Cannabidiol (CBD) is having an undeniable moment in the spotlight. From CBD-infused drinks to oils, moisturisers, and even pillowcases, the cannabis plant extract can now be bought from mainstream stores in the UK, US, and Canada.
But is there any truth in these marketing claims?
What is CBD?
CBD is a chemical that is naturally found in cannabis plants. While cannabis is well known for causing a ‘high’, the World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that CBD itself cannot get you high and does not cause dependency. This is because pure CBD extract does not contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the psychoactive chemical in cannabis that causes the sensation of getting ‘high’.
Is CBD the same as medical cannabis?
Medical cannabis is a term that describes any cannabis-based medicine used to relieve symptoms.
CBD products which can be bought without a prescription are not classified as medical cannabis because the quality and amount of CBD they contain have not been medically verified.
Doctors can prescribe approved medical cannabis, but at present they can only do so for a small number of health conditions. In the UK, these conditions are two severe forms of epilepsy and nausea and vomiting in adults having chemotherapy.
Medical cannabis is licensed in the UK for treating muscle spasticity in people with multiple sclerosis. However, it is rarely prescribed for this symptom because The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) does not consider it a cost-effective treatment option.
In the US, medical cannabis has only been approved by The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of the same rare types of epilepsy as in the UK.
What are the health benefits of CBD?
Marketing claims about the health benefits of CBD products are plentiful and range from treating acne to improving chronic pain, depression, and anxiety. However, there is a lack of robust research in humans to support the majority of these claims.
So, has CBD been medically proven to treat any conditions?
According to the WHO, clinical trials have shown that a highly purified liquid form of CBD, called Epidiolex, is an effective treatment for epilepsy.
There is also some evidence that medical cannabis can help to improve certain types of pain. However, more research is needed before cannabis products can be medically recommended for pain relief.
Is CBD safe?
The WHO has reported that CBD is generally well tolerated and safe to take. This means that products which contain CBD alone are low risk. The problem with using CBD products that have not been medically approved, is there is no guarantee that they do not contain THC.
THC is less safe than CBD and it carries health risks, including:
- psychosis – regular cannabis use increases a person’s risk of schizophrenia or another psychotic illness
- dependency – this is less likely if cannabis use is controlled and monitored by a specialist doctor
Is CBD legal?
CBD products are not legal in all countries. However, some countries, such as the UK, have classified CBD products that do not contain THC as legal to buy and use.
Check your country’s laws for specific information on if CBD products are legal to buy and use.
If you are considering using CBD products to improve your health, speak with your doctor for advice before doing so.