12 September 2019
Does CBD work? We Asked An Expert
Before you shell out your hard-earned cash on CBD products, you’d be forgiven for wondering whether they are worth the hype and if CBD really works. So, what’s the deal?
Gummy bears, fizzy drinks, oils, face creams, muscle rubs, gym classes: there’s little doubting that the use of CBD has gone from marginal to mega in the past couple of years. Now stocked by high-street retailers including Boots and Holland & Barrett, CBD products promise a whole host of remedial effects including relieving aches and pains, reducing inflammation and tackling anxiety. Before you shell out your hard-earned cash though, you’d be forgiven for wondering whether the products are worth the hype and if CBD really works. So, what’s the deal?
Less of a tongue-twister than its actual name, cannabidiol, CBD is one of over 100 chemical compounds called cannabinoids that are found naturally in cannabis. Unlike the kind of cannabis you smoke, however, CBD products do not include the psychoactive substance THC – the one that gets you high. On a medicinal level, CBD has already been shown to be highly effective in the treatment and management conditions including treatment-resistant epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and to relieve the side-effects of chemotherapy (1). In an acknowledgement of its impact, the UK governemnt approved the prescription of cannabis-based medications for these conditions in November 2018.
However, when it comes CBD’s effectiveness in food products, the picture is murkier. Chandni Hindocha, of the Research Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology at University College London, told the Balance Journal that edibles such as gummies and CBD-infused water are likely to prove less effective than the medicinal version: “The CBD on the high street isn’t the same as the highly purified CBD given to those patients. It’s often low quality, and includes other ingredients, like alcohol, and often at a level that is above the food standard laws
There’s also the question of how much CBD these kinds of products actually contain; while medical trials and prescriptions tend to use over 100mg per day, many shop-bought products contain a considerably lower dose. What’s more, Hindocha says, you might not even be getting all of this: “CBD has pretty bad ‘bioavailability’ - a lot gets excreted,” she told us, adding that CBD oil is more likely to be absorbed, as – unlike drinks – it is made from hemp or MCT, which is a better carrier of CBD because of its fat content.
That’s not to say that CBD-based products will have no effect – after all, there’s an entire army of individuals who praise the effectiveness of low level CBD, with the anecdotal reports celebrating its transformative effects on both mental and physical health conditions, including anxiety and arthritis. Hindocha poists that although more research needs to be done to clarify how and why low level CBD may work for some people, it may not be strictly to do with the compound itself: “It would be a public placebo effect, or the alternative is that low level CBD has a peripheral effect, i.e. not in the brain, but in the body.”
As with any other wellness products, CBD is almost certain to have different effects on different people. Fortunately, whether you believe in its power or are more sceptical, the use of CBD itself is not believed to cause health problems, nor to exhibit addictive traits, and so should be as safe to try out as any other homeopathic supplement to try out.