What’s The Deal With CBD? Everything You Need to Know About Cannabidiol


Our obsession with yoga, mindfulness and relaxation brought us to peak self-care last year, and 2019 looks set to be the year of peak CBD. Touted as the modern-day antidote to anxiety, insomnia and many other ills, CBD (an acronym the cannabis compound cannabidiol is more commonly known by) is the latest wellness craze to sweep the United States and, now, the United Kingdom. Holland & Barrett became the first UK high-street store to stock medical cannabis oil in the UK at the start of this year.

What is CBD?

CBD is an extract from cannabis plants. The two main active substances in cannabis plants are cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is a psychoactive chemical and is a controlled substance under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

However, as opposed to THC, which is what gives cannabis users a ‘stoned’ sensation, cannabidiol does not provoke any psychoactive reaction. Instead, it appears to have many of the other benefits – such as feelings of relaxation and increased focus – but without the accompanying chemical high. The World Health Organisation has declared it safe to use, and a rapidly emerging (although somewhat patchy) body of scientific research seems supportive of its many benefits.

A quick search on Google Trends demonstrates that there has been a significant increase in UK CBD searches over the last three years, which has continued to rise in 2019 – peaking in popularity at the end of April this year. In response to its rising popularity, CBD marketing has exploded. From coffee to bath bombs to acne treatments, it seems no brand has been left oblivious to the purchasing power adding CBD to your products can harness. A report last autumn from Brightfold Group predicted that the CBD industry may be worth $22 billion by 2022 in the US alone.

Source:  Google Trends

Is CBD legal?

There is currently a great deal of confusion around UK law, with the majority of cannabinoids listed as controlled substances under the Misuse of Drugs Act. However, CBD is an exception and is completely legal in the UK, “provided it has been derived from an industrial hemp strain that is EU-approved”, says NetDoctor.  The key determinant is the level of THC in an oil, which must be 0.2% or under. 

Products marketed as containing CBD should be approached with caution – many will contain such small amounts that they cannot possibly deliver all the claims they make on their packaging. However, here are some interesting things CBD has been anecdotally linked to by users – from lessening the symptoms of PMS to helping migraine sufferers. We did a little more digging on three of them.

Menstrual cramps & PMS

Taking cannabis for period relief is nothing new – even Queen Victoria used it to cure her menstrual cramps. These days, CBD is enjoying a surge in popularity for women seeking to limit the more debilitating effects of their cycle. 

According to Dr Julie Holland, whose background is in psychopharmacology, “CBD can be immensely useful in treating the irritability and discomfort that comes during the premenstrual phase of our cycles. Because it has strong anti-anxiety properties and is also a muscle relaxer, it can help with the overall tension, both physical and psychic, as well as menstrual cramps that can come later.” 

Although it’s worth noting that there is, as yet, very limited scientific evidence to support CBD’s role in specifically reducing menstrual symptoms (there have been no double-blind or placebo-controlled studies yet) anecdotal evidence from those who suffer from PMS or severe menstrual cramps, plus other studies into general pain relief, does seem to support CBD’s potential role in alleviating symptoms. Watch this space…


Cannabidiol is widely lauded to have significant anti-inflammatory benefits. In one 2012 study, it was found to effectively relieve chronic pain and inflammation associated with arthritis and multiple sclerosis, and there is also growing evidence that cannabidiol can stop epileptic seizures. In 2018, the FDA approved Epidiolex, a pure CBD plant extract, for use as an epilepsy drug. 

Which means that, arguably, some of those benefits will translate to the inflammatory nature of acne, too. Because CBD is rich in essential fatty acids (particularly omega 3), these work fantastically at keeping the surface of the skin soft and supple. Add to this the potential power to calm down angry blemishes and reduce redness, and plenty of skincare brands are touting CBD as an acne game-changer.

According to BYBI Beauty, “It has been suggested in preliminary research that CBD acts as a messenger during the inflammatory response, helping to both reduce redness and oiliness, and increase moisturisation, resulting in chilled out, stress-free blemish free skin that glows UP.”

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To date, CBD has not been studied in its isolated state specifically for migraine. However, when combined with THC, it has shown promise for migraine relief in clinical study. Anecdotal evidence from longterm migraine sufferers online is not hard to come by, and many say that it eases migraine pain and even shorten attacks. So, although there is a lot more research which needs to be done on safer forms of CBD for migraines, if you are a regular migraine sufferer, this is one to keep an eye on. 

CBD is now used in more than 90 countries around the world. However, it is important to note that licences for CBD oil as a medicine have not been granted yet, and manufacturers cannot make claims about their alleged medical benefits. While CBD itself is currently believed to be safe, issues arise when levels of THC increase. For instance, 7 in 10 CBD products are currently mislabelled - which means they may accidentally contain more THC than claimed, giving the potential for all side effects associated with cannabis.

The NHS says that, although cannabis-derived products may also be available to buy over the internet, most of these items – even those sold as “CBD oils” – are unlikely to meet the required purity standards and may therefore be illegal and potentially dangerous.

If you’re thinking of trying CBD out for anxiety, PMS or any of the other things in this article, be sure to buy from a reputable source and do your research.