A quick reminder... what is CBD?
CBD, the shorthand for cannabidiol, is one of the many active ingredients in the cannabis plant, also known as the hemp plant.
CBD, a natural substance from the Cannabis sativa plant, and a non-psychoactive compound.
Unlike the better-known substance THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD is not psychoactive, does not lead to physical dependence and produces no psychoactive effects, i.e. it does not get you ‘high’ and will not lead to addiction.
The World Health Organisation confirms this in its 2018 report where it states CBD is a safe substance.
Both CBD and THC are a type of cannabinoids. The hemp plants actually contains over 100 cannabinoids, as well as flavonoids and terpenes. These cannabinoids work in the body's endocannabinoid system (ECS for short). The ECS system is a network of receptors that work with the cannabinoids your body is already producing. This system exists and is active in your body even if you don’t use cannabis.
CBD can actually be used for a wide variety of medical conditions, such as epilepsy, and anxiety, as well as for general wellness. Much like vitamins.
CBD is increasingly being viewed as a potential alternative to strong medication, such as antidepressants, which can cause unwanted and significant side effects.
What's more, CBD is legal in the UK, but be sure of the contents of the specific CBD product you purchase. This is because some products also contain THC. This is said to have some benefits to us, but certain amounts are illegal.
There are a number of ways to take CBD, but the most common appears to be CBD oil, this may be due to its strength and to the fact that it is one of the most fast-acting methods. CBD oil tinctures normally come with a pipette, the CBD oil is administered under the tongue and should take effect within a few minutes.
Other methods include CBD gels, CBD vape liquid, CBD gummies and CBD chocolate. But the list is rapidly growing in line with CBD's popularity.
A note of exercise caution, however, when venturing into the world of CBD products. Given the fact over the counter CBD products are not FDA approved, it is wise to check the label thoroughly.
It can be quite difficult to know which is the best CBD to buy. Some companies can be misleading, and some products may not contain CBD at all! We generally advise to choose products from a company that openly shares it's third party lab reports.
Make sure you are buying high quality forms of CBD. Again, look at the lab reports, but also look for reviews and customer feedback. High quality doesn't necessary mean it has to be the most expensive, shop around - and always look for discount codes and offers!
There is strong evidence to suggest that when CBD is mixed with other cannabinoids, flavonoids and terpenes, that the effect on the body is greater. This is known as the entourage effect. Products that offer the entourage effect are known as full-spectrum cbd.
Could the effects of alcohol or CBD be increased?
In an interview with Tonic, James Giordano, professor of neurology and biochemistry at Georgetown University, rated mixed consumption of CBD and alcohol as potentially potent for the body.
Both alcohol and CBD would have a relaxing and disinhibiting effect on the body. If alcohol and CBD are then mixed, these effects could be particularly severe and prolonged, according to Giordano.
CBD has a calming effect, making you feel light-hearted and rounded off internally. If alcohol is consumed on top of CBD then this effect could be intensified.
Giordano suggests that combining the two substances could also make some people very sleepy and cause sedation.
Or are there no interactions after all?
Jordan Tishler, the president of Medical Cannabis Practice InhaleMD and the Association of Cannabis Specialists, disagrees. He does not suspect any special effects of mixed consumption.
In an interview with Tonic, however, Tishler describes current research on alcohol and CBD as insufficient to draw conclusions about possible interactions.
However, there may also be no particular effects of a mixed consumption of alcohol and CBD. Jackie Harding, a scientist at Cannabis R&D company Cannibistry Labs, has so far found no interactions.
An improvement in the side effects as soon as CBD is drunk with alcohol is also not to be expected, according to Harding.
Are there potential positive effects of CBD when drinking alcohol?
In contrast to THC, CBD consumption does not bring a euphoric high feeling. The health benefits of cannabidiol are more apparent in the background.
Due to the subtle mode of action, Hempia founder Jessica Assaf suspects that CBD can develop its special anti-inflammatory and detoxifying effects, especially when consuming alcohol. The CBD could actually be beneficial for alcohol, Assaf said in an interview with Well and Good.
And could this assumption be supported by current research?
There are already studies that could indicate a potentially positive effect of CBD on alcohol. A 2013 study by New York's Mount Sinai University of Medicine found that CBD protects mice from alcohol-related fatty liver disease (steatosis).
The study, also published in Free Radical Biology & Medicine found that CBD could prevent acute alcohol-induced liver steatosis in mice. The study explains that binge drinking induces steatosis and that increased oxidative stress is one of the underlying reasons for this. CBD has been reported to work as an antioxidant, hence the reason the researchers wanted to explore whether CBD could prevent this increase in oxidative stress.
In addition to this, CBD has been known to induce autophagy (degradation of damaged cells). In contrast to alcohol, which decreases it and causes fat to accumulate in the liver, which can lead to inflammation and hepatitis.
And another study, published in Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, showed that CBD could prevent alcohol-induced neurodegeneration.
In this study, rodents were treated with CBD gel whilst being given alcohol. 1.0%, 2.5% and 5.0% CBD gels were used in the study initially. It was found that the 5.0% CBD gel resulted in a massove 48.8% reduction in neurodegeneration.
Of course there are still limitations to the above animal studies given that rodents were used, rather than humans.
Research on CBD, as we know, is still very limited in terms of human trials.
So... Can you drink CBD with alcohol or not?
Always a tricky question to answer when there is such limited research. There is research to suggest that CBD is not only safe to take with alcohol, but that it could actually be beneficial. Sometimes, however, we are required to listen to the experts.
This is also the view of Lindsey Elmore, pharmacy doctor and wellness expert. She advises careful consumption and emphasises that the long-term consequences of mixed consumption in particular are not yet known.