What is CBD? Here is an overview to get you up to speed

CBD products have established themselves as the new health trend, not only in the UK but around the world. Some scientific studies support the claims of its benefits ranging from reducing anxiety to relieving pain. Thanks to its legalisation in many countries you can now enjoy CBD in various forms such as oils, vapes, capsules and many more. But what is CBD?

CBD stands for cannabidiol and is a naturally occurring element found in industrial hemp and marijuana. There are more than 100 of those identified elements, called cannabinoids. Hemp and marijuana are part of the plant species Cannabis Sativa. Yes, you’ve read that correctly. Hemp is part of the cannabis plant family.

Hemp and marijuana are both indistinguishable when looking at them making things more difficult. If somebody gives you leaves from both you wouldn’t be able to tell which one gets you arrested. This has already led to various issues in the United States with law enforcement. CBD is often associated with marijuana and usage is thus considered to be controversial.

Information about CBD has not kept up with its popularity though. Its benefits are not always well known apart from “it can help you with XYZ” and not everybody knows what the compound is. The revelation of CBD’s source results in sceptical facial expressions questioning its legal status. How can a substance with so little evidence gain so much attention?

Where is the difference?

Even though hemp and marijuana come from the same plant species, look the same and smell the same there are differences between the two. Industrial hemp contains higher levels of CBD and is non-intoxicating. The main reasons for harvesting industrial hemp are fibre, seeds, and CBD.

Marijuana, on the other hand, produces a higher level of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). THC causes the psychoactive “high” effect and is a controlled substance in the UK. This means it is illegal. Marijuana can come from the strains of Cannabis Sativa and Indica. A cannabis plant contains different amounts of CBD and THC depending on the species.

In contrast, CBD does not make you “high”. CBD has psychoactive effects that alter your mood but not the same way as THC. There are a few more differences between CBD and THC. If you are going to buy CBD products you would want to know about those differences. This ensures you are buying the right product.

Industrial hemp only contains trace amounts of THC. Hemp is also cultivated for other uses in our society and considered to be one of the strongest natural fibres on earth. Uses cases for industrial hemp include textiles, building materials, body care, and paper.

Under normal conditions, Cannabis Sativa grows more than 12ft tall and their leaves appear light green with a narrow shape. This variety usually has a longer flowering cycle (60 to 90 days) with a better harvest in warm climates with longer seasons.

The Cannabis Indica variety usually grows thicker stems. The plants of this variety are usually shorter with a bushy stature and their leaves appear dark green with a broader shape. They are usually able to grow in colder climates and have shorter flowering cycles (45 to 60 days).

Hemp plants and sunrise

Is CBD even legal in the UK?

Even though the compound is associated with cannabis, it is legal in the UK. Both for recreational and medicinal use. The confusion arises as to what THC content is allowed in CBD products in the UK.

There is a widespread belief that the THC content cannot exceed 0.2% per product. Unfortunately, this is not correct and only refers to growing Hemp in the UK. For this, you will need a hemp growing license though which is issued by the government.

According to the legal framework in the UK any CBD product cannot exceed one milligram of THC per package. As THC is a controlled substance any product exceeding this amount would mean you are in breach of the law. Technically. Enforcing such law is another matter and the UK seems to have a soft stance on this. Don’t tell me later I haven’t warned you though.

A closer look at the legal situation around CBD including the legal text and references can be found here.

Is all CBD the same?

Both hemp, as well as marijuana plants, yield CBD. On a molecular level, it is the same CBD. Regardless of which plant it comes from. On a product level, such as CBD oils, there can be big differences.

CBD oil derived from marijuana can come with higher amounts of THC making it illegal. Due to its nature, Hemp-derived CBD oil contains a higher concentration of CBD and doesn’t exceed a certain THC threshold.

CBD engages a human’s endocannabinoid system. Current research shows the system’s function is to maintain homeostasis within human beings. Homeostasis regulates certain conditions in the body like sleep, appetite, pain-sensation, and mood. Endocannabinoids (molecules) form the system and the human body produces them by itself.

Several endocannabinoids bind to two identified cannabinoid receptors: CB1 and CB2. The receptor’s function is to check and respond to changes in the environment and signal the system that it needs to take action. CB1 receptors are found in the brain (central nervous system) whereas CB2 receptors are mainly found in the immune system.

If you want to read more about the endocannabinoid system here is a detailed breakdown.

CBD bottle and dropper next to cup of tea

What does it actually do?

There is already some evidence out there that CBD may help you with the following:

  • Anxiety/Fear/Nervousness/Public speaking
  • Sleep/Insomnia (quantity/quality)
  • Chronic pain and inflammation
  • Epilepsy
  • Panic disorders
  • Liver Injury
  • Irritable bowel disease
  • High blood pressure

Humans are not the only ones who could enjoy the benefits of CBD. There might also be health benefits for animals. Pet owners are increasingly turning to CBD to provide relief for their animals, especially dogs. Veterinarians don’t have a broad range of drugs at their disposal to treat health conditions. And some of the drugs come with hefty side effects.

Where are we now?

Information about CBD and its effects are still in its infancy. It needs more scientific research, regulation and government guidelines. Researchers are performing human trials and studies as we speak. Evidence of its benefits for recreational and medicinal use is already mounting though.

CBD might have some amazing health benefits but doesn’t come with nasty side effects like other medication. That’s not to say that CBD doesn’t have any side effects. However, it is considered safe to take with a “good safety profile” according to the World Health Organization.

Why don’t you take a closer look at the benefits CBD has to offer?

Are you already taking CBD or have you tried it? Let me know your experience in the comment section below.

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