CBD, otherwise known as cannabidiol, is a compound extracted from hemp or cannabis. Unlike its fellow compound, THC (tetra-hydrocannabinol), CBD is not psycho-active. In other words, it doesn’t alter the conscious state or make you high.
However, over the past decade or so, consumers have grown more and more interested in CBD for its other properties, which are owed to the fact that CBD works on CB2 receptors in the brain and peripheral nervous system.
So the biggest question I always get is "If it's natural, and it works really well, why isn't in on the NHS?"
It's a great question. I like to start my answer by explaining that it's only very recently that medical research has looked into CBD. Not that long ago, it was illegal to study anything to do with cannabis - even for human health!
CBD came to prominence only a decade ago after it was found to stop seizures in children with a rare and basically untreatable form of epilepsy (Charlotte Figi, Colorado). However, it is better known for its ability to quell anxiety, improve sleep, reduce pain and inflammation.
CBD is becoming so popular, in fact, that the industry is predicted to grow from about $300 million (USD) in 2019 to $4 billion by the year 2025.
How does CBD work?
CBDacts on the endocannabinoid system to help maintain homeostasis, the self-regulating process through which the body tends to maintain stability while adjusting to changing conditions in order to promote its own survival. This stability, commonly referred to as a ‘dynamic equilibrium,’ helps maintain temperature, blood oxygen levels, moisture, etc.
The endocannabinoid system has receptors throughout the body; these are put into action by important neurotransmitters called endocannabinoids. CBD mimics these endocannabinoids, and can thus help the body maintain many vital functions.
So, why don’t doctors prescribe CBD to patients?
The answer to this is a simple one, but I’ll do my best to break it down.
Doctors follow clinical guidelines. Particularly in the treatment of common presentations like anxiety, sleep disorders and pain, doctors operate according to the most current clinical guidelines. Guidelines are, by and large, conservative in nature - and as such avoid novel treatments until they are tried and tested. Doctors that operate outside of clinical guidelines are putting themselves at risk. At this point, CBD does not appear in any clinical guidelines though in all likelihood, it is just a matter of time (and more research - see point 2).
CBD doesn’t require a prescription. In the same way that doctors rarely prescribe Ibuprofen or Vitamin C anymore, CBD can be purchased online without a prescription.
This means that it is now deemed safe and effective enough to be sold as a food supplement.