Is CBD a wonder drug? Here’s what you should know…

Keep seeing CBD products everywhere? It’s no wonder, considering 1.3 million Brits are using them regularly. But why the sudden surge?
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  • From drops, balms and chews, we discover if CBD is a health fix or fad

    ‘There’s a sense of it being a great untapped resource that’s been obscured for too long behind the stigma attached to cannabis,’ says Simon Horth, from Green Stem CBD.

    It could also be an ideal natural alternative if you’re in long-term pain. ‘Growing concerns around the safety of painkillers highlight the urgent need for alternative approaches to pain relief and there’s good evidence to suggest that CBD has an important role to play,’ says community pharmacist Sid Dajani.

    Want to give it a try? Here’s what you should know…

    Why isn’t CBD illegal?

    ‘CBD is an abbreviation for cannabidiol, which is one of several compounds found in hemp, a variety of the cannabis plant,’ says Simon, director of Green Stem. ‘It’s widely understood to promote wellbeing via the body’s internal endocannabinoid system, which in turn supports many vital processes and functions in the body.’ But, unlike cannabis, it won’t cause addiction or a ‘high’.

    ‘CBD is safe as it’s a non‐psychoactive compound derived from the hemp plant, as opposed to the marijuana plant that contains THC, the compound that makes you “high”,’ says Simon.

    Why brands can’t say CBD will cure all

    Looking to buy CBD on the high street? ‘Until science can categorically support the claims made by many millions of people who have experienced positive outcomes from CBD, it remains classed as a food supplement by the Home Office,’ says Simon. ‘Therefore the CBD industry cannot make medical claims to customers. So we encourage them to explore this research for themselves.’

    Positive breakthroughs

    A 2011 study in Brazil found CBD could be beneficial for lowering anxiety levels, but the biggest breakthrough has been by researchers at Kings College London as to whether CBD can help to treat severe mental health problems. ‘Those studies have already produced a licensed, CBD‐based drug called Epidyolex, which can help seizures and was successfully trialled by Great Ormond Street Hospital,’ says Simon. Epidyolex became available on the NHS in January 2020. Nabilone, a cannabis- based medicine which can reduce sickness in chemotherapy patients, can be prescribed by a specialist on the NHS.

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    What to look out for when buying CBD products

    A reliable CBD product should have been tested in a lab environment and be clear about the source of its hemp, its purity and extraction methods.

    ‘CBD products vary significantly in terms of quality ingredients,’ says Sid, community pharmacist. ‘Preferably buy it in a pharmacy where a pharmacist will be able to answer any questions you may have, especially if you are taking other medication to make sure there are no potential interactions.’ Buying online? Make sure you consult your GP or medical professional first.

    Which is the right choice for you?

    With drops, capsules and balms to choose from – what should you go for? ‘It depends on the individual and if you have any pre-existing health problems,’ says Simon. ‘The beauty of CBD is how adaptable it is for each user. You can experiment with a low dose, say 300mg strength, and gradually adjust accordingly.’

    Could more CBD products be prescribed on the NHS?

    ‘The signs certainly look positive,’ says Simon. ‘It’s a very exciting time for CBD as NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) gave their official approval for the use of two CBD-based medicines by the NHS at the end of 2019.’ One was Epidyolex, the other was a spray called Sativex for multiple sclerosis.