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CBD and anxiety: What the research says

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A number of studies suggest CBD could be useful for managing symptoms of anxiety

With more and more people reporting the use of CBD to ease stress and anxiety in these uncertain times, is the research there to back it up?

With a global pandemic raging, and many of us cut off from our friends and loved ones, it is no surprise that levels of anxiety and stress are at a high right now. 

With many of our traditional stress-relieving activities – going to the gym, seeing a friend, travelling –  out of bounds, and concern mounting about a rise in alcohol use, people are increasingly looking for alternative ways to relax.

A number of recent developments have once again highlighted the value of CBD in treating anxiety – so much so that a Canadian firm is developing a prescription drug based on the compound.

EmpowerPharm Inc is currently developing a unique prescription drug containing synthetic CBD as the active pharmaceutical ingredient to treat anxiety.

Pending the results of clinical research, it is thought the drug may help the thousands of Canadians who suffer from anxiety, as the firm has identified a growing need for innovative therapies as alternative treatments to avoid the addictive prescription products currently prescribed.

Meanwhile, CBD is also growing in popularity among those using it on a more recreational basis; almost half of UK users have increased their consumption since the pandemic.

A recent poll has found that more than a third (33 per cent) of Britons have tried CBD products, while 42 per cent have increased their usage since the outbreak of Covid-19, with anxiety the most common reason for using them.

While CBD has long had a reputation for promoting relaxation, research is still ongoing. 

A landmark study in the US – billed as the first of its kind – was launched in October last year to investigate CBD’s use as a formal anxiety treatment.

The Cannabinoid Anxiety Relief Education Study is targeting millions of CBD and cannabis users across the US to assess the potential role of cannabinoids in reducing anxiety and other co-morbid conditions, such as insomnia and depression.

Such large-scale research is especially relevant given high Covid-19-caused anxiety levels, with many state and local governments deeming cannabis businesses “essential” and thus able to remain open during restrictions.

However, there are concerns that, while CBD can certainly help to relieve anxiety in the short-term, it is nothing more than a ‘sticking plaster’ solution. 

Studies conducted by a team at Washington State University, led by phycology professor Dr Carrie Cuttler, analysed data from hundreds of people who recorded their symptoms before and after cannabis consumption.

Findings showed that in people who self-reported as having PTSD, cannabis reduced the severity of intrusive thoughts by about 62 per cent; for irritability it was 67 per cent and anxiety by 57 per cent.

However, researchers also found that there is no indication that cannabis reduced symptoms in the long-term.

Dr Cuttler cautioned: “We see a general theme that immediately after using cannabis most of the symptoms of these conditions are reduced by just over 50 percent.

“The bottom line is that it can work as an effective mask of the symptoms temporarily but it’s not benefiting the individuals in the long term.” 

Such research points to the fact that, whole CBD may not be a solution for long-term anxiety, it is a useful took for treating shorter spells of stress – such as those caused by the pandemic.

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Four of the best CBD transdermal products

Ruby Deevoy, picks the best CBD patches and transdermal products for joint and muscle relief.

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Four of the best CBD transdermal products

Cannabis journalist, Ruby Deevoy, picks the best CBD patches and transdermal products for joint and muscle relief.

One of the most common reasons people choose to try CBD is to relieve pain – whether that’s discomfort from chronic inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia and MS, or temporary muscle aches from an intense workout. 

In many cases, with a high quality transdermal product, CBD and whole plant cannabis has been reported by users to have a hugely positive impact on these and many other joint and muscle issues – and the science backs it up.

CBD for arthritis

Both topical and oral CBD has been used in both human and animal model studies to demonstrate potent anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects.

Although many people are a little sceptical of how effective topical application can actually be, results from this research has revealed remarkable potential, with one study showing that transdermal CBD gel significantly reduced joint swelling, limb posture scores as a rating of spontaneous pain, immune cell infiltration and thickening of the synovial membrane. This resulted in relief from arthritis pain with no notable side effects.

Interestingly, although THC and CBG (both of which directly activate CB1 receptors in the endocannabinoid system) are usually found to be more effective on pain than the CBD molecule, when it comes to inflammatory conditions like RA, it’s CBD that stands out.

CBD acts on CB2 receptors, which decrease cytokine production and immune cell mobilisation, as well as acting on other receptors involved in pain and inflammation modulation, such as serotonin and capsaicin 

Although the International Association for the Study of Pain presidential task force on cannabis and cannabinoid analgesia have expressed that they feel there are still a lack of trials proving that CBD is an effective treatment for pain, other research bodies and anecdotal evidence say different.

CBD for DOMS

DOMS (or, delayed onset muscle soreness) is the proper name for those sometimes debilitating aches and pains many people experience after a workout. Although this pain is generally a good sign, indicating that your muscles are healing, strengthening and growing, it can stop you going about your day and prevent you from smashing it at your next session. Fortunately, CBD can help.

Once again, a large part of this is down to the anti-inflammatory benefits of CBD, as many studies have shown that CBD can reduce muscle and joint inflammation. In addition, CBD has also been shown to stimulate muscle spasticity and accelerate muscle recovery via transdermal and internal products.

Topical vs Transdermal – what’s the difference?

We previously covered ‘best CBD skincare’, where a number of excellent topical products were listed. This review is specifically looking at transdermal products which, although applied to the skin, contain permeation enhancers in the ingredients to create products that go into the body through the top three layers of the skin. Topicals target the skin, but are not as readily absorbed, so will not be as effective on internal discomfort.

Transdermal CBD products, like muscle balms, gels and patches, have been designed to reach deeper tissues, like your muscles, and even further into your body. 

If you’re keen to use products made entirely from natural ingredients, you’ll be pleased to hear that many terpenes naturally present in cannabis can act as permeation enhancers. There’s also certain fatty acids, glycols and over 350 other chemicals that brands can choose to use in their transdermal formulations.

If you’re unsure whether a product is topical or transdermal, don’t be shy to ask the brand you’re buying from. Of course, all the ones listed here are transdermal.

Do CBD patches really work?

CBD patches are an exciting addition to the CBD market, and they can be really effective! Even though they’re new to the CBD industry, they’re not new in pharmaceutical administration, so there are a number of studies explaining how they work and showing that their effects can be comparable to oral dosing, if not more effective.

One mouse model study revealed that a low dose of CBD delivered via a patch (on a knee-joint swelling) provided better absorption than oral administration.

Using a CBD patch allows you to target areas of the body for a slow release, which bypasses ‘first pass metabolism’ – a process that occurs when taking CBD capsules or edibles, where the concentration of a drug is greatly reduced before circulating in the body. What’s more, there’s evidence to suggest that transdermal patched prolong the effects of the drug being delivered, with less fluctuation in dose.

Four of the best

Biosportart 2,000mg Gel, £49 biosportart.co.uk

Interestingly, this potent gel is made using citrus-derived CBD, rather than cannabis. I was sceptical at first as an avid advocate for the cannabis plant, but there’s no denying that this is seriously effective – almost like a numbing gel! It’s pricey, but worth it if you’re in a lot of discomfort.

 

The Tonic CBD Patches, £27/£40, thetonictribe.com

Long-lasting, discrete and great for reducing swelling of inflamed muscles. Patches are ideal for people who are keen on ease of use, aren’t great at remembering to reapply products and aren’t keen on feeling wet or greasy after application! They’re available in two strengths and you can leave them on for up to 36 hours.

 

Grass & Co Ease Balm, £39.50, grassandco.com

Perfect for post-workout muscle recovery, thanks to 300mg CBD alongside arnica, peppermint, camphor and eucalyptus. Testers found they were able to recover faster after putting their muscles to the test when using this product.

Dermactiva Warming Muscle Cream, £24.99, dermactiva.co.uk

An honorary cannabis seed oil mention! There’s no CBD in this cream, but a Colombian heritage blend of cannabis seed oil, ginger, chilli, horse chestnut and calendula makes for a great product that works particularly well on aching hands. 

 

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How CBD may help ease hay fever symptoms

UK pharmacies are reporting a shortage of hay fever medication – could CBD offer an alternative option?

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How CBD may help ease hay fever symptoms

With UK pharmacies reporting a shortage of hay fever medication – could CBD help ease symptoms?

Pharmacies across the UK are reporting a shortage of Chlorphenamine maleate, the active ingredient in commonly used allergy medicines, such as Piriton.

High-street giant Boots, told the BBC on Monday 9 May, that a “small number of lines” are currently out of stock due to an “industry-wide shortage” of the ingredient.

According to the Met Office pollen counts are expected to remain medium to high for the rest of the week.

Boots has said that it still has a number of other medications available to treat hay-fever symptoms, however, if you’re looking for a natural alternative – without some of the side-effects – it could be worth giving CBD a go.

Arthritis: A banner advert for the Medical Cannabis Clinics

What is hay fever?

Hay fever is particularly common at this time of year, as it is caused by an allergic reaction to pollen, typically when it comes into contact with your mouth, nose, eyes and throat.

While there is no cure or treatment, a number of over-the-counter antihistamines that can help alleviate some of the symptoms – such as Chlorphenamine maleate.

But even when they are available, many of these carry side effects – the most common of which are drowsiness and dry mouth – meaning that many people prefer not to use them during the day.

Some promising studies suggest that the CBD’s beneficial properties could be helpful for hay fever sufferers.

Cannabinoids and allergies

More research is needed, but while there have been no human studies so far, a number of animal studies have shown some positive signs.

A 2013 study gave a number of guinea pigs an antigen to stimulate a contraction in their throat muscles, which can be a common symptom of hay fever. Researchers found that “cannabidiol reduced … airway obstruction”, adding that CBD “may have beneficial effects in the treatment of obstructive airway disorders”.

Two years later, in 2015, another study looked at the link between the mediation of CB1 receptors and mast cells, which are responsible for releasing the histamines that cause the symptoms of hay fever. 

Although the results were inconclusive, they suggested that CB1 receptors may mediate the hypersensitivity of the immune system, which in turn could be used to lower histamine levels.

Elsewhere a more recent study found that a synthetic cannabinoid, designed to replicate THC, could prevent peanut allergy, as well as reducing the effects of anaphylactic reactions.

Anti-inflammatory properties 

One thing that CBD is well-known for, is its anti-inflammatory properties.

These can prove invaluable during an allergic reaction, working to reduce any swelling or irritation and limiting further histamine production.

In fact, CBD’s interaction with the human endocannabinoid system has been shown to reduce almost all of the most common side effects that accompany an allergic reaction, such as opening airways to make breathing easier, easing nasal pressure and relieving congestion and mucus.

CBD may not be a proven treatment for the prevention of the symptoms of hay fever, but at the very least it can help to ease them – even if just until the shelves are restocked.

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CBD without the chemicals – UK retailer launches ‘pure’ cold-pressed oil

The Good Level has launched cold-pressed organic CBD products, made without chemicals.

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UK retailer launches 'pure' cold-pressed CBD oil
The Good Level’s new 5% cold-pressed CBD oil, retailing at £119.99.

People who enjoy the purported benefits of CBD can now get their hands on cold-pressed products that don’t use chemicals and are entirely organic. 

It’s thanks to the cold-press extraction method, developed by British retailer The Good Level and its partners, that cannabidiol (CBD), from the hemp plant, avoids potentially harmful elements while at the same time delivering the full spectrum of touted benefits. 

CBD has exploded in popularity in recent years, and most products are classed as “novel foods“, under UK and European Union regulations. However, because cold-pressed CBD uses the most natural extraction process possible, it is not labelled novel. 

An expanding product range now encompasses everything from oils to moisturisers and teas, taken to help a range of ailments, including sleep trouble, anxiety and pains, as well as faster recovery from sports and also skincare, to aid in the reductions of blemishes and wrinkles.   

Careful control of hemp, grown in Britain 

The Good Level, which operates an online store, as well as a physical shop, in London, created a 5% cold-pressed CBD oil that’s chemical-free and only uses extra-virgin olive oil sourced from various European countries. The company’s hemp comes from a British farm where it’s organically grown without the use of pesticides.

UK retailer launches 'pure' cold-pressed CBD oil

The Good Level’s new 5% cold-pressed CBD oil, retailing at £119.99.

 

“CBD has been around for thousands of years, in its pure form, in Egypt, India and China,” said Jonny Alberto, co-founder of The Good Level. “What we’re essentially doing is relaunching the product for the modern world.” 

The company has a range of educational materials on its website to provide information about CBD and its uses to a public that may have little or no knowledge about the substance and its professed benefits. They conducted a nationwide survey*, of British adults, to find out what people are thinking about CBD. Among its findings were:

  • A majority both knew something about CBD products and their claimed benefits (53%) and would be willing to try CBD to help with ailments, sleep and other issues (62%). 
  • 10% had never heard of CBD while 7% use CBD products and 19% had no opinion. 
  • Just 4% falsely believed CBD is illegal in the UK. 

 

 

A breakdown of the gender and generations of participants in the YouGov/The Good Level survey on CBD.

 

CBD: A recipe for success 

The boom in CBD has led to different ways of using the products, and many people are now adding drops of their favourite CBD oil to various dishes they make, as well as drinks. Popular choices for CBD additions include soups, curries and casseroles, and drops can be mixed in with a salad dressing too, to give an entirely different flavour, and experience. 

Drawing inspiration from CBD bars in such places as Los Angeles and Sydney, some are also mixing CBD oil with mocktails — providing the relaxation they need from stressful work days but without the alcohol, or killer hangover. Popular mocktails include Mai Tais, CBD Juleps, Hemp Hot Toddies, Gin and CBD Tonics and lots more non-alcoholic creations to help you unwind. 

And, says Alberto, cold-pressed provides the full spectrum of benefits that people seek with quality CBD products, while the company is able to keep an eye on hemp farming because it’s done in the UK and not abroad. 

“We’re controlling the quality all the way through, from farming to the extraction process, because that’s what our customers want,” he said. 

You can check out The Good Level’s new range of cold pressed CBD products here.

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