CBD oil strength and potency do not mean the same thing. Find out more about what you need to know when taking a CBD product. High strength, super strength, ultra strength… with so many different types of CBD available, which one is best for your needs? Dr. Sarah Brewer explains.
How Is CBD Oil Strength and Potency Measured?
When considering the potency of a CBD product, most people believe it’s all about the strength of the cannabidiol (CBD) in the product. Certainly, CBD oil strength is a significant factor—if there’s not enough, it won’t absorb in the bloodstream for the sought-after effects.
But when discussing potency, what we’re really talking about is efficacy, aren’t we? And that involves a lot more than this cannabis compound’s strength. Both formulation and delivery are important factors and then, how well the CBD interacts with your endocannabinoid system (ECS).
In this article, we’ll discuss what you need to know about strength, potency, and the factors that contribute to a CBD oil’s efficacy. First, let’s do a quick review of what CBD oil is.
What Is CBD Oil?
CBD oil comes in four types: isolate, distillate, broad-spectrum, and full-spectrum. Each type contains cannabidiol and an oil carrier. The oil carrier is a kind of healthy fat, most commonly cold-pressed hemp seed oil, but some brands may use coconut oil, olive oil, or grapeseed oil.
CBD isolate has only these two ingredients. The kind of oil and amount of CBD can vary, but it’s the purest kind of CBD oil—around 99% CBD crystal suspended in oil.
Distillation is an extraction process that separates and refines cannabinoids at a molecular level. It begins with crude extraction and then refines from there to remove more and more plant compounds until there is roughly 80% CBD. The remaining amount of the extraction will consist of traces of terpenes, minor cannabinoids, and other plant compounds.
Broad-spectrum, however, describes full-spectrum CBD that has had the THC removed. You may also see it expressed as ‘THC Free’ on a label.
Brand extract full-spectrum cannabis oils to preserve the greatest range of beneficial cannabinoids (including THC), terpenes, flavonoids, and other phytonutrients. In the U.S., full-spectrum CBD oil is legal as long as it contains .3% or less THC.
If you’re curious about the efficacy of CBD oil for pain, check out our page here for more information.
How Do You Measure Cannabinoid Strength?
The label may tell you the percentage of CBD in your oil, but that isn’t strength. This reflects more the purity of the CBD in the product. You need to know how much CBD, in milligrams, is in the bottle, so you can divide that by the amount you take to see how much CBD is in your dose.
According to Adie Rae, a cannabis researcher at Legacy Health, for high-potency CBD oil you need at least 35 milligrams per serving. If you are taking an isolate, or pure CBD product, the highest mg/ml amount is going to be the most potent and the most cost-effective.
CBD oil on its own requires higher strength to produce the intended effects and according to Dr. Alex Capano, chief science officer for Ananda Health. “Dosing for CBD is highly individualized and depends on many factors, including personal endocannabinoid tone and why you are using CBD.”
Regarding full or broad-spectrum CBD oil, potency has more to do with a CBD oil’s efficacy than its strength. And all of this has to do with the formulation. Scientists believe full-spectrum CBD oil to be more effective at lower doses than CBD isolate because of what experts call “the entourage effect.”
When you present different cannabinoids like CBD, THC, CBG, CBC, THCV, CBN, and whole-plant players like terpenes and cannaflavins, they work synergistically to optimize relief and well-being.
Initial research strongly suggests that cannabis plant compounds interact synergistically with receptors in the ECS. A 2017 study demonstrated that low doses of THC and CBD have the potential to treat neuropathic pain in mice. Dr. Ethan Russo has conducted studies that suggest both cannabinoid-cannabinoid synergistic interactions and cannabinoid-terpenoid interactions exist.
Delivery Format Can Affect CBD Oil Potency
When swallowed, CBD has poor bioavailability. If your CBD oil does not absorb into your bloodstream very well, its strength will not matter, and potency goes out the window. You can gulp dozens of mg/ml, but it will only absorb up to a certain amount.
The way around this is the delivery format. Tinctures that you take sublingually (under your tongue for 30-60 seconds) will enter your bloodstream through glands in your mouth, bypassing your gut and your liver. And, this is where the majority of CBD oil is obliterated or ushered out like waste.
Liposomal CBD, like Puffin Hemp, is a powerhouse of potency. Liposomes are little healthy fat bubbles that bypass the dangerous environment of the gut and liver. They deliver CBD into the bloodstream at a much higher rate than regular CBD. You can take a lot less liposomal CBD than regular CBD and have much more effective results because companies craft liposomal full-spectrum CBD to be stronger, more efficacious.
If you only need a baseline of CBD (we recommend Ananda Hemp Full Spectrum Softgels) for overall preventative health and wellbeing, swallowing a high-quality CBD oil daily is fine. But if you need potency, you have to think of sublingual tinctures or liposomal CBD oil.
Quality Can Affect Your CBD’s Potency
Whatever a label says, quality matters most — especially in terms of CBD oil strength. There are several things to keep in mind when shopping for a CBD oil.
It’s important to know where a brand sources its hemp from because hemp is a bio-accumulator. This means it cleans out soil by leaching impurities from it. The hemp plant literally has properties to purify the soil, making it a wonderful option not just for consumers, but for the environment, too.
You should always have proof your product was tested. Make sure it has a certificate of analysis (COA, which should be available either with the product or on the manufacturer’s or seller’s website.
Mislabeling can be a problem, which is another reason to confirm there is a COA for your product. In a 2018 study on the effects of artisanal CBD for the treatment of epilepsy, researchers stated that a key concern and challenge to their results was the variability that mislabeled CBD products introduced.
Good brands will make all of this information, their practices, processes and the source of their ingredients available. Their team will have backgrounds in science, hemp experience, and food-manufacturing know-how.
The Takeaway About CBD Oil Potency
Remember to look for a full-spectrum CBD oil in tincture form, which goes under the tongue or a liposomal form that you swallow. Always choose a high-quality product you can verify yourself.
What strength CBD should I take?
High strength, super strength, ultra strength… with so many different types of CBD available, which one is best for your needs? Dr. Sarah Brewer explains.
When you first start taking CBD, you’re usually advised to ‘start low and go slow’. This is because some people appear to metabolise CBD more slowly than others, and need only a low dose to notice an effect.
Gradually increase the dose if you need to; you may want to revisit your dose each week, for example, until you find a level that works best for you. The CBD dose at which you finally arrive will vary depending on the strength of the product, how you respond, and the reason you are taking it.
CBD Support Group
Want to know more about CBD and what it can do for you, from the people who use it?
High strength CBD oil products
Those new to CBD will tend to start with a product that provides less than 10mg per dose. If you prefer to take a capsule, then a typical starting product will provide 6.4mg of a ‘high-strength’ oil in which CBD is blended with olive and hemp oil. If you are taking the product to promote general wellbeing, you may only need to take one of these – for example at night. When necessary, you can increase the dose to two or three capsules, spread at intervals throughout the day.
If you prefer to take drops, then a typical starting product will contain CBD infused into a carrier oil to provide an overall strength of, for example, 2.75%. This means that CBD makes up 2.75% of the total product and the other listed ingredients, such as hemp seed oil, make up the remaining 97.25%. The usual dose ranges from one to eight drops, up to three times daily.
For rapid absorption, hold the drops under your tongue for a couple of minutes before swallowing. If needed, the dose can be increased to the manufacturer’s recommended maximum (e.g. 25 drops daily) taken at regular intervals throughout the day.
If the maximum dose of a high strength product does not meet your needs, you may want to switch to a super strength product.
CBD Oil Drops 260mg
Filter-clear, peppermint-flavoured CBD oil
- 2.75% high-strength CBD oil in easy-to-use drops
- Filter-clear and purified for no yucky taste
- Perfect for newcomers to CBD who dislike swallowing capsules
CBD Oil Capsules 384mg
Perfect for newcomers to CBD
- 6.4mg CBD oil per capsule, 384mg total CBD per pack
- Olive oil carrier aids CBD absorption in the body
- Added vitamin D for muscle health and immunity
Super strength CBD oil products
When it comes to super strength capsules, these usually provide 15mg CBD per capsule, and the recommended dose is one to two capsules taken daily with water. These capsules therefore provide a maximum of 30mg CBD per day.
A bottle of super strength CBD oil drops will typically contain a CBD concentration of around 5%. This means that CBD makes up 5% of the total product and the other listed ingredients, such as hemp seed oil, make up the remaining 95%. Because super strength CBD drops are more concentrated, you get a higher amount per drop.
A typical dose is one to seven drops up to three times daily, which you hold in your mouth for a while before swallowing. Do not exceed the manufacturer’s maximum recommended intake (for example, 21 super strength drops) spread throughout the day.
If you find that you need to take a lot of drops per day, you may prefer to switch to a more concentrated oil. Not only will this reduce the number of drops you need, it will likely save you money.
CBD Oil Drops 520mg
5.5% super-strength CBD oil
- Filter-clear and peppermint-flavoured
- No yucky taste
- Ideal for experienced CBD users who dislike swallowing capsules
CBD Oil Capsules 900mg
Our strongest CBD oil capsules
- 15mg distilled CBD per capsule
- Super strength for experienced users
- Delayed release capsule for improved absorption
Ultra strength CBD oil products
Ultra strength CBD oil drops are usually more than twice as potent as super strength drops and typically have a 10-11% CBD concentration. These are ideal for experienced users who want to increase their dose or take fewer drops or capsules during the day.
The disadvantage of some strong CBD products is that, the more concentrated they get, the stronger and more grassy they taste. You can get around this by choosing a product that is filter-clear: this produces a purified oil with a less strong taste.
Adding a flavour such as peppermint will also help to ensure the CBD oil tastes pleasant. All Healthspan’s CBD drops products are filter-clear and peppermint-flavoured.
See our CBD information page for a comparison of Healthspan’s CBD products.
CBD Oil Drops 1,000mg
Highest strength, best value
- Our strongest CBD oil
- Lowest cost per mg in the Healthspan range
- Peppermint flavour – no yucky taste
Does ultra strength CBD oil get you high?
No, CBD oil does not get you high. CBD (cannabidiol) is extracted from industrial hemp plants that naturally contain only trace amounts of the psychoactive molecule THC, which is responsible for the ‘high’ or ‘stoned’ effects of marijuana.
Good-quality CBD supplements that are made to pharmaceutical standards contain only traces of THC. This will be confirmed by independent laboratory tests for each batch, as well as a certificate of testing provided via a clickable link on the manufacturer’s website.
What is the maximum dose you can take?
In the UK, the FSA recommends that CBD should not be used at doses above 70mg per day. 1
In any case, do not exceed the manufacturer’s recommended dose (such as 30mg per day for Healthspan’s CBD Oil Capsules 900mg) without talking to your doctor.
Always follow the manufacturer’s guidance on the dose and frequency of use of their product, as this guidance is based on the CBD concentration present. Do not exceed the manufacturer’s recommended dose except under medical advice and supervision.
If you have any medical conditions or are taking any prescribed drugs, always speak to your doctor before using CBD and check for interactions with your medication. If you are taking an over-the-counter medicine, ask your pharmacist’s advice. If they are unable to help, there is a useful drugs interaction checker which includes cannabidiol at drugs.com.
If you are subjected to drug testing, for example at work or because you take part in an elite competitive sport, it’s important to know that any CBD product can contain a trace of the cannabinoid THC. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has banned all cannabinoids except for cannabidiol (CBD). 2
A potential substitute for those worried about drug testing is the ‘CBD alternative’ PEA: Healthspan sells this under the name of Elite PEA+ Sport (which is also batch-tested for competing athletes).
16x faster-acting than standard CBD
- 10mg fast-acting NovaSOL® CBD per capsule
- Liquid micellar technology wraps CBD oil in water-soluble spheres, to help absorption in the gut
Dr Sarah Brewer is Healthspan’s Medical Director and holds degrees in Natural Sciences, Surgery and Medicine from the University of Cambridge. Having worked as a GP and hospital doctor, Dr Sarah now holds an MSc in Nutritional Medicine from the University of Surrey and specialises in nutrition. She is also an award-winning writer and author.
All about CBD
What is CBD, where does it come from, what supplements are available, and is it safe? Dr Sarah Brewer explains.
CBD regulation changes: find out about CBD’s legal status
CBD is now classed as a novel food by the European Food Standards Agency (EFSA). Here’s how this affects the status of CBD as a food supplement.
Dr. Sarah Brewer on the benefits of CBD balm
CBD can be taken in a variety of ways, so how can CBD balm help? A soothing and softening emollient may improve problem skin as well as aiding relaxation.
Is CBD safe? Everything you need to know
Everything you need to know about CBD safety, the different types available, and what to look for on a CBD product label.