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Beyond the Hype: A Guide to Understanding and Using CBD Effectively by a Doctor 

Beyond the Hype A Guide to Understanding and Using CBD Effectively by a Doctor

Much has been written about CBD; thus, most people know some of its health benefits. This is a comprehensive and up-to-date guide written by a doctor to provide complete information about CBD in a single place. This guide is written in simple-to-understand language for people considering starting to use CBD for health benefits. It explains what CBD is, the different types of CBD products, its health benefits, and, most importantly, how to get started with CBD.

What is CBD?

CBD is derived from cannabis plant. There are many cannabis varieties, and CBD is generally derived from the hemp plant, which is naturally low in THC, a substance known to cause euphoria. Yes, hemp also belongs to the same family of plants as marijuana. Still, it is much safer and has a long history of use in Europe for producing industrial products like fibre or edible oils. CBD sold in the UK is mainly derived from hemp legally grown in the UK or other EU states, ensuring consumer safety.

The hemp plant is abundant in cannabinoids, a group of chemically related organic compounds. Cannabidiol (CBD) is just one of the most abundant and well-studied cannabinoids of all. However, the plant also contains a small amount of THC.

In products legally produced in the UK, THC, a substance known to cause euphoria or high, is not more than 0.2% or not more than 1 mg in a single product pack. (1) That is why people should only buy legally produced and well-tested CBD products, as they comply with regulations and are tested for safety.

CBD products may also contain other so-called minor cannabinoids. These cannabinoids, as a rule, are present in small amounts in CBD products like CBG, CBN, CBC, THCv, and many more. (2)

Minor cannabinoids also contribute to CBD’s health effects. Although all cannabinoids are structurally related, they often have very different and sometimes even opposing health effects. Hence, some cannabinoids suppress appetite, while others stimulate it. Thus, minor cannabinoids help improve CBD products’ potency and contribute to their unique health effects.

Apart from cannabinoids, CBD products often contain terpenes. These are aromatic compounds naturally present in many plants. Terpenes help protect plants from pathogens. However, it appears that they are also quite good for humans. Terpenes are potent antioxidants, boosting CBD’s action through the entourage effect. (3)

Before we move on to the next topic, one more important thing to understand is the entourage effect. It should not be confused with the synergy effect. Synergy is when two substances combined result in a much more potent effect, like one plus one resulting in three. Yet, it does not result in an increased risk of side effects. The entourage effect is when two or more combined substances result in unique health effects. Such health effects are not seen when those substances are used in isolation. This highlights the value of CBD products rich in minor cannabinoids, terpenes, and other organic compounds. Of course, the entourage effect also results in synergy. Still, it is vital to understand that the entourage effect is more than synergy.

Types of CBD Products

There are few things to know before starting using CBD products. Firstly, it is vital to understand what is not a CBD product for daily use.

Hemp seed oil is not a CBD product. Many unethical sellers are promoting hemp oil in a way as if it is a CBD product. This is mainly to confuse consumers. Hemp seed is naturally free of cannabinoids, including CBD. Thus, hemp oil/hemp seed oil is a healthy plant-based oil rich in omega-3 fatty acids but free of cannabinoids.

Another thing that is important to understand is that medical marijuana is an entirely different thing. Medical marijuana is a prescription product. Medical marijuana is high in THC and thus can cause euphoria or a high. Hence, it is a highly regulated product.

Further, it is vital to know that commonly or freely sold CBD products are not medical CBD, which is, again, a different product. Medical CBD differs in a way that it contains a high dosage of CBD, and again, it is only sold in pharmacies and dispensed against a doctor’s prescription. For example, Epidiolex is a medicine containing 100 mg of CBD per gram of the product. It is a medicine often used to treat resistant epilepsy in children and is a prescription medicine due to its high CBD content. (4)

So, now we understand what CBD isn’t, it is time to explore what it is? CBD products sold by online platforms like CBD oil king are produced and approved by the Food and Safety Agency (FSA), UK. These products are safe and good for everyday use. One does not have to live with some ailment to enjoy their health effects. FSA says consuming about 10 mg or 4-5 drops of 5% CBD oil products, even daily, is safe. So, these products are for regular use or ingestion, safe, and have some added health benefits. (5)

So, now we understand that we are talking about CBD products that have low CBD concentrations and are approved for daily use. Though there are hundreds or unique CBD products, they can be broadly divided into three groups:

  1. CBD isolate: It is CBD in its purest form. Such products are often made using 99% pure CBD. The good thing about these CBD products is their excellent safety profile (especially due to the lack of THC). However, the downside of these products is lower potency, as such products lack the entourage effect, and they lack minor cannabinoids that may also have some unique health effects. However, these products are good to get started with CBD.
  2. Broad-spectrum CBD: Broad-spectrum products contain CBD, various terpenes, and minor cannabinoids, and thus they are more potent. However, they are THC-free. Thus, they are a perfect match for potency and safety.
  3. Full-spectrum CBD: These are the most potent products since they contain many minor cannabinoids, THC in legally permitted amounts, terpenes, and more. They are often preferred by people with some experience of using CBD products. Here, it is vital to understand that full-spectrum CBD is also very safe and approved by FSA for regular or daily use, and it is categorised as a Novel Food. Hence, there is no need to be worried about these products.

Finally, remember that CBD products come in different forms, such as edibles, CBD oil, CBD vape pens, topicals, and more. Each of these forms has some distinct benefits. CBD oil is good because it works quickly due to the sublingual absorption of many active ingredients, yet it works for a long time. Many young users prefer vaping, as it provides an almost instant effect, and it is an enjoyable activity, too.

How does CBD work?

CBD works in multiple ways, which explains why it can help in many different health conditions. The primary way in which it works is by influencing the so-called endocannabinoid system, which is a network of special receptors present in the human body. By modulating the activity of these receptors, CBD can exert many health benefits. Studies show that there are two kinds of endocannabinoid receptors, that is CB1 and CB2, present in the brain and various body organs. (6)

Additionally, CBD may also exert anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. It can modulate the production of various hormones, influence metabolism, affect DNA expression, and influence various other messenger molecules in the body.

The Benefits of Using CBD Properly

Much research is going on into CBD’s health benefits. Hence, here we will touch on the tip of the iceberg, primarily discussing its better-known health effects. Moreover, here we are talking about CBD products sold without prescription through online platforms and not medications. Hence, it is also vital to understand that though sound scientific evidence exists that CBD can help in many health conditions, we make no such claim. This information is mainly for education purposes.

CBD has an amazingly long half-life, which is more than 24 hours, especially on chronic use. CBD may accumulate in the body a bit, especially when used daily. Although CBD starts acting within minutes, its maximum health effects occur after a few days or regular use.

Some of the scientifically proven health benefits of CBD are:

Pain Relief

CBD is especially regarded as good for chronic pain, like low back pain. There is a reason why health experts think that CBD may work. Chronic pain is very different from acute pain, like that caused by trauma. Unlike acute pain, the cause of chronic pain often remains poorly understood. Just take the example of low back pain, which affects almost 10% of the population. Yet, in 85% of its cases, its cause remains poorly understood. (7)

There is a reason why chronic pain is so poorly understood by science. It appears that such pain occurs due to many reasons, like stress, muscle spasms, neuro-inflammation, emotional distress, and more. Hence, managing such pain requires a more complex approach. Thus, many researchers think that regular CBD use may help in such conditions. CBD has been shown to have analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties, and it also helps stabilize mood and enhance sleep quality. (8)

There are hundreds of studies reporting pain reduction with CBD. Thus, one of the surveys done on CBD users found that most people reported that CBD helped reduce pain, and it even helped them reduce opioid use. (9)

One of the most extensive studies that analysed 2298 research articles concluded that CBD is an excellent and safer alternative to opioids in chronic pain. (10)

Studies suggest that most people can experience significant benefits from consistent CBD use for three months.

Anxiety and depression amelioration

Anxiety and depression are the two most common mental health issues. Most people would experience these issues during their lifetime. Anxiety is an excessive worry in response to a perceived threat. Depression is about losing interest in daily activities and even life.

However, these conditions often start with milder symptoms. It is better to manage these issues through lifestyle interventions and natural remedies in their early stages before they become a constant mental health issue.

Multiple studies confirm that CBD can help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Of course, here it is vital to understand that clinical studies use CBD at much higher dosages than recommended by FSA. For example, FSA says 10 mg of CBD daily is safe. However, clinical studies use dosages like 300-600 mg daily for severe anxiety like public speaking anxiety or dosages like 120 mg for social anxiety. (11)

This is not to say that commonly sold CBD products would not work for anxiety or depression. However, they are better suited for preventing these issues. Or one can use them along with other treatments. CBD helps with anxiety without causing sedation or suppressing cognition. (12) Commonly sold CBD products are especially good for preventing bouts of anxiety and lowering the risk of severe depression.

It is also essential to understand that CBD works in many ways. It affects the endocannabinoid system and serotonin levels in the brain. CBD may also affect noradrenaline levels, too, and may also influence GABA receptors and much more. (13)

In short, use CBD either to prevent anxiety or depression. Moreover, it is suitable for daily use, and one can take CBD even when not experiencing any signs and symptoms of anxiety or depression. Furthermore, CBD is suitable for prolonged use. However, suppose one is diagnosed with the condition. In that case, one should only use CBD along with other treatments and after consulting a medical health specialist.

Sleep Improvement

People often use CBD to improve sleep. CBD is known to help those living with sleep issues or insomnia. However, it is vital to understand that CBD is not a sedative, and this is good. It helps enhance sleep by improving mood, reducing stress and tension, and helping people relax. Unlike sedatives, it does not disrupt sleep architecture; thus, it is good for prolonged and regular use.

When people use sedatives or sleep pills, though they are able to sleep, they do not essentially sleep well. Sedatives alter sleep architecture and negatively affect circadian rhythm. Hence, people who use sedatives wake up with heavy-headedness. And despite sufficient sleep, they do not feel refreshes. However, CBD does not have such adverse effects, and thus, it is suitable for chronic issues like sleep problems.

A systemic review that analysed data from 34 studies found that CBD can improve insomnia symptoms in most instances. It concluded that CBD alone, or when used with small amounts of THC, is good for managing insomnia. (14)

Of course, compared to THC, CBD is a better choice due to its better safety profile and predictable effects.

Other Benefits

CBD has many other health benefits. In fact, there are already two medications containing CBD approved for managing severe health conditions. The first is Epidyolex for managing rare and resistant epilepsy in children aged two years and older. This only confirms that CBD is highly effective for managing epileptic seizures. Moreover, this drug is for paediatric use, thus confirming its safety in different population groups. (4)

Another medicine containing CBD and approved for clinical use is Sativex oromucosal spray. This particular medication is for adults experiencing moderate to severe spasms when living with multiple sclerosis (MS). Again, approval of this drug by health authorities confirms that CBD may work where other medications fail to help. (15)

Of course, we do not recommend people using commonly sold CBD products like CBD oil or vapes for such severe issues. However, the above information does show that CBD can help manage severe health conditions.

One of the areas where people can benefit from using CBD oil, edibles, topicals, or other CBD products is skin health. CBD is good for countering skin inflammation and reducing sebum production. Hence, it is suitable for managing acne, a pretty common skin problem. (16)

Amazingly, studies suggest that CBD may also be good for some skin conditions that are quite challenging to manage. Thus, it is beneficial for those living with eczema, pruritis, various inflammatory skin conditions, and even psoriasis. (17)

CBD Dosage and Safety

Ideal dosage of CBD is not established. Moreover, when clinical studies use CBD at very high dosages. Thus, studies in those living with depression, epilepsy, and other severe health issues used CBD at dosages like 300-600 mg or even more daily.

Condition Dose (mg) Freq Form Ref
Anxiety 150-900 - Oral Medical News Today
Anxiety 300-600 - - Forbes
Anxiety 300-600 - - Verywell Mind
Arthritis 30 Daily spray Forbes
Arthritis 250 - topical Forbes
Bowel Disease 10 Daily - Verywell Mind
Cancer-Related Pain 50-600 Daily - Verywell Mind
Central Neuropathic & Cancer-Related Pain Max 30 Daily Spray Forbes
Epilepsy 2.5/kg Twice Daily - Forbes
Huntingdons 10/kg Daily oral Medical News Today
Intraocular Pressure 20-40 - sublingual Medical News Today
Opioid Addiction 400 or 800 Daily - Forbes
Pain and Inflammation 250-500 - topical Medical News Today
Parkinson's 300 Daily oral Medical News Today
Parkinson's 75-300 Daily - Verywell Mind
Psychosis 600 Daily - Verywell Mind
PTSD 1.5 - Spray Medical News Today
Schizophrenia 200-800 - Oral Medical News Today
Sleep 300 - oral dissolved in corn oil Medical News Today
Sleep 25 Daily - Verywell Mind
Type 2 Diabetes 100 Twice Daily oral Medical News Today

However, those using CBD for health benefits and without doctors’ advice must follow FSA recommendations. Earlier, the FSA recommendation was not to exceed CBD dosage by 70 mg a day. However, FSA has revised its guidelines in 2023, recommending not to exceed daily CBD intake by 10 mg or 4-5 drops of 5% CBD oil. (5)

Of course, FSA recommendations are for a very low CBD dosage since, at this dosage, it is highly safe. FSA is particularly concerned about CBD safety, as FSA is not involved in approving CBD for medical usage.

However, this does not mean that one cannot experience CBD’s health benefits at those dosages. In fact, CBD is quite good for using at FSA’s recommended dosage, especially when used to daily and for long periods.

So, below are our recommendations regarding Do’s and don’t Do’s when using CBD:

The Do’s Of Using CBD

  • DO: Start with a low dose and increase it from there. Most users begin at one drop per day and increase to 4 to 5 drops of 5% CBD oil for a maximum of 10 mg daily.
  • DO: Track your usage on a chart. Graphics can help determine how much CBD you need based on your ailment or condition. 
  • DO: Consult with your doctor first. Physicians can tell you the risks and benefits of using CBD based on your current drug regimen and medical history.
  • DO: Choose the right product for you. Isolate is pure CBD in a carrier oil, whereas broad and full-spectrum include additional hemp plant compounds. 
  • DO: Choose the most suitable delivery method:
    • Drops for fast-release under the tongue
    • Vapes for even faster absorption through the lungs
    • Edibles for slower digestion in the stomach
    • Patches for slow release throughout the day
  • DO: Research brands. Some have a better reputation than others. 
  • DO: Read the product label. Ensure you find out where the CBD came from and whether you can verify purity via third-party sources. 

The Don’ts of Using CBD

  • DON’T: Combine CBD with medications. It can have dangerous interactions with blood thinners, antibiotics, cholesterol medications, and antihypertensives. 
  • DON’T: Use the incorrect dose. Many people use too little or too much, hampering CBD’s beneficial effects. 
  • DON’T: Use CBD only once. You need to take cannabidiol daily for maximum benefits. One-off doses might not work. 
  • DON’T: Avoid your doctor. You should always speak to a licensed physician before starting any new supplement, including CBD. 
  • DON’T: Overdo it on CBD edibles. Sugary gummies are moreish, encouraging you to consume much more CBD than you need. 
  • DON’T: Ignore the label. Some CBD products also contain THC. 

The Don’ts of Using CBDHow To Avoid CBD Side Effects

Till now, we have explored various health benefits of CBD. However, what about safety. As already mentioned, FSA, UK, an independent, non-ministerial department that reports to Parliament, whose main function is to protect public health and ensure that food is safe, clearly says that CBD is safe when consumed responsibly and within recommended dosages.

It means that people can be sure that CBD is safe to use. Hence, they must take care to buy only authentic products tested by third-party labs. It is also vital to choose trusted brands, as such products do not contain toxic impurities.

Of course, individual sensitivities still exist, so users need to keep a few things in mind. One should always watch for side effects such as drowsiness. It is also vital to start with a low dose and increase dosage gradually on a weekly basis. Finally, one should never hesitate to seek medical help or advice from people or specialists who know about safe CBD use.

References

  1. GOV.UK [Internet]. [cited 2024 Jan 24]. Drug licensing factsheet: cannabis, CBD and other cannabinoids. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/cannabis-cbd-and-other-cannabinoids-drug-licensing-factsheet/drug-licensing-factsheet-cannabis-cbd-and-other-cannabinoids
  2. Gojani EG, Wang B, Li DP, Kovalchuk O, Kovalchuk I. Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Minor Cannabinoids CBC, THCV, and CBN in Human Macrophages. Molecules. 2023 Jan;28(18):6487.
  3. Ferber SG, Namdar D, Hen-Shoval D, Eger G, Koltai H, Shoval G, et al. The “Entourage Effect”: Terpenes Coupled with Cannabinoids for the Treatment of Mood Disorders and Anxiety Disorders. Current Neuropharmacology. 2020 Feb 1;18(2):87–96.
  4. Epidyolex 100 mg/ml oral solution - Summary of Product Characteristics (SmPC) - (emc) [Internet]. [cited 2024 Jan 24]. Available from: https://www.medicines.org.uk/emc/product/10781/smpc#gref
  5. Food Standards Agency and Food Standards Scotland update consumer advice for CBD | Food Standards Agency [Internet]. [cited 2024 Jan 24]. Available from: https://www.food.gov.uk/news-alerts/news/food-standards-agency-and-food-standards-scotland-update-consumer-advice-for-cbd
  6. Chayasirisobhon S. Mechanisms of Action and Pharmacokinetics of Cannabis. Perm J. 2020 Nov 30;25:19.200.
  7. Koch C, Hänsel F. Non-specific Low Back Pain and Postural Control During Quiet Standing—A Systematic Review. Frontiers in Psychology [Internet]. 2019 [cited 2024 Jan 24];10. Available from: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00586
  8. Mlost J, Bryk M, Starowicz K. Cannabidiol for Pain Treatment: Focus on Pharmacology and Mechanism of Action. Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Nov 23;21(22):8870.
  9. Schilling JM, Hughes CG, Wallace MS, Sexton M, Backonja M, Moeller-Bertram T. Cannabidiol as a Treatment for Chronic Pain: A Survey of Patients’ Perspectives and Attitudes. J Pain Res. 2021 May 5;14:1241–50.
  10. Villanueva MRB, Joshaghani N, Villa N, Badla O, Goit R, Saddik SE, et al. Efficacy, Safety, and Regulation of Cannabidiol on Chronic Pain: A Systematic Review. Cureus. 14(7):e26913.
  11. Shannon S, Lewis N, Lee H, Hughes S. Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series. Perm J. 2019 Jan 7;23:18–041.
  12. Fliegel DK, Lichenstein SD. Systematic literature review of human studies assessing the efficacy of cannabidiol for social anxiety. Psychiatry Research Communications. 2022 Dec 1;2(4):100074.
  13. Sales AJ, Crestani CC, Guimarães FS, Joca SRL. Antidepressant-like effect induced by cannabidiol is dependent on brain serotonin levels. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry. 2018 Aug 30;86:255–61.
  14. Ranum RM, Whipple MO, Croghan I, Bauer B, Toussaint LL, Vincent A. Use of Cannabidiol in the Management of Insomnia: A Systematic Review. Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2023 Apr;8(2):213–29.
  15. Sativex Oromucosal Spray - Summary of Product Characteristics (SmPC) - (emc) [Internet]. [cited 2024 Jan 24]. Available from: https://www.medicines.org.uk/emc/product/602/smpc#gref
  16. Peyravian N, Deo S, Daunert S, Jimenez JJ. The Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Cannabidiol (CBD) on Acne. J Inflamm Res. 2022 May 3;15:2795–801.
  17. Baswan SM, Klosner AE, Glynn K, Rajgopal A, Malik K, Yim S, et al. Therapeutic Potential of Cannabidiol (CBD) for Skin Health and Disorders. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2020 Dec 8;13:927–42.
Dr Preet Pal Singh Bhinder

This article was authored by: Dr. Preet Pal Singh Bhinder.

This article was peer-reviewed by Dr M Mansoor Siddique (PhD). Dr Siddique has over eight years of experience working with CBD and CBD products.

Disclaimer: All of our products are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease. It is recommended to check with doctor before starting a new dietary supplement program. All CBD products sold have less than 0.2% THC content and abide by both EU an UK law.

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