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4 CBD benefits proven by science

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As watchdogs move to ban the sale of CBD in the UK, Anna Magee speaks to a leading medic about the proven benefits of the trendy new supplement

Jennifer Aniston takes the oil for joint pain. Busy Phipps uses the gummies to help calm her panic attacks and anxiety. Victoria’s Secret model Allessandra Ambrosio uses it to help her sleep at night.

CBD oil – which is short for cannabidiol oil, is derived from cannabis but without the psychoactive substance THC – is one of the fastest growing wellness supplements on the planet and is now even being added to grooming products and foods.

CBD sales have doubled in the last year alone

At Healthista HQ, our writer Olivia takes five drops whenever she feels ‘tetchy’. Her father Malcolm, 54, does the same for his relentless arthritis while our Nutritional Director takes the supplement form to calm his nerves whenever he’s feeling ‘frazzled.’

They’re not alone – according to the Cannabis Trade Association, sales of CBD have doubled from 125,000 to 250,000 users in the last year alone. 

CBD products such as oral oil drops, supplements and topical skin products are now sold legally in shops like Holland and Barrett.

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CBD oil is one of the fastest growing wellness supplements in the world.

But this week, CBD supplements were labelled as ‘novel foods’ by European watchdog, the European Food Standards Agency (EFSA) because they were not consumed to a significant degree before May 1997. 

The new ruling applies to CBD oil as well as anything containing it.

All novel foods must now be authorised by the European Commission before they can be sold in the EU. The process will continue after Brexit as the UK intends to transfer the EU rules into UK law, according to the British watchdog the Food Standards agency (FSA).

Under the new ruling, CBD manufacturing trade bodies will have to undergo a stringent approval process to ensure the product is safe and has the effects they claim. This process of becoming an ‘approved novel food’ could take up to 18 months. 

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CBD oil is now considered a ‘novel food.’

Other approved novel foods that have been through this process include chia seeds, krill oil and vitamin K, which are now all readily available.

The bad news for anyone currently reaping the benefits of CBD is that the products will be unavailable to many of us until this process is completed – indeed, the FSA has indicated that it will ask local council trading standards officers to remove products from sale until they are approved.  

On Wednesday this week, the FSA tweeted the following: ‘We are considering the way forward in light of this [CBD] clarification at EU level. We are meeting with relevant industry representative bodies, local authorities and other stakeholders to clarify how to achieve compliance in the marketplace in a proportionate manner.’

But there’s also good news for CBD devotees because it means manufacturers will have to abide by industry body standards, ensuring their products are safe for consumers and labelled properly so as not to be misleading.

Can I still buy CBD oil in the UK?

The short answer is yes, for now, but with the FSA ruling it’s recommended people do consider stocking up.  

‘With all the change taking place there is still a great deal of misunderstanding and misleading information about CBD oil,’ says GP Dr Sarah Brewer, medical director of CBD oil producer Healthspan.

Because of the FSA ruling, it’s recommended people consider stocking up on CBD oil

‘Making sure you buy CBD oil from a reputable supplier who is a member of the Cannabis Trade Association is important, ’ explains Dr Brewer.

‘Also, look for products advertising whole plant rather than synthetic CBD or isolate and look for the level of CBD in milligrams per pack and the milligrams per capsules,’ she recommends.

Is CBD safe? Yes, as long as you opt for hemp-derived

First of all, its effects are nothing like smoking a spliff. When hearing about CBD it’s assumed that it comes from cannabis so it must work in the same way as smoking marijuana also known as ‘weed’. 

CBD is not addictive but to be on the safe side, you should always look for hemp derived CBD, opposed to the marijuana-based option.

‘Most marijuana-derived CBD products contain enough THC to give you the high [unlike hemp],’ Kerrigan Behrens of Sagely Naturals, a wellness/beauty brand that makes CBD-infused products told The Fashion Spot.

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Look for CBD derived from hemp.

Hemp-derived CBD is what can be found online or in your local natural food and supplement stores, but check the label to be on the safe side, especially until the new directive comes into force (and especially if you’re buying from the US as marijuana is legally recreationally in ten states and for medical purposes in thirty-three states).

That’s why it’s super important if you’re stocking up on CBD to choose a product made to pharmaceutical (GMP) standards to obtain a consistent dose and guaranteed purity, Dr Brewer asserts (see below on how).

Multiple small studies suggest that cannabidiol (CBD) is effective and well tolerated with no significant side effects at usual doses. 

The effects of CBD oil are nothing like smoking a spliff

A World Health Organisation report on CBD confirmed that ‘CBD is generally well tolerated with a good safety profile. Reported adverse effects may be as a result of drug-drug interactions between CBD and patients’ existing medications.’ 

Controlled human studies have not found any potential for physical dependence, withdrawal or tolerance, and that it is not associated with abuse potential, the report concluded.

CBD oil is safe to use, but anyone who has a medical condition or who is taking prescribed medicines should check with their doctor before taking any supplement, including CBD, Dr Brewer says.  High doses of cannabidiol may affect the way certain drugs are metabolised in the liver.

What evidence is there to support CBD’s effectiveness and safety?

CBD has been extensively researched to confirm its benefits and, at higher doses, for medical use in some rare forms of epilepsy. 

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Large doses of CBD can help treat epilepsy.

There are over 2100 published studies relating to CBD on the website of the US National Library of Medicine which compiles peer-reviewed medical journals and 970 of them relate to human studies.

How does CBD make you feel?

THC is the ingredient in marijuana that makes you feel ‘high’ and THC is not present in large enough quantities in CBD oil extracted from industrially produced hemp to initiate this reaction.

‘Overall, CBD will likely make you feel more positive, with improved feelings of general wellbeing,’ says Dr Brewer. ‘This is because it enhances the effects of the brains natural chemicals and receptors.’

‘CBD will likely make you feel more positive, with improved feelings of general wellbeing’

CBD works directly on the endocannabinoid system in the brain, enhancing the effects of other brain chemicals, such as serotonin and anandamide, to reduce pain perception, relieve anxiety and stress, improve sleep and lift mood. It is also a powerful antioxidant which can help suppress inflammation.

‘CBD is particularly useful for reducing anxiety, promoting relaxation and restful sleep,’ continues Dr Brewer.  

‘It also appears to reduce the reduce the perception of pain, and many people take it to relieve muscle aches and pains’.


Search ‘CBD oil’ benefits on Google and you will be facing over 50 million hits. And while some of what you will read will be evidence-based, some won’t. 

We asked Dr Brewer to point to CBD’s most promising proven benefits.

Proven CBD Benefit #1 JOINT PAIN

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CBD extracts have an anti-inflammatory effect on your joints.

Although there are plenty of other remedies for joint pain, people often assume they can’t continue with physical exercise such as walking or running, which will benefit their mental health and help maintain flexibility, build muscle strength and support the regeneration of joint cartilage, because of pain. 

‘CBD hemp extracts are antioxidant rich and have anti-inflammatory effects on joints, to help improve pain and stiffness,’ says Dr Brewer.  

‘You can take CBD oil in addition to other joint supplements such as glucosamine, chondroitin, turmeric or omega-3 for additional pain relief.’ 

CBD should be taken seriously as a potential treatment of joint pain, according to the journal Clinical Experimental Rheumatology

While many clinical studies on CBD oil and joint pain are on animals, the authors of a report on CBD oil and joint pain published in 2017 in the journal Clinical Experimental Rheumatology concluded that ‘…the preclinical and human data that do exist indicate that the use of CBD should be taken seriously as a potential treatment of joint pain’.

Proven CBD benefit #2: ANXIETY

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Studies show that CBD oil will decrease the effects of anxiety.

Anxiety is an increasing issue in our 24/7 social-media obsessed worlds, with over 8.2 million cases reported in Britain alone.

‘Cannabidiol helps to reduce muscle tension, restlessness and fatigue,’ Dr Brewer asserts. ‘In one study involving people with social anxiety, taking CBD supplements before a public speaking engagement reduced anxiety, muddled thoughts, social discomfort and anticipatory anxiety significantly more than placebo.’

The authors of the research, published in 2011in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology observed, ‘Pre-treatment with CBD significantly reduced anxiety, cognitive impairment and discomfort in subjects’ speech performance.’

Proven CBD benefit #3 PANIC ATTACKS

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CBD is a promising drug for panic disorders.

‘Cannabidiol (CBD) is being investigated as a promising treatment for panic attacks, obsessive compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder,’ Dr Brewer asserts.

In a 2017 review of the evidence for CBD and panic attacks published in 2017 in Current Neuropharmacology looked at the animal and human research available and concluded that ‘CBD was a promising drug for the treatment of panic disorder.’

Proven CBD benefit #4: SLEEP

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Our circadian rhythms have an impact on the entirety of our health.

REM sleep means ‘Rapid Eye Movement’ and is essentially a term for refreshing sleep’.  When you dream you experience REM sleep, and this is the kind of sleep you hope to get into several times during your nightly sleep cycle because it helps process emotions and memories and is essential to long-term wellbeing.

Only recently has it become clear that our circadian rhythms – internal body clocks that control the times of day we feel sleepy or wakeful – have a huge impact on the entirety of our health, as opposed to just the low energy levels we might experience after a bad night’s sleep.

CBD is helpful for sleep disorders and for people with neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease

‘CBD is a popular treatment for insomnia and promotes refreshing REM sleep to help reduce excessive daytime sleepiness,’ Dr Brewer explains. ‘I take it myself to ensure a deep, refreshing night’s sleep.’

CBD is also particularly helpful for sleep disorders in people with neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, a small but significant study published in 2014 in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacological Therapies found.  

Can CBD be used alongside standard medication? Any interactions to be aware of?

If you have a health condition or are taking any prescribed or over-the-counter medicines always check with your doctor or a pharmacist for possible drug supplement interactions before taking CBD. This is because CBD interacts with enzymes involved in metabolising some medicines and may result in increased drug levels that could cause medicine side effects.

If the Patient Information Leaflet that comes with your medication says to avoid grapefruit juice, for instance, then do not take CBD as the same type of interaction can affect circulating blood levels of your medicine.

If you need to avoid grapefruit juice with your medication, then don’t take CBD as it causes the same type of interaction

If the leaflet does not mention grapefruit juice you should still check with your doctor before taking CBD.

If your doctor is unable to help, have a useful drug Interactions checker which, while it does not specifically include cannabidiol (CBD) does include cannabis.  Don’t take CBD if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

What should I be looking for when buying CBD Oil?

Look for products produced to standards agreed by the Cannabis Trades Association (CTA) UK such as those from Healthspan to ensure legal and ethical CBD trading standards. 

Products produced by CTA members will provide certification of analysis at the point of sale to show the actual CBD and THC testing levels for each batch; this will confirm that the stated amount of CBD is present, with only trace amounts of THC. 

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Make sure you research thoroughly before you buy CBD oil.

Buy a quality product that supplies a CBD/THC batch-testing certificate at the point of sale such as the retail store or website where it sold.

Also look for a statement of the total amount of CBD within the pack in milligrams (mg) and the amount per capsule.  

How do you take it? 

CBD food supplements include capsules, gummies, drops and sprays. Naturally flavoured drops are often dark and murky and have an earthy taste which some find unpleasant but filter clear drops are available that are flavoured with peppermint, orange or lemon, for example. 

Capsules on the other hand have no flavour (and they don’t repeat on you).

On the packaging of products, the norm is to see the amount of CBD displayed as a percentage, but if you don’t know exactly how many grams of CBD is in your capsule then it might be difficult to dose effectively. 

CBD food supplements include capsules, dummies, drops and sprays.

Try to find a product that displays the amount in grams. For example, a pack like Healthspan High Strength CBD Oil capsules states that there’s 192mg of CBD in the whole packet, but also states there’s 6.4mg per capsule. 

A typical dose for a high strength CBD oil is 6.4 milligrams per capsules, taken one to three times daily and for a super-strength capsule, a typical dose is 15 milligrams per capsule, taken once or twice daily. 

Be aware that higher doses of CBD are more likely to cause drowsiness and lethargy.

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Capsules usually take effect in twenty minutes.

You can opt to take it at regular levels throughout if you want to manage a general condition such as anxiety or ongoing pain, or simply take as and when you feel you might need its benefits (see below) for example before a public speaking event, Dr Brewer suggests. 

‘How long it takes to work will depend on the delivery method you use,’ says Dr Brewer.  ‘If you opt for capsules, these will have a slower release than the oil, while oral sprays and liquid drops are absorbed faster so act more quickly.’ 

Capsules typically take twenty minutes to an hour to produce the desired outcome, while oral sprays and liquid drops of CBD, which can be held in the mouth to boost absorption directly into the circulation, work more quickly – you may notice a relaxing effect within just a few minutes.

The effects of CBD last around 3-5 hours, though it takes about 1-2 days for all the CBD your leave your system. It’s a legal ingredient so won’t show up on illegal drug tests if you’re concerned.

Why I take CBD

I started taking CBD during a stressful time last October.  Since then, watching different Healthista team members taking it,  I am convinced it affects people in different ways.

For me, it leads to a kind of calm focus. I become far less distracted and am able to concentrate on a single task much better, which allows me to get into the flow of work more often.  It kind of works like a smart drug for me and doesn’t make me drowsy at all.

It also takes away a sense of social anxiety I get when I have to present or pitch – which is often.

I take Healthspan’s High Strength CBD Oil 192 mg capsules (I don’t like drops) – three in the morning with my smoothie during stressful weeks or days when I have to do pitches or speak to groups of people – it definitely calms my nerves.

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