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Medicinal CBD – The Debate
What can CBD be used for? Does it work?
Medicinal CBD is back in the news, and the debate is back on. This time, parents in the UK are claiming that the health authority’s stance on cannabidiol is turning their kids into victims, because they’re making it difficult for parents to access medicines that they believe can genuinely help their children.
The debate has been raging for years. One group will claim that cannabidiol and other hemp-derived medicines can stop epilepsy seizures, relieve pain, or even cure cancer.
The newspapers will pick up on the story, print all sorts of claims, before the government releases a statement saying that there’s no research to back it up, that cannabis is illegal (deliberately conflating the illegal cannabis people smoke with legal, safe CBD), or that they’ll look into it.
If you’re just looking for relief from anxiety, or depression, or fibromyalgia, it can be difficult to know who to trust. In this blog post, we’ll explore the debate around medicinal CBD, explain what’s been proven, what’s up for discussion, and why it’s so hard for doctors to just test cannabidiol in the first place.
But first, we need to clear something up about our own products.
Before we Begin – We DO NOT Sell Medicinal CBD Products
As you’re going to learn in this blog post, the UK authorities don’t currently allow any CBD medicines for use here in Britain (except in a few very rare cases). Anyone selling something they claim is medicinal CBD won’t last very long.
And to be honest, until all the research is back and all the doctors have had their say, we wouldn’t feel comfortable saying our CBD products are medicines, or that they can cure your problems or treat your ailments.
So our products are CBD supplements. Not medicine.
Now many of our customers report that adding CBD to their daily routine helps them feel happier, healthier and calmer, but as you’ll find later on, that still isn’t the same as medical proof.
All we’ll say is that as a consumer you should do your own reading, try supplements for yourself, and come to your own conclusions about the debate surrounding medicinal CBD.
Now that’s covered, let’s crack on with the debate itself.
The Debate – Is CBD Really a Miracle Cure?
“CBD has been promoted as a medical holy grail that supposedly can cure a vast array of conditions improving anxiety, depression, inflammation, cancer and acne.”
“Despite proven anti-inflammatory, antioxidative and neuroprotective effects, [CBD’s] mechanism of action was not known and its general use lacked a scientific rationale.”
This quote from a researcher at the University of Dundee’s School of Medicine sums up the whole debate around medicinal CBD far better than almost anything we’ve read. Just unpacking it is a roller-coaster that leaves you more confused than ever.
CBD is a holy grail that can supposedly cure a vast array of conditions… - OK, so there are claims, but they aren’t taken seriously.
CBD is proven to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidative and neuroprotective effects… - Wait. CBD actually does treat medical symptoms, and this doctor’s saying it’s been proven?
But there’s no scientific rationale for using CBD. – Huh? You just said it worked!
It’s no wonder that we’re so confused!
So let’s try and clarify everything a little. Here’s the current state of the medical industry’s stance on cannabidiol.
For decades, alternative health practitioners have promoted the use of cannabis-derived treatments for all sorts of ailments. It’s been claimed, but never definitively proven, that the CBD in cannabis makes you less depressed, less anxious, and less prone to panic attacks.
Unfortunately, it’s also been claimed that the THC in cannabis makes you more depressed, more anxious and more prone to panic attacks. So for years, cannabis as a medicine was a non-starter.
They came cannabidiol. Just the CBD, with none of the psychoactive THC. Suddenly health practitioners could point to this compound from their favourite plant and say “this has all the good bits and none of the bad.”
Claims began to grow. It could treat aches and pains, reduce swellings and cramps. Even cure cancer.
And there’d suddenly be anecdotal evidence. People would say that CBD had reduced their feelings of anxiety, or dulled the pain of their fibromyalgia.
But medicine’s a bit more difficult than “I tried thing A, and it illness B cleared up, so A cured B.” Until you can understand why a cure works, you can’t be sure that it does. Maybe it’s not thing A at all. Maybe you didn’t notice thing C happening, or D, or E!
So even though people claimed they could see CBD making their joints less swollen, or their acne less severe – even though they said a few drops of CBD oil on their tongue made them less likely to have a panic attack – doctors still couldn’t be sure.
And they still aren’t. Because it’s really difficult to test drugs!
The Difficulties – Why is it Hard for Doctors to Test CBD?
For many years, the main problem was that cannabis and all cannabis-derived products were illegal in places like the UK, USA and Japan. Which is where lots of medical testing takes place.
If you’re a doctor and you want to test a new compound, the first thing you need to do is get a sample. Unfortunately, it’s hard to get medical testing clearance for something you buy in a clear plastic bag from a man on a dodgy street corner.
So for decades, claims around first cannabis, and then CBD simply couldn’t be tested. But as restrictions around CBD were relaxed, it became easier for researchers to source and test cannabidiol.
Problem solved, right? Simply hand some CBD oil to a few depressed people and see if they feel better! See if a puff on a CBD vape makes chronic pain go away for a bit.
Well, medical testing isn’t that easy.
First you’ve got to see if a drug, or medicine, or natural supplement does what you think it might do. Reduce pain, reduce inflammation, treat anxiety. That kind of thing.
And in many cases, that research has been done. As the doctor quoted above says, we now know that CBD is proven as an anti-inflammatory and neuroprotector.
The problem is what comes next. Before any treatment can be released onto the market, researchers need to know why it works.
It’s no good releasing a new headache tablet that clears up your migraine only to find out ten years later that it does it by killing off nerve endings in your head.
That’s the point we’re at with cannabidiol. Doctors can see that it works to treat many symptoms. But until they know how and why it treats those symptoms, they can’t prescribe it as a medicine.
And getting to that point takes years. Even decades.
The Claims – What Kinds of Ailments is CBD Thought to Help?
So that’s where we are now. People claim CBD can treat illnesses. Doctors think CBD can treat symptoms. But until the research is done, there’s no definitive proof that a certain CBD supplement is a medical treatment for a specific malady.
But that hasn’t stopped people who suffer from maladies making claims that seem to hold a lot of weight. Or from the medical department of Harvard University in the USA saying this back in August:
“We need more research but CBD may be prove to be an option for managing anxiety, insomnia, and chronic pain.”
Over the coming weeks, we’ll tackle each of these claims in more depth here on the CBD.co.uk blog. But for now, here are the basic facts about why people claim CBD can help with a wide range of ailments.
Because, as Doctor de la Vega has noted, CBD has potential (he claims proven) neuroprotective effects, it affects your brain chemistry. Clinical depression is in part caused – or at least exacerbated – by issues with brain chemistry. Put simply, your brain simply can’t process the chemicals and endorphins that trigger happiness.
Now nobody’s claiming that CBD can act in the same way as a medicinal SSRI such as Prozac (fluoxetine), but anecdotal evidence suggests that regular CBD supplements have helped people with depression feel less overwhelmed, and happier.
“It is subtle but I swear [CBD] has left me in an altogether more relaxed state. After having a mild stroke 4 years ago I have struggled with depression, but this seems to help.”
Scientists have already proven that CBD reduces stress in animals such as rats, and stress is a key trigger for many sufferers of anxiety. So the maths seems pretty simple. Reduce the stress, reduce the anxiety that a sufferer feels.
Where more research is needed is on the physiological signs of anxiety. If CBD can lower heart rate and steady breathing, it’s entirely possible that one of the first medically recognized uses of CBD treatments could be as an anxiety medication.
Doctors know that CBD is a proven anti-inflammatory. And much of the pain a person will suffer in day-to-day life, especially chronic pain, is caused by inflammation of soft tissues in the body.
So it’s no wonder that many CBD advocates have held up CBD as a potential painkiller, especially one that could be used long term in favour of addictive opiate-based painkillers. Before this can happen, researchers will need to prove the widely-held claims that CBD isn’t addictive and doesn’t have any long-term side effects.
"I have only been using [CBD] for a week and gone from no flexibility in my foot and not being able to walk properly and being in severe pain to moving my toes and walking a bit better with so much less pain. What a difference [CBD supplements] have made."
While CBD is believed to help with generalised anxiety, as we’ve mentioned above, it’s not certain whether CBD can take effect quickly enough to stop a panic attack in its tracks. However, that’s because most research is being done on CBD that’s taken orally, as an oil or even in a gummy sweet.
Some panic attack sufferers are pointing to CBD vapes as a potential treatment, and given that chemicals are absorbed more quickly through the lungs than the stomach, this is a line of research many doctors think should be pursued.
Fibromyalgia is perhaps one of the least understood ailments on this list. A condition that triggers chronic, widespread pain, tiredness and lethargy, doctors are often reluctant to even diagnose fibro, let alone treat it.
But many fibromyalgia advocates believe that CBD is a very effective pain reliever, and this appears to be backed by a very small research review from 2013.
The Future – Will CBD Be Available on the NHS?
While the NHS does not currently prescribe CBD medicines to patients (because, as we discussed in depth before, there are no recognised CBD medicines in the UK), the home office has allowed various parents of children with epilepsy to import CBD treatments from Europe in an attempt to alleviate their children’s symptoms.
Given this softening of attitudes towards CBD, it’s entirely likely that as soon as CBD research proves that cannabidiol is a working medical treatment for any specific illnesses or conditions, they’ll happily prescribe CBD the way they write out a prescription for an antibiotic or painkiller.
In fact, as recently as 2018, the health authorities in the UK have explained that they’re currently seeking licenses for Epidiolex (epilepsy medicine), and have begun to prescribe two CBD-based medications for chemotherapy patients and MS sufferers.
But if you’re in pain now, knowing that the NHS might have a wider range of CBD medicines in five, ten, or twenty years’ time isn’t much of a comfort…
The Present – Can You Test CBD Supplements for Yourself?
When we’re asked by a potential customer about whether or not a CBD product can treat a specific ailment, we always say the same thing.
We don’t know.
We’re not doctors, medical professionals, or researchers. So we can’t suggest a treatment for your illnesses.
But you’re free to try whatever you’d like. If you’ve read this blog post, looked at the supporting research we’ve linked to, or you’ve spoken to someone who says they benefit from CBD supplements, you can always try them out for yourself.Because while there’s still a debate surrounding medicinal CBD, we’re convinced that when the debate finally ends, cannabidiol will be recognised as a safe, effective aid for many symptoms.