Cannabis oil fully explained

Cannabis oil fully explained


Sam North is an experienced cannabis consultant and writer who provides education and guidance for businesses, commercial projects, and private clients. With over 5 years of industry experience, Sam is passionate about the potential of cannabis to help restore balance and well-being into people's lives.

With the truly monumental global shift that we are currently living through regarding both medicinal cannabis, and consumer CBD products, it should come as little wonder that people are becoming increasingly curious about the different cannabis extracts on offer.

Cannabis oil is an often employed term that encompasses a huge range of both over the counter and prescribable products, all made from the same source: cannabis plants. From CBD and THC oil options, to more nuanced products like Rick Simpson Oil (RSO), it is important to understand the basics of cannabis oil before beginning your medical cannabis journey.

So, let's dive head first into the cannabis extract rabbit hole and breakdown everything there is to know about the many forms of cannabis oil available.

What is Cannabis Oil?

At its most basic, the term “cannabis oil” is used to describe any type of extraction from the cannabis sativa L. plant. There is a plethora of different extraction methods used to create cannabis oils, and the range of properties and effects will vary from product to product depending on the cannabinoid and terpene concentration.

Cannabinoids? Terpenes?

Cannabinoids (or more specifically phytocannabinoids) are compounds found in the cannabis plant that interact with our body's endocannabinoid system. This, in turn, produces a range of effects that can be anything from energising to calming. The two main cannabinoids we have all heard about are THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol), but researchers have actually isolated over 110 cannabinoids from cannabis so far, with more still to be discovered.

Terpenes, on the other hand, are the aromatic compounds found in cannabis and other floral sources that give each strain its unique taste and smell. Terpenes also have a range of potential therapeutic effects and can be used to complement the effects of cannabinoids when administered in tandem. This is known as the “entourage effect”.

OK, so back to the question at hand…

The massive range of cannabis oil options can leave patients at least slightly confused, so here is a brief overview of the two main types, and the potential therapeutic effects they offer.

CBD oil

CBD or cannabidiol is one of the two cannabinoids found in the highest concentration in  cannabis plants, and is best known for its anti-inflammatory, antianxiety, and analgesic properties. CBD, unlike THC, is totally non-intoxicating and so is a great option for those seeking the potential therapeutic benefits of medical cannabis without the “high”. CBD oil extracts are most often sourced from hemp plants, as hemp contains very little THC.

CBD oil will always (obviously) contain elevated levels of CBD, but depending on the type of oil it may also contain other cannabinoids and terpenes. We will explain this in more detail further down.

CBD oil is legal for “over the counter” sale here in the UK, as long as it contains less than 0.2% THC, or less than 1 mg of THC per container.

THC oil

THC is the cannabinoid which holds intoxicating properties, and as such produces a “high” when administered. Whether this is experienced as stimulating or sedating will depend on a range of factors, but THC isn't only a recreational substance, and offers its own set of potential medicinal benefits. These include pain relief, appetite stimulation, anti-nausea properties and more.

THC oil can be prescribed in the UK by specialist doctors, and must be obtained through an approved cannabis clinic such as Releaf. Medical cannabis products can be sourced through the NHS also, but many patients have found that accessing private services is the most effective way to obtain the right product with the necessary support and guidance.

The different types of cannabis oil

We have established that there are two main types of cannabis oil – THC and CBD dominant extracts – but the choices don't end there. There are three primary categories of cannabis extracts to consider.

Full-spectrum cannabis oils

As the name suggests, full-spectrum cannabis extracts are designed to retain as much of the original plant's chemical profile as possible. This means that a full-spectrum extract will contain all the cannabinoids and terpenes found naturally in the cannabis sativa L. plant, albeit in greatly varying quantities depending on the source strain.

Full-spectrum oils are known to produce a more intense entourage effect, as all of the compounds are allowed to work together in a synergistic fashion.

Broad-spectrum cannabis oils

Broad-spectrum extracts are full-spectrum products that have gone through a refinement process to remove all traces of THC from the extract. This type of oil still contains the rest of the chemical profile of the source plant, making these types of oils perfect for patients seeking to benefit from the entourage effect without experiencing any “high”.

Isolate cannabis oils

Finally, there are isolated cannabis oils that have been further refined to remove all of the plant's compounds, save for one single cannabinoid – usually either CBD or THC. Isolate extracts offer the highest concentration of a single compound possible, but do not produce any entourage effect as all other compounds have been removed.

Isolate oils are often chosen by those seeking to treat a specific condition, as the precise amount of one single compound can be more easily administered and controlled.

How is cannabis oil made?

There are several main extraction methods, again with two main categories, splitting them into solvent and non-solvent processes.

Solvent extraction methods

Solvents are chemicals that can dissolve other compounds, and they are frequently used in the extraction of cannabis oils. The most common solvents used in cannabis oil extraction are CO2, butane, ethanol, or propane. Each type of solvent carries its own advantages and disadvantages, so the choice of solvent will depend on the desired outcome.

These days, the vast majority of medical cannabis oil options are made with supercritical CO2 extraction, a process that produces a pure and potent extract whilst remaining safe for human consumption.

Non-solvent extraction methods

Non-solvent extraction methods involve removing the cannabinoids and terpenes from the plant via mechanical pressure or agitation. Sol ventless extracts are often favoured by recreational cannabis connoisseurs, as these methods allow the extractor to retain more of the aroma and flavour from the source strain.

In medical settings, the gold standard remains CO2 supercritical extraction, so let's have a deeper look at this process.

Supercritical CO2 Extraction

CO2, or carbon dioxide, is a natural solvent that can be easily regulated and manipulated, making it an excellent choice for cannabis extractions. The CO2 extraction process involves using pressurized chambers to isolate specific parts of the plant's chemical profile from the rest, such as cannabinoids and terpenes.

With supercritical CO2 extraction, high pressure and low temperatures are used to isolate the desired compounds from the rest of the plant matter, producing a clean and potent THC or CBD oil extract.

The potential beneficial therapeutic properties of cannabis oil

Both THC and CBD offer patients suffering from a wide range of health issues the potential to experience relief and improved quality of life. Before we go any further, it is important to point out that medical cannabis should never be viewed or promoted as some sort of magic cure.

Cannabis oil offers a wide range of potential beneficial therapeutic properties, although the extent to which these may be experienced will depend on a variety of factors. This includes the specific strain administered, the method and quality of extraction, as well as individual patient biology. Medical cannabis oils may help reduce the symptoms of the medical conditions listed below:

  • Chronic Pain
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety/Depression
  • Appetite Loss
  • Inflammation
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
  • Nausea
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Glaucoma
  • Epilepsy
  • PTSD

As research continues, the potential therapeutic benefits of cannabis oil may expand even further. Ultimately, the most effective way to find out if cannabis oil can help manage your symptoms is to consult a medical professional who is experienced in prescribing medical cannabis for your particular health issue.

Cannabis oil methods of administration

Cannabis oil can be administered in numerous ways depending on the condition being treated, as well as the patient's individual preference. Again, by seeking the guidance and advice of a medical professional, you can determine which method is most suitable for your particular condition.

The most common methods of administration include:

  • Oral consumption – Taking cannabis oil orally is a popular method due to its ease of use and long-lasting effects, though it may take longer for the patient to feel the effects, and the fact that the oil passes through the digestive system means that a percentage of the cannabinoids are lost to the “first pass” effect.
  • Sublingual administration – Placing drops of cannabis oil under the tongue allows the extract to be quickly absorbed into the bloodstream through the mucous membrane, making it not only much more bioavailable than when taken orally, but the effects will also set in much more rapidly.
  • Inhalation – Cannabis oil can also be vaped. Vaporising the oil will offer the fastest onset of effects, and the patient can also easily control the dose size.
  • Topical application – Cannabis oils can be applied directly to the skin, allowing the active compounds to be absorbed transdermally. Topical application is largely applied for treating localized pain and inflammation, as well as skin conditions.

Are there any side effects related to cannabis oil administration?

As with any medication, there are potential risks and side effects associated with cannabis oil use. Some of the most common include dry mouth, dizziness, light-headedness, nausea and drowsiness. As such, it is important to start off slowly in order to gauge how your body will respond to a particular dose size or oil type.

THC oil options come with the increased risk of potential psychoactive effects, so it is essential to understand the content of each product before you decide to use it. THC oil can only be added to a treatment plan under the strict supervision of a specialist doctor, who will help you find the correct dosage size.

Cannabinoids also have the ability to negatively interact with certain medications, so be sure to seek medical advice before adding cannabis oil into your treatment plan. These include a variety of medications, such as anticoagulants, blood thinners, antianxiety pharmaceuticals, sedatives, anti-depressants, and more.

Concluding thoughts

Cannabis oil can be an excellent addition to an enormous range of treatment plans. With the veritable smorgasbord of cannabis oil options to choose from, as well as the multiple different administration methods available, patients have plenty of options when it comes to exploring the potential benefits that cannabis oil has to offer.

Once again, medical cannabis is not a magic cure. But, when correctly added to a treatment plan, it can have a profound impact on how the patient is able to manage their condition – and potentially even improve quality of life.

Before embarking on a cannabis oil treatment plan, it is crucial for patients to seek professional advice. It is equally important to understand the potential risks and side effects that may accompany the application of specific cannabis oil products. Hopefully, this article has offered you a deeper understanding of what cannabis oil is, and how it can be integrated into the lives of patients grappling with various health conditions.

Releaf understands that embarking on your medical cannabis journey can be intimidating – that’s why we offer tailored monthly packages, specialist consultations for medical cannabis, and our unique medical cannabis card to give you the peace of mind that your treatment is protected, all based on your medical cannabis prescription.

It is important to seek medical advice before starting any new treatments. The patient advisors at Releaf are available to provide expert advice and support. Alternatively, click here to book a consultation with one of our specialist doctors.

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