The world of health and fitness is well versed in the arrival of products that come with bold new claims of groundbreaking benefits, with few in recent years seeing the widespread growth and marketing push of CBD.
Whether it's influencers promoting a specific brand as part of their essential daily training plan, or companies infusing it in clothes and even toilet roll, it's clear that, for many, CBD sounds alarmingly similar to the snake oil remedies of the old west.
Thankfully, modern-day products are subject to regulation from scientific bodies, as well as greater scrutiny from users to guarantee the benefits and safety of use. But what are those benefits and who should be looking at incorporating CBD into a healthy lifestyle?
Here we look at the science behind CBD, the suggested benefits and the things you need to know about it if you're planning to incorporate it into your routine.
What is CBD?
CBD, also known as cannabidiol, is one of the main active ingredients found in cannabis, second to Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the ingredient associated with the effects of recreational cannabis usage.
Unlike THC, CBD is sourced from hemp as opposed to cannabis itself and only contains small amounts of THC, which means that many of the aspects associated with using cannabis, e.g. the 'high', aren't present. As well as appearing naturally, CBD can also be produced synthetically.
According to a report by WHO, "CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential", the report goes on to state that "to date, there is no evidence of recreational use of CBD or any public health-related problems associated with the use of pure CBD".
In recent years, CBD has seen widespread use in a variety of forms, primarily for medicinal usage, although applications have widened to incorporate the ingredient into more questionable products such as toilet rolls and bedsheets.
Studies investigating the claims made by CBD marketing are few and far between but have seen some high profile reports covering the most prominent benefits.
What are the benefits of CBD?
Marketing materials surrounding the use of CBD list a large number of benefits, but many of these claims are subjective in nature and often individual responses to using CBD products. As a result, the benefits of using CBD can be difficult to navigate, especially for those looking at it for the first time.
In a bid to protect consumers, governing bodies such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are clamping down on the promotion of claims that have no evidence, sending out warnings to fraudulent manufactures when false benefits are promoted.
WHO's report on the usage of CBD states that is demonstrated as an effective treatment of epilepsy in several clinical trials, as well as showing preliminary evidence that it may be a useful treatment for a number of other medical conditions. Its use in treating epilepsy went on to see the FDA approve it as a drug ingredient for widespread medical usage.
Further studies into CBD show a number of potential benefits, however, it's worth noting that these reports are far from conclusive, with many suggesting developing trials to fully understand the extent to CBD's usage for medicinal treatment. Those studies include:
Anxiety: perhaps the most widely promoted benefit of using CBD, one study has been carried out that shows a significant link between the use of CBD and the treatment of social anxiety in Japanese late teenagers. Another study also shows a correlation but suggests larger scale clinical trials are needed.
Insomnia: largely due to its association with anxiety, successful usage to lower anxiety could help to help treat those suffering from sleep disorders.
Chronic pain: evidence to support CBD's use in helping to treat chronic pain is limited due to a lack of human testing, with few studies presenting statistically viable results. This article from The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) highlights that although there is some evidence to suggest CBD may have an effect on pain, the studies are in the early stages.
Addiction: according to The National Center for Biotechnology Information, the use of CBD as a therapy to relieve the effect of addiction from other drugs has seen a small number of studies, however, these are limited and further studies are required before significant findings are made.
How does CBD work?
Cannabinoids work by affecting receptors throughout the body's endocannabinoid system. These receptors are associated with things like coordination, movement, pain, appetite, mood, and inflammation.
Research suggests that CBD can influence these receptors to produce a range of responses without the psychoactive results found in THC.
Are there side effects of using CBD?
CBD is not without its risks, with various sources citing potential side effects when using it, including the NHS. One study by The National Center for Biotechnology Information highlights a number of possible issues. In animal testing, it was found that could include developmental toxicity, embryo-fetal mortality, central nervous system inhibition and neurotoxicity, hepatocellular injuries, spermatogenesis reduction, organ weight alterations, male reproductive system alterations, and hypotension.
In humans studies, where the dosage is kept to a lower amount, side effects mentioned were CBD-induced drug-drug interactions, hepatic abnormalities, diarrhoea, fatigue, vomiting, and somnolence.
The NHS also states that CBD and THC can affect how other medicines work and CBD can also have an impact on the function of the liver. For these reasons a doctor should be consulted when undertaken a CBD program.
What types of CBD products are available?
The range of products available that contain CBD is constantly growing. However, as marketing engines develop new and innovative ways to use CBD to drive company sales the benefits and quality of the available products can become difficult to gauge.
The most common form of CBD is CBD Oil, but it can also be found in a variety of formats including sprays, gummies, oils and capsules, and dosage pens. According to Bhupesh Panchal, Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate at Holland & Barrett, "Not everyone can swallow capsules so people pick alternative options. Some people also don’t like the earthy flavor of CBD so choose a product without a noticeable flavor.
Panchal goes on to explain that "some people also want to ingest the terpenes, phytonutrients and essentials oils associated with CBD, so choose a product providing broad-spectrum CBD and not just a CBD isolate".
The range of products promoting CBD benefits has grown to include items that aren't ingested by the body. This includes lotions, clothing, toilet rolls and even bed sheets. Evidence for benefits associated with these products are largely unknown.
Should I be taking CBD?
As with anything that can have an unknown effect on the body, it's important to understand that it's safe for an individual to take through guidance from a trained medical professional.
70mg of CBD per day is considered safe, however, the widespread production of CBD products means that the quality and volume of CBD can vary depending on the source. It's important to ensure that the CBD conforms to acceptable levels of purity, and safety, something that can vary dependent on the country you live in.
The legal ruling around the use of CBD varies across the world, with individual legislation differing from state to state in the US. In the UK CBD oil is readily available in health shops as long as it contains a maximum THC content of 0.2% and that the THC is not easily separated from it.
According to Panchal, Holland & Barrett CBD is backed by trade organisations (HFMA & EIHA) and expert laboratories (FERA Science).
Available CBD Products
The number of CBD products available means that it can be difficult to decide which are trustworthy and ultimately going to be safe to use. Users should always buy from a reputable source that conforms to the legislation around CBD for quality.
Jacob Hooy CBD Oil
The Jacob Hoy CBD Oil is a great option for those who are just starting to use CBD due to the lower potency when compared with many other products available.
Created with raw materials, the 2.75% strength delivers 20mg of CBD per serving and is fully vegan. The Oil also comes in a 5% version to increase the dosage and can be bought in 10ml or 30ml bottles.
Vitality CBD Oral Drops/Spray
Vitality CBD is a stronger alternative to the Jacob Hoy CBD Oil with both 8% and 16% options available. It also comes with two applicators depending on how you want to use it: a standard drop cap or a spray alternative.
The CBD hemp extract has been ethically sourced and rigorously tested to remove any traces of THC and also comes in two flavoured versions: berry and lemon, which is perfect for users that don't like the natural earthy taste of CBD oil.
Nuleaf Full Spectrum CBD Oil
With almost 24,000 reviews on the NuLeaf website and an average score of 4.9/5, it's clear that the Spectrum CBD Oil is doing something right. The company prides itself on the natural process involved with creating its products that uses natural genetics for safety and regulation.
The entire agricultural process takes place in Colorado so the company have full control over the processes involved to ensure quality, and includes an advanced CO2 extraction system that doesn't use harsh chemical solvents.