What’s cannabidiol (CBD) oil all about then?

8 minute read

CBD, pronounced canna-bid-eyel, commonly (and wrongly) referred to as cannabis oil, CBD oil is fast becoming a favourite natural performance enhancing product for athletes by improving recovery as a pain-relieving, anti-inflammatory, sleep aid.

What is CBD exactly?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a natural chemical (one of over a hundred) found in a cannabis or hemp plant. Hemp, did you know, is widely believed to be the first crop ever cultivated by mankind. With China appearing to have the longest continuous history of hemp cultivation over 6,000 years ago. It’s generally been used to describe non-intoxicating cannabis that’s harvested for the industrial use in construction materials or biodiesel, for example. It contains less than 0.3% THC, the better-known cannabinoid that’s responsible for the ‘high’ associated with cannabis.

CBD is legal in the UK as it doesn’t contain psychoactive chemicals.

Over the last few years, CBD has attracted a lot of attention; with people proclaiming benefits for a wide range of ailments including arthritis, chronic pain, epilepsy, eczema and insomnia – much like the benefits of breathwork too. The published science, however, is lagging behind popular use and there have been very few clinical studies investigating the potential remedies for numerous conditions. But we all know why that is.

What we do know is that CBD and other cannabinoids interact with our endocannabinoid system. This system plays a central role in maintaining human health by regulating processes such as sleep, appetite, pain and immune response. Research suggests that CBD reduces inflammation and limits our perception of pain by targeting various neurotransmitters and indirectly influencing the levels of cannabinoids produced within the body.

So what are the benefits of CBD?

While the research is starting to catch up, numerous athletes have been widely outspoken about their use of CBD for the management of chronic pain, recovery from injuries, pre-game anxiety and sleep management. Triathlete Andrew Talansky, Cyclist Joshua Bonnici and UFC fighter Nate Diaz have all been vocal about the benefits they’ve experienced from taking CBD – mostly around recovery improvements.

More recently too, outdoor sports associations have begun collaborating with cannabis companies to explore CBD’s potential, because unlike the commonly used pain medications – opioids and anti-inflammatories – CBD has no known adverse effects or potential for long term abuse. Natural CBD products may prove to be a powerful alternative amidst growing concern about opioid dependency in the professional sporting world.,

CBD’s potential to positively assist in the recovery from injuries makes it an obvious choice for professionals, amateur athletes and sporting enthusiasts alike. Whether you’re sore after a tough hike, experience chronic migraine headaches a long enduro cycle, or you need a little help getting to sleep each night due to an injury, it certainly seems like CBD will help.

The legal classifications of CBD

Cannabis (as we all know it) is listed as a Class B drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act but CBD isn’t listed as a controlled substance under this act. This had lead to some people believing that they can grow their own cannabis or hemp for CBD extraction – which isn’t true – it’s still illegal to grow your own cannabis or hemp in the UK. CBD producers in the UK must receive a licence and permission from the UK Home Office.

That being said, buying and consuming CBD is completely legal.

Naturally, there’s still some stigma around using a substance associated with an illegal drug, but attitudes are shifting fast. In 2018, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) officially removed CBD from its list of prohibited substances and CBD by itself is increasingly permitted by professional sports bodies and naturopathic doctors. The UK’s anti-doping position is to be cautious, as some products may contain higher THC levels than advertised, which is a serious concern for the professional athlete. An alarming 2017 study showed levels of THC in some CBD products that went well beyond FDA limits and UK products may be no different. Always use a trusted supplier.

Herein lies the trouble with the new and rapidly evolving CBD market: a lack of regulation. But with a problem comes a solution. The Food Standard Agency has given a deadline of March 31st 2021 to the CBD industry:

“The CBD industry must provide more information about the safety and contents of these products to the regulator before 31 March 2021, or the products will be taken off the shelves” – Food Standards Agency (UK)

A report by the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis discovered that just eleven out of thirty products they tested had a CBD content that was within 10% of the advertised amount. That’s why to verify cannabinoid content, companies often send their CBD products for independent testing by third-party laboratories. To be extra careful, it is worth buying from companies that freely share third party lab test results that display the levels of cannabinoids in each product. In this growing but uncertain industry, purity is important and only expert analysis and testing can guarantee it.

Different ways of consuming CBD 

CBD is commonly sold in four main forms in the UK:

CBD Oils

The most common form is CBD oil, made from concentrated CBD rich hemp extract that has been infused into an edible oil such as coconut, olive or hemp seed oil. Oils are sold as either ‘pure CBD’, ‘full spectrum’ or ‘broad spectrum’. ‘Pure CBD’ oil is made from a CBD isolate infused in an edible oil; ‘full spectrum’ oil is rich in CBD and contains other cannabinoids and plant compounds; ‘broad spectrum’ oil is used to refer to hemp extracts rich in CBD and other cannabinoids, but that has had THC removed. Just ran a marathon? A few drops of oil under the tongue or capsules or pills can be swallowed to help soothe injury pain, sore joints or sleep disturbances.

Creams and salves

These are applied directly to the skin, making them ideal for targeting achy muscles and specific problem areas. Use a cream, ointment or salve to combat muscle stiffness after overtraining, or to treat sprains and swelling. Excellent for hard gym days and tender muscles.


Extract-infused oils can be incorporated into edible products like protein bars and powders, drinks, chocolate bars and other snacks. Throw a few bars in your trail backpack or snack on a CBD oil chocolate bar after your yoga class.

There you have it. You should hopefully be up to speed on CBD and, of course, the most convincing way to see if CBD can help with your recovery is by following guidelines and trying it out yourself. There’s no recommendations or affiliate partnerships here but please always use a trusted supplier.

A former mental health professional, now focusing on behavioural psychology in the workplace, Charlie believes all problems can be solved when they start with honesty. Failed his first attempt of circumnavigating Mont Blanc on a mountain bike. Next attempt, Autumn 2020!

Editor Picks


It’s been a year many of us have never experienced before. At the start of the year, we still had …


To say Luke is a lover of the ocean would be the understatement of the year. Inspired by his childhood …


Scenic is the operative word here. Yes, the ‘waterfalls’ in Great Britain aren’t as spectacular as the Angel, Victoria or …