While you may not have heard of CBD, you’ve probably heard of THC (also known as tetrahydrocannabinol). Because THC acts on certain receptors in the body, it has a psychoactive effect – simply put, it can get you high. (Partake and you might find yourself eating an entire box of cereal or laughing at a kitchen appliance.)
Like THC, Cannabidiol (CBD) is a cannabinoid, which is a naturally occurring chemical compound of the cannabis plant. CBD does not have apsychoactive effect, but that hasn’t stopped it from capturing the attention of scientists, doctors and journalists in droves.
Spend enough time at a party in Camps Bay and you’re sure to encounter at least one gaggle of hipsters espousing the benefits of CBD oil. And beard oil. Hit up your favourite search engine and you’ll find no shortage of academic studies and sensationalist headlines. But what’s all the fuss really about?
It seems the hipsters are on to something. There is preliminary research into CBD being used as a treatment for various afflictions, including chronic pain and anxiety disorders. But it has made most headway as a treatment for epilepsy.
In July 2018, the Food and Drug Administration in the United States made a crucial announcement. It approved a drug called Epidiolex (an oral CBD solution) for the treatment of epileptic seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. Until Epidiolex made the cut, the FDA had yet to approve a drug for the treatment of Dravet syndrome, which begins in infancy.
CBD has also been found to lower the incidence of diabetes in lab mice. This is particularly significant considering the prevalence of diabetes (according to the International Diabetes Federation, there were 1,826,100 cases of diabetes reported in South Africa in 2017).
Perhaps most controversial are the murmurings around CBD as a potential treatment for cancer. Of course anything that claims to tackle the big C must jump through the necessary hoops. For now, there’s evidence to support CBD as a treatment for nausea and vomiting – two debilitating side-effects of chemotherapy.
With fake news running rampant and ‘miracle’ cures detracting from legitimate research, it’s always important to sift through your search results with care. But there’s no denying the value in exploring the potential health benefits of CBD further.
Cowboys and innovators
As reported by South African law firm Hogan Lovells, it is now possible to apply to the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) for a licence authorising the extraction of CBD, as well as the manufacturing, importation, exportation and distribution of a CBD product. As reported by Rolling Stone, and according to cannabis-industry analysts at the Brightfield Group, the hemp-sourced CBD market could be worth a staggering $22 billion by 2022.
As the legal landscape shifts, fault lines are harbouring plenty of opportunists with homespun CBD products and winning smiles. But there are plenty of reasons to be wary of a happy-go-lucky acquaintance wielding cannabis, a blender and pretty tincture bottles.
David Anderson is the founder of CBD Health, a company that’s taking CBD regulation very seriously. Anderson is adamant that consumers remain wary of the CBD offerings that are emerging in legal grey-areas.
Anderson points out that before purchasing any CBD product, you’re well within your rights to request a certificate of analysis from a recognised laboratory. You should also ask for a comprehensive list of every ingredient in that pretty bottle. (With horror, Anderson recalls hearing about an ‘ingestible’ CBD blend that contained traces of isopropyl alcohol and acetone.)
CBD Health have been refining their laboratory-tested CBD range for the past two years. Their products are blends of pure CBD and MCT carrier-oil, along with complimentary terpenes from essential oils. But Anderson’s vision for the future reaches beyond product. ‘I would like to see CBD dispensed by every hospital in South Africa,’ he says. ‘I would like to see doctors fully trained in knowing the kinds of CBD products that would best help their patients.’
Training up the right people, including cannabis growers and doctors, is just one of the undertakings you can expect from CBD Health in the years to come. And Anderson believes we all have a role to play in the discourse around CBD and its future viability. ‘I want CBD to be something that everyone everywhere can access,’ he says. ‘As it stands, I think public opinion will drive this.’
According to Anderson, big corporates haven’t been shy when it comes to throwing money at CBD research (even Coca-Cola is getting in on that action). That being said, there is still a lot to be investigated. There will always be controversy. Curiosity should always be edged with healthy suspicion.
If you don’t have a medical degree or a fancy white coat, your role for now is simple: do your reading and ask some serious questions. Unreservedly. And think twice before swallowing the capsule of CBD you were gifted by a friend of a friend’s older brother (even if he has a glossy hipster-beard and a spritely cannabis plant named Shirley growing on his porch.)