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New research hopes to shine a light on benefits of CBD for people and pets

Hemp Heros is teaming up with researchers to explore how CBD can alleviate a range of health problems for both people and pups.



Hemp Heros is researching the benefits of CBD for dogs, says co-founder Sam Hartigan.

CBD startup, Hemp Heros, is partnering with University College Dublin (UCD), medical professionals and veterinarians, to expand research on full-spectrum CBD for people and their pets.

The UK’s CBD revolution is in full swing. CBD-based supplements are an increasingly common sight in cupboards across the country (wedged beside the tea and biscuits) and bathroom counters are becoming saturated with CBD-based face creams and skin-rejuvenating tinctures. Even pets potentially stand to benefit.

As is the case globally, the use of CBD-based products in the UK is skyrocketing. The value of the UK’s CBD market almost doubled in size between 2019 and 2021, growing from £314m to £690m.

According to one report, the UK has the second largest consumer cannabinoids market behind the US, and the amount spent on cannabis extracts in the UK is now higher than the amount spent on vitamin B and C combined. CBD is truly settling in as the next UK household staple. And rightly so; CBD is widely considered a safe, non-psychoactive, natural alleviator for a number of physical and mental ailments. 

CBD startup Hemp Heros, co-founded by Irish entrepreneur David Hartigan, is one brand leveraging its influence and expertise in the medical (and veterinary) communities. 

Just days before being named one of Ireland’s “30 under 30” by the Sunday Independent newspaper, Hartigan spoke with Cannabis Health about the company’s techniques, research partnerships and how it is exploring CBD as a potential pain and anxiety reliever for dogs.

David Hartigan, co-founder of Hemp Heros

Cold-pressing for quality and expanding into the UK market 

Hemp Heros manufactures its products from scratch in a facility in Ireland, using a cold-press method. Compared to traditional methods of extraction that use heat and other intensive processing methods, cold-pressing is a natural technique that maintains the integrity of the plant and helps avoid the loss of other beneficial compounds like terpenes, flavonoids and minerals. 

The company also specialises in full-spectrum CBD. While CBD products mainly consist of only cannabidiol, full-spectrum CBD includes trace amounts of a range of other complementary cannabis compounds, including terpenes and flavonoids. Full-spectrum CBD theoretically unleashes the ‘entourage effect’, a synergy between cannabis compounds that can foster an even more beneficial impact for users. 

Hartigan believes that full-spectrum CBD products could be a game changer when it comes to treating and alleviating medical conditions, and the brand is exploring numerous research routes to test the theory. 

Investing in R&D to show the benefits of full-spectrum CBD in cancer treatments

A little over a year ago, Hemp Heros released a report based on a non-clinical research study examining the history and global landscape of CBD-based physical and mental medical treatments. The CBD deep-dive was carried out in collaboration with the Welsh Healthcare Technology Centre led by Swansea University Medical School. 

“The idea of the Swansea study was to identify all the areas which have been examined (around CBD) and then pinpoint some of the areas where we think there’s a crossover that needs more research,” says Hartigan.

“The main pillars [we identified] were sleep, stress and anxiety, and inflammation and pain. Anecdotally [from our customers], we have brilliant results, but anecdotes only get you so far. We’re trying to back that up with clinical research and want to explore [these three pillars] further, with Swansea and other universities.” 

The startup is now partnering with University College Dublin (UCD) on a new study testing the effect of different CBD isolates on cancer cells. While cancer treatments might not fit neatly into the three focus pillars, it is still an area that Hartigan is keen to explore, especially when it comes to comparing full-spectrum CBD and CBD isolates. 

“It just so happened that UCD was doing a study on cannabinoids and cancer,” explains Hartigan.

“UCD is also my alma mater. So I reached out to them and found out that they were only testing with CBD isolates.” 

With Hartigan’s input, the UCD study has evolved to involve testing two different CBD isolates and the full-spectrum CBD against each other. 

“The study is ongoing at the moment. Hopefully what we can prove is that the full-spectrum oil outperforms both isolates, and then expand the study from there,” he says.

CBD for alleviating arthritis (and other conditions)  in dogs

Hemp Heros is also a big believer in the benefits of CBD for dogs. The company works with some of Ireland’s most prolific animal welfare charities, including the SPCA and Guide Dogs for the Blind, to both provide pro-bono products for animals and to better understand, albeit anecdotally, how CBD can help dogs.

While in the UK it is illegal to give a pet CBD without a prescription from a vet, in Ireland, there are no government guidelines regarding CBD and pet use.

“We probably already have hundreds of arthritic dogs using our CBD,” explains Hartigan.

“Guide Dogs for the Blind is using our products mainly for older dogs’ joint issues, because they use all Labradors. Labradors are prone to hip issues and arthritis.” 

Some charities are also using CBD treatments for anxiety.

“CBD seems to work great for actually helping the dogs settle into the kennels when they rescue them,” says Hartigan. 

The next step is to formalise this anecdotal research with a clinical study that would involve two cohorts of dogs, a placebo and the brand’s full-spectrum CBD oil. Both cohorts will get the CBD oil and the placebo oil at alternating times so that both sets of dogs can receive treatment. The plan is to then scale the study from 20 dogs to eventually more than 1,000 dogs, so the sample size is representative and the results are robust enough to satisfy nay-sayers.

“We’re already talking to a handful of vets in Ireland, and most of them are quite open to the idea of CBD,” says Hartigan. “But it’s the dog owners who are asking the vets questions about it, so it’s really consumers educating the vets.”

He adds: “Dogs don’t lie, and we’ve seen incredible feedback [from people who have purchased our pet products]. It’s heartwarming. One person said they got an extra good year with their dog from using CBD oil.” 

Beyond arthritis, Hartigan wants to study how CBD can help treat epileptic seizures in pets.

“We have a lot of epileptic pets who use our products,” he says. “And either their seizures have reduced or actually completely stopped.”

Expanding the research: sleep studies

As well as looking into CBD treatments for animals, Hartigan wants to continue researching CBD as a treatment across the three pillars identified in the initial Swansea study. 

On the human side, we want to do something on sleep,” he says. “If you look at our reviews, over 60% of the feedback we have is that people are seeing improvements in sleep, whether it’s deeper sleep, overall quality of sleep, or simply switching off.” 

Hartigan and his team are hoping to work with sleep specialist Tom Coleman to help build the study around sleep. Coleman has worked with star athletes and entire corporate communities (amongst others) on alleviating sleep issues. 

“The plan is to do a study with UCD with 60-100 people who use wearable devices that can track sleep patterns,” says Hartigan. “We want to do a pilot of them using our product and then measure their sleep to see what results they get.” 

With almost a third of adults in the UK suffering from sleepless nights, there’s a potential 16 million+ people that, if the research goes the way Hartigan expects, could find a deep, solid sleep with the help of CBD.

DISCLAIMER: This article is intended for educational purposes only. Always check the laws in your country of residence before buying CBD for humans or animals.

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Nellie is an award-winning writer, editor and content creator specialising in sustainable development, climate justice, oceans, cities, food and cannabis (to name a few). She is a passionate systems thinker and loves bringing people's stories to life through words, data, imagery, and other creative formats. Nellie has lived and worked in NYC, Los Angeles, Rhode Island, and London in a range of leadership roles across media, policy and business. She currently lives in Worthing, the "hackney-on-sea" of the south coast, where she serves as Communications Chair for the local Green Party.


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