The legalisation of cannabis is one of the most frequently debated topics of our time.
Products like CBD oil, also known as cannabis oil or cannabidiol, have soared in popularity. According to the Cannabis Trades Association UK, the number of cannabidiol consumers shot from 125,000 in 2017 to 250,000 in 2018.
Cannabis-derived products are gaining increased recognition for their supposed medical usages. Last year a report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) revealed CBD may help treat symptoms relating to Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, MS, pain, anxiety, depression, cancer and diabetic complications.
In June of this year, Charlotte Caldwell had her son’s cannabis oil seized at Heathrow airport when she attempted to bring it into the UK from Canada. Her son Billy suffers from a severe form of epilepsy, having as many as 100 seizures a day.
Ms Caldwell accused the Home Office of “signing her son’s death warrant”, and opened wide a debate about the legal status of cannabis in the UK.
Following Billy’s admission to hospital, the Home Office granted a 20-day-licence for the use of the banned substance. But what exactly is CBD oil, and can it really make a difference to our health? Here’s everything you need to know.
Where did medical cannabis come from?
Cannabis has been used as a medicine for thousands of years all over the world, including China, India and the Middle East. It was a common form of medication in the UK and was even administered to Queen Victoria to relieve her period pain.
Cannabis was made illegal in the UK in 1928 following an international drug conference in Geneva when an Egyptian delegate convinced everybody that it was a threat to society and as dangerous as opium.
The 1968 Wootton Report was a Home Office investigation into the effects of cannabis that concluded: “There is no evidence that this activity is causing violent crime or aggression, anti-social behaviour, or is producing in otherwise normal people conditions of dependence or psychosis requiring medical treatment.”
Fifty years later, despite cannabis still being illegal in the UK as a recreational drug, there’s been a huge spike in interest towards CBD oil and hemp-infused products.
What is CBD oil?
CBD, also known as cannabidiol, is one of 104 chemical compounds found in the marijuana plant. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the main psychoactive substance found in cannabis. Unlike THC, CBD is not psychoactive.
CBD is thought to have significant therapeutic properties – but researchers are still working hard to understand the specifics.
What is CBD used to treat? Can it alleviate pain?
Last year, the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) classed CBD as medicine, providing it meets a strict set of “safety, quality and efficiency standards”.
Roger G Pertwee, a professor at the Institute of Medical Sciences at the University of Aberdeen, said CBD is present in two medicines available in the UK – Sativex and Epidiolex.
He said: “Sativex is used to relieve cancer pain and treat multiple sclerosis, whilst Epidiolex is used to treat childhood epilepsy.”
Can CBD treat mental health problems or insomnia?
Professor Philip McGuire, Head of Department of Psychosis Studies at King’s College London, claims CBD has the potential to treat mental health problems.
He said: “CBD may be useful as a treatment for patients with psychotic symptoms like paranoia and anxiety, as well as depression.
“The effectiveness of CBD in this area is currently being evaluated in clinical trials at King’s College London.”
Can CBD cure cancer?
According to Professor Pertwee: “There is some published evidence that CBD has anti-cancer effects.
“Together with collaborators, we have also obtained preclinical evidence that CBD would reduce cancer chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.”
Will CBD oil get you high?
No – CBD oil is missing a crucial component that gives cannabis its psychotic effects, THC.
Professor McGuire says: “Unless it contains significant amounts of THC, CBD won’t get you high.”
Is CBD legal in the UK?
The MHRA ruled that if CBD is being advertised for medical purposes, it needs to be licensed. Licenses for CBD oil has a medicine has not been granted yet.
So, CBD is technically legal in the UK, just so long as claims are not made about their medical benefits.
What’s the best way to use CBD oil?
CBD is usually taken orally, held under the tongue for a few seconds before swallowing.
Are hemp oil and CBD oil the same thing?
Although both are made from the same plant, CBD oil is made from the flowers, leaves and stalks of the plant and not from its seeds like hemp oil.
Professor Pertwee elaborates: “CBD oil is oil that contains either pure CBD or a CBD-rich cannabis extract.
“Hemp oil could well contain a lot of cannabis that may or may not include small or larger amounts of CBD.”
Where can I get CBD oil?
CBD is becoming readily available in health stores. Earlier this year, CBD oil launched at Holland & Barrett, starting at £19.99
However, Professor McGuire says it’s easy to get confused about what exactly it is that you’re buying. “The products sold in health stores often contain very small amounts of CBD, and may also be mixed with other compounds derived from cannabis.
“There is little evidence that these products have beneficial effects. In contrast, the CBD that has been found to be effective in clinical trials is pure CBD, and has a much higher dose.”
What percentage of CBD should I look for?
This will depend on what you’re looking to get from the oil.
The CBD oils sold in Holland & Barrett and other health stores contain up to 5% CBD. This can be beneficial when used as a health supplement.
Other oils available online contain up to 20% CBD – the most famous being ‘Charlotte’s Web’. Many claims have been made that products like these can alleviate mild to moderate mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression.