By now, you’ve probably heard of CBD. It’s everywhere, in oils, face cream, ice-cream, tea, chocolate, rum, and almost any food/beauty product you could think of. An army of acolytes discuss how it’s helped everything from aching joints to insomnia, and sales are booming. Despite this, confusion reigns regarding what it actually is and how it might act on the body, as well as the relationship to cannabis, and its legal status.
Let’s start with the facts. CBD is not weed and will not get you high. The letters stand for cannabidiol, and it’s one of the chemical compounds found in cannabis plants. The stuff that gets people stoned is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and it’s this that makes smoking cannabis illegal. CBD products produced in the UK however only use the CBD part of cannabis, and often use CBD extracted from hemp – cannabis plants bred to have fewer flowers and a THC content of under 0.3%. Essentially, the virtual absence of THC is what makes CBD products legal.
As for how it works, there’s still a lot of debate about what CBD actually does to the body, and even whether it does anything at all. The most credible medical trial on humans was conducted by Great Ormond Street Hospital, and found CBD significantly reduced seizures for children with a severe, drug-resistant form of epilepsy known as Dravet syndrome. A 2011 study in Brazil also suggested that CBD helped to reduce anxiety levels. However, medical trials use much higher doses CBD than what is generally commercially available and so this doesn’t prove that high-street CBD products have any effect at all.
The internet, though, abounds with anecdote after anecdote discussing how CBD has eased the pain of aching joints, cured insomnia, or even lessened the pain of cancer treatment. If this isn’t simply a global placebo effect, experts think CBD stimulates the production of endocannabinoids, which help to reduce physical pain and mental stress.
However, these claims are not proven and CBD cannot therefore be medically marketed, it can only be sold as a generic supplement, with any beneficial impact on specific conditions hinted at rather than stated. Ashley Rossiter, Managing Director of MirrorMe PR, has experience promoting premium CBD brands and offers the following advice: “You’ll find a lot of medical claims surrounding the virtues of CBD from a brief search on the net but, as a brand, you can’t use or link to these claims in any way. The CBD industry is currently under-regulated and this poses a problem for both the consumer and the industry as a whole.” Ashley notes you also need to be careful with your online promotion: “CBD is currently an unapproved pharmaceutical and supplement with Google Ads, and you’ll find the same ad policy with social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.”