The ABC of CBD Oil In South Africa

February 05, 2019
Author: Mary Jane

The ABC of CBD Oil In South Africa

The legality of CBD oil in South Africa is a huge discussion, often leading to some heated debate. So, what is the status of Cannabidiol (CBD) in SA?

To answer this question, one must first differentiate between Industrial Hemp CBD, CBD Isolate, and Full Extract CBD, or FECO CBD.  THC levels in cannabis products should not exceed 0.025%, in order to render it as legal in South Africa.

Any product with a THC content of lower than 0.03%, and labeled as medicinal or therapeutical, is classified as a schedule 4 medicine, meaning that a prescription from a medical practitioner is required, in order to legally make use of it. Any product containing levels higher than 0.03% THC per volume, is considered a schedule 7 drug, making it both illegal and a criminal offense, as the law currently stands.


Cannabidiol, or CBD, is the non-psychoactive component found in the cannabis plant. CBD has been touted as the holy grail of cannabinoids, with therapeutic effects such as anti-inflammatory properties, anti-cancer properties, antipsychotic effects and more.  CBD oil is an extract from the cannabis plant, characterized by high levels of cannabidiol (CBD) and low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). 


In 2015, researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Lautenberg Center for General and Tumor Immunology discovered what is now known as the Entourage Effect. This refers to the functioning of CBD in synergy with other cannabinoids, to produce the best therapeutic and medicinal value. Research showed that CBD was much more effective when used along with other compounds of the cannabis plant than when it was used by itself. This research -  and studies done in the interim -  have shown us that Full Spectrum CBD is more effective in treating the majority of medical conditions than CBD isolate of Hemp CBD with little to no THC.


Full extract cannabis oil (FECO) is regarded as the concentrated essential oil of the cannabis plant. Unlike other extractions, full extract cannabis oil is optimally made from the cannabis flowers, via various extraction methods – separating the cannabis resin from the plant material, creating a highly concentrated product.

Full extract cannabis oil is considered one of the best medicinal cannabis products and is often the primary choice for medical cannabis patients with severe conditions, such as Cancer, Epilepsy, Multiple Sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease.

CBD rich plants are cultivated specifically for this purpose, with the THC levels typically ranging from 0.3% to less than 3% per volume.  Whilst full extract CBD oil is non-psychoactive, it does contain levels of THC and other minor cannabinoids, such as THCA and CBN, to name a few, which work in synergy with the CBD to give maximum medicinal and therapeutic benefits to the user. 

The cannabis plant is associated with over 545 different chemical constituents.  Of these, at least 113 compounds are molecules that are unique to cannabis.  These are called cannabinoids.  In order for cannabis oil to produce the maximum therapeutic efficacy, all the cannabinoids and terpenes work in synergy, a phenomenon known as “The Entourage Effect”.


Most Hemp CBD oil is extracted from industrial hemp with a vast majority imported from China. Hemp is naturally abundant in CBD, is grown as an industrial crop with the whole plant, flowers, leaves, stalks, and seeds typically used in production of oil resulting in a low CBD percentags 

Whilst CBD derived from hemp is sold in health shops and pharmacies, the MCC (Medicines Control Council – now known as SAHPRA), stipulates that these products are to be labeled as dietary supplements or nutritional supplements. Whilst hemp is rich in proteins and omega, without the synergy of other cannabinoids, the therapeutic value is low.


CBD isolate is exactly what it sounds like; pure, isolated CBD compound, all by itself. It exists as a white powder and contains no other compounds – absolutely nothing. CBD isolate is simply CBD that has been extracted from the cannabis plant and isolated from the other cannabinoids.  Refined CBD isolate powder lack critical terpenes, secondary cannabinoids, and fatty acids, decreasing the synergistic value of these cannabinoids. The therapeutic window is narrow and whilst many suppliers mix their isolate with THC oil, this does not constitute FECO!

Isolated CBD is typically extracted from industrial hemp plants that are utilized across many hemp industries. Each industry uses the same base plant to decrease manufacturing costs, and supplements using these plants generally sacrifice CBD quality for price.


It is also important to differentiate between Hemp CBD and Hemp Seed Oil. While Hemp CBD contains CBD with little to no THC content and is regarded as a nutritional supplement only, hemp seed oil is in a different category all by itself. Hemp seed oil is high in omega and is generally regarded more of a culinary additive, with no medicinal value.


Unlike THC, the psychoactive compound found in the cannabis plant, CBD is non-psychoactive with little to no side-effects. CBD will not make you “high” or interfere with motor-skills and cognitive abilities. CBD is a non-toxic compound – here it is important to note that the extraction methods used would always be questioned. You do not want a product that is riddled with residual extraction solvents and other toxic substances. Carrier oils are as important, as you want your CBD to have the maximum efficacy, without any unnecessary complications caused by the incorrect infusion and/or carrier oil. 


Most commonly, CBD is taken orally, in drop form. Sublingual dosing is the best means of ingestion, and, again, the carrier liquid is of utmost importance. MCT oil, for example, bypasses the digestive tract and delivers the cannabinoids straight to the liver, where other carriers would need to pass through the digestive tract first, losing some efficacy due to stomach acid destruction of the CBD. In this case, larger doses are required to render the CBD effective. If you are needing higher dosages of CBD, capsules would be the best method on ingestion, however, always make sure that your supplier is supplying you with accurately pre-dosed capsules, and not simply a homemade brew inserted into a capsule. 

When sourcing a CBD oil for medicinal value, always remember to refer to the studies and research that has been done – CBD, in synergy with other cannabinoids and compounds like terpenes, has a higher efficacy than CBD isolate or Hemp CBD alone. Ask the right questions when sourcing a supplier and ensure that you are always armed with the right information. There is no doubt that CBD is a highly effective medicinal and therapeutic compound, and is available in many forms in South Africa – from tinctures to oils and capsules. Finding the best product with the highest concentration remains the responsibility of the buyer, and in this instance, it is vitally important to know what the research says and having the right information when making a decision.

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