From the stories appearing about CBD and its near miraculous effects, to the pharmaceutical companies rushing to catch up, CBD became one of the most talked about health topics last year. The buzz surrounding CBD is loud because it can reportedly help with many diverse conditions – from cancer and back pain to anxiety and ADHD. But because it’s still so new in the UK it can be hard to separate fact from fiction.
Henri Sant-Cassia of CBD Virtue explained what CBD is, whether it lives up to the hype, and what makes good CBD.
What is CBD
CBD is cannabidiol, one of two main substances found in cannabis plants, said Henri. The other cannabidiol is THC, which is a psychoactive drug and what gives marijuana its high.
He explained: “CBD works on the body but has no psychoactive effect, and is legal provided it comes from EU approved plant strains and any THC has been removed.”
Once the preserve of Californian hippies, today you’ll find CBD everywhere from the high street to specialised online retailers, and there is a growing lobby who want to see it available on prescription.
Following a Home Office decision to make certain cannabis derived medicines available to patients with “exceptional clinical need”, Home Secretary Sajid Javid admitted that “our position on cannabis-related medicinal products was not satisfactory”. So CBD is headed for the mainstream.
Does CBD live up to the hype?
CBD can help alleviate chronic pain and reduce inflammation, said Henri, and many people are also using it to fight cancer and the side effects of treatments like chemotherapy.
He added: “If you work out regularly, CBD is great post workout recovery, and as it’s natural, it has none of the side effects of the typical recovery drinks, pills and powders.
“For smokers, CBD has been found to reduce cravings, and can help you quit. It has a soothing effect, which has helped people suffering from everything from anxiety to epileptic seizures. As it is considered safe for children, parents are using CBD as an alternative to Ritalin and other ADHD medicines.
“Overall, both anecdotal evidence and a growing number of clinical trials show that CBD has real potential, and there is no doubt you’ll hear more in the coming months, especially as it’s not just for those with serious illnesses. A growing number are using it to help them deal with minor ailments and lifestyle needs.”
There is little scientific evidence which demonstrates Henri’s claims, but anecdotal evidence from thousands of users can be found online.
When it comes to CBD and cancer, cancer charity Macmillan offers the following advice: “There has been a lot of interest in cannabinoids. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabidiol and cannabidiol have been studied to see if they could have any role in the treatment of cancer.
“Most of the scientific research has been done in a laboratory. Scientists have found that different cannabinoids can cause a cell to die, stop cells from dividing, and stop cells from developing new blood vessels.
“But they have also found that cannabinoids can damage important blood vessels and in some situations, encourage cancer cells to grow.
“Some studies have looked at whether using cannabis may increase the risk of developing cancer. These have produced different results. Some research has shown that using cannabis may protect against cancer. But other studies have shown an increased risk of cancer.
“It is still unclear whether using cannabis has any anti-cancer effects. But there is some evidence that the chemicals in cannabis might help with symptoms such as nausea and pain.”
What makes good CBD?
Henri warns that not all CBD is created equal. Plenty of unscrupulous companies are jumping on the bandwagon.
He said: “It’s common to find cheap Chinese CBD, watered down with labels claiming it is high strength, and untested products with no CBD at all in them.
“The very best CBD is made in the US from special plant strains with the right genetics, and is gently extracted to preserve all the beneficial chemicals which are naturally present but stripped out by the harsher, industrial extraction used in cheaper products.
“Look out for full spectrum CBD, and buy from a company that has traceable, tested products.”
CBD is available in a range of products including creams, oils, tinctures and edible treats like gummy sweets and honey sticks.
It’s also available in many different dosages and it can be hard to knowhow much to take and when.
Henri recommended: “For most people a daily dose of 10mg to 25mg is ideal and the best way to take CBD is through an edible product like gummies, honey sticks or a tincture.
“CBD will continue to hit the headlines, as ever more effective products become available, and more clinical trials are done to prove its effectiveness.”
Dr Andrew Thornber, chief medical officer at Now Patient, previously offered his recommendation for taking CBD to Express.co.uk, particularly with research still being in the early stages.
He said that because CBD isn’t prescribed by a GP or pharmacist at present, we still don’t know the full side-effects.
Dr Thornber added: “I would not personally recommend this as a medical practitioner.
“I would always recommend anyone wanting to take any medicine that isn’t registered with the General Pharmaceutical Council to do so with caution and almost always have a chat with your Pharmacist or GP at your next visit to take their advice.
“The individual needs of the patient vary and what works for one person, may not work for another and this is not currently classed as an official medication which can be prescribed.”
The NHS advises that while many cannabis-based products are available to buy online, their quality and content is not known – they may be illegal and potentially dangerous.
It states: “Some products that might claim to be medical cannabis, such as “CBD oil” or hemp oil, are available to buy legally as food supplements from health stores. But there’s no guarantee these are of good quality or provide any health benefits.
“They tend to only contain very small amounts of CBD, so it’s not clear what effect they would have.
“Some cannabis-based products are available to buy over the internet without a prescription.
“It’s likely most of these products – even those called “CBD oils” – will be illegal to possess or supply. There’s a good chance they will contain THC, and may not be safe to use.”
Many people are beginning to share their stories on how CBD has helped them – one mother claimed to have seen miraculous changes in her daughter who has cerebral palsy after giving her the cannabis-based product.