Cannabis expert and neurologist Professor Mike Barnes gives Medical Cannabis Network an insight into quality CBD products in the UK.
CBD is the non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant, and many people are turning to CBD products to help ease problems such as anxiety and insomnia. More than six million people in the UK have used CBD, but with so many products to choose from knowing what to buy can be difficult for consumers.
Professor Mike Barnes, cannabis expert, neurologist, of The Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society and Maple Tree Consultants, tells Medical Cannabis Network’s editor Stephanie Price more about what to look for when buying CBD products.
CBD interacts with a cell-signalling system in our bodies called the endocannabinoid system. Cannabinoids interact with the system to create anti-epileptic and painkilling effects, for example, and can help with sleep and anxiety (from pathological to general), and can also have an anti-inflammatory effect. However, some CBD products may be of better quality than others, and some products may not contain any traces of CBD despite the information on the label.
Professor Barnes said: “People have to be more careful about the cheaper end of the CBD product spectrum as they are not necessarily good quality products. What you would need is to look out for proper labelling, milligrammes per ml if it is an oil, or amount of milligrammes in the cream – you need to know how much CBD you are actually getting.
“It is also possible to ask for a certificate of analysis which will come with good quality products, so you know exactly what you are getting in that batch. This will also indicate what other cannabinoids are in it, such as CBG. Some manufacturers also have CGMP standard products, which means it is made to European standard – this is likely to be the top price end, but you can guarantee the consistency and quality of the product as it will be manufactured as if it was a pharmaceutical product. If a product is organic you can guarantee there are no pesticides in the product. There are many sites online that can give you information on products to these standards.
“There is no doubt we need more regulation in the CBD market. There have been several studies that show that in quite a lot of cases, what is on the label is not always what is in the bottle, and nor does the proportion of CBD necessarily reflect what’s stated on the label either.
“The Novel Foods regulation that was being contemplated in Europe, which has now been put on hold, is a bit like taking a proverbial sledgehammer to crack a nut. We do need regulation, but not over regulation.”
Can CBD help with medical problems?
The majority of over the counter CBD products are derived from hemp and must contain no detectable THC. These products do not make medical claims, but many people use them to supplement their lifestyles.
Barnes said: “Hemp largely has CBD in it, along with some terpenes, but there seems to be extra benefit from the full-spectrum products that come from the full cannabis plant, meaning the product has all of the cannabinoids in it and many terpenes and flavonoids. So, the more of these compounds it has in it, the better the medical effect. However, the full cannabis plant has a larger amount of THC, meaning they cannot be used to make over the counter products.
“So, CBD products can provide some help regarding conditions, however, will not be as effective as cannabis products that require a prescription.”
Difference between CBD products
CBD comes in all shapes and sizes, from tinctures to creams and foods, with the most common being CBD oil. So, what is the difference between these products?
“Oil is held under the tongue rather than just swallowed as it is less effective,” said Barnes. “It is very useful to take a fatty food before taking CBD oil, such as a teaspoon of mayonnaise, as the CBD will be absorbed much better with fatty foods. Tinctures are similar but made with alcohol and get into the system in the same way. Creams and balms are for putting on inflamed joints or a painful muscle.
“There are all sorts of other CBD products, such as rollers, bathbombs, soap, and food products containing CBD such as chocolate, tea, wine, and beer. These products may be fine for wellness but a bathbomb, for example, although relaxing, has probably non-existent medical benefits. Many of these products are often about marketing hype, however, CBD is a good medical and wellness product – we do not want to see its usefulness diluted.”
CBD flower is a very grey area, says Barnes. “You cannot sell flower without a Controlled Drugs License. You can sell the extracted products as long as it meets the THC limits, but you cannot sell the flower it comes from. An industrial hemp licence is needed to grow hemp and the flower then has to been thrown away.
“People who have pain will benefit from a high CBD flower, however, they will need a prescription for it.”
Is CBD good as a sports supplement?
CBD has taken the sports world by storm and many sportspeople are beginning to use the product for injuries. However, there is confusion for some over whether CBD can act as a performance enhancing supplement.
“CBD is of benefit particularly for muscle aches and pains which sportspeople often get,” said Barnes. “It also has great anti-inflammatory effects so you can reduce inflammation in overworked muscle. It can also help with relaxation and anxiety relief, so it could help people before they perform, for example.
“It is not a performance enhancing supplement. It might make you less anxious and therefore make you perform better, so there is a tenuous link, but it is not like steroids.”
Travelling with CBD products
As many countries across the world tackle changing cannabis legislation it can be confusing for customers looking to travel with shop bought and prescription CBD products. Ensuring that the product is legal in the country being visited is vital if travellers do not want to have their products confiscated or incur penalties or charges.
Barnes said: “You have to be certain about the regulation in the country you are visiting. Much of Europe does allow hemp-based CBD with less than 0.2% THC, but each country has slightly different amounts. It is also worth knowing where you are travelling through, so for example, if you are travelling through Dubai where CBD is illegal and you get caught with it in the airport, you can incur major penalties.
“You can export it and import it usually without any great problem. If you have a prescribed THC product, for example, you can usually take it with you, however, sometimes you need a licence. If you carry a prescribed product you should take a prescription with you and maybe an explanatory note from your doctor.”