First it was the oil capsules, creams,and vapes but now it can be found beauty products, teas, beers, gins, adult and wellness products – and the treatments of pets. In the last 18 months CBD has emerged as one of the major global health trends, says Neil Hendry, global head of consulting – consumer, retail and technology at London head-quartered market analysts Global Data.
“In many ways CBD is the new superfood. As an an active ingredient it can be adapted into almost every category. “It has a health halo which is being transferred to all products that use it as a distinguishing ingredient.” Neil sees CBD-infused pet food as a growing category, but also the entry of premium beer, spirits, wines and functional drink brands.
High street CBD sellers use British grown or imported hemp, with low doses of the psychoactive THC compound (less than 0.2%). While there is research which shows CBD can help with a variety of conditions including; joint pain, migraine, psoriasis, acne, depression,pain and inflammation, most CBD is categorised as a food supplement.
This is because CBD sellers have to abide by strict guidelines from MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency), which do not allow them to make medicinal benefit claims for their products, without a marketing authorisation licence.
London-based consultants Prohibition Partners says that as of January 2018, there were an estimated 250,000 CBD users – double the number of UK users reported in late 2016. A Canadian company is now
putting CBD in beer, in Amsterdam it is now found in vodka and closer to home, two Lincolnshire
entrepreneurs have added it to gin.
Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle brand Goop last year launched a partnership with a US cannabis dispensary chain to endorse a new line of cannabis-infused teas, and edibles, along with CBD bath bombs and transdermal patches.
Last August, brewing giant Molson Coors entered into a joint venture with HEXO, a Quebec-based company, to produce cannabis-infused drinks for the Canadian market. Its CEO Mark Hunter said the cannabis market could total several billion dollars, in Canada alone.
Could CBD really boost fertility?
Cannabis Health reports on cannabis oil’s rising prominence in the lives of people hoping to start a family.
With data showing that around 1 in 7 couples in the UK struggle to conceive, and alternatives such as IVF proving costly, many couples are keen to try alternative methods to help them on their journey to parenthood – including CBD oil.
While there may not be much official guidance and advice surrounding the correlation between CBD oil use and enhanced fertility, some studies suggest the oil could play a role in increasing fertility in couples who previously struggled to conceive.
This shouldn’t be confused, however, with the intake of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) through smoking weed, which is shown to have damaging effects on fertility. Previous studies have shown that smoking cannabis can result in reduced testosterone levels and poor sperm count and mobility, making it much more difficult for men to conceive naturally.
Research into CBD and fertility is emerging, with early studies, plus anecdotal evidence from patients showing a potentially positive link.
Firstly, let’s talk science and hormones. Studies have suggested that CBD oil can play a vital role in hormone balancing for both men and women, aiding in the success of conception.
Researchers at the Paediatrics Department at Vanderbilt University said: “The life of the egg and the beginning of a pregnancy, depends on a healthy endocannabinoid system.”
Elsewhere, in the paper ‘The role of the endocannabinoid system in female reproductive tissues’, researchers state: “While the ECS is known to modulate pain and neurodevelopment, it is also known to impact the female reproductive system.”
Various other papers have also indicated a positive correlation between a balanced ECS and improved fertility, in particular the benefit of a specific amount of the endocannabinoid anandamide.
In women, high levels of anandamide – a type of endocannabinoid found in the body – occur at ovulation and are associated with a successful pregnancy, where low levels or a deficiency can be detrimental.That’s where CBD can begin to have an impact, boosting anandamide levels by preventing its breakdown and supporting successful ovulation.
However, timing is everything for in this relationship. Low levels of anandamide are required during embryo implantation, meaning use of CBD after conception may have a negative interference with the pregnancy.
Cannabinoid receptors have also been found in female ovaries, including granulosa cells or follicles cells of secondary and tertiary follicles.
According to researchers from the University of Naples, Italy: “Cannabinoid and adrenergic systems coordinate together oviductal motility for normal journey of embryos into the uterus.”
Researchers in Canada also found that CBD can have a positive impact at the very start of conception, linking female sexual arousal to activity in the endocannabinoid system.
Meanwhile, research conducted by Dr. Hans Hatt at Ruhr University in Germany has found a link between CBD and the impact on male fertility.
The study found that a receptor (GPR18) previously thought to be part of the ECS is also present in sperm cells, providing a link between cannabinoids, the ECS and fertility.
Evidence suggests CBD may play a key role in an essential biological process for procreation called the acrosome reaction.
When the GPR18 receptor in sperm cells is activated, this acrosome reaction is triggered, altering the sperm slightly to remove the protective ‘cap’ on its head and allowing it to effectively penetrate the egg.
While more research is needed, early indication is that CBD can positively impact the chance of conception in both parties.
Anyone who has had difficulty to conceiving will know that mental health can often have as much of an impact as physical causes.
Stress, anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions can have a hugely negative impact on fertility in both men and women by lowering hormones necessary for egg and sperm production.
Again, this is where CBD can help. It is widely reported this can directly activate serotonin (the ‘happiness chemical’) receptors, helping to boost mood and relax both partners.
CBD has also been found to regulate cortisol secretion, the stress activating hormone. Among other things, stress can also delay ovulation, making it difficult for women to attempt conception at their most fertile.
So, while research and guidance from industry bodies is still emerging, preliminary studies are showing a positive relationship between the use of CBD oil and fertility.
With ever-increasing sales, it seems more and more are opting to try something new on their journey to parenthood.
From cannabis sceptic to advocate
How Michele Ross, who educates people about the use of medical cannabis, started her life being very much against it.
When Michele Ross was growing up, she lived opposite a crack cocaine house, and saw first-hand the destruction drugs can cause.
“I was very much against drugs, I was passionate about getting people off drugs because I’d seen the impact of what comes with them,” she tells Cannabis Health.
Ross, who appeared on US Big Brother in 2009, knew from an early age that she wanted to work in the fields of medicine and science.
She worked her way up and got a PhD in neuroscience, studying drug addiction. Her first assignment was a paper looking at the role of cannabinoids in growing new brain cells.
Her goal was to write about how cannabis was bad for the brain, but that’s not exactly what she discovered.
“Up until my early twenties, I was taught that cannabis was a very bad drug, it was lumped in with what we’d consider hard drugs,” she says.
She was determined to find out more about cannabis, and moved to California after her PhD to do post-doctoral work, where she was exposed to people using medical cannabis for the first time.
She was working on other areas of research, but she eventually fell into the cannabis industry because of her own health issues.
“I always had pain and fatigue, but it was difficult to get diagnoses for lots of things. I ended up with lead poisoning, blood clots on my lungs, lots of weird things – but no one could figure out what was wrong with me for a while.”
Cannabis was one of the few things that helped what Ross terms clinical endocannabinoid deficiency, which, according to some studies, is a disorder where sufferers have an imbalance in their endocannabinoid system.
“Whether it’s oil or edibles, it doesn’t seem matter what form it is, my body really needs cannabis,” she says.
“I was always in pain, tired, sick – if I have cannabis, my nerves work, I’m happy and not in pain and life is great.”
Ross realised if this discovery could be so drastic for her, it probably would be for others, too.
“As a scientist and a patient, if this works for me, I wondered whether it would work for others.”
This thought led Ross on to write a series of books based on her work.
“It’s exciting to be able to share my passion. I got myself out of a wheelchair and lived a life before all these medical problems happened to me, now I’m able to help others. I should be working in a lab, but I talk to patients instead.”
As well as her books, Ross writes online courses to educate people on taking medical cannabis. She also works for Veriheal, a medical technology company that provides cannabis education.
During the Covid-19, Ross has observed lots of people struggling with increased anxiety from losing their jobs, family members passing away and the general added stresses of the pandemic. Many have been unable to see their doctor.
“Patients come to us to learn about cannabis, a lot have said that if they didn’t have cannabis, they’d be drinking two bottles of wine a night, which we know isn’t safe or healthy.
“I’m glad I can offer services to patients during this time so they can go down a different route.”
And Ross says educating people about the medical benefits of cannabis is a big job, as people have a lot of misconceptions, including not knowing the difference between CBD and THC, which can be psychoactive.
“People don’t know where CBD might work for them and might not be best for others; there are huge differences between stage four cancer patients and people looking for help for their anxiety. People need a lot of hand-holding.”
She educates people on the legal side of medical cannabis, as there are different rules in different US states and cannabis isn’t legal on a federal level.
Ross is among the campaigners pushing for this to change. She’s also pushing for changes to the US banking system, which bans cannabis payments.
“I don’t sell CBD products in my practice, but my book, Vitamin Weed, has been flagged by numerous banks and credit card processing companies, who told me I’m high risk,” Ross says.
“I was stopped at the Canada/US border by the US, who thought I was shiping cannabis. I said this isn’t a code word, it’s a book. They treat my business the same as they would if I was telling people to shoot up heroin.”
Although Ross’s career has taken an untraditional route, she’s glad she has a neuroscience background.
“What excites me is the potential for cannabis to treat so many different neurological symptoms and conditions, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and traumatic brain injury.
“I’ve been able to focus on brain health and talk to many patients coming from the research angle – the potential to complete revolutionise healthcare is here.”
Ultimately, she hopes to continue using her unique experience as a scientist and a patient to help educate others.
“As a patient with fibromyalgia, I see so many patients who see the stigma and not potential of cannabis,” she says.
“There’s so much miseducation around it, but cannabis has changed my life. I’ve come off 12 medications because of it. We can’t cure my fibromyalgia but, basically, I’m in remission.
“I want to spread that information and help as many people as I can, empowering patients to use medicine in personal way to relieve the multitude of symptoms that come with this disease, which is rooted in endocannabinoid deficiency.
“I believe cannabis should be the first treatment, not the last.”
And as a neuroscientist, she says her title helps.
“My Dr title is really important. It’s nice to be an authority in the field. It also helps when talking to politicians, and other doctors, who really want to listen to someone who has that hard science background.
“It doesn’t matter that I’m a patient and advocate – they see hundreds of patients it as anecdotal evidence. When I can give them a three-hour lecture of the endocannabinoid system, it’s real.”
“I was at the point where I’d try anything”
Camilla Hansson became interested in health and wellness around the time she was crowned Miss Sweden in 2014, writes Jessica Brown.
She went on to study natural medicine and nutrition, but didn’t know at the time how much this education would later come in useful.
Hansson has endometriosis, a disorder where small pieces of the womb lining are found outside the womb, usually on the ovaries, fallopian tubes and tissue lining the pelvis. It can be very painful, and there’s no known cure.
Hansson suffered with debilitating menstrual cramps.
“The pain was so horrific, I went to the emergency department several times,” she told Cannabis Health.
“I was at a point where I’d try anything – I was taking strong painkillers, I tried acupuncture, homeopathy – everything, and nothing really worked.
“A friend who’s a doctor gave me some 15 per cent CBD oil I’d left in the fridge, one day when I had terrible cramps, I took some. I’d heard CBD can help with pain, and I was in a lot of pain. Twenty minutes later, the pain was gone.
“I thought it was just a coincidence, but it kept happening – every time I took it, the pain went away.”
Hansson looked online, but she couldn’t find many products suited to her, so she decided to solve the problem herself.
“It felt like something I was suffering with so much, and CBD helped me. I felt like needed to tell other women about, and decided I wanted to do a very specific formula for this issue.”
“I did a broad spectrum 15 per cent CBD oil then added natural herbs, and gave it to 100 women I knew who were suffering from menstrual cramps. I got such amazing feedback that I decided to do it.”
Camilla Organics launched at the end of March, after a year of work. The range consists of two formulas, the Women’s Relief oil, containing ‘Wild Yam, Dong Quai and a unique blend of terpenes,’ according to the product description, as well as a broad-spectrum CBD oil.
The brand ships worldwide, and has its products independently tested. Sales coming in slowly, which Hansson says lets her focus on building the brand. She says positive reviews are keeping her going.
“It’s changed women’s lives, women who had anxiety or who were bed-bound and couldn’t go to work before, who are saying they can now continue living their lives.
“The menstrual cycle is where I see the biggest difference with CBD – I couldn’t live without my product at that time of the month.
“At this stage it’s about educating women about CBD and sharing my story and how it can help their health and wellness. Even now, people are very confused about how to take it, what form to take – and I get it, it’s very confusing.”
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