This has been the year medical cannabis hit the mainstream. The government has announced that it is relaxing laws on when cannabis medicines can be prescribed by doctors, following high-profile cases including that of Billy Caldwell, the 13-year-old boy hospitalised by his epileptic seizures after he was denied legal access to the cannabis oil that can help control them. Meanwhile a new generation of cannabis medicines has demonstrated great promise (both anecdotally and in early clinical trials) for a range of ills from anxiety, psychosis and epilepsy to pain, inflammation and acne. And also you don’t have to get stoned to reap the health benefits.
Caldwell’s medicine was illegal because it contained THC, the psychoactive compound that smoking weed socks you with. However, the brand new treatments under development use a less mind-bending cannabinoid called CBD (or cannabidiol).
Natural, legal along with no major negative effects (to date), CBD is actually a marketer’s dream. Hemp-based health items are launching left, right and centre, cashing in whilst the research is in its first flush of hazy potential. As well as ingestible CBD (also sold as hemp or cannabis oils or capsules) the compound has turned into a buzzword among upmarket skincare brands including CBD of London. Predictably, Gwyneth Paltrow is really a proponent in the trend, and it has said that taking CBD society helps her through hard times: “It doesn’t allow you to stoned or anything, a little bit relaxed,” she told one beauty website.
Meanwhile, so-called wellness drinks infused with CBD are gaining traction. The UK’s first has been launched by Botanic Lab, promoted as “Dutch courage having a difference”. Drinks giants Coca-Cola, Molson Coors Brewing Company and Diageo are common considering launching their particular versions, while UK craft breweries such as Green Times Brewing (formerly Cloud 9 Brewing) and Stockton Brewing Company are offering cannabis-oil laced beers, and mixologists are spiking their cocktails with CBD mellowness. The fancy marshmallow maker, The Marshmallowist, has added CBD-oil flavour to the menu, promising that “you feel the effects immediately upon eating”, without specifying what those effects might be.
While THC could make you feel edgy, CBD does the opposite. In reality, when used together, CBD can temper the side effects of THC. Unsurprisingly, there isn’t much CBD in recreational cannabis strains such as purple haze or wild afghan; it really is far richer in hemp plants.
Whether any of these CBD products is going to do anyone any good (or bad) is moot. “Cannabidiol will be the hottest new medicine in mental health as the proper clinical trials do suggest it provides clinical effects,” says Philip McGuire, professor of psychiatry and cognitive neuroscience at King’s College London. “It is the No 1 new treatment we’re thinking about. But although there’s plenty of stuff in news reports about this, there’s still not that much evidence.” Large, long term studies are needed; a 2017 review paper to the safety profile of CBD figured that “important toxicological parameters are yet to become studied; for instance, if CBD has an impact on hormones”.
McGuire doesn’t advise buying CBD products. You should differentiate, he says, in between the extremely high doses of pharmaceutical-grade pure CBD that participants inside the couple of successful studies received and the health supplements available non-prescription or online. “These may contain quite small amounts of CBD which may not have large enough concentrations to get any effects,” he says. “It’s the difference between a nutraceutical along with a pharmaceutical.” These supplements aren’t allowed phxbop make claims of any effects. “If you’re making creams or sports drinks with CBD, it is possible to say anything you like providing you don’t say it will do such and the like,” he says.
Two cannabis-based pharmaceutical drugs, manufactured in the united kingdom, are licensed for prescription but only for very specific uses. Sativex has been available in the UK since 2010 and uses THC and CBD to treat spasticity in multiple sclerosis. As well as a new CBD-only drug, Epidiolex, was approved in June in america to take care of rare childhood epilepsies, having a similar decision expected imminently for Europe and also the UK.
Another concern with non-pharmaceutical products, says McGuire, “is that folks try them and discover, ‘Oh, it doesn’t manage to work.’ Or they get side-effects from a few other ingredient, because, if you buy an oil or cannabis product, it’s likely to contain all kinds of other activities which might have different effects.”
You only have to browse the reviews under a CBD product on the Holland & Barrett web site to see the extent that anecdotal reports can not be trusted. More than 100 customers gave Jacob Hooy CBD Oil five stars, with just a few saying they always noticed when they missed a dose (presumably this made them less relaxed, even though they did not reveal what they were taking it for), while 93 people gave it one star, saying it did nothing, or was too weak. One couple even stated it gave them palpitations along with a sleepless night. Each one of these people had different conditions, expectations and situations. “And,” says McGuire, “you have to understand that anything can have a placebo effect.” While it looks unlikely that this recommended doses of those products will do any harm, McGuire’s guess is the fact that doses are really small “that it’s like homeopathy – it’s not planning to do anything at all”.