CBD products are everywhere but do you really know what they do and what’s in them? This guide breaks down everything you need to know before purchasing anything with CBD on its label.


The compounds that make up the marijuana plant were first broken down by an Israeli scientist, Raphael Mechaloum in 1963. It was a time where no scientist wanted to be associated with what was seen as an illegal, harmful and gateway drug. Mechaloum viewed it as just a plant and together with his team, discovered for the first time, the compounds that make up marijuana – namely THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the principal active ingredient and the compound that makes one high and CBD (cannabidiol) a key ingredient that has many medical uses and causes no psychoactive effect in humans.


56 years later, that plant has gone mainstream. More and more countries are legalising marijuana, but really, it’s CBD that’s become the breakout star of the marijuana plant. It started with CBD oil but has turned into a Billion Dollar CBD industry which has seen just about every product imaginable infused with CBD (drinks, gummies, creams, cookies and beauty products).


While the scientific research is still in its infancy, CBD has shown to effectively treat anxiety, multiple sclerosis, psychosis, asthma, diabetes, depression, blood pressure, chronic pain and epilepsy.


CBD oil doesn’t come cheap, neither do any products that include CBD on their label.

The biggest problem with CBD isn’t CBD. It Is that it’s an unregulated industry and with that comes bad CBD products, which at best don’t contain the amount of CBD they claim to or at worse contain too high levels of THC that can be dangerous to the person not realising they could get a high from a product they shouldn’t be. This VOX article summed up the problem simply, CBD isn’t a scam, but the products probably are”.


To better understand what CBD is, how it works and most importantly how to know what products are the good ones and how to use it to get the results I spoke to four companies involved in the CBD industry in South Africa – Go Life International, Cannaco, Elixinol and Life Retreat.


What is the difference between Hemp, Marijuana, THC and CBD?


Hemp and Marijuana are two primary species of the Cannabis plant. Because Hemp and Marijuana both derive from the Cannabis Sativa family, they do share certain similarities; however, due to each plant’s biological structure, they have several very distinct and crucial differences concerning function, cultivation and application.


Cannabinoids are phytochemical compounds found in the Cannabis plant that interact with your body’s natural endocannabinoid system to regulate a variety of biological processes like energy levels, metabolism, appetite, relaxation, inflammation responses, pain-sensation, mood and memory. The two cannabinoids, Cannabidiol (CBD) and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are only two of 80+ phytochemical compounds in the Cannabis Sativa plant [Cannaco].


Breaking Down CBD Table 1

How is CBD oil made?


Go Life: CBD oil is made by extracting oil from low-content THC cannabis plants. This can be achieved in several ways including:

  1. Solvent extraction. This process allows for an organic solvent such as ethanol, butanol or propanol, [to be] used to remove all the oils from the cannabis plant. The solvent is then driven off by gently heating the solvent or oil mixture.
  2. Cold Pressing of the whole plant.
  3. Super critical fluid extraction using carbon dioxide to extract the oils.


Cannaco explained that their process starts with organically sourced Cannabis. Once plants have matured, they are ready to be harvested and processed. Next, the terpenes, which are aromatic and therapeutic compounds, are retained from the flowers through a proprietary steam distillation process, followed by the CO2 extraction of CBD. This process results in purified oils that purposefully maintain a complex set of cannabinoids and full spectrum of terpenes present in the original plants. The oil is then tested to assert the content and effectiveness of the cannabinoids and to ensure that it’s completely free from any herbicides, pesticides, GMO products and additives.


What is the biggest misconception around CBD oil and other cannabinoids?


Cannaco: The biggest misconception [is] that all CBD products cause the euphoric high associated with Cannabis. The lines between recreational and medicinal use has also been blurred by a lack of knowledge about the difference between CBD and THC as well as the benefits and effect of these cannabinoids.

Another common misconception is that CBD products are addictive. CBD is unlike any addictive substance. Because it does not produce an excessive release of dopamine, it does not trigger the brain to form an addiction.

CBD balances the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain. If there is too much of one neurotransmitter, CBD will help to lower it, and if there isn’t enough of another, CBD will help bring it up to a healthy level. It’s also important to note that when you stop using CBD, there are no withdrawal symptoms.


The biggest misconception [is] that all CBD products cause the euphoric high associated with Cannabis.


Go Life: The criminalisation of cannabis in most of the world caused the entire delay in research and development of one of the world’s miracle elixirs. The biggest misconception is thus that cannabis is a drug and a gateway to heavier or more potent drugs. Whereas it is an excellent medicinal remedy to various diseases.


What should you look out for when buying CBD oil and CBD products?


Cannabis oils have not been regulated effectively in the past which is the biggest problem around getting reliable CBD products. According to Life Go in future it will be regulated by a certificate of analysis that will detail the level of cannabinoids but also the levels of pesticides, solvents and other compounds.


A reputable brand of CBD oil should always have recent lab results available.


Until then, Cannaco detailed the guidelines to look out for when choosing a CBD product;


  1. Know where the CBD comes from – Reputable manufacturers are usually quick to mention where their CBD is sourced from. Moreover, the best CBD oils are tested by professional third parties to ensure that products are safe, high-quality, and contain what they claim to.


  1. Look at the CBD concentration – CBD oil products come in a range of concentrations. The amount of CBD they contain per bottle is specified in mg, such as 250mg, 500mg, or 1,000mg. Other CBD oil products may specify the concentration as percentages instead, such as 4%, 10%, or 20% cannabidiol (CBD).


  1. Know what extraction method is used. There are various ways in which CBD can be extracted from the Cannabis plant to create CBD oils, and not all these methods are created equal when it comes to the purity and quality of the final product. Some companies that cut corners and produce cheap CBD products may use harmful solvents such as propane or butane to render their extracts. Although these products are often less expensive, ask yourself if you really want to nullify the health benefits of the oil with products that contain remnants of harmful substances. The best CBD oils are usually created via supercritical CO2 extraction.


  1. Look at what other ingredients are used in the product. CBD products are designed to encourage homeostasis in the body. Mixing the cannabinoids with artificial ingredients could tamper with this balance. Find out if the prod­uct you are interested in makes use of natural ingredients to preserve the integrity of the CBD.


  1. Ask if the oil has been tested – A reputable brand of CBD oil should always have recent lab results available. Always ask whether the product has been tested by an independent accredited lab for safety and quality.


  1. Consider taste. Do you care if the product has added flavours or preservatives?


  1. Consider price. Do you have a budget in mind when choosing your CBD product?


  1. Consider the affects you want. Do you want to feel the effects quickly, or is it more important that they come on slower and last longer? For example, a CBD oil will absorb faster into your system than CBD gummies.


  1. Look at ease of use. Are you new to CBD and want to keep it simple, or are you comfortable using gadgets like va­porizers and edibles?


What does CBD help with?


According to law, no claims can be made as to the benefits of CBD evaluated by a medical entity. However, research, testimonies and experience of users has brought to light the following benefits of CBD [this is not an exhaustive list]


  • Inflammation: CBD may reduce inflammation systemically by engaging with the endocannabinoid systems in many organs in the body. Autoimmune diseases which are characterised by inflammation, may also be treated by reducing the inflammation. As well as inflammatory bowel diseases.


  • Multiple Sclerosis: CBD may be effective in the treatment of muscle tightness, pain, sleep disturbances and loss of bladder control in people with multiple sclerosis.


  • Epileptic Seizures: CBD may bring about a reduction in seizure frequency. It may also increase alertness, better mood and improve sleep. In fact there’s an entire community of parents called Realm of Caring who have effectively treated their children’s seizures with CBD oil.


  • Anxiety: A growing body of research indicates that CBD might be effective in the treatment of mental health conditions. It may assist in reducing anxiety and discomfort caused by public speaking, panic disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and social anxiety disorder.


  • Pain: It is thought that CBD interacts with receptors in the brain and immune system to alleviate pain. CBD may significantly decrease chronic inflammatory pain, postoperative pain, chronic pain associated with multiple sclerosis, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, advanced pain and neuropathic pain.


  • Rheumatoid Arthritis: CBD may provide relief from joint pain and swelling and decrease joint destruction, disease progression and inflammation.


  • Diabetes: CBD may reduce the risk of developing diabetes by lowering fasting insulin levels.


  • Depression: Some research has shown that CBD may increase serotonin levels in patients suffering from depression.


  • Insomnia: CBD may assist by increasing total sleep time and the phase of deepest sleep. It may also decrease the time needed to fall asleep.


  • Smoking: CBD may help to calm the nerves and help with depression and anxiety experienced by a person trying to quit smoking.


  • Acne: CBD may offer relief from acne due to the effect of CBD oil on the immune system and its ability to reduce inflammation


  • Asthma: CBD could be a powerful treatment for asthma as it regulates exaggerated inflammatory responses in the body.


How does one determine the dosage of CBD oil needed?


Go Life: It is necessary to understand that our bodies differ dramatically due to weight and other influences. Our endo-cannabinoid system which represents the receptors in our bodies is directly responsible for interaction with CBD. As a result, optimal dosages of CBD will differ throughout an individual’s lifespan.


Step 1: Calculate your dosage based on your body weight. In general, this is 3 mg for every 4.5kg of body weight. The level of pain also has bearing on the amount to be used. For example, a person weighing 80kg would generally, according to body weight, use 53mg of CBD oil per day. However, a higher dosage up to 106mg per day for the same body weight can be used in patients suffering severe pain.


Breaking Down CBD Table 2b


Step 2: Rather start small and increase the dosage gradually to where you find the perfect dosage that works for your specific condition. This is key to finding your bodies happy dosage.


Step 3: When you are in doubt contact your physician, especially if you intend to treat a specific medical condition. Most doctors should have a good idea of how and how much CBD will address the issue.


How long does it take to feel the effects of CBD?


Go Life: As everyone’s body is different and responds differently, the effects will vary from person to person. However, most people experience results within the first day or two.


Everyone’s body is different and responds differently, the effects will vary from person to person.


Cannaco: The effect of CBD when used for stress and anxiety can be felt almost immediately. In terms of the effects concerning more severe health conditions, it depends on the individual and the severity of the condition. CBD is not a short term remedy that treats the symptom, but rather working over a period of time to alleviating the root cause of the health condition. Many of our clients experienced pain relief within 20-40 minutes of applying the topical salve to areas affected by gout or arthritis. We have seen results in pets with stress and anxiety caused by fireworks, thunder storms or separation anxiety almost immediately and when used for pain and inflammation within 2-3 days.

What is the best way to use CBD?


Go Life: At the moment, taking the cannabis oils in drop form [is] the most convenient dosage form. This will change once other galenical forms such as pills, capsules, gels and patches become readily available. This change in administering CBD will also popularize it in the mainstream medical fraternity, such as physicians and pharmacists.


Cannaco: CBD is most commonly taken orally in a concentrated paste or drop/ tincture format. CBD oil is best absorbed when placed under the tongue prior to swallowing (sublingually) as this allows it to bypass the digestive system. Other oral methods include the ingestion of edibles such as gummies or cookies. Many people prefer vap­ing CBD oil or inhaling CBD e-liquid with a vaporising device or inhaler as this is a near instant delivery method that can be quite effective. Others prefer the CBD oil to be absorbed topically through the skin. Products that make use of this application method include lip butter, topical salve or body butter. There are many ways to take CBD, what matters most is trying a few different approaches and seeing what works.


What is the difference between taking a CBD oil and taking a product infused with CBD oil?


Cannaco: CBD oil absorbs fastest if administered sublingually (placed under the tongue). Edibles take longer to absorb via the digestive system but stays in the system for a longer period of time. Topical salve/body butter (cosmetic) has a very low bioavailability (absorption of CBD), but is not processed/ broken down by the liver, so the end result in absorption is almost the same as with the oral products. As far as absorption is concerned, vaping CBD has the best bioavailability, therefore vaping CBD can be felt almost immediately.



Sources: Thank you to the representatives of the companies below for providing the information in this article.


Cannaco was founded by a small team of entrepreneurs who are passionate about natural health. They’re committed to providing full spectrum, terpene rich CBD products of the highest quality. Cannaco only use prime imported, USDA certified, organic, full spectrum CBD in all our products, and manufacture in ISO certified laboratories. In addition, they have done extensive testing to confidently assert the potential of their products and to certify that their products are completely free from any herbicides, pesticides, GMO products, or any other form of additive. Their range includes both human and pet CBD products and can be viewed here


Go Life International represents an international multi-faceted healthcare company.  One of the key products under Go Life International is currently CBD oil, Cannabalm and THC oil, manufactured under the token of Choice Organic Supplements. They have also recently launched a range of animal healthcare products containing CBD. They have recently secured a license to cultivate Cannabis in Lesotho, as well as in Zimbabwe under a joint venture and are waiting to secure a license to manufacture in South Africa. Their products can be found here.


Elixinol has been developing and cultivating hemp-based products around the world since 1991. The company’s research is an on-going commitment, as the benefits of cannabanoids have become more widely known. The Elixinol brand launched in South Africa in 2016, supplying only 100% organic, THC-free hemp oil to the local market. Their products can be viewed here.


Life Retreat is part health shop located at Lourensveld Wine Estate. Amongst other things they sell a range of Cannabis products. Their products can be viewed here.



Additional Sources: National Geographic, Vox

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