What is CBD and How is it Regulated in the UK?

With claims that it can ease everything from pain and inflammation to anxiety, CBD has become the latest health craze to hit the high street. You can now buy it in capsules, oils, sprays and even gummy sweets. But what exactly is it? And does it really do what its advocates say it does?

CBD is a chemical from the cannabis plant. It doesn’t contain the psychoactive element THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) found in marijuana and is therefore legal to sell and use in the UK if it comes from a hemp strain approved for cultivation under UK law. It has also been found to have anti-anxiety and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as a potential role in helping people with certain cancers, such as those with leukaemia.

It has been touted as an all-round superfood and many people are using it in place of their prescription medications. But there is no definitive proof it works and some experts say it could cause unwanted side effects, such as dizziness, sleepiness and nausea. It is also thought that it may interact with some medications, including anti-coagulants, anticonvulsants, antibiotics and certain types of heart medication.

There is, however, some evidence that purer forms of CBD have anti-inflammatory properties and might help protect against heart disease. This is based on studies in animals and more research is needed to confirm whether the same results are seen in humans.

As CBD becomes increasingly popular, more products have flooded the market and it can be difficult to know what to look out for. Different types of CBD are regulated differently and have their own governing bodies and regulations. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) regulates consumables, such as CBD edibles, tinctures, oils and supplements – anything that’s meant to be consumed. This includes CBD vape juice, oils and capsules. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) governs all other products, such as drinks and creams, and is particularly careful about THC content in foods and beverages.

In the case of CBD oil, UK law requires it to be labelled accurately and be safe for consumption. But this isn’t always the case and some products on the market, including some sold in supermarkets and online, don’t meet these requirements.

A recent report by think tank the Centre for Medical Cannabis blind tested 30 CBD products on the high street and found that more than half of them did not contain the amount of CBD claimed on the packaging. The report said this was likely because they were mislabelled as ‘hemp seed oil’ instead of containing a regulated product.

A number of high street retailers have been contacted by the MHRA over concerns that they are making unauthorised health claims for CBD products. These include claims that they can treat everything from anxiety and depression to chronic pain and PTSD. It is only when a CBD product has been licensed by the MHRA that you can be sure it meets strict safety standards and is safe for sale in the UK. Currently, there is only one UK-approved CBD product on the market: Epidiolex, which is prescribed to treat two rare forms of epilepsy. CBD UK

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