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This has been the year medical cannabis hit the mainstream. The us government has announced that it is relaxing laws on when cannabis medicines could be given by doctors, following high-profile cases such as that of Billy Caldwell, the 13-year-old boy hospitalised by his epileptic seizures after he was denied legal access to the cannabis oil that assists control them. Meanwhile a new generation of cannabis medicines has demonstrated great promise (both anecdotally and in early clinical studies) for treating a range of ills from anxiety, psychosis and epilepsy to pain, inflammation and acne. And you don’t have to get stoned to reap the benefits.

Caldwell’s medicine was illegal because it contained THC, the psychoactive compound that smoking weed socks you with. However, the brand new treatments under development utilize a less mind-bending cannabinoid called CBD (or cannabidiol).

Natural, legal along with no major negative effects (to date), CBD is actually a marketer’s dream. Hemp-based health goods are launching left, right and centre, cashing in whilst the scientific studies are in the first flush of hazy potential. Along with ingestible CBD (also sold as hemp or cannabis oils or capsules) the compound has become a buzzword among upmarket skincare brands like CBD of London. Predictably, Gwyneth Paltrow is actually a proponent from the trend, and contains stated that taking CBD oil helps her through hard times: “It doesn’t make you stoned or anything, a bit relaxed,” she told one beauty website.

Meanwhile, so-called wellness drinks infused with CBD are gaining traction. The UK’s first has become launched by Botanic Lab, promoted as “Dutch courage with a difference”. Drinks giants Coca-Cola, Molson Coors Brewing Company and Diageo are considering launching their particular versions, while UK craft breweries including Green Times Brewing (formerly Cloud 9 Brewing) and Stockton Brewing Company are offering cannabis-oil laced beers, and mixologists are spiking their cocktails with CBD mellowness. The fancy marshmallow maker, The Marshmallowist, has added CBD-oil flavour to its menu, promising that “you notice the effects immediately upon eating”, without specifying what those effects may be.

While THC can make you feel edgy, CBD does the opposite. In reality, when used together, CBD can temper the side effects of THC. Unsurprisingly, there isn’t much CBD in recreational cannabis strains such as purple haze or wild afghan; it really is far richer in hemp plants.

Whether any one of these CBD products is going to do anyone any good (or bad) is moot. “Cannabidiol is the hottest new medicine in mental health as the proper clinical trials do suggest it provides clinical effects,” says Philip McGuire, professor of psychiatry and cognitive neuroscience at King’s College London. “It is definitely the No 1 new treatment we’re interested in. But although there’s tons of stuff in the news regarding it, there’s still not that much evidence.” Large, long term studies are required; a 2017 review paper to the safety profile of CBD determined that “important toxicological parameters are yet to get studied; for instance, if CBD has an effect on hormones”.

McGuire doesn’t advise buying CBD products. You should differentiate, he says, involving the very high doses of pharmaceutical-grade pure CBD that participants inside the handful of successful studies received and the health supplements available non-prescription or online. “These may contain quite small amounts of CBD that may not have big enough concentrations to get any effects,” he says. “It’s the real difference from a nutraceutical along with a pharmaceutical.” These supplements aren’t allowed to make claims for any effects. “If you’re making creams or sports drinks with CBD, you are able to say whatever you like providing you don’t say it is going to do such and the like,” he says.

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Two cannabis-based pharmaceutical drugs, manufactured in the united kingdom, are licensed for prescription only for very specific uses. Sativex has become available in the united kingdom since 2010 and uses THC and CBD to treat spasticity in multiple sclerosis. Along with a new CBD-only drug, Epidiolex, was approved in June in the united states to take care of rare childhood epilepsies, with a similar decision expected imminently for Europe and the UK.

Another concern with non-pharmaceutical products, says McGuire, “is that folks try them and find, ‘Oh, it doesn’t appear to work.’ Or they get side-effects from a few other ingredient, because, if you buy an oil or fmavoi product, it’s likely to contain all kinds of other activities which might have different effects.”

You simply have to read the reviews under a CBD product on the Holland & Barrett web site to view the extent that anecdotal reports should not be trusted. More than 100 customers gave Jacob Hooy CBD Oil five stars, with a few saying they always noticed if they missed a dose (presumably this made them less relaxed, although they failed to reveal the things they were taking it for), while 93 people gave it one star, saying it did nothing, or was too weak. One couple even said it gave them palpitations along with a sleepless night. All these people had different conditions, expectations and situations. “And,” says McGuire, “you have to remember that anything could have a placebo effect.” Although it looks unlikely that this recommended doses of these products is going to do any harm, McGuire’s guess is the fact doses are extremely small “that it’s like homeopathy – it’s not going to do anything whatsoever at all”.

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