaf Naturals CBD oil takes our Best Overall category.
NuLeaf is a full-spectrum, USDA-certified organic hemp oil with no artificial additives or preservatives. The oil is derived from non-GMO plants grown on select Colorado farms and is lab-tested for quality and purity. The third-party lab test results are available to download from the NuLeaf website. NuLeaf CBD oil is made through a twofold CO2 extraction process to ensure the highest quality end product.
NuLeaf is concentrated to approximately 50mg cannabinoids per milliliter of oil and sold in an array of sizes, from 240mg to 4850mg. The oil has a natural flavor due to the lack of additives.
NuLeaf’s level of transparency and quality control makes its CBD oil stand out in a crowded market. NuLeaf has an enormous 15,000 reviews on its website, with a 4.9 average star rating out of 5, so it has a proven track record with customers.
Keep in Mind
The product is additive-free, but that also means there are no alternative flavors available.
In a Nutshell
- 100% organic
- Third-party lab-tested
Best Value: CBDistillery
Affordable, high-quality CBD oil.
Why We Picked It
It’s not always easy to find quality CBD oil at a reasonable price. Many high-quality oils are expensive, while cheaper oils can cut corners. We picked CBDistillery’s CBD oil for our Best Value category for the quality it delivers at a budget-friendly price.
CBDistillery’s CBD oil is a full-spectrum, third-party lab-tested oil made with non-GMO hemp grown in the US. Batch testing results are available on the CBDistillery website and can be accessed with a convenient QR code included on each bottle.
Along with the full-spectrum hemp oil, CBDistillery’s oil also contains a small amount of fractionated coconut oil. The product is also available in a range of forms, including gummies and topicals.
Keep in Mind
Not all CBDistillery CBD products are vegan, so be sure to check if this is important to you.
In a Nutshell
- Third-party lab-tested
Highest Potency: Spruce
A CBD heavy-hitter.
Why We Picked It
If you’re looking to maximize your CBD budget, then Spruce might be the way to go. It takes our Highest Potency category thanks to its higher-than-usual dosage. This makes it ideal for CBD users who find average doses underwhelming, or those who have built up a tolerance.
Spruce is a full-spectrum vegan and gluten-free CBD oil with no extra flavorings. It’s made from organic, US-grown hemp and features no additives that might dilute the oil. This also means the oil is unflavored, so it has a natural CBD oil taste.
Spruce maintains a first purchase 30-day return policy for opened products. Beyond this, only unopened items can be returned for a refund.
Keep in Mind
Due to the higher concentration of full-spectrum CBD oil, Spruce contains detectable amounts of THC and is unsuitable for anyone subjected to drug testing.
In a Nutshell
- High concentration
- No artificial additives
Best Non-THC Oil: Medterra
THC-free CBD oil for peace of mind.
Why We Picked It
Non-THC oil is important for a variety of CBD users, from those who are simply nervous about the inclusion of THC to those who are subjected to drug testing, which may detect trace amounts of THC. For these shoppers, Medterra CBD oil offers the benefits of CBD without the inclusion of THC.
Medterra oil contains zero percent THC, is non-GMO, and is made in the US. It’s a 99+ percent CBD and MCT coconut oil mixture. Links to the results of third-party lab testing are available on Medterra’s site.
Medterra is available in three strengths: 500mg, 1000mg and 3000mg, giving customers plenty of control over their CBD doses. Medterra also offers a 30-day return policy, so unsatisfied customers can return their CBD oil for a full refund less shipping costs.
Keep in Mind
Although customers can choose their preferred concentration, there are no other flavor or delivery methods available.
In a Nutshell
- Range of strengths available
- Made in US
Best Taste: Populum
A balanced flavor without the bitter taste.
Why We Picked It
Flavor can be a barrier for some CBD oil users. CBD oil can be bitter and earthy, and it’s not always easy to cover it up with other flavors—and attempts to do so can lead to a less concentrated dose.
Populum is a blend of full-spectrum CBD, grapeseed oil, hemp seed oil, coconut oil, and cold-pressed orange oil. The latter helps to modulate the natural hemp taste, balancing it with a light citrus taste. While some hemp flavor remains, it’s balanced in comparison to other products.
Populum also comes with a 30-day risk-free trial, so customers who are on the fence will have a chance to try its flavor before making a final decision.
Keep in Mind
Not as pure as some CBD oils due to additives, though these additives are from natural sources.
In a Nutshell
- Balanced flavor
- Natural additives
How We Chose the Best CBD Oils
To choose the right CBD oil for you, you need to weigh the pros and cons. To select our top picks, we take a look at a few key categories that you may want to keep in mind when choosing a CBD oil product.
Here are some of the categories we use to see how different CBD oils stack up:
It’s a given that quality represents one of the key indicators of value. For CBD oils, that means we look at the source and extraction method of the oil, including whether it’s organic, non-GMO, and grown locally.
The CBD market is still in its Wild West days, and regulation hasn’t quite caught up with supply and demand. This means there are plenty of questionable sellers offering all sorts of claims about their product.
Independent lab-testing is a way to determine the quality of CBD oil through a third-party, which verifies that the manufacturers’ claims of quality hold up to scrutiny. All of the products that made our top picks are independently lab-tested for this reason.
Another measure of CBD oil’s quality is the reputation of the brand that sells it. Plenty of pop-up stores have emerged to capitalize on the trend without the manufacturing expertise or quality control to back it up. We look at the brand’s reputation to establish whether they have the credentials to be a trusted CBD seller.
CBD oil can be an expensive investment. For those on a budget, it can be hard to find a brand within your reach that still offers the level of quality needed. Unsurprisingly, low prices often correlate with poor quality CBD.
We take a look at the price of a brand’s CBD oil to see whether it represents a good investment and to help those on a budget to achieve value for money.
The final test of a quality product is always going to be in the customer experience. We look at a CBD product’s popularity with its customers to give you an idea of how well it works for the average customer. We also identify any common complaints about the product you might need to be aware of.
What is CBD Oil?
There’s a lot of confusion and misconception around the cannabis plant and all of its derivatives. So let’s take a look at what CBD is and what it does.
CBD is short for cannabidiol. Cannabidiol is a compound that can be extracted from the two main varieties of the cannabis plant: hemp and marijuana. CBD is distinct from THC, another cannabis-derived compound which is famous for causing the “high” associated with cannabis.
The effects of CBD aren’t as well-known but have slowly come into the public consciousness in recent years.
Did you know there’s something resembling cannabis compounds in your body right now? One of the reasons CBD has drawn so much attention is that it’s compatible with a system in the body called the human endocannabinoid system. This extensive system of receptors and neurotransmitters has a close relationship with the nervous system. Studies have shown that the human endocannabinoid system may play a role in mood regulation and our general holistic well-being.
To bring this back to CBD, you can think of taking CBD as providing backup to the body’s natural endocannabinoids. Research suggests this gives CBD the ability to activate the same chemical triggers. It’s not too dissimilar to the more well-known ability of certain foods, such as chocolate, to “top up” our levels of other feel-good neurotransmitters like serotonin.
As a cannabis derivative, CBD’s reputation has been complicated for a while due to association with the psychoactive, high-inducing compound THC. But CBD’s effects are much more subtle and low-impact, which has led to the legalization of CBD in recent years.
CBD oil is now available from a huge range of retailers. All legal CBD currently on the market is derived from the hemp plant, which has low to nonexistent levels of psychoactive THC but is high in CBD (the marijuana plant has the opposite makeup).
CBD Oil Extraction
There are two main forms of CBD, each extracted with a different method and creating a different result. In the following table, we detail the two types, the method used, and their THC content.
|Extraction Type||Method||THC Content|
|Crystalline Isolate||One of several methods is used to isolate compounds by their boiling point, allowing CBD isolate to be extracted as a crystalline white powder.||Trace: undetectable for most purposes.|
|Full-Spectrum||Variety of methods, typically using a solvent to separate active compounds from plant materials.||Less than 0.3%: Does not cause psychoactive reactions but may be detectable in drug testing.|
How to take CBD
There are many different ways of taking CBD and different methods will appeal to different people. Most are easy to incorporate into your everyday routines, however, which means that taking CBD can be convenient and unobtrusive when you pick the right method for you.
- Tincture: Tinctures are high-concentrate liquids usually designed to be taken in small doses under the tongue. However, many people also use tinctures in food or drink to make them more palatable. Tinctures offer fast uptake by the body at the potential cost of being less pleasant to take.
- Edible: CBD oil is often infused into edible products to make taking CBD more palatable. Gummies are a popular form of edibles. Edibles make the process of taking CBD oil more palatable to those who don’t enjoy the taste or experience of other delivery methods.
- Vapor: Vaping has boomed in popularity almost alongside CBD oil use, and the two are natural partners. Many people use CBD oils in vape form, as it provides a convenient delivery method for people who already vape.
- Spray: CBD sprays are intended for oral use, usually sprayed beneath the tongue. The advantage of a spray is that it delivers a measured dose, along with being convenient and easy to use on the go. However, the feel of using a spray isn’t for everyone.
- Topical: Topical oils are applied directly to an area of the body. Much like a pain relief cream, topical oils are absorbed through the skin to target a specific area of the body.
Will CBD Get Me High?
One of the first things newcomers to CBD want to know is whether CBD will get them high. Most people who want to take CBD for medical purposes aren’t looking for the psychoactive effects of cannabis.
The good news is that CBD by itself doesn’t cause a high. The psychoactive effects associated with cannabis comes from a compound called THC. Together, CBD and THC represent the active, sought-after parts of cannabis, but THC is responsible for the iconic high we associate with cannabis. Some cannabis plants, such as hemp, contain almost no THC, but they’re often lumped in with marijuana for legal and social purposes.
It’s true that CBD doesn’t have psychoactive effects in isolation. But to complicate matters, some cannabis products contain both CBD and THC. Full-spectrum CBD oil, for instance, has trace amounts of THC, as does CBD oil derived from the marijuana plant. Full-spectrum CBD oil contains only small amounts of THC and won’t have a psychoactive effect, though it can be detected in people subject to drug testing.
In this guide, we only focus on products containing little-to-no THC. Products high in THC remain illegal at a federal level, and only CBD derived from hemp (which contains little THC) is legally saleable.
Benefits of CBD Oil
Thanks to the compatibility between CBD and the human body (as we discussed above), there’s a wide range of health benefits associated with CBD oil. Research has backed some of these up with hard evidence, while other benefits are more anecdotal, and there’s much more research still to do. It can sometimes be hard to filter out the signal from the noise and some CBD vendors make exaggerated claims.
As when taking any new medicine, it’s important to speak to your doctor before using CBD oil.
The following are some conditions that may be relieved by CBD oil:
Some people report improved sleep from using CBD, which in turn can help with general well-being by improving mood regulation and energy levels. CBD tends to provide users with a relaxed, sleepy feeling.
Anxiety and Depression
There’s some evidence that CBD can relieve anxiety and improve sleep quality, which could help to alleviate long-term conditions such as depression and anxiety disorders. Many people report success using CBD for this purpose, but research is still in its infancy.
Many people who experience chronic pain report success using CBD oil to alleviate their symptoms. Early studies suggest CBD can be used to tackle chronic pain and inflammation resulting from conditions like arthritis.
The only FDA-approved medical case for CBD oil relates to epilepsy, so CBD’s benefits for epilepsy sufferers are quite clear. High-profile epilepsy cases have helped to drive some of the increasing public interest toward CBD.
Is CBD Oil Safe?
As with any supplement, it’s important to know whether CBD is safe to take in both the long and the short term.
Cannabis derivatives have a complex legal history, so they haven’t been studied as extensively as some supplements and there isn’t a lot of long-term data to draw from. However, studies to date show that CBD products, including CBD oil, are safe for consumption. On the whole, US restrictions on cannabis derivatives have relaxed in recent years, as they have in other English-speaking countries.
Below, we take a more in-depth look at the potential side-effects of CBD, as reported anecdotally and by research.
Side Effects of CBD Oil
Unlike its sister compound THC, CBD is typically a low-impact substance. Its effects are subtle and side-effects, where experienced, tend to be mild. One of the main appeals of CBD lies in its relatively subtle effect (side-effects included) when compared with prescription medications.
Some of the reported side-effects of CBD oil include:
- Dry mouth: There’s some evidence that CBD may inhibit saliva production, which can lead to dry mouth. Whatever the cause, dry mouth is anecdotally reported by some CBD users.
- Decreased blood pressure: Sudden reduction in blood pressure can cause light-headedness in a minority of users.
- Diarrhea: Some CBD users report changes in bowel regulation that could lead to diarrhea.
- Appetite Changes: Some studies show increased appetite from CBD, likely due to the way it interfaces with the endocannabinoid system.
Who Shouldn’t Take CBD?
While research indicates that CBD is a mild substance, there are still some people who shouldn’t take CBD, much as there are people who shouldn’t take pain medication. These include:
- Pregnant women: There’s a wide array of food, drink, and medication that pregnant women should avoid, so it’s not advised for pregnant women to take CBD. There have also been few-to-no studies on the effects of CBD on pregnancy, so pregnant women should err on the side of caution.
- Children: While there are several success stories of using CBD to relieve the symptoms of severe epilepsy, no child should take CBD unless medically advised to do so by a doctor. The long-term development effects of CBD on children are completely unknown.
- Those taking prescription medication: Anyone taking prescription medication should first speak to their doctor before taking CBD. Even benign medications can have unpredictable effects when combined with other medications.
In general, you should always speak to your doctor before taking CBD, as they will be able to offer a medical opinion as it relates to your circumstances.
Is CBD Legal?
Cannabis has a long and complex history in the English-speaking world, with the US being no exception. As the move toward legalization increases, many people have been left confused by the legal status of products like CBD.
On a federal level, the main legislation to consider is the 2018 “Farm Bill.” This legalized hemp-derived CBD provided it contained only trace amounts of THC. Products derived from the marijuana strain of cannabis (which typically contains high levels of THC) remain federally illegal. This remains subject to the grower being licensed and following all associated regulations.
While that clears up CBD in relation to DEA drug controls, there’s still the matter of the FDA, which regulates drugs and supplements. To date, the FDA has not approved marketing CBD as a dietary supplement with therapeutic properties except in the case of the epilepsy medication Epidiolex.
Whether CBD products are legal to buy and sell in your state is almost an entirely separate topic. As with many legal matters in the US, your state’s legal provisions may differ from the federal laws surrounding the purchase, sale, and possession of CBD, so it’s important you research CBD’s legal status in your state.
Considerations when Choosing a CBD Oil
When choosing CBD oil, there are a few key factors you’ll want to consider. Keep an eye on these so you can make the right choice for you:
Basic biology means that the larger your body weight, the heavier the dose you need of a medication or supplement to deliver the desired effect. If you’re of average weight, you probably don’t need to worry too much about CBD dosage and choose from a variety of options. Lighter or heavier buyers, however, may want to opt for a more dilute or concentrated dose to suit their body weights. If your weight is beyond the average for medical reasons, you should make sure to consult with your doctor before taking CBD.
There are several main extraction methods for CBD, including solvent, olive oil, and CO2-based extraction. We won’t go in-depth on them here, but we encourage you to read up on the differences to make an informed decision for your purchase. The end products are usually crystalline isolate and full-spectrum CBD, which we detailed earlier in this guide. One of the main considerations is whether the end product contains THC, as some users will want to avoid this possibility.
There are few faster ways to divide people than by their flavor preferences! Some will be happy with unflavored CBD oil, which has something of a natural, earthy flavor. Some may be averse to artificial flavors and prefer unflavored oil for that reason, while others may want to hide the taste of CBD. You probably have a good idea of what kind of flavor you’re likely to prefer, so keep that in mind when buying CBD oil.
The CBD oil market is still in its infancy. Unfortunately, that means a lot of unscrupulous sellers are still interested in hopping on the bandwagon and regulations haven’t yet caught up.
One of the better ways to determine the quality of CBD oil is by looking to see if the oil has been lab-tested. First-party lab tests aren’t worth much, but a third-party lab test will tell you that the oil has been independently tested for quality.