CBD Oil Explained: How it Works & What its Used For

What is CBD Oil Cover Image

If you are new to CBD oil and want to learn more about it, educating yourself about its properties and benefits is essential. This will help you to make the most of it and avoid any pitfalls while buying or using it. Though CBD oil has gained enormous popularity and widespread use in Australia, it still needs to be fully understood, and people often end up buying products that they don’t need or that don’t work. 

CBD oil has many health benefits, and people use it for various reasons. Athletes use it to reduce soreness and enhance recovery, women use it to alleviate period pain, older people with arthritis use it for joint soreness, and many people use it to manage anxiety and stress. It’s useful as a daily health promoter and improves sleep quality. Regardless of why you use CBD oil, it’s crucial to understand what it is.

Low-dose CBD oil is now available in Australia from pharmacies and can be bought without a prescription since the regulations changed in 2021. While you can also purchase CBD oil online, it’s important to note that this method is not regulated or controlled, and the quality of the product may be significantly lower. In this article, we will provide information on purchasing top-rated CBD oil in Australia.

What is CBD Oil?

CBD oil dropper bottle

The cannabis plant contains a range of cannabinoids, which are bioavailable compounds that the human body can easily absorb through the body’s cannabinoid receptors. One of these cannabinoids is called Cannabidiol, or CBD. CBD is a non-psychoactive compound that is readily utilized by the body and does not cause addiction. Its unique medicinal properties make it highly useful for medicinal, health, and performance-enhancing purposes. Due to these characteristics, scientists have extensively studied CBD for therapeutic applications and developed numerous consumer products and supplements to aid with various health conditions.

Pure CBD is infused into various mediums to create consumable products. Once extracted and refined, it can be added to oils, tinctures, gummies, sprays, creams, edibles, and tablets. CBD is widely taken up by health food and supplement companies looking to create popular CBD products.

Most users buy CBD in its oil form. CBD oils are either isolated to contain only CBD or contain a mixture of cannabinoids, which is classified as a full-spectrum cannabis product. Full-spectrum products contain antioxidants, compounds like terpenes, and other plant nutrients like chlorophyll. When talking about ‘CBD oil’, it’s an umbrella term for many different products with differing cannabinoids, effects, and benefits. Some of these products may even contain THC, which is the psychoactive cannabinoid from cannabis.

Where CBD Comes From

CBD is from the cannabis plant but can’t be obtained without a multistage extraction process. This process begins with cannabis resin obtained from harvesting, drying, and compressing the plant into a thick mixture of oil and plant solids. All parts of the plant, including its leaves, stems, and buds, are typically used, as they contain varying quantities of cannabinoids like CBD, plus other nutrients. The resin is then broken down and refined further into highly bioavailable cannabis extract products, including pure CBD oil.

This can be done by passing gases through the resin at high heat and pressure to stratify and separate the different density extracts from the plant, including pure cannabidiol oil, or by using solvents to dissolve the resin for separation. CBD, in its purest isolated form, is a crystal and can sometimes be found or purchased as a powder.

Industrial Hemp in Australia

Industrial hemp is the primary source of CBD products in Australia. It is a type of cannabis plant that has been selectively bred to contain low levels of THC, the psychoactive cannabinoid in the plant. THC has some therapeutic properties but also carries a higher risk of health harm due to its psychoactivity and more potent side effects. In contrast, industrial hemp is bred to have higher levels of CBD, along with other minor cannabinoids, for therapeutic purposes.

Does CBD Contain THC?

While not all CBD oil products will contain THC – many do. Always check this first when purchasing CBD oil to avoid inadvertently purchasing a product that contains THC. It’s common for products to include both compounds, which confer many additional benefits, such as assistance with insomnia or anxiety for some users. In particular, spectrum CBD oil can often contain THC due to being less refined and containing more whole plant matter than refined isolate oils. This oil type retains a much higher proportion of non-CBD cannabinoids, so it’s important to double-check your product before buying.

What Does CBD Do in the Body?

Woman relaxed from CBD

When consumed, cannabinoids like CBD are processed by the liver into metabolites, which are then transported via the blood to receptors throughout the body. These receptors are part of the endocannabinoid system, which is present in all mammals and plays a role in homeostasis and internal regulation. When activated, the receptors release endocannabinoids, which have potent anti-inflammatory, anxiolytic, and pain-alleviating properties. CBD’s benefits are not limited to humans but extend to pets such as dogs, cats, and horses. Endocannabinoids play a critical role in supporting enhanced immune, sleep, and mood resilience and can help with chronic health conditions like arthritis, IBS, PTSD, and depression. The effects of endocannabinoids are exceptionally well-researched for mitigating mental disorders such as epilepsy and anxiety.
Endocannabinoids play a critical role in supporting enhanced immune, sleep, and mood resilience and can help with chronic health conditions like arthritis, IBS, PTSD, and depression. The effects of endocannabinoids are exceptionally well-researched for mitigating mental disorders such as epilepsy and anxiety.

What types of CBD oil are there?

Different types of CBD Oil

CBD oil comes in multiple categories that differ based on cannabinoid content, plant matter content, and effects.

There are three types of CBD oil. Each differs based on its cannabinoid profile. These are:

Isolate CBD Oil 

Isolate CBD oil is the most refined form, with the highest CBD concentration but lower minor cannabinoid content.

Full-spectrum CBD Oil 

Full-spectrum CBD oil contains the entire spectrum of other phytonutrients and minor cannabinoids. It is the least refined form of CBD, having much of the raw plant matter, nutrients, and phytocannabinoids present in hemp retained. These can include CBG, CBA, CBC, and CBN. Other compounds which occur naturally in the plant, like terpenes, can also be present in this oil type. In combination, the varying components are much more robust in terms of effectiveness and reduction of inflammation.

Broad-spectrum CBD Oil 

Broad-spectrum CBD oil filters out plant matter and nutrients and targets specific cannabinoids. It contains a ‘broad spectrum’ of cannabinoids from hemp but filters out the plant matter and nutrients. This product type will frequently target high concentrations of a specific cannabinoid, such as CBN or CBG, alongside CBD.

Which Type of CBD Oil Should I Choose?

Woman choosing a CBD oil to buy

When choosing CBD oil, beginners are recommended to opt for full-spectrum CBD oil to maximize the benefits of CBD, which are enhanced by the entourage effect. This effect is triggered by terpenes in the oil – natural scent compounds occurring in hemp – which promote the absorption and uptake of the CBD compound into the body. Additionally, full-spectrum oils contain many plant nutrients that are removed in isolated oils.

However, your choice of oil ultimately depends on your needs, personal preferences, and health goals. If you want the maximum concentration of CBD to target a specific issue, then CBD isolate oils with higher CBD potency may be a better option for you. On the other hand, broad-spectrum CBD oil can be beneficial in providing heightened levels of CBG, CBN, or other minor cannabinoids for specific purposes. It’s essential to do your research and choose the product type that best suits your needs.

What is in Full-spectrum CBD Oil?

Full-spectrum CBD oil contains various beneficial compounds such as cannaflavins, terpenes, and flavonoids – some phytonutrients and antioxidants that occur in the hemp plant but are only retained in full and broad-spectrum CBD oil. Additionally, this type of oil contains many vitamins and minerals that are beneficial, such as magnesium, potassium, and vitamin E. Here’s a quick summary of each of the beneficial compounds you can expect from full spectrum oils in addition to CBD:


This is another cannabinoid that stands for Cannabidiolic acid. It’s the precursor compound to CBD, with the acid part (A) being removed via a decarboxylation method to distil it into CBD. It’s harvested from the plant’s exact location (stem, leaves, buds) as CBD and has a similar overall profile and effects. It’s less bioavailable in the human body, however, and much more challenging to derive benefits than CBD.


This is cannabinol, which comes from THC when it is chemically decomposed via oxidation (from high temperatures or oxygen exposure). However, it’s non-psychoactive, like CBD. CBN has some ability via the endocannabinoid system to trigger endocannabinoid production and assist with circadian rhythm management to improve sleep outcomes. It is known to help in deepening and lengthening sleep, but this has yet to be clinically proven in human studies.

Trace minerals

CBD oil is a helpful and natural source of trace minerals, vitamins, healthy fatty acids, and phytonutrients. Full-spectrum CBD oil, which is not entirely refined, contains many beneficial minerals such as phosphorus, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc. These minerals are essential for maintaining brain, heart, and muscle health and can aid exercise performance and recovery. Electrolytes are also necessary for healthy muscle, heart health, and nervous system function, which is why athletes and active people rely on them.


CBD oil also contains many vitamins that promote good health. Like many other plants, hemp plants have vitamin E, small amounts of C and B vitamins (such as folate), and vitamin D3, which is essential for hormonal production and regulation of mood, muscle development, bone health, and cardiovascular well-being.

Healthy fatty acids

CBD oil is rich in natural fatty acids like fatty fish, nuts and seeds, and fruits or vegetables like coconut. It contains omega 3, omega 6, and gamma-linolenic acid, each of which supports cognitive function, cardiovascular health, and hormone production in the body. The essential fatty acids found in CBD oil, such as omega 3, are believed to protect neurons, aid in memory, regulate blood pressure, and promote heart health.


Phytonutrients are unique nutrients that only occur in plant matter. Full-spectrum CBD oil contains more than 80 phytonutrients, such as flavonoids, lignans, and cannaflavins, which are natural antioxidants that help protect, support, and repair cells. Bioavailable compounds like these are primarily found in hemp leaves, buds, and stems, but you can only find them in full-spectrum CBD oil. Natural anti-inflammatory compounds such as phytonutrients help the body reduce inflammation and manage mood.

How is CBD Oil Made?

Supercritical CO2 Extraction of CBD Oil

CBD oil is made through a complex production process that requires multiple stages, a high degree of care and planning, and focused quality control to ensure the oil is pure and uncontaminated. While all CBD is extracted from the cannabis sativa plant, different methods are used to distil it, and numerous treatment methods of the oil lead to differing chemical compositions of the final extract.

CO2 Extraction

CO2 extraction is the best method for extracting CBD oil, as it uses only inert gas and eliminates the risk of contamination due to solvents. This method is also the most complex and expensive to employ, but it results in the highest quality, purest product and has a great degree of control in refinement. During supercritical CO2 extraction, the raw cannabis extract is passed through multiple highly pressurized chambers where CO2 gas is heated and passed through at extreme pressures. The heat and pressure separate the cannabis extract into its constituent plant matter components, including terpenes, phytocannabinoids, and nutrients, which are kept stable and retained in the full-spectrum extract.
The final product is of exceptionally high quality because no harsh chemicals or solvents are used throughout this process, and the risk of contamination is eliminated. Due to the heat and pressure involved, there is also no risk of infection with bacteria, fungus, or mould, as any of these microbes get killed during extraction.

Solvent Extraction

A solvent is a liquid that can dissolve other substances through a chemical reaction. In CBD solvent extraction, a solvent such as ethanol or isopropyl separates chemicals from cannabis extract. Raw cannabis resin, which is rich in cannabinoids, is dissolved in one of these solvents to break it down. Unfortunately, many beneficial plant nutrients like flavonoids and lignans may be damaged or destroyed during this process, leaving less of them in the final product. Additionally, this process leads to some loss of essential cannabinoids like CBD, which reduces the potency, concentration, and quality of the solvent-extracted CBD oil.

Heat is applied to the solvent mixture to accelerate its chemical reaction with the resin and aid in the molecular decomposition of the plant matter. This heat is also necessary to evaporate much of the solvent during extraction and to remove it from the final purified oil. Once heating and extraction are complete, the oil must be filtered to remove any remaining traces of solvent, which can be toxic and harmful if consumed. However, the process is not guaranteed to remove all the remaining solvent traces; some may remain in the final product. This is a significant disadvantage of solvent extraction, as the risk of contamination with ethanol or other harmful chemicals is high, even with all the necessary precautions.

Will CBD Get Me High?

Woman doing yoga

Unlike THC, CBD is not psychoactive or euphoric. Even in high doses, it produces no “high” effect. CBD indirectly affects the cannabinoid receptors and is milder than THC, which directly strongly acts on these receptors. THC’s psychoactivity is caused by its interactions with the brain’s CB1 cannabinoid receptors, which trigger a euphoric response and endorphin release when consumed. In contrast, CBD is a suitable option for a broader audience in terms of its therapeutic application. It has a much lower risk and will not lead to mental disorders or harm if taken. THC, however, can cause psychosis in people with existing or underlying mental illnesses.

Some full-spectrum CBD products may contain trace amounts of THC (usually less than 0.3%), which are unlikely to get you intoxicated but could potentially show up on a drug test. This can be an issue in Australia, where drug testing is frequent in roadside testing and many workplaces. If you want to avoid THC entirely, you can choose CBD isolate products, which contain only pure CBD with no other cannabinoids. Always avoid low-quality CBD products as they may have much higher THC levels than advertised or labelled, and they could contain contaminants like pesticides.


What is CBD oil good for?

CBD oil is good for several health purposes, depending on your needs. It can be used as a general focus, mood and well-being enhancer for daily inflammation reduction and sleep enhancement. It can also be used to help in mitigating specific chronic health conditions like arthritis, anxiety, pain and depression. Some of the most common diseases people use CBD for are:
Anxiety and Depression: CBD has antidepressant and anxiety-lowering qualities, helping users to remain calm, improve their mood and improve their mental state. It has natural anxiolytic qualities that promote relaxation and reduce racing thoughts.
Pain Management: CBD can help with some pain types, such as neuropathic pain. It does this by reducing our perception of pain through endocannabinoid activity. For acute or severe pain, it won’t offer much benefit.
Epilepsy: Epidiolex, a CBD-based medication, is already being used to treat different types of epilepsy in both children and adults. CBD has neuroprotective properties, helping it to prevent neurological degradation and mental disorders arising from the misfiring of neurons.
Sleep Disorders: CBD helps people rest and relax to ease into more deep sleep. It helps improve sleep quality and recovery from better REM phase sleep and can help with mild insomnia.
Inflammation: many cannabinoids and terpenes have anti-inflammatory properties and can help fight conditions like IBS, colitis and rheumatoid arthritis via these mechanisms. They help lower inflammatory markers by downregulating the inflammation response and reducing the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, prostaglandins and other agents that lead to tissue damage if excessively produced.

Is CBD the same as Marijuana?

CBD is different to Marijuana. CBD is a cannabinoid that is extracted from cannabis but isn’t psychoactive – it’s only used for therapeutic purposes. In contrast, Marijuana is a variety of cannabis bred to contain high amounts of THC. It will include various cannabinoids, including CBD, but it is not legal in Australia and has the potential to cause harm plus addiction. CBD can be derived from both hemp and marijuana plants. It is one of many cannabinoids found in these plants but is usually extracted from industrial hemp in Australia that contains little or no THC (less than 0.3%). CBD does not produce a “high”, which is the result of marijuana use because it is non-psychoactive.

What is the downside of CBD oil?

CBD is widely known to be very safe, but there are some side effects or downsides to be aware of. In particular, new users or those taking high dosages are at higher risk of experiencing some of the following common adverse reactions:
Some users report getting a dry mouth or low saliva production, gut irritation and diarrhoea, reduced or increased appetite, plus drowsiness and dizziness.
CBD impacts the liver’s P450 enzyme as it’s processed. If combined with other medications that are also broken down in the liver, it can cause toxin build-ups and toxicity. Don’t mix CBD with your other drugs unless you first clear any risk with your doctor.
In Australia, the CBD market is not well-regulated, and many low-quality products are in circulation. Contaminants and THC are more likely to be contained in poor quality, mistakenly mixed or mislabelled.

Is CBD a drug?

CBD itself is not a drug, but it may be included or isolated in various cannabis medicines. For example, in Australia, the TGA has approved a range of low and high-dose CBD products to be sold via prescription. In addition, Epidiolex is used as a CBD drug for preventing and mitigating epilepsy in users. In these contexts, it may be considered a natural, plant-based drug, but on its own, it’s simply a cannabinoid from the cannabis plant.

What are the pros and cons of CBD oil?

Like any bioactive chemical, CBD has pros and cons. Despite being entirely natural and safe from plants, these downsides can still be experienced if the product is misused or combined with other medications.
CBD can help with pain relief, particularly with neuropathic pain and minor aches.
Anxiety and stress can be reduced using CBD via its anxiolytic and calming qualities.
Anti-inflammatory effects from the cannabinoids help reduce chronic inflammation associated with conditions like IBS, rheumatoid arthritis and colitis.
CBD’s neuroprotective effects mean it can assist in fighting epilepsy, preventing neuro-degradation and supporting reduced neuroinflammation in the brain cells.
Non-psychoactive and non-addictive: CBD isn’t habit-forming and doesn’t act on the dopamine system.
Possible side effects: while generally mild, CBD has several noted side effects to be aware of, like drowsiness and dry mouth.
Lack of regulation in the market: many CBD products in Australia need better quality, fake or mislabelled, making it hard to shop for.
Potential drug interactions: CBD can’t be taken with many medicines if they are processed in the liver because of toxicity risks.
It has limited scientific evidence in some areas for its purported health benefits. Many are also exaggerated in various publications or highly specific to different individuals.

Is CBD good for joint pain?

CBD has both analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties, making it helpful in suppressing joint or arthritis pains and aches. It helps lower nociception or our subjective feelings from nerve pain signals. Many users with arthritis have reported finding relief from the aches in their knees and elbows. It also helps reduce inflammation, which accompanies some types of joint conditions like rheumatoid arthritis resulting from chronic inflammation.

Does CBD oil work for anxiety?

CBD is known as a potent stress and anxiety-alleviating chemical because of its action on the endocannabinoid and serotonergic brain receptors. It can stimulate feelings of calmness, better mood, plus reduced distress that helps it promote resilience against anxious feelings. Studies have shown promising results in its anxiolytic potential, in addition to presenting antidepressant qualities. These effects are common to many other cannabinoids like CBN and CBG, plus many terpenes such as linalool.

What does CBD oil do to your brain?

CBD interacts with cannabinoid type 1 receptors in the brain’s endocannabinoid system plus can directly affect the serotonin and vanilloid pain receptors. Each plays a role in regulating neurological processes, including pain perception, mood, and sleep or circadian rhythm. CBD’s effects via its brain receptor interactions include reducing depression and anxiety, modulating pain perception and protecting the neurons from misfiring or being damaged by oxidation.

How long does CBD take to kick in?

Typically, CBD will kick in within 1-2 hours of being ingested and last for around 4-5 hours in its duration of effect. The onset of initial effects can vary in timing, depending on factors like weight and metabolism, how the CBD is taken (e.g., orally vs. transdermally), strength and product dosage, and whether it’s consumed with food. The fastest-acting forms of CBD are inhaled or taken sublingually, as they can diffuse into the blood the most rapidly. These can take effect within 15-30 minutes but will still usually require an hour or two to reach their full results in the body. Some individuals don’t feel the effects of CBD at all but may still be deriving its health benefits.

What part of the cannabis plant is CBD oil made from?

Most CBD products are ‘whole plant’ extracted or produced from all parts of the cannabis plant. The advantage of this is it provides a blend of cannabinoids and nutrients in the final CBD oil because each plant part has a differing concentration of these nutrients. The cannabis plant’s flowers, leaves, and stalks all contain CBD and other cannabinoids, but they’re most concentrated in the buds and leaves.

What is real CBD oil made from?

Actual CBD oil is made from high-quality hemp, which has been cultivated and processed via CO2 extraction in a controlled, quality-monitored manner. This offers the most outstanding purity and strength of extract while limiting the risk of contamination with THC or solvents. Industrial hemp should also be used to prevent THC from making its way into the product so it remains legal, non-addictive and non-psychoactive.

How do manufacturers make CBD oil?

CBD oil is extracted from cannabis via either CO2 extraction, ethanol (solvent) extraction, or oil infusion. After resin or concentrate is produced from compressed hemp plants, CBD oil is stripped from it through these methods. It can then be refined and purified by reprocessing to remove impurities and maximize CBD quantity in the final product. Mixing pure extracts with a carrier oil (such as MCT) to create a more evenly dosed tincture is an effective delivery medium. Quality manufacturers will ensure their products are tested for purity and potency, in addition to implementing quality controls at all stages of the extraction plus refinement process.


To summarize, CBD is derived from cannabis sativa through either CO2 or solvent extraction. It is a naturally occurring cannabinoid with therapeutic properties. While CBD can be infused into many different products, it is mainly consumed as an oil. Once ingested, it provides various health benefits through the endocannabinoid system, such as reducing anxiety, alleviating pain, promoting better sleep, and fighting inflammation. There are three types of CBD oil: full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and isolate, each with different characteristics and chemical compositions. You can choose CBD oil that suits your needs and preferences. CO2-extracted oils are generally of higher quality purity and have a lower risk of contamination than those extracted using solvents.