CBD oil: does it work for pain relief?

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We speak to the experts about Cannabidiol and pain management.

By Anna Bonet

Cannabidiol – also known as CBD – is currently taking the UK by storm, thanks to its wealth of health benefits. One of these is pain relief: studies have shown that CBD can reduce the discomfort related to a variety of health conditions.

But can CBD oil really alleviate pain and if so, how does it work? We speak to medical nutritionist and health author Dr Sarah Brewer about the efficacy of Cannabidiol.

Can CBD oil be used for pain relief?

Ultimately, the answer is yes. CBD is an option for many pain sufferers to help relieve their symptoms, due to its antioxidant properties.

‘CBD oil is one of the most helpful supplements to become available in a long time,’ says Dr Brewer. ‘It is highly antioxidant so has anti-inflammatory effects on joints, to improve pain and stiffness. CBD also has an analgesic effect to reduce pain perception in the brain.’

How does CBD oil work?

Cannabidiol is extracted from industrial hemp plants that do not contain significant amounts of the psychoactive substance (THC or tetrahydrocannabinol) found in marijuana strains of cannabis. CBD therefore provides health benefits without causing a ‘high’ and is not addictive.

CBD oil has an analgesic effect to reduce pain perception in the brain.

‘Cannabidiol oil has direct effects on the endocannabinoid system in the brain,’ says Dr Brewer. ‘This enhances the effects of other brain chemicals, such as serotonin and anandamide, to reduce pain perception.’

‘It is also a powerful antioxidant which suppresses inflammation,’ Dr Brewer adds.

💡 CBD has been proven to relieve arthritis pain, chemotherapy induced symptoms such as nausea, and multiple sclerosis. CBD oil can also be used for the treatment of epilepsy, although this is to help ease seizures, rather than pain relief itself.

How quickly can I expect to see results?

How quickly CBD works depends on the delivery method you choose.

‘Capsules typically have a slow action, and can take from 20 minutes to an hour to produce the desired outcome,’ says Dr Brewer. On the other hand, ‘oral sprays and liquid drops of CBD, which can be held in the mouth to boost absorption directly into the circulation, work more quickly – you may notice an effect within just a few minutes.’

The effects of CBD usually last for around three to five hours. ‘After this,’ Dr Brewer says, ‘the dose will have fallen below levels that produce noticeable benefits.’

❗️Do not take CBD if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. If you are on any medications check for interactions with your doctor.

How can I tell it’s an effective product?

Dr Brewer advises to select a CBD oil that is 100 per cent natural (as opposed to synthetic), and extracted from whole hemp plants.

‘Choose a supplier who provides a CBD/THC batch testing certificate of analysis at the point of sale, which confirms the level of CBD present, and that the product has only trace levels of THC.’

CBD is a powerful antioxidant which suppresses inflammation.

‘A good pointer of quality is that the manufacturer will be a member of the Cannabis Trades Association UK, an organisation created to ensure legal and ethical CBD trading standards, says Dr Brewer. ‘Only companies that meet high quality standards can carry its seal of approval such as Healthspan’s range of CBD Oil products, for whom I act as Medical Director.’

Finally, compare the levels of CBD in milligrams (mg) in each product to assess value for money. ‘Quality packaging will tell you the total amount of CBD supplied within the pack, as well as the amount per dose (be it a capsule, gummy, oil dropper or spray) in milligrams, Dr Brewer explains. ‘Products with this labelling allow you to see exactly how much CBD you’re buying and taking.’

Can CBD be used with other medication?

If you have a health condition or are taking any prescribed or over-the-counter medicines, always check with your doctor or a pharmacist for possible drug supplement interactions before taking CBD.

‘CBD interacts with enzymes involved in metabolising some medicines and may result in increased drug levels that could cause side effects,’ says Dr Brewer.

If the Patient Information Leaflet that comes with your medication says to avoid grapefruit juice, for instance, then do not take CBD as the same type of interaction can affect circulating blood levels of your medicine. If the leaflet does not mention grapefruit juice you should still check with your doctor before taking CBD.

Is CBD oil addictive?

CBD is not addictive. ‘An addiction to marijuana can develop as a severe form of “marijuana use disorder” which affects an estimated 30 per cent of marijuana users,’ says Dr Brewer. ‘This develops from a dependence on the psychoactive ingredient, THC, which is found in marijuana strains of cannabis, and which can cause a high and withdrawal symptoms.’

CBD comes from an entirely different plant – the hemp plant – that contains only trace amounts of THC which are not enough to cause these effects. CBD does not activate the receptors that make marijuana psychoactive and addictive.

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