What exactly is CBD? A bit more detail…
CBD is the acronym for cannabidiol, which is one of a group of phytocannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. CBD, and other cannabinoids, are active ingredients and each is known to have specific effects when consumed. These effects are often enhanced by other active ingredients in the cannabis plant, such as flavonoids and terpenes. This is called the entourage effect.
Hemp plants (a term often used interchangeably with cannabis plant but which does have a stricter definition revolving around the relative content of CBD to THC) usually contain cannabinoids in the form of carboxylic acids.
CBD connects to cannabinoid receptors in are primarily found in our central nervous system and can both block the messages that our sent around our body, and enhance them. But we'll stop there - we could easily get carried away here, but we’ll save the sciency bit for our specific pages on the science behind CBD. Including how CBD actually works on human body, cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system. For now, we’ll continue to only mention another key cannabinoid, tetrahydrocannabinol (or THC for short). This is better known for the fact that it produces the ‘high’ or intoxicating effect associated with cannabis.
For our purposes here, it sufficient to note that CBD and THC are distinct compounds and can be isolated. This is why we mentioned ‘hemp plants’ earlier, because hemp from the cannabis sativa plant is known for having relatively lower THC and higher CBD content. This is a good starting point for the production of CBD products, such as oils or consumables.
How does CBD work?
Scientific research indicates that CBD (and other cannabinoids) interact with our bodies’ Endocannabinoid System (ECS for short). The ECS controls the development and transmission of pain, anxiety, mood, body temperature and memories.
CBD in particular is noted for having anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antispasmodic and antidepressant properties.
Exactly how this occurs is explained in more detail on our page about the Endocannibinoid System, or ECS for short. Essentially, though, CBD acts as a circuit breaker in our ECS to stop or inhibit the transmission of signals or impulses. In this way it has analgesic, antispasmodic and antidepressant effects. Various studies have been carried out with promising results.
Is CBD safe to use?
This is one of the advantages that CBD has over other cannibinoids and cannabis more generally. CBD is considered safe and does not lead to physical addiction.
Also, research and reports so far indicate very few and mostly minor side effects from using CBD. Nevertheless, it is still important to note that CBD has not been fully researched yet, so other side effects may become better known with time.
That being said, the number of success stories for wide ranges of ailments (such as skin conditions) and medical conditions (such as PTSD, anxiety and depression) should be taken into consideration. CBD has even been cited as beneficial for people suffering from cancer.
So why are so many more people using CBD now?
As mentioned, the number of CBD products and their use is booming in the UK. A lot of it has to do with increased understanding of the potential benefits, especially as explained by people who have often severe clinical issues.
The fact that benefits have been claimed across such a broad range of relatively minor to major conditions has also played a part.
15 areas CBD can help
1. Anxiety, panic attacks and post-traumatic stress disorders
2. Arthritis and osteoarthritis
6. Epilepsy (including dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome)
7. Alzheimer's disease
9. Multiple Sclerosis (An oral spray called Sativex, which is a mix of CBD and THC, is used to treat MS)
10. Chronic pain and neuropathic pain
12. Reduction in appetite to aid weight loss
14. Skin diseases (e.g. acne)
15. Sleep disorders
In addition to the above, many people are using CBD as an alternative to recreational cannabis use. CBD can be smoked and offers many of the same benefits as THC, without the risk of psychosis, addiction or breaking the law. The use of cannabis has historically been medicinal for many people, CBD could be a real alternative.
There has also been a general softening of the ‘establishment’ view on cannabis and its therapeutic potential since the government legalised medical cannabis in 2018. This is covered in more detail on our page explaining the legality of CBD.
In the same year, America passed a farm bill which resulted in the cultivation and sale of industrial hemp becoming federal law. In addition to this, more and more US senators being in favour of the legalisation of cannabis altogether.
Given the factors above, it’s not so surprising to see a huge boom in CBD products, as well as their claims for helping people.
What CBD products are available?
The sheer number of types of products, let alone the products themselves, can be a little overwhelming. Here we’ll give an overview of the types of products available, with other pages on our site going into more detail on these types and then specific products.
As is often the case, the best place to start is with a list… The following covers a good selection of the types of products you might be interested in learning more about before using them yourself.
The 10 best CBD products
1. CBD topical creams and skincare
2. CBD bath bombs
3. CBD capsules
4. CBD crystals
5. CBD massage balms
6. CBD vaping liquid/e-liquid
7. CBD gummy bears
8. CBD oil
9. Hemp tea and hot chocolate
10. Hemp cookies, brownies and chocolate
There are, of course, many more types of products out there but this is a list of the most common, which we explore in more detail on our products page.
What is particularly interesting in the world of CBD is the growing range of CBD cosmetics and CBD foods, including gummy bears, cookies, teas and a wide range of others.
One should be wary, that as the CBD market expands, as will the number of CBD products available. The choices emerging are often weird and wonderful, but some are no more than a gimmick and potentially do not even contain CBD. Always check the labeling and buy from a reputable seller to ensure you are buying a high-quality product.
We cover many products in subsequent pages, but we’d be remiss not to include a little more here about the best known and discussed product, which is CBD oil.
CBD oil is the most common form of CBD. It is often and misleadingly called cannabis oil. CBD oil is produced from the female cannabis plant and is often mixed with a carrier oil, such as olive oil.
It is difficult to fully explain the benefit and potential pitfalls of using CBD oil without getting into some of the science behind this and other cannibinoids, which are often included to produce the ‘entourage effect’. This effect, the exact method of producing CBD oil and the appropriate amounts of other cannibinoids (e.g. THC) are discussed on our page explaining how CBD oil is made.
Is CBD suitable for children?
Given that a lot, if not all, of the ailments listed above can effect children, this is not an unreasonable question to ask.
In short, research so far indicates that CBD can be used for children. The effects of cannabidiol on ADD or ADHD are currently being investigated.
Interesting, Epidiolex - a drug used in the treatment of epilepsy, is the first prescription CBD to be approved by the FDA (US food and drug administration). And this drug is used as a pediatric treatment for children aged 1 and upwards.
However, it is important to note that all of the long-term effects of CBD on the child's brain, which is still growing, are not yet known.
This is probably why CBD is not yet a first choice therapy for children. It’s still worth remembering though that the World Health Organisation rated CBD as safe. Nevertheless, any use of CBD should be discussed with a medical doctor beforehand.
For women who are expecting children, or have recently had a baby, CBD should be avoided. Most companies advise pregnant women to avoid CBD and for new mothers to avoid taking CBD whilst breastfeeding. The FDA also strongly advises against the use of CBD and THC in these scenarios.
There is no thorough research available on the effects of CBD on the developing fetus, pregnant mother, or breastfed baby. However, research suggests that high doses of CBD can cause problems with the reproductive system of fetuses. This was found in a 1986 study on pregnant test animals where developing male fetuses had been affected. You can tell by the date of the study that there is a severe lack of research in this area.
Can you give CBD to your pets?
Likewise, pets can suffer from many ailments that CBD can have positive effects for. There is increasing interest in possible therapeutic uses of CBD for pets, given animals also have an endocannabinoid system where CBD has a similar mode of action.
However, unlike humans, animals can overdose and are obviously not able to verbalise their experience. Therefore, it is advisable to exercise caution with dosing and speak to your vet beforehand.
You can read more about CBD and pets here.
This is all well and good, but is CBD actually legal?
The short answer to this question is ‘yes’, but unfortunately there are a few caveats to be aware of. We have a whole section devoted to the legality of CBD, but will summarise this here.
As with many laws, there are nuances and grey areas. For CBD, these relate to its relationship with cannabis and THC. It is important to understand this before deciding on the product you want to use.
CBD in its pure form is legal in the UK, but the grey areas come primarily from the amount of THC, which is a controlled substance, that is included in a CBD product. In theory (i.e. the law) there should be no THC (or other controlled cannabinoids) in a CBD product. In practice, this means that any products’ claim of ‘no THC’ should be verified by a lab that is accredited with a limit on detection of 0.01%.
There are THC-free CBD products available in the UK, although it’s worth noting there are also products that claim to have less than 0.2% THC and that this is within the law. This is the case in many other countries, but not in the UK so please be aware before you make your own informed choice.
In our opinion, the key to safely using CBD is to arm yourself with as many facts as possible and asking the right questions before choosing a product.