It is undoubtedly the supplement of the moment. Jennifer Aniston takes CBD oil for joint pain; Alessandra Ambrosio uses it to induce sleep and calm her nerves; and Kim Kardashian West threw a CBD-themed baby shower last April, at which guests were encouraged to blend their own CBD bath oils.
Other celebrities are taking things further still by joining the growing band of so-called ‘cannapreneurs’. Whoopi Goldberg has co-founded a line of cannabis infused wellness products, Whoopi&Maya, specialising in cannabis and CBD-infused bath and body products for menstrual cramps, while lifestyle entrepreneur Martha Stewart partnered with the marijuana company Canopy Growth, to develop CBD products for pets.
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There is no doubt about it: CBD is big business. So much so that market research firm The Brightfield Group predicts that the medicinal CBD market will grow from $590 million (£452 million) to $22 billion (£17 billion) by 2022. In the UK alone the CBD market is set to skyrocket to £1 billion per annum by 2025 if growth continues at the current pace, according to a report commissioned by the Centre For Medicinal Cannabis (CMC).
But unfortunately, since not every business in the CBD gold rush has their customers’s best interests at heart, not all CBD products are created equal. And with few rules and regulations to keep the booming industry in check, CBD has evolved into a multi-billion-dollar Wild West.
In fact, a report last June by PhytoVista Laboratories, one of the UK’s most reputable labs for testing cannabis oils and hemp products, turned up worrying results after testing more than 30 CBD products available in the UK for the CMC. Sixteen contained less CBD than advertised, and eight of these contained less than half the amount they claimed on the bottle. One product – which had a £90 price tag – contained no CBD whatsoever.
Does CBD live up to the hype?
Not to be confused with medical cannabis, CBD is made from hemp, a variety of the cannabis plant which is low in the high-inducing THC. In the right dose and form, CBD really can help manage – but not cure – a huge range of health issues, according to Dr Dani Gordon, integrative medicine physician and world-leading expert in CBD and cannabis medicine, who is currently writing The CBD Bible, a book out in June. That’s because CBD (short for cannabidiol) works on the endocannabinoid system, the body and brain’s main balancing system. “It works on a number of very diverse pathways,” explains Dr Gordon. “That’s why we’re seeing it used on so many things, from pain to skin.”
What to look for when CBD shopping:
Know what’s in your CBD
These days, most of us won’t eat a cereal bar without first checking the label, and we should adopt the same level of care when buying CBD. “Any reputable company will offer you a Certificate of Analysis (COA),” says Dr Gordon. “This is done by a third party lab that shows that what you get inside is the strength it says it is, whether it contains isolate of full-spectrum CBD and which other plant compounds are in there, and finally that it doesn’t contain any of the things you don’t want in there, like moulds and pesticides.” The batch number of the product should be on the bottle, which can be researched on the brand’s website. If you can’t see the COA certificate on the company’s website, email them to request it.”
Know the difference between full-spectrum and CBD isolates
“When you go shopping for CBD you will generally come across three different options: CBD isolates, full-spectrum hemp oil, and broad-spectrum hemp oil; it’s the latter two you want to go for,” says Dr Gordon. “This means the whole plant has been used, as opposed to an extracted isolate, which seems to work better because lots of the plant’s different chemicals work symbiotically together.”
So why don’t all companies use the whole plant? It’s because the more purified form of CBD – the CBD isolate – is cheaper. “It can be made from lower quality plants, which are then processed to get rid of the contaminates, isolating just the CBD,” explains Dr Gordon. “CBD is a commodity like any other cash crop and the price of isolate has come down quicker.”
Check the strength
The milligrams of CBD should always be stated on the label. “If you don’t see it, don’t buy it,” says Dr Gordon. “A percentage without the milligrams doesn’t tell you anything.” So what kind of numbers should we be looking for? “A lot of standard brands offer 300-2,000 mg, which can be in a 30ml, 40ml, or 60ml bottle. If you see a very high amount, check it’s not an isolate by looking at the COA certificate.”
Most companies state a suggested dose on the bottle, but there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to CBD. “It depends what you’re using it for,” says Dr Gordon. “Start low and go slow. For a chronic condition you should be taking it daily on a consistent basis. It’s not a quick fix.”
Choose CBD brands with integrity
A brand’s motivation matters and for every charlatan CBD brand there are as many with their hearts – and certificates – in the right place. “There clearly needs to be more rules and regulations,” says co-founder of premium CBD brand, Kloris, Kim Smith. “There’s so much hype and marketing, it’s quite confusing for the customer. At Kloris we self-standardise and go above and beyond to make sure it does what it says on the tin – and equally there’s nothing in there that shouldn’t be,” says Smith.
A former music-industry PR and artist, whose own personal health experience with CBD, led her to start the company, Smith had found that CBD helped her period pains and anxiety, but that not all brands helped to the same degree. This led her down a CBD rabbit hole, researching and learning everything she could to try and find out why this might be. Fortunately, she had a head start with two Cambridge plant scientists in her partner’s family. “It’s all so new. The endocannabinoid system was only discovered in the 1990s and we were in a unique position to pick these plant science minds,” she says. “We became so passionate about it, and couldn’t not start a CBD business.”
The backstory of carefully-curated CBD platform Dayzed reveals a similarly personal motivation. Looking every bit the perfect representative for the yoga mat-toting, clean-eating generation, with clear, bright eyes and radiant skin, the co-founder, Gyunel Boateng-Taylor, doesn’t look like she’s ever suffered a moment’s sleep loss, let alone a breakout. And yet it was these issues that ignited her passion for CBD.
“I’d been using a CBD oil a friend brought over from LA,” says Boateng-Taylor, who was juggling two jobs at the time and having trouble with insomnia. “I was taking one pipette of the 1,000mg product. It helped me stay calm and eased me off to sleep.” When a friend in Israel sent her before and after photos to show her how CBD had all but cured the painful cracked eczema on her hands, Boateng-Taylor also started using the product topically. “It immediately helped my breakouts,” she says.
The issue came when she tried to replace the oil in London. “I went to Camden and spent £39 on a product that was a really dark colour, tasted awful and did nothing.” A second CBD oil, bought in a well-known health food store, for £17, was no more effective. “I thought: ‘I don’t know how strong it is or where it comes from – someone needs to test and curate this.’” Within Dayzed’s tight edit you’ll find oils like THC-free broad spectrum HempExtract, which is manufactured in Switzerland, with the plant grown, extracted and processed at the company’s own facility, and Calm’s full-spectrum hemp oil, which contains a relaxing blend of CBD, mint, chamomile and ashwaghanda.
Similarly, the premium curated site The Chillery offers a selection of trusted brands “for stress, pain and intimacy”, with a key focus on beauty and products like Kana Lit Hemp CBD face oil – designed to leave skin bright and glowing. They also offer classic full-spectrum CBD oils, like Kiki Health’s CBD, and broad-spectrum products, like Yuyo Botanics, for those who can’t have any traces of THC, as well as some made from isolates, which they argue “preserve consistency of taste”. All are third party lab tested, with COA certificates available on request.
The key trick when shopping for CBD is to keep an eye out for those companies with the integrity to self-regulate. At least until regulations catch up with the booming CBD market, the old maxim stands: buyer beware.