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
Sleep and CBD: How to find a product that works for you
By Neil Tunbridge, Co-Founder, mellow
Better sleep is a common motivation for giving cannabidiol (CBD) products a try. But with many different products aimed at improving sleep, it can be hard to know where to begin. Here we’ll answer a few pressing questions around CBD and sleep, and share some practical advice on how to choose the right product for you.
How is CBD linked to achieving better sleep?
The association between CBD and sleep seems to be the way it makes us feel. CBD interacts with our endocannabinoid system (ECS) which is responsible for maintaining balance within the body. It regulates elements such as temperature, hormone levels and heartbeat to keep our internal environment stable. This means CBD can induce feelings of balance and calm, potentially assisting with a good night’s sleep.
Does research support a link between CBD and sleep?
When people explore CBD to help with any issue, including sleep, it is essential to understand the scientific evidence available. Knowledge is power and can help users make informed decisions around which products to try.
Research into a link between CBD and sleep looks promising. A large case series was designed to determine whether CBD can help to improve sleep and anxiety measured sleep-related concerns using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index. Within the first month of taking CBD, two-thirds of participants improved sleep scores.
Also, a paper published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology found ‘systemic acute administration’ of CBD appears to increase total sleep time, while positively impacting rapid eye movement (REM) sleep latency. There’s more research to do to further explore the impact of CBD on sleep, but these initial results are encouraging.
How do I choose the right CBD sleep products?
There is unclear legislation around CBD which can be confusing, but there are a number of ways to choose between low and high quality CBD products.
For a start, in the UK legal CBD products must contain ‘no trace’ of the psychoactive compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). CBD products containing this compound cannot be legally traded. Also check whether the product is tested by a third-party laboratory, whether the hemp is grown organically, and whether the product is certified by a relevant authority, such as the UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA). Reputable sellers and marketplaces will provide this level of detail.
You can also look for CBD products that are created with improved sleep in mind. These are likely to be formats such as oils, supplements or edibles, where the CBD needs to enter the bloodstream, rather than topical formats such as creams which are designed for issues such as pain.
What CBD dosage is necessary to assist with better sleep?
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) – who is responsible for regulating CBD as a novel food – recommends that healthy adults take no more than 70mg a day, unless under medical direction. This equates to roughly 28 drops of 5% CBD. This guidance is based on recent findings by the UK government’s Committee on Toxicity (COT).
Be mindful that each individual may also have different CBD sensitivity, impacted by factors such as weight, height and metabolism speed. In tandem, the way people take CBD will be different, for example some may take CBD multiple times throughout the day and others just once in the evening. Keeping a sleep diary will help track how sleep patterns and quality are changing.
There are no right and wrong answers around using CBD for sleep, as long as users check out the science behind the products, know how to look for high quality products, and stay within the recommended daily dose of 70mg or below a day.
Thanks to Neil Tunbridge of mellow.store for putting this article together.
‘As doctors we need to listen to our patients’
When Dr Sunil Arora began prescribing medical cannabis it was because of what he learned from his patients, rather than his colleagues. He talks to Cannabis Health about the key role patients have to play in raising awareness.
Dr Arora, a specialist in acute pain, chronic pain and cancer pain, was staunchly against the idea before he became one of the first specialist doctors to prescribe cannabis medicines in the UK.
He began to change his mind when more and more of his patients were admitting that actually, cannabis was the only thing helping to relieve their symptoms.
“My mindset was totally against it, I thought it was a drug that would lead to other drugs,” he admits.
“Whenever I saw a patient and I would give them a questionnaire and ask them if they ever used cannabis – so many were saying yes, that it was the only thing that worked.
“It got to a threshold where I thought ‘I need to find out more about this’.“
Despite researching and travelling abroad to speak to medical professionals prescribing in Canada and the US, he was initially reluctant to broach the subject with his colleagues in the UK.
“I wouldn’t admit it to anybody because I was worried about the feedback I’d get,” says Dr Arora.
“Once I’d seen enough patients to see the benefits it gave me the confidence to encourage others to learn about the endocannabinoid system.”
Dr Arora is speaking in the week that new figures have revealed huge gaps in public knowledge about cannabis medicines, despite them being legally available in the UK since 2018.
A poll carried out by the recently launched Open Cannabis public awareness campaign shows only 14 percent of the population know how to access medical cannabis and only 22 per cent know which conditions they can be used to treat.
However, two thirds of respondents (67 per cent) said they would consider using legal cannabis medicines if they had a condition that it could be prescribed for, and 69 per cent of this group also said they would be more likely to talk to their doctor if they felt more informed about the topic.
“People don’t know what to use it for because we’re not educated about it and doctors haven’t been taught,” says Dr Arora.
“Everyone knows all the bad things about cannabis, but they don’t know the good things. Our own body produces cannabinoids, it’s not something foreign and it shouldn’t be alien to doctors.
“We should be trying to understand it, to move the science forward, rather than trying to hold it back.”
Unsurprisingly, Dr Arora believes patients have a key role to play in raising awareness and educating doctors about medical cannabis.
“Often the patients know more than the doctors about cannabinoids,” he says.
“When I started prescribing cannabis it was as a result of what I heard from patients – if I had listened to what doctors had said I would never have done it.”
In an effort to better inform the public, Grow Pharma has commissioned the Open Cannabis initiative backed by a number of experts, industry leaders and medical professionals, which aims to offer a platform or information and trusted resources to help people navigate cannabis medicines in the UK.
Polling also revealed that five per cent of Brits reported self-medicating with cannabis from non-legal sources in the past year to help deal with a medical condition.
Three quarters of those self-medicating with illegal cannabis would consider using legal cannabis medicines – with 26 percent unsure. Only one percent would not consider using legal, prescribed cannabis medicines.
Amongst cannabis self-medicators, the pharmaceutical quality of products and the cost of treatment were reported as the two most important features of legal cannabis medicines.
These findings resonate with Dr Arora, he says: “What I’ve discovered during my practice is that a lot of patients are using cannabis illicitly and they’re not aware of the quality of product they’re getting or what they’re actually using.”
Medical professionals have an important role to play as doctors are considered the most knowledgeable and trustworthy sources of information about cannabis medicines by the UK public – and doctor oversight was considered the first or second most important issue by 48 per cent of people surveyed.
Dr Arora is hopeful campaigns like Open Cannabis will give patients the knowledge and confidence needed to raise the subject with their doctor.
“It’s a two way thing, doctors have to recognise it’s a medicine, but patients should tell their doctors that they are using it and have that open discussion,” he says.
“The more people that admit to using it, the more doctors will listen.”
He adds: “That’s what we’re always taught, to listen to our patients, to hear what they’re saying, take it on board and to go and find out more.
“It’s easier to find out more than it’s ever been.”
To find out more, visit https://www.opencannabis.uk/about.
I’m risking my career to end my daily agony
High flying lawyer Andy struggled for years to hide his daily battle with chronic pain from his clients. Then he broke the law, self-medicating with street cannabis and everything changed, as he explains here.
Pain is part of my everyday life. I say pain, as that’s what my condition is, apparently, ‘chronic pain’. But in reality, it’s agony.
Every minute of every day is spent wishing I could do even the most basic of tasks – getting in and out of a chair, walking up the stairs, even going to the toilet – without it making every sinew in my body object to my attempts at movement.
You probably think from reading this, ‘well that’s what happens to old people’. That may be so, and had I been 50 years older than I am, then I would probably accept that this is my lot.
But I am 32. Supposedly in the prime of my life, but even getting out of bed in the morning is the first massive challenge of the day. And the downward spiral begins there. Brushing my teeth, getting dressed, getting in the car – to be truthful, sometimes by the time I get to work, I’m pretty weary already.
My career in professional services is very busy and usually pretty stressful. It involves seeing clients during a packed day of meetings, advising them on what can often be life-changing matters and poring over the finer details of paperwork often until most people have gone to bed.
As a young professional, this is what I’ve always wanted. But against a backdrop of non-stop pain, it feels like I’m fighting a battle all day every day, just to do my job.
I’ve had this pain since my mid-20s. At first it was just a bit of aching here and there, which for someone with a very desk-based job isn’t uncommon, I suppose.
I tried doing more exercise, but that made things much worse. After a few days had passed and the aching hadn’t worn off, I started to think something wasn’t right. Someone young, in good health, shouldn’t be in this much pain having done nothing more than their daily routine.
A couple of weeks later, I visited my doctor. Seven years or so later, I’ve come to know my doctor rather well.
I tried painkillers, relaxation techniques, hypnotherapy, you name it. Nothing seemed to work. Backwards and forwards I went to the doctor over the years, hoping one of the varieties of medication would make some difference.
It was while researching pain relief during an online search that I stumbled across cannabis. I discovered that since November 2018, it had been legal for medicinal purposes, which initially made me think there was some light at the end of the tunnel, although I did question why my doctor had never volunteered this information. I’d certainly been a few times since it was legalised.
I made an appointment in light of my new discovery of medicinal cannabis and discussed my findings with my doctor. I’ll never forget her reaction.
Once the stunned look had subsided, she said ‘I don’t think we need to go down that route’ and turned away as she wrote out a prescription for yet more pills (I’d had so many bloody pills over the years, I imagine I’m immune to them by now).
Thoroughly disillusioned by my experience, and actually quite troubled as to why I had been refused something that is a legal medicine, I decided to take the law into my own hands. I am being denied something perfectly legal, so I’m going to find my own means of getting it.
Perhaps this was not the best course of action, and I appreciated this from the outset. When you’ve lived for so long in so much pain and you come so close to finding something that could help, however, you don’t let ‘no’ get in your way.
‘Black market’ cannabis is of course illegal but in my mind I was within my moral rights as I was being denied it in a more acceptable way.
Being given cannabis in a suspicious-looking little bag by a local teenager who you’ve come across smoking weed outside of the local off licence isn’t exactly what I’d imagined ever doing, but for me, it’s a case of needs must.
The first time I smoked some, I felt really disappointed. The effect was not instant, and I lay there, illegal cigarette in hand, thinking the police were about to show up at my door. I’d lose my career, my reputation, everything I’d worked for, all for nothing. I went to sleep that night pretty gutted.
The next morning, however, I noticed a change. I got out of bed and walked to the bathroom and I could move. I got dressed without feeling like a 95-year-old struggling on without their carer.
This was amazing. Unbelievable, in fact. I wasn’t quite sure whether to relate the cannabis from the previous night with how I felt that morning, but that was the only change to my routine. Nothing else could explain it.
The pain did come back throughout the day, but I smoked some more that night and the effect the next morning was the same. To me, this seemed like a miracle. An illegal one, perhaps, but nevertheless, this was what I had waited years for.
Now, smoking cannabis is a regular thing for me. I continue to get it from my unlikely friend from outside the off licence, and while I’m conscious and aware of the risks of using such cannabis, as long as it works, I’m not going to question it further.
For me, it’s a shame that I have been forced to have this as my dirty little secret. I have kept my chronic pain secret from colleagues and clients for years, even though I realise there’s no shame in it, but this one about my drug use is something they would really take exception to.
I’m good at what I do and I do a great job for my clients, and I don’t want anything to taint that. Being prescribed cannabis would be the way forward for me, as then there’s nothing grubby about it, but until opinions change that isn’t going to happen.
Even my own doctor, who has come to know me and my situation, rejected the very suggestion of me trying cannabis.
How can that be right? Smoking cannabis in my flat, hoping the neighbours don’t smell it or suspect, is of course a concern, but thankfully they’re all busy professionals like myself, so I’m sure they’ve got more pressing things to worry about.
Cannabis has, in all honesty, changed my life. It’s changed my outlook on life too. To be able to get up in the morning and think ‘I might be able to get through a decent chunk of the day without excruciating pain’ is a motivation in itself.
The best suits have come back out of the wardrobe. The appalling chat-up lines have resurfaced for when I’m out on the town. I am the person I want to be, rather than the one who lives only for the office and the home office, struggling to get between both.
I look forward to the day when being prescribed cannabis becomes a genuine option for people with chronic conditions like mine.
Until then, I only hope I manage to continue to buy and use it under the radar, as the consequences would be pretty dire, which I think is deeply unfair.
Andy is 32-year-old lawyer working in England. His name has been changed to protect his identity.
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