Cannabidiol (CBD) has recently grown in popularity and it is now common
to see cannabidiol boosted smoothies, coffees, and even hummus! But what is cannabidiol?
Does it actually have any beneficial impact on health?
Cannabidiol is a key component of Cannabis plants: it makes up to 40% of Cannabis sativa’s plants extract, but unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is found in marijuana, cannabidiol is not psychoactive and thus does not have the same psychotropic effect as marijuana. It is most commonly found as CBD oil, after extraction from the hemp plant.
While browsing the internet and the aisles of health stores, you may hear that cannabidiol has a long list of beneficial properties on health; reducing pain, anxiety, acne or cancer-related symptoms, lower blood pressure, preventing diabetes, to name a few. However, it is important to remember that those health claims are not necessarily backed up by scientific evidence.
At the moment, the strongest evidence on cannabidiol and health is for its potential anti-seizure effect in children suffering from specific types of epilepsy. However, the current evidence base for any other health benefits is extremely weak as there are few studies investigating the effect of regular cannabidiol consumption in humans for long periods of time and in controlled conditions. Current areas of interest for researchers include pain management and sleep quality improvement, but the research is still in its infancy and more studies are needed before confirming potential benefits of cannabidiol consumption.
In 2016, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) stated that products containing cannabidiol and advertised for medical purposes must be licensed. However, food supplements and food containing cannabidiol are free to be sold in the UK, as long as they are derived from EU-approved hemp strains. In addition, cannabidiol oils must contain less than 0.2% THC to be legal in the UK, as stated by the Home Office.
The current lack of formal regulation on cannabidiol-derived products leaves manufacturers largely free in terms of product labelling, quality and marketing, which may have led to the current flourishing market of cannabidiol in the health industry.
Although the World Health Organisation (WHO) stated in 2017 that there was no public health related problem associated with the consumption of cannabidiol, the absence of regulation for cannabidiol-derived products may cause safety issues when the products’ purity cannot be properly evaluated. In addition, recent studies suggest that cannabidiol consumption may lead to side effects such as fatigue and diarrhoea, and more importantly may interact with other medications.
Cannabidiol is increasingly popular and has been attributed a wide range of health benefits. Nevertheless, the very limited scientific evidence and the lack of regulation for cannabidiol-derived products is a reminder that caution is necessary when it comes to nutrition trends. If you consider taking cannabidiol, speak to your GP as they may identify interactions with current medications.
1) Gaoni, Y. and Mechoulam, R., 1964. Isolation, structure, and partial synthesis of an active constituent of hashish. Journal of the American chemical society, 86(8), pp.1646-1647.
2)Association of British Neurologists, 2019.
3)Statement on products containing Cannabidiol (CBD), MHRA. Accessible at: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/mhra-statement-on-products-containing-cannabidiol-cbd
4) Drug Licensing Factsheet: Cannabis, CBD and other cannabinoids (2019), Home Office. Accessible at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/778357/Factsheet_Cannabis_CBD_and_Cannabinoids_2019.pdf
5)Cannabidiol pre-review report (2017), World Health Organisation.
6)Iffland, Kerstin, and Franjo Grotenhermen. “An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol: A Review of Clinical Data and Relevant Animal Studies.” Cannabis and cannabinoid research vol. 2,1 139-154. 1 Jun. 2017, doi:10.1089/can.2016.0034
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