Sales of an oil extracted from cannabis are soaring as more people become convinced of its benefits.
And it is legal because it doesn’t make you feel high.
Products containing CBD – cannabidiol– are cropping up on the High Street more than ever.
From creams to getting a shot in a morning coffee, it is hard not to notice the trend.
Sales of CBD products have doubled in a year, according to data from Wowcher.
Ranges are even stocked in pharmacies and chains such as Holland and Barrett. Now Jersey has just become the first place in the UK where hemp for CBD oil can be grown legally.
But what is the difference between cannabis and CBD? And are the health benefits real? We give you the lowdown.
Cannabis vs CBD
Cannabis is an illegal class B drug, whereas CBD is extracted from the leaves and flowers of the cannabis plant. But it does not contain the chemical that makes users high.
Expert Harry Sumnall, Professor in Substance Use at the Public Health Institute at Liverpool John Moores University, said: “The cannabis plant contains many different chemicals, including cannabinoids.
“This includes one called delta 9 tetrahydrocannabinol, THC for short. When someone consumes cannabis, THC interacts with brain receptors to produce the familiar effects of feeling high. We’re learning more about CBD but we know that this acts in different parts of the body from THC and probably doesn’t directly act in the brain, so doesn’t produce the same feelings as THC.
“CBD can still indirectly affect how the body and brain functions, and this underlies some of its medical properties.”
Put to the test
The use of CBD to treat conditions such as epilepsy is under the spotlight.
Professor Sumnall said: “There’s a growing amount of research into CBD as treatment for a wide variety of medical conditions.
“But it’s important to note that evidence is still quite limited and there’s a big difference between what might be shown to be effective in lab animals and what might be useful in humans. So far, the best evidence suggests it could be useful with epilepsy, especially used in conjunction with anti-epileptic medicines or where other treatments have not worked as well.
“There are also encouraging findings with regards to CBD as a treatment for inflammation, anxiety, multiple sclerosis and even psychotic symptoms such as those experienced by people with schizophrenia.
“Clinical trials are under way on CBD as a treatment for rare forms of brain cancer.”
Should you buy it?
It is not yet known how effective High Street CBD products are. Research into the medical benefits use far higher doses than those on shop shelves.
Professor Sumnall said: “The scientific basis for most of the claims is extremely weak and there is also a big difference between treatments tested in laboratories and High Street products.
“And because the UK CBD market is unregulated, consumers cannot always be sure of what they’re buying.
“It’s plausible that some High Street products could be effective in what they claim but almost none have been tested to see if they do actually help.
“Consumers would be advised to treat CBD products with the same degree of scepticism that they might do towards a “miracle” anti-ageing cream.
“By all means investigate products but don’t be surprised if you don’t get the results you are looking for.”