CBD versus Medical Cannabis – Key Differences Explained

In recent years, medicinal CBD oil has made waves as a potential treatment for chronic pain, fibromyalgia, insomnia and anxiety. An increasing number of online sellers and health food stores are selling CBD food supplements. CBD is now being found in oils, creams and even soft drinks. 

Is using off-the-shelf CBD oil the same as medical cannabis? Here, we’ll look at what the key differences are between CBD and medical cannabis.


What is CBD/THC?

Cannabis is a complex plant, naturally containing hundreds of chemicals. Many of these chemicals are known cannabinoids, which interact with cannabinoid receptors in the body, causing varying effects. Exactly how different cannabinoids interact with receptors is an ongoing subject of research, however the two cannabinoids that have been most studied are THC and CBD oils. 


Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the compound responsible for the high people feel when using cannabis recreationally. THC also impacts the perception of pain, mood, appetite and sleep. THC is illegal in the UK unless prescribed by a GMC-registered consultant doctor. THC can only be prescribed by a doctor when other conventional, licensed medications have been tried first. By comparison, CBD (short for Cannabidiol) has no psychoactive effects. There is evidence that CBD oil can have anxiolytic and anti inflammatory effects. Often the combination of cannabinoids can have an increased effect, rather than using one cannabinoid on it’s own, a phenomenon known as the entourage effect.


It is important to realise that over the counter CBD oils cannot be promoted as having any health benefits, and does not have to be made to the same standards as medical grade CBD and/or THC. Despite this, CBD sellers often promote CBD oil is a cure-all wonder drug. 


  • In the U.S. several deaths have been attributed to CBD oil products that were revealed to contain toxic industrial ingredients.
  • Most medicinal CBD oil products online contain less than the amount of CBD that they claim to.
  • Popular products like CDB vape pens have been shown to contain propylene glycol. This is a product that can permanently damage lung tissue.

There are plenty of people who report benefits from using CBD food supplements bought over the counter or online, but there are many who unfortunately don’t notice any benefit. This may be due to the CBD oils being poor quality, the CBD being lower concentration than advertised or CBD oil not being the best treatment option. 


If you’re considering using CBD or medical cannabis in any form, it’s important to discuss this with a cannabis doctor. An appointment with a doctor at Cannabis Access Clinics will allow you to discuss the benefits and risks of treatment, the ratio of CBD oil to THC that may be most appropriate, and the current evidence relevant to your condition.



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