What Is CBD?
Cannabis is recognised around the globe for its psychoactive effects, and for thousands of years has been used as a herbal medicine. In recent years researchers have been able to identify and isolate individual cannabis compounds in order to exploit their benefits without the side effect of ‘getting high’. Humans have a naturally occurring biological system, capable of reacting to chemical compounds found in cannabis (e.g. THC, CBD, CBG, etc).
CBD and the ECS
The ‘Endocannabinoid System’ (ECS). Is responsible for enabling cannabis based compounds effects on the body – both psychoactive in the central nervous system (brain), and physiological in the peripheral nervous system (body). It serves a vital purpose for maintaining health and wellbeing because it modulates important systems within our body.
To understand the inner workings of the ECS, it’s useful to have a little background knowledge on one of the most fundamental concepts in biology – Homeostasis. The best way of understanding homeostasis is to think of a thermostat in central heating.
Consider your home like the human body – we’re most comfortable when it’s not too cold, and not too hot. At home you can set your thermostat to keep the temperature within certain limits; if things get too cold, the thermostat kicks in, turning on the central heating and bringing the room to a comfortable temperature. Once that temperature is reached, the thermostat registers the change and sends a signal to the central heating, turning it off.
Our body has numerous processes that are regulated in this way, we cannot survive if our temperature, blood pressure, blood sugar, or many other variables are too high or low. Conditions need to stay within set boundaries for our cells to work efficiently, and some incredibly complex systems have evolved to keep our bodily systems within these limits should they wander outside safe bounds.
The Endocannabinoid System is therefore a hugely important molecular system for helping maintain homeostasis – it helps your body keep vitals within safe limits. A healthy, functioning, endocannabinoid system supports a healthy, functioning body.
Manufacturers and retailers are often very vague or have a suspicious lack of information around what CBD actually does. It can be frustrating to have a seemingly reputable company appear to withhold key information about their product and what it does. We’ll try to shed some light on this.
Most CBD products come under the category of ‘Food Supplement’. This means that any reputable company adhering to regulations cannot make any medicinal claims, and cannot market their product as being beneficial to health or illness, regardless of how effective it may be. Naturally there’s also a whole host of other regulations around packaging, content, and quality assurance, but here we will focus on claims products may make.
Essentially, all claims are forbidden unless products have what’s called a ‘marketing authorisation’; getting one is not only very expensive, but requires a lot of research and development. Companies that achieve this can then market their product as a medicine, and make specific health claims.
Currently in the UK only one cannabis product has a marketing authorisation, GW Pharmaceuticals ‘Sativex’. In 2016 the UK became the world’s largest exporter of medical cannabis, thanks in part to GW Pharmaceuticals with their as yet unlicensed ‘Epidiolex’ CBD/THC medicine.
Interesting new changes in the law mean access to cannabis based medicine in the UK will be legal for a select few with severe conditions. Until bigger changes happen in the law, CBD food supplements are likely to be the extent of the market.