Health

What is CBD (and should I be taking it)?

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We sat down with nutritionist Daniel O'Shaughnessy to find out about the health benefits – and risks – of CBD

From soft drinks to grooming products, the tiny three-letter acronym ‘CBD’ has been appearing everywhere recently. You can now buy everything from iced tea to gummy bears infused with the stuff, and its health benefits are lauded far and wide. But what exactly is CBD – and, more importantly, does it work? To understand more about this so-called ‘wonder’ ingredient, we spoke to registered nutritionist Daniel O’Shaughnessy, about what CBD is, what it can be used for, and how to take it.

What is CBD?

‘CBD stands for Cannabidiol, which is one of the 104 compounds found in Cannabis sativa, the marijuana plant,’ explains O’Shaughnessy. ‘It doesn’t contain tetrahydrocannabinol, otherwise known as THC, which is the psychoactive component that makes people “high”. CBD is sold legally in the UK as a food supplement, as long as it has less than 0.2 per cent THC.’

CBD works by influencing the human body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), which helps regulate functions such as sleep, immune-system responses, and pain. Although a growing area of scientific study, there’s still not enough proof to say whether it actually definitely works or not. ‘It’s getting a lot of attention in the world for its benefits with pain, anxiety, and neurological symptom relief for people with things like Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis and epilepsy,’ says O’Shaughnessy. ‘The research around it is promising but more needs to be done before we have concrete evidence of how well it works.’

What is CBD used for?

The uses for CBD are manifold, as initial research points to it helping with a variety of ailments. People are finding that it can help treat a number of symptoms, including chronic pain and anxiety, which is why it’s becoming more and more popular as people look for alternatives to pharmaceuticals. It also reduces inflammation and interacts with neurotransmitters – there’s research been done on its positive effect on arthritis and Multiple Sclerosis,’ says O’Shaughnessy.

‘Research has also shown that it can help with anxiety and depression, with fewer side effects than traditional medication,’ he continues. ‘People also use it topically to treat acne as it’s an anti-inflammatory, and it can be used to control the overproduction of sebum from the sebaceous glands. There’s a huge variety of things it can be used for.’

Is CBD safe?

Back in March 2018 the World Health Organisation concluded that ‘CBD is generally well tolerated with a good safety profile’ and ‘there is no evidence of … any public health related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.’ So far, so good – but as with any new supplement, caution is key.

‘My advice is to talk to your doctor before you start taking it,’ advises O’Shaughnessy. ‘There are reported side effects of fatigue, appetite changes and diarrhoea with CBD. Also, if you’re on medication you should always check with your doctor about how CBD might interact with it.’

O’Shaughnessy also points out that it’s important to ensure the CBD product you’re buying doesn’t contain more than the regulatory amount of THC – the unregulated nature of this growing industry means suspect products can slip through. ‘Check where you’re sourcing it from and have a conversation with the supplier,’ he advises.

How should I take CBD?

If you’re new to CBD O’Shaughnessy recommends taking it slowly.Start off with a smaller dose and see how it affects you, and work your way up,’ he suggests. ‘CBD oils are good for this because they allow you to control your dose – you can take a half or a quarter dose if you like, instead of a full one.’

His final piece of advice is to not to jump on CBD as a health ‘cure’. ‘People are looking for a miracle cure but it’s not necessarily CBD. With any issue that CBD can be helpful for, like anxiety or insomnia, I always recommend not just treating the symptoms, but addressing the cause of it – for example, don’t just treat the pain, but treat what’s causing the pain. I’m not a big fan on just using a plaster to treat the issue. And, of course, if you have a serious ailment like Parkinson’s or Multiple Sclerosis you should never turn away from conventional treatment, and CBD should just be used in conjunction with that. Finally, always work with your GP or specialist on it.’

Here’s our pick of the best CBD products available to try…

Healthspan High Strength CBD oil

If you’re intrigued by CBD’s purported health benefits, then this oil from Healthspan is a great place to start. With a peppermint flavour to cover the taste of hemp, its under-the-tongue dropper means the oil is absorbed rapidly, and you can easily control the dose.

£12.95 for 10ml, healthspan.co.uk

Love Hemp water

This CBD-infused spring water from Love Hemp is the first of its kind in Europe. Containing droplets of hemp extract, which contains CBD, it’s a straightforward way to make the supplement part of your daily diet.

£0.99 for 500ml, hollandandbarrett.com

CBD Armour Skin Balm

When used topically, CBD is recommended for people with acne-prone skin, as it’s an anti-inflammatory and reduces the production of sebum in the sebaceous glands. It might also help other inflammatory-related conditions such as skin allergies, rosacea, eczema and psoriasis. This skin balm from CBD Armour is a multi-purpose product, and claims to  combat skin disorders, as well as aiding better sleep and mood.

£50 for 50ml, cbdarmour.co.uk

Perricone MD CBx lightweight moisturiser

Dr Nicholas Perricone’s innovative men’s grooming range CBx is powered by phytocannabinoids, of which CBD is just one example. The phytocannabinoids in this lightweight moisturiser contain potent antioxidants, which help counteract signs of ageing caused by free radicals. They also help to reduce inflammation and sebum production, resulting in a smoother, more even skin tone.

£49 for 59ml, perriconemd.co.uk