Although the history of medicinal cannabis dates back a few thousand years, it continues to be a politically-charged issue today.
In 1928, the UK government criminalised the recreational use of marijuana and banned its medical use in 1971. A recent ruling that has legalised the use of a cannabis-derived compound known as Cannabidiol (CBD), as a medicinal ingredient, could be seen as a tentative step towards legalisation.
As we shall see though, CBD is a world away from a drug that has and continues to, create so much debate, controversy, fascination and endless cultural stereotypes.
What Is CBD?
CBD is one of the many compounds found in a cannabis plant. It is classified as a cannabinoid. Until recently, the cannabis compound that is most known to the public is the delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the mind-altering compound that gives its users the feeling of being “high” or “stoned” when smoked or cooked into food.
CBD comes from the least processed form of a cannabis plant called hemp. Hemp is different from marijuana, although both came from the same plant called cannabis sativa.
Marijuana farmers breed their plants to have high THC, but hemp farmers breed their plants without modifying it. CBD oil is then produced by pressing hemp leaves and flowers, containing very low THC and very high CBD levels.
What are the medical benefits of CBD?
Unlike the THC carrying part of the plant, Cannabidiol is the non-psychoactive compound that doesn’t create an altered state of mind when consumed. It does, however, change the body in other ways, several of which researchers have found to be beneficial.
The medical benefits of CBD started gaining mainstream traction in 2013 when CNN produced a documentary called “Weed”. It details the story of five-year-old Charlotte from Denver, USA, who suffered 300 grand mal seizures per week. Her parents then turned to CBD as treatment, which stopped her seizures almost completely.
How does CBD affect The Human Body?
Humans produce cannabinoids via its two receptors—the CB1 receptor (mostly found in the brain) and the CB2 receptor (mostly found in the immune system).
All the cannabinoids, whether produced by the body or ingested/smoked, attach to either CB1 or CB2 receptors. Previous research bodies thought that CBD affects CB2 receptors, but literature today shows that it only influences the body to use more if its natural cannabinoids, thereby restoring its balance.
The Legal Status of CBD in The UK
In 2017, The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) officially recognised and classified CBD as a medical ingredient. Before this reclassification, products containing the CBD extract could be purchased as a nutritional supplement or as a cosmetic.
As per provisions of the law, companies selling the product—either as medical treatment or to manage symptoms—now need to have a product licence (marketing authorisation) before it is advertised or goes out to the market.
Since implementation, the Cannabis Trades Association UK was established to protect CBD consumers and provide reliable information. CBD users doubled in number, effectively growing the industry to £200 million. The demand also surged after high street store Holland & Barrett started selling CBD supplements.
In 2017, the NHS prescribed CBD oil in a landmark case that helped an 11-year-old boy suffering from up to 100 life-threatening epileptic seizures in a day.
Since CBD is now recognised as a medicine, products would have to go through clinical trials before manufacturing. However, licensing fees tend to be costly for manufacturers, increasing speculations that big companies could squeeze smaller competitors out of the market. There is also the added cost of producing clinical data needed for the product before being sold to the market.
Some Facts About CBD
As mentioned, CBD is a non-psychoactive ingredient found in the cannabis plant which provides good medical benefits without altering a user’s state of mind. Here are a few more basic facts about CBD’s biochemistry and pharmacology:
- Worldwide legality – The legal status of cannabis differs per country. Various states in a country, as in the case of the US, also have different laws regarding its use. There are, so far, 60 countries (including the UK) that allow the recreational and medicinal use of CBD oil from hemp plants.
- More CBD-rich strains – There are different CBD-dominant weed strains being manufactured, given the higher demand for medical-grade cannabidiol. Although THC is not completely eliminated, these strains increase their ratio with CBD. This includes Dancehall, ACDC, Suzy Q, Harlequin, and Charlotte’s Web.
- THC is not all bad –Since it’s been gaining a reputation for medicinal use, CBD is labelled as the good cannabinoid, while THC (the psychoactive compound) is the bad one. However, there are preclinical studies that show THC killing certain cancer types. Partnered with CBD, however, the psychoactive effects of THC can be reduced.
- CBD will not show up on drug tests – Drug tests look for THC strains, not CBD. Although CBD also contains THC, it is in a negligible amount (less than 0.2%). Theoretically, individuals who use more than 1,000 to 2,000 mg of hemp oil daily could test positive on a urinary screen test, but this rarely happens and would, in the end, represent a false positive.
Health Benefits of CBD
The MHRA reclassified CBD as a medical ingredient due to numerous scientific researchers proving its benefits. Listed below are CBD’s medicinal and therapeutic effects backed by research:
- Pain and inflammation. According to a 2012 study by the Journal of Experimental Medicine, CBD suppressed chronic inflammatory and neuropathic pain in rodents. It also didn’t cause any tolerance to the compound. A 2007 meta-analysis corroborated this finding, as a CBD-THC combination in a buccal spray was able to treat neuropathic pain in adults.
- Antipsychotic effects. A 2012 study found that CBD has a similar pharmacological profile to antipsychotic drugs out in the market, resulting in a hypothesis that it can be used for psychosis treatment, specifically schizophrenia.
- Anxiety. CBD has also shown to be effective in reducing anxiety, as seen in a 2011 Neuropsychopharmacology study involving 24 socially-anxious patients introduced to a simulated public speaking environment.
- Cancer. Although a cure is still not established, CBD is a potential anti-cancer drug as it inhibits the growth, migration, and invasion of cancer cells. In fact, a 2013 study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology showed that 700 mg of CBD taken every day for 6 weeks did not show toxicity to cancer patients, with data suggesting that it can be effective in fighting breast cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer, and leukaemia.
- Nausea. CBD can also help suppress nausea and vomiting, as seen in a 2012 British Journal of Pharmacology research. Data shows that low doses can suppress vomit-inducing toxins, while high doses can either increase or not affect nausea at all.
- Neurological disorders. In 2014, Stanford University reported the increasing use of CBD in paediatric patients, with added benefits of better sleep, increased alertness, and improved moods. Another study in 2014 also showed the efficacy of CBD, as 39% of respondents halved their seizure episodes after only three months of using the compound.
CBD For Vaping
Since CBD can now be legally used in the UK, thanks to its numerous benefits, you can also use it for vaping. However, do take note of the following:
1. Buying CBD e-liquids
Make sure that your CBD e-liquid contains CBD, not THC, as the government only legalised CBD use. So before purchasing, check the ingredients for any THC content. You should also see if the supplier is licensed or if they are advertising their product for medicinal use.
It also helps to check customer reviews and lab test results of sellers, or ask fellow vapers for recommendations, to make sure that you’re getting high-quality products.
2. CBD oil vs CBD e-liquid
CBD e-liquids can be used with a vape pen or mod without encountering any issue. On the other hand, to effectively vape CBD oil, you would need specialised devices.
While there are a number of vapers who prefer using oil, do take note of its health risks, particularly lipoid pneumonia. Although the condition is rare, it’s best to take time researching and counter-checking articles you read online, before vaping CBD oil.
In case you have both, do not mix up your CBD oil and CBD e-liquid bottles, as the effects would differ.
3. Consult with your doctor
If you’re vaping CBD for physical or mental health reasons, talk to your doctor first and see if they will recommend it. You wouldn’t want to start any treatment regimen without expert direction, as you may go over or under the required dosage for your health condition.
The Future of CBD in the UK
Many experts in the field remain sceptical of the MHRA’s reclassification of CBD as a medicinal product, but the fact remains that the UK CBD industry is booming.
If you’re thinking about vaping CBD, make sure that you’re purchasing only the highest quality vaping products to do so.