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CBD: Miracle or Menace


Cannabidiol, or CBD, is known for its non-psychoactive nature in curing many ailments. Of late, it is known to be prescribed by physicians as an alternate to medicines, as it has many medicinal benefits.


One of the many people to acquire CBD in their lives is none other than the famous American actress Gwyneth Paltrow. At last June's Goop Health conference in LA, Paltrow moderated a panel on cannabis- and CBD-derived products. "I love this subject," said Paltrow. "It really has the potential to shift old patterns of thought and change lives, and I feel like we really could be on the precipice of something a lot bigger than we realise, scientifically."

Another Hollywood singer Mandy Moore, told reporters at the Golden Globe Awards that she was using CBD oil to relieve her heel pain. Just 2 weeks ago, Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby had tried CBD Marshmallows and gummies on the seats of This Morning. CBD has now become mainstream.


CBD is a constituent of Cannabis, but it has little or no traces of THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol). CBD is available in various forms such as creams, lotions, tinctures, etc. People use it to ease pain, anxiety, and induce sleep. CBD is associated with many beauty products as well due to its anti-acne and anti-inflammatory properties.

Last month, two former Goop directors, Ashley Lewis and Meredith Schroeder, launched Fleur Marché, an e-commerce site they refer to as "a cannabis apothecary" and has already been referred to as the "Sephora of CBD".

CBD has been a huge success in Ireland, with Celtic Wind Drops founded by Joe Gavin and Paul McCourt. This company grows their products in the Cooley Peninsula in Louth and harvests them every September, before producing CBD oil, capsules and powders. The company describes its process as ‘seed-to-shelf’ and ‘farm-to-fork’ where you can track the traceability of the CBD products.

You can also find online communities who are CBD-driven that ensure you get all the information on CBD, the best brands, the most effective methods of CBD consumption and research analysis on CBD and its efficacy. But, the information provided by these communities cannot be claimed as official. Since supplement manufacturers don’t have the right to make medical claims, it can be difficult for an ordinary person to identify what CBD is and what it can do.


Some questions that rise are that how can one ingest CBD without feeling comparable effects. Firstly, it is important to understand the difference between CBD and THC.

"THC and CBD are completely different molecules, both found within the cannabis plant," says Dr David Finn, Professor of Pharmacology and Therapeutics at NUI Galway, Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Centre for Pain Research and a Science Foundation Ireland-funded investigator within the Centre for Research in Medical Devices (CÚRAM). He is also a researcher in the area of CBD.

"They're both phytocannabinoids - plant-derived cannabinoids, but they have a different chemical structure and a different pharmacology. So they work in the body in a different way. CBD doesn't have the same psychoactive profile as THC so it doesn't produce euphoric effects like THC. However, you will often read that cannabidiol doesn't have any psychoactivity, but that isn't quite correct.”

It is these psychoactive benefits that attract people towards consuming CBD. People from Hollywood and the glamour world are switching to CBD to treat various illnesses.


Bekkii Spain, a 28-year-old mother from Co Sligo, shares her experience. She suffered severe panic attacks 4 years ago. "I believed my throat was closing over," Bekkii says, "as it got worse my throat would go dry, I would find it difficult to breathe. Before I got to see anybody or have any counselling I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital where I spent a few months. I became agoraphobic, I felt unsure of going anywhere. I kept [her prescribed] pills with me, in case of another panic attack. But they would make me dizzy or drowsy, the day after I took them I would almost feel hungover."

Bekkii started searching for treatments online. She followed a blogger who wrote about CBD and their effects on panic attacks.

“I'm naturally very wary of anything that is recommended, so I read around the brands and the options," Bekki says. "I took it in sublingual form (drops placed under the tongue). The recommended dosage was a full dropper but I only used half. I would take it if I felt the physical symptoms of a panic attack coming on. That was September 2017.For me, it's had a big impact. Before I couldn't really go to places, I couldn't really leave the house. Now, I've started to venture out. I keep the CBD oil with me, but I feel like I can control the panic attacks. I wouldn't say it's been the only driver of my recovery - I pushed myself to challenge my anxiety. CBD on its own will only do so much. But it's worked for me in a way other drugs didn't. It gave me an ease from my nerves and it's more fast-acting than other drugs."


It is also important to underline that there are three families of CBD product, governed by different regulations.

The first family is food and food supplements. According to the law, food supplements include capsules, pastilles, tablets, pills, powder sachets, ampoules of liquids, drop dispensers, and other forms of liquids and powders.

Supplements are regulated by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI). Any new product launches in the market, need to be first tested by them. They are the authority that notifies them. Some products which have been sold in the EU prior to 1997 fall into a sub-category which means they are also legal to sell.

Then there are cosmetics and health-related products which are not medicines. These are regulated by the HPRA, under the Cosmetics Regulation and are defined as "any substance of mixture intended to be placed in contact with external parts of the human body." Again, these products cannot make or imply any medicinal claims.

And there are medicines like Sativex, which contain both CBD as well as THC, that can cure spasticity in Multiple Sclerosis. They are licensed for use in Ireland. Medicinal drugs undergo rigorous testing and clinical trials before the approval of European Medicines Agency (EMA) and Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA).


It is important to distinguish between CBD supplements and CBD medicines. Supplements are not subject to the same rigorous regulation, and they should not be used interchangeably with medication, unless under the specific instruction of a medical professional. This should be especially the case for those taking antidepressants or any medication for mental issues.

Individuals may also ignore the advice of doctors and instead, take advice from online advocates. This is a big reason to worry. But, a spokesperson from FSAI said, "There is no minimum level of CBD that must be in a food or food supplement. However, the declaration on a label must be accurate." Currently, the Authority says, "more than 100 [products] have been notified."

There was a debate on the use of CBD to cure epilepsy by Gogglebox stars Steph and Dom Parker. They showcased their 18-year-old son, Max, in the documentary. Max suffers from epileptic seizures that occur more than 130 times a day, since childhood. His parents asked if CBD could cure him, despite denial in the UK.

Epidiolex, a CBD-based medicine, is legalized in the United States and also has a licence approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is known to cure certain types of epilepsy. The license from EMA is still pending for the same.


There is no doubt that for some conditions, cannabidiol has proven efficacy. "When we talk about the drug CBD there have been some clinical trials and some animal studies. There is a reasonable body of evidence for some indications - chronic pain, anxiety, epilepsy," adds Professor Finn of NUI Galway.

But when it comes to non-medical products he is more cautious. "The evidence for most of these products is very, very scant. The majority have not been tested in clinical trials. In some products that are available in health food stores and online, we don't know with any certainty what concentration of CBD they contain. They may contain only trace amounts which don't achieve pharmacological efficacy. They may also have some impurities or lack consistency from batch to batch," he says.

Bekkii Spain is excited as well as cautious to use CBD for anxiety. She believes that since the industry is enjoying such a boon, that there are plenty of unscrupulous sellers more than happy to capitalize on what is - if we're honest - quite a vulnerable and optimistic market.

Spain had tried a product, but had to dispose it off because it didn’t work. She wanted an assurance on the ingredients of the product and also its processing.

CBD has known to be efficient, but research is still ongoing if even only to allay skeptics and to make the market less hospitable to rogue resellers whose product may have escaped authorization.

This product is certain to work. But, you have to do your research thoroughly and take medical advice if you face any issues with the product.


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