Since their first reported use in 2,600 BC, cannabis and hemp have been praised for their many psychological, physical, and emotional benefits. Both cannabis and hemp belong to the Cannabis sativa family of plants. There are over a dozen cannabinoid chemicals that naturally occur in these plants, the most important of which are CBD, THC, and cannabinol (CBN).
Cannabinol and THC both have psychoactive effects and are not currently legal in the UK. CBD however, isn’t psychoactive and has some incredible benefits. Plus, it’s legal here in the UK.
CBD has been gaining popularity in health and wellness circles over recent years. In fact the UK market is estimated to be worth £1bn by the year 2025. With a variety of CBD products available, including oils, sprays, creams, gums and chocolates, it’s becoming increasingly accessible. But what exactly is CBD and what is it good for?
What is CBD Oil?
Cannabidiol, more commonly known as CBD, is one of the main chemical compounds found in the cannabis and hemp plants. It is extracted from the plant, usually with a CO2 extraction process for purity, and diluted with a carrier oil like coconut or hemp seed.
CBD is an essential component of medicinal marijuana; however it is non-psychoactive, containing less than 0.3% THC. CBD does not directly interact with endocannabinoid receptors so it won’t make you feel ‘high’. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recognised it to be safe, non-toxic, and non-addictive, with little to no side effects in humans, but with some rather incredible benefits:
It’s High in Antioxidants
First documented in a 1998 National Institute of Mental Health study, CBD is said to have higher quantities of antioxidants than both vitamins C and E. It was also found to be 30-50% more effective than either vitamin. Antioxidants work by inhibiting oxidation, the chemical reaction in the body that produces damaging free radicals. Damage caused by free radicals is thought to contribute to cancers, central nervous system diseases, premature ageing, cataracts, genetic degenerative diseases, and more.
Unlike many antioxidants, cannabinoids can cross the blood brain barrier meaning their positive effects can reach the brain. Antioxidants in the brain can help prevent signs of ageing, like memory loss, and prevent against diseases like Alzheimers and stroke. Beyond being preventative, antioxidants in the brain can actually improve memory function. Ultimately, the more antioxidants in your body, the more likely you are to stay healthy, sharp, and looking youthful.
Helps with Inflammation and Pain
There is a large body of scientific research to support the use of CBD as a treatment for inflammation. The body’s Endocannabinoid system (ECS) helps to support a variety of functions, including sleep, immune response, appetite and pain.
CBD is known to bind to the TRPV-1 receptor in the ECS, which mediates pain perception, body temperature and inflammation. It serves to desensitise the receptors and block inflammation and pain by interacting with the glycine receptor. The glycine receptor plays an important role in communicating the body’s pain signals through the spinal column to the brain, which then perceives ‘pain’.
Additionally, the antioxidant properties in CBD also help to counteract oxidative stress, which can cause inflammation. Multiple human studies have been conducted confirming the effectiveness of CBD in pain management.
Helps with Anxiety and Depression
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has ranked depression and anxiety disorders as some of the largest contributors to disability, calling it a global epidemic. Mental health conditions are most commonly treated with doctor-prescribed medications; however, CBD has shown great promise as a natural treatment for anxiety and depression. CBD activates the body’s serotonin and adenosine receptors, giving it an antidepressant/anti-anxiety effect.
A 2011 study also found that CBD stimulates the right posterior cingulated cortex––the portion of the brain thought to help process emotional information. Studies have been conducted using different doses of CBD to determine how effectively it treats social anxiety. Even in lower doses (300mg) CBD helped to reduce symptoms and overall anxiety levels.
Helps with Insomnia
Roughly 16 million (one in three) adults in the UK suffer from insomnia, according to Aviva. Some of the many causes of poor sleep include anxiety, depression, and pain.
In2019, a study was conducted to determine whether CBD could be an effective treatment. Each test subject took a small-dose (25mg) CBD capsule daily. After the first month, 66.7% of test subjects reported enjoying better sleep. What’s more, 79.2% of patients also reported lower levels of anxiety. Even at lower levels, this study shows that CBD has significant promise as a natural sleep aid.
Helps treat Cancer-Related Symptoms
A study conducted by the Institute of Toxicology and Pharmacology in Germany found that cannabidiol caused the death of cancer cells in lung cancer patients. It has also been shown that CBD inhibits growth of a variety of tumours. Results like these have resulted in extensive further research into CBD as a co-treatment for cancer patients.
The current understanding is that by activating peroxisome proliferator receptors, CBD is able to decrease how fast cancer cells multiply. So far, Animal and test-tube studies have shown that CBD effectively prevents the spread of brain, colong, prostate, breast, and lung cancers. With research ongoing, CBD could have even more benefits in treating cancer patients.
Since its naturally high in antioxidants, CBD has actually been shown to protect the brain against neural damage and improve recovery. The antioxidants in CBD are uniquely able to cross the blood brain barrier so their positive effects can reach the brain. This is part of what makes CBD an effective therapeutic alternative to pharmaceutical medications.
There is research to suggest that CBD has antipsychotic effects and could help reduce psychotic symptoms in people suffering from schizophrenia and similar disorders. It is currently being used to treat neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, as it has been shown to slow the progression of the disease. CBD oil has been used to help people suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), it allows PTSD patients to manage their stress response to triggers and traumatic memories.
Helps with High Blood Pressure
A recent study published by The American Society for Clinical Investigation has found that cannabidiol could have positive implications on heart health. According to Blood Pressure UK, hypertension (high blood pressure) affects one in every three adults in the UK. Hypertension makes up 12% of all GP visits in England.
Researchers administered CBD and a placebo to a randomised test group of adult males in a double-blind, crossover study. They found that CBD reduced blood pressure compared to subjects given the placebo. CBD is known for its anti-anxiety and anti-inflammatory effects, which relax the veins, increase vein diameter, and eases blood flow. Additionally, CBD has a significant antioxidant effects on the heart, making it cardioprotective against stress. Promising early research indicates that CBD could be an effective, natural treatment for stress and hypertension.
Why are there different strengths?
CBD products come in a variety of strengths. On the label you will typically see figures like 300mg, 500mg, 1000mg, 2000mg––these numbers tell you the total amount of cannabinoids in the product. This is not the same thing as strength. Some manufacturers will helpfully include a percentage on the label to give you the percent. If there is no percentage, you must consider the amount of cannabinoids (ie. 1000mg) and the total size of the product (ie. 20ml). For example, a 20 ml bottle with 1000mg of cannabinoids has a 5% concentration of CBD extract.
The strength of CBD oil you use generally depends on what you’re treating; whether you want mild, moderate, or strong effects; your weight; and your body fat content. Generally the spray version is easier to use and 2 sprays are enough. In regards to non spray form you only want to take a couple drops of CBD oil at a time and hold under the tongue for 60 seconds. Use a stronger concentration for stronger effects, and a weaker concentration for mild effects. However, there is no ‘correct dosage’ at present. There is an element of trial and error involved as you become accustomed to how CBD interacts with your body. If you are unsure of which strength or dosage to start with, please speak with your GP.
For thousands of years, people all over the world have been using the hemp and marijuana plants as an herbal medicine. Now, with an uptake of research into its medicinal value, there is more credible proof confirming the effectiveness of its natural chemical compounds. The benefits of CBD are numerous and varied, helping with everything from inflammation to PTSD. It’s an incredibly versatile substance that is becoming more widely accepted as an effective natural treatment. Though there is still more research to be done, there is no denying the incredible benefits of CBD.