CBD is the latest health craze to hit the high street, with people taking it in the belief it can relieve pain and anxiety. But what exactly is it and is it actually effective?
CBD stands for cannabidiol and is one of the 100 or so compounds, known as cannabinoids, found in the cannabis (hemp) plant. Unlike the psychoactive component of marijuana, THC, which is illegal as a Class B drug in the UK, CBD does not cause any changes in perception or mood. It is therefore legal to buy CBD products in the UK, if they don’t make any claims about medicinal benefits. This is because it does not have the intoxicating effects of THC, and so isn’t classed as a controlled drug.
As a result, you can buy CBD in all sorts of forms on the high street and online. You can get it in oil to be dropped under the tongue, as e-liquids to be vaped and even in sweets and creams. However, a report by the Centre for Medical Cannabis blind-tested 30 CBD products bought on the High Street and online, and found that almost half of them contained measurable levels of THC, which makes them technically illegal under current laws.
The most common form of CBD is an oil, which can be ingested orally by dropping the liquid under your tongue or using an oral spray or dropper. It can also be taken in capsules, added to food or drinks, and used topically on the skin.
There are a lot of different brands producing and selling CBD products, with many making big claims about their efficacy. This has led to confusion about what type of CBD to take and how much to consume, as well as an influx of new industry terms.
In addition, some people may be unable to take CBD products because it interacts with certain medications. This is because it binds with the same receptors as some drugs, which prevents them from being absorbed by your body, or causes them to have dangerous side effects. These include some anti-coagulants, antidepressants, antibiotics and a number of heart medicines, including beta-blockers.
Despite this, there is some evidence that CBD does alleviate the symptoms of some conditions, such as chronic pain and sleep problems. It has also been shown to be effective in reducing seizures in some patients with epilepsy. But for most conditions, the evidence is not strong enough to support the claims being made. And, as Harry Sumnall, a Professor in Substance Use at Liverpool John Moores University and former member of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, points out, some of the results might be down to the placebo effect.
There is ongoing research into the use of purer forms of CBD for other conditions, such as depression and anxiety. But it’s important to talk to your doctor before trying any new supplements or oils. They can help you decide whether they are right for you and advise you on how much to take. CBD UK