Bridging the gap between spirituality and wellness
We’re already well aware of the benefits of regular meditation, and the trend for incorporating therapeutic and spiritual practices into our everyday lives is only set to continue.
Increasing in popularity are ancient practices such as chanting and sound baths, used for thousands of years across many different cultures for their therapeutic effects, and forest bathing (also known as nature therapy), originating from Japan.
Increasing numbers of Westerners are travelling far and wide for their wellness fixes, visiting ashrams in India and shamans in South America.
Plant-based medicines such as medical marijuana is becoming increasingly more accepted and research continues into the potential benefits of psychedelics like ayahuasca, san pedro and Ibogaine. However, it’s important to note that these plant medicines are still illegal in the UK.
You can’t have failed to notice CBD pop up just about everywhere in 2019, and it is set to continue throughout 2020.
CBD health and wellness treatments are on the rise and CBD oil is now hugely popular and found in everything from skincare and shampoo to cookies and chocolate.
If you’re new to CBD, you should know that while it is one of the chemical compounds or ‘cannabinoids’ found in the cannabis or marijuana plant, it won’t make you high.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (known as THC), is a psychoactive cannabinoid, while CBD possesses many of the health and healing benefits of the marijuana plant, without the high.
Pain relief, treatment of skin conditions and anxiety relief are just some of the ways CBD is currently being utilised in the wellness industry and with more research being done and increasing numbers of locations legalising marijuana, our knowledge of how to utilise the oil will develop.
Holiday resorts are increasingly teaming up with health, wellness and fitness professionals to offer masters in residence programmes, attracting holidaymakers who wish to use their annual leave to do more than just sip cocktails on a beach.
From leading Swiss clinic, Clinique La Prarie launching their Master Detox Programme to Shangri-La in the Maldives hosting fitness retreats, there is no end of offerings for those who want a healthy holiday but don’t find muddy bootcamps or restrictive juice detoxes appealing.
While there are many luxury options available, retreats are no longer just for the rich and famous, with numerous easily accessible and affordable options in the UK and Europe, too, from yoga weekends in the country to wellness festivals where spiritual talks and group meditations replace beer and mosh-pits.
As meditation grows in popularity, the breathing practice mastered in the practice has become a wellness activity in and of itself. Diaphragmatic breathing is abdominal breathing (sometimes called ‘belly breathing’) and the exercise not only has meditative and relaxation benefits, but the practice also helps to strengthen your diaphragm, the muscle that is key to your breathing.
Benefits of diaphragmatic breathing are thought to include stress reduction, lowering heart rate and blood pressure and improving core muscle stability.
Group meditation sessions are a good place to get to grips with the techniques, or there are dozens of breathing apps available to offer guidance and daily practices, such as Prana Breath or Breathe2Relax.
The Great Environment Debate
Netflix and co may be on a mission to turn us all onto a plant-only diet with documentaries like What The Health but can it really save the planet?
Eating a lot of meat isn’t advisable but nor, arguably, is the world turning vegan the answer to all of our environment’s challenges, due to the intensive farming techniques used to meet the increased demand for soya and maize.
The answer? Another year of a hotly debated topic and further drives toward more sustainable diet and lifestyle processes. As with all these world challenges, change begins at home, so whether it’s cutting down on your food waste, dipping your toe into a grow-your-own lifestyle or cutting single-use plastic from your kitchen, every little helps.
You’ve tried the 5:2, sometimes you manage 16:8, now it’s time for next generation fasting. While intermittent fasting and time restricted eating do have proven health benefits, experts argue that you need to fast for longer than a few hours to experience more profound benefits such as upregulated autophagy and stem cell generation.
Traditional prolonged fasts involve consuming nothing but water for days on end, but this can be a daunting prospect for many. Enter ProLon, a next generation fast that has the same benefits of water only fasting, while allowing you to eat specially designed, nutrient-dense, plant-based mini meals.
Designed to be carried out three times a year, ProLon is the result of two decades of clinical research trials by Professor Valter Longo and his team at USC. Their ground-breaking studies are now focussing on how fast mimicking diets can support chemotherapy treatment for cancer, as well as their effects on autoimmune diseases.
Virtual Consultants and Trainers
In my own clinical practice, I now consult more clients remotely, via my virtual consulting platform, than I see at my practice in Harley Street. This is a huge shift from just five years ago when all of my consultancy was in-clinic.
Remote consultancy allows clients across from all corners of the world to access the expertise they need, while not having to travel long distances to do so.
Even many of my London-based clients choose to have online consultations, preferring to save the time it would take them to travel into clinic. As well as healthcare consultants, we’re also likely to see an increase in online personal training and workouts.
The comfort of working out at home is especially appealing for those who find the atmosphere of a gym intimidating, while still benefiting from the accountability that comes from working with a trainer.
Working with experts virtually also allows us to access professionals from around the world. From leading consultants in niche fields of health and medicine to Indian yoga teachers and low-cost personal trainers in countries like South Africa.
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Seeding the future
The hemp industry has the potential to boost the economy, create jobs and tackle climate change – but we need to act fast, say those behind the first UK Hemp Manifesto.
Britain’s greatness was built on a thriving hemp industry. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, during the reigns of King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I hemp was so valuable, it was illegal not to grow it – people even paid their taxes with it.
Now Britain is being left behind as the rest of the world cashes in on the hemp renaissance.
These are the views outlined in the UK’s first Hemp Manifesto, put together by experts in the field, including the British Hemp Alliance, Beyond Green and Unyte.
The document makes a compelling case for the as-yet untapped potential of hemp here on British soil. It is calling on the government to recognise and promote hemp as an essential environmental crop and to make the change in policy necessary for the industry to thrive.
The manifesto has been delivered to Number 10 and earlier this week campaigners spoke directly to Michael Gove – former environment secretary and self-proclaimed reformed environmentalist – to educate him on what hemp can do for the British climate.
“The hemp manifesto solves a lot of our UK issues right now,” said Beyond Green’s Sam Cannon, who co-authored the manifesto with the British Hemp Alliance.
“It will boost the economy, tackle green initiatives, create jobs and support the farming industry with a plant that is sustainable and not harmful.
“This has the potential to sort out issues that are directly affecting the people of this country. It’s mind-boggling why they haven’t moved on it already.”
The global hemp industry was worth USD 4.6 billion in 2019, and is expected to grow to USD 26.6 billion by 2025.
In 2018, China made almost $1.2 billion in hemp sales, followed by the US at $1 billion, and all of Europe at $980 million.
Here in the UK the hemp sector is still relatively non-existent.
The manifesto reports that whilst hemp cultivation is growing throughout Europe (33,000 hectares in 2016) the UK lags behind with barely 850 hectares.
“There are so many barriers to growth in the UK and while the rest of the world is opening up to hemp as agricultural crop and seeing a huge renaissance, we are still very far behind and missing out on a lucrative new industry,” said Rebekah Shaman, managing director of the British Hemp Alliance.
“We haven’t looked at hemp as an agricultural crop since 1993 when they gave out the first hemp licences.
“This is the first time there has been a manifesto that very clearly lays out what needs to happen.
“It is offering a new perspective of hemp as an essential agricultural and environmental crop for future generations.”
Under current legislation hemp is not considered an agricultural crop and farmers must apply for a licence from the Home Office. This requires every farmer to provide an enhanced DBS check and for every new field grown, a new licence has to be applied for.
These are then awarded in April, too late for hemp farmers to prepare for the seasonal crop.
In addition, while hemp is under the Home Office farmers are unable to access any funding or support from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the National Farmers Union (NFU).
The flower and leaf of the plant, which contain the cannabinoids, are then prohibited from being used, reducing any potential return they can make on it. This is despite the fact that CBD products can be legally imported into the UK – a market which is currently worth £300million and growing.
The manifesto calls for the Government to remove hemp as a controlled substance from the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, permitting the use of the whole plant and to remove all Home Office licencing restrictions.
It also advocates for the descheduling of all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, and seeds of the whole hemp plant, as long as those portions of the plant remain below the THC threshold.
“We’re asking the Government to recognise the importance of this crop in a post-Brexit, coronavirus landscape and remove those crippling barriers,” said Rebekah.
Sam, who alongside Rebekah led the Seed the Future campaign earlier this year to raise awareness of hemp, added: “We can import CBD products from other countries but farmers in the UK have to destroy the leaves. If they were allowed to use them it would become a viable crop for them because of the potential return that they can get on it.”
He continued: “Hemp will bring new innovation to farming, inspiring a new generation of young farmers to come through into a cool industry, that’s sustainable and can do so much good.”
Then there’s the small matter of the climate. The UK has signed up to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, pledging to become Net Zero by 2050. The manifesto highlights how hemp could have a huge role to play in helping reach those targets.
Growing four metres in just four months, hemp requires little or no pesticides and absorbs 15 tonnes of CO2 per hectare – 25 times that of the equivalent size rainforest.
Rebekah said: “The Government has signed up to these green initiatives and here is a crop that could potentially support them in meeting their targets and yet they’re not recognising that there’s a potential solution here.”
But we need to act fast. With the rest of the world already ploughing on with production, we risk becoming importers of hemp rather than producers, according to Rebekah.
“Five years down the line America and other countries will be so far in the innovation and manufacturing process that we won’t be able to catch up,” she said.
“This is about highlighting this is a profitable crop that everyone should be able to benefit from – the farmers, the rural economy and small businesses that want to sell products to feed their families.
“The hemp boat is in the port and if we don’t act now to remove the barriers it will be too late.”
The manifesto also asks that the Government dedicate a proportion of the green jobs plan, promised by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in his Green Jobs Summer 2020 Statement, to the hemp industry.
“The ideal scenario is that Gove comes back and organises a sit-down with the Prime Minister and says let’s stop mucking around,” added Sam.
“Let’s be the entrepreneurs that this country is thought to be. We should be allowed to drive this forward and let the hemp industry thrive.”
How to find the right CBD products for you
New to CBD? Tom Bourlet, who runs the award-winning blog, CBD Sloth, reveals everything you need to know to help you find what works for you.
You’ve made the decision that you want to give CBD a try, but where do you start? A quick look online will present you with hundreds of brands, offering what appears to be an identical product, so which one do you invest your money with?
The first choice you should make should be on how you would like to consume CBD. There is a wealth of options nowadays, from edibles such as gummies and chocolates, to oils and lozenges.
Vaping is the fastest-acting method, therefore is useful if you need it to work very quickly, however not everyone is a fan of vaping. I personally prefer to consume CBD via a full spectrum oil. The packaging will probably tell you to keep it under your tongue for around 20-30 seconds, however I’d recommend keeping it there for 1-2 minutes to ensure a high level of absorption.
The gummies taste unbelievable, however, I don’t tend to find they offer the same level of results as either CBD oil or the e-liquid.
Checking the lab reports
Before making a purchase, I always recommend checking the lab reports for any product containing CBD. This is integral to ensure they have been checked by a third party lab for quality standards and to ensure they had the quantities stated.
There are a number of things you should be looking for. Firstly, you need to check that there aren’t any pesticides present in the lab results. Hemp is highly-porous and if they use pesticides or chemical fertilisers then these would be absorbed and would be present in the oil.
The next thing you should be checking for is the presence of any heavy metals, which can be
dangerous if consumed. Following this, you want to ensure the batch test shows at least the quantity stated of CBD that you should be getting.
You should also look to see what other cannabinoids are present. Considering I like a full spectrum oil, it’s always an added benefit when there is a decent quantity of CBG.
You will normally find the lab reports on the product page as a PDF file, however if you can’t spot it, don’t hesitate to email the company and they’re normally more than happy to provide you with the certificate of analysis. If the brand refuses to provide you with a certificate of analysis, you should certainly avoid them, as they’ve got something to hide.
Most people I know that have tried CBD oil have struggled with the taste. If this is the case for you, then there are plenty of great-tasting flavoured options. Some of the best tasting include the Orange County CBD orange flavour or the CBDFX lychee, lemon and kiwi CBD oil.
Just a year ago, the only flavours on the market were based around mint, however, CBD brands have expanded their horizons quite drastically in the space of 12 months – much to our benefit.
Over the past year, I have tried flavours including cherry, apple, orange, strawberry, chocolate and hazelnut, lemon, tropical and mixed berries.
Full spectrum, broad spectrum or isolate
These terms are branded around quite loosely and I’ve found a number of CBD brands mislabel their products on their own pages.
An isolate means, as you can imagine, they’ve completely isolated the cannabinoid and that is the only ingredient present. Full spectrum means it contains all the cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids you would expect from the hemp plant. Broad spectrum means it contains all the cannabinoids except for THC.
If you are drug tested for work, you will be looking to avoid THC and you should either go for a broad spectrum or an isolate, but double-check the lab reports before believing what they state.
The carrier oil is important in increasing the bioavailability of CBD after consumption. Nowadays, any trusted brand will use some form of carrier oil in their product, whether that’s virgin hemp oil or olive oil. However, most studies have shown MCT oil yields the greatest results and this has become the benchmark for what you should expect.
Choosing the strength
This is a difficult one, as everyone’s tolerance level is different, while you might have a very different reason for taking CBD oil than someone else.
Some people opt for cheap options with low amounts of CBD, which can then leave them disappointed with the results. Just the same, some people are bought over by high price tags, thinking that will instantly mean better results.
If you’re buying a CBD oil for the first time, I’d recommend either going for a 500mg or a 1,000mg option.
I personally take 1,000mg CBD each night, which works well for me, but it can be worth starting out with a 500mg option and building up from there if required. Anything below 500mg never really gets results, so isn’t worth your money in my experience.
Find Tom at www.cbdsloth.com
Fire, fencing and a newfound lease of life
When mum-of-three Lara Smith accidentally set her kitchen on fire while taking heavy opiates for chronic pain, it was a turning point. Here she explains how medical cannabis shaped what happened next.
Rock bottom came one evening, while washing up after dinner.
Lara, a former nurse, who lived with her three children in Newcastle upon Tyne, answered the door to collect an Amazon parcel.
Back in the kitchen she placed the package on the stove, believing she had turned the gas off and returned to the dishes.
Just moments later she smelled the smoke and turned to see three-foot flames leaping from the cooker.
“It all happened in a split second – it was scary how quick it was,” she remembers.
“The minute I saw the flames I told my daughter to get the others out and I grabbed the washing up bowl and threw it on top.
“There was soot everywhere. I thought I’d turned the gas off, but I must have turned it the other way. That was the turning point,” Lara continues.
“I was in floods of tears and I ripped the fentanyl [an opioid] patch off. I had had enough.
“I thought, what has my life come to? I can’t cope like this. I don’t care what I have to do, I need to just manage my life differently.”
The mum-of-three, 47, suffers from advanced spondylosis with symptoms of myelopathy – a type of arthritis of the spine, often described as a slow-motion spinal cord injury, which causes the discs and joints to degenerate.
In her teens she was at the top of her game as a junior British champion fencer.
But since she first prolapsed a disc at the age of 17, the condition has left her battling years of chronic pain and mobility issues.
After her sporting career was sadly short-lived, Lara went onto become a paediatric nurse before her condition left her too ill to work.
Since 2007, she has dealt with daily debilitating pain, which she describes as electric shocks – caused by the degeneration of the spine – running down her back, through each limb and into her toesc
The shocks, which occur at the movement of her head, would not only leave her crippled in pain but often unable to move.
Over the years doctors tried over 35 different medications to manage her pain, progressing from anti-inflammatories – which destroyed the lining of her stomach – to heavy opiates including tramadol (which gave her an irregular heartbeat), buprenorphine, fentanyl and ketamine.
“It was not a nice place to be, drugged up all the time,” she says.
“They took away my capacity to operate. My day was about 12 hours long and I had to give up driving and rely on favours from friends and family to get my children to school.”
Despite the horrendous withdrawal symptoms she suffered from suddenly coming off the drugs, Lara went back to her doctor and pleaded for other options.
She tried steroid injections which left her angry and aggressive and even nabinol, a synthetic cannabinoid, which gave her severe headaches and low blood pressure.
Having tried cannabis illegally, once while recovering from an injury in her early 20s, Lara was already aware of its effectiveness for pain management.
And after exhausting all other options she was eventually prescribed Becrocan privately.
Since 2014 she has been making the journey to The Netherlands to collect the medication – at a cost of around £750 a month – declaring it to customs on return.
“The effects have been really positive, but the main thing is that I’ve been able to come off all the other drugs,” she says.
“It really dampens down the electric shocks – the difference is like somebody is lightly touching a pin to the outside of my foot, rather than stabbing me with a needle.
“I still have to pace myself but I can do more, I can drive again in an adapted car and I have got my memory back.”
Being able to come off opiates has given Lara her sense of self back and, she believes, has even made her a better mother to her children, now aged 17, 15 and 13.
“My daughter was 12 when I came off the drugs and one of the first things she said was ‘I feel like I’ve got my mum back’.” It must have been horrible for her – she said there was a coldness when she would speak to me.
“The drugs make you numb, not only do they block out the pain but all your other emotions too.”
Lara has now become a prominent campaigner, advocating for drug reform and wider NHS access.
She is a member of drug reform policy group CLEAR and in 2015 gave evidence at the All Party Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy Reform.
She has spoken out about the need for wider access to medical cannabis on The One Show, The Victoria Derbyshire show and most recently BBC 5Live.
“I’m contacted by people all the time and it’s heartbreaking to have to tell them there is no NHS access,” she says.
“I’m not comfortable with the fact that they have created a two-tier system; the haves and have-nots.
“My belief is that patients should be able to access the medicines that they need, on the NHS and not have to resort to a drug dealer or growing their own.”
Guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) state that other than cannabidiol used on its own in the context of a clinical trial, no cannabis-based medicinal products should be used for treating chronic pain.
Lara continues to fight to bring an end to the stigma associated with medical cannabis.
She adds: “People talk about cannabis getting you high, but they have no idea the impact that strong opiates like fentanyl have.
“Cannabis doesn’t get me high, it just allows me to be comfortable.”
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