Healthy living

people to treat pain, stress and anxiety. The anti- inflammatory properties of CBD have also led many to believe it could treat Alzheimer’s disease, fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). By reducing neuroendocrine stress, it could relieve symptoms of depression, and anecdotal reports suggest that it improves efforts to quit smoking and eases drug withdrawal.

Many other benefits of CBD oil – taken on its own or used as an ingredient – remain to be explored. In fact, the European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA) reports that among the many ongoing research projects are trials with Covid-19 patients to see if CBD supplements can strengthen their immune system and, consequently, their resilience to the virus. “The overall research on therapeutic areas of phytocannabinoids has just begun, similar to the research on vitamins decades ago,” says EIHA president Daniel Kruse.

A transatlantic boom market Though clinical trials are in their early stages, consumers are already flocking to buy CBD oil. US consumer sales are expected to reach around $1.8bn by 2022, up from around $500m in 2018. Europe’s CBD market was estimated at €270m in 2018, but is expected to reach €1.4bn by 2023. In the UK alone, more than six million people are estimated to have tried CBD, of whom 1.3 million are regular users. “We are seeing the market expand beyond CBD,” says Erika Stark, executive director of the National Hemp Association in the US, “but CBD oil is the most popular. It has quickly grown in popularity and CBD has been added to everything from gummy bears to bottled water.”

The latest research suggests that some Europeans do not fully understand where CBD fits within the broader cannabis market with 55% believing it has valid medical uses, though 25% think it has an intoxicating effect. The EIHA firmly believes that consumers see hemp’s value but admits that cannabis is still stigmatised, which halts regulatory change. Medical and recreational marijuana use has been decriminalised in large parts of the US and there is a concerted campaign to remove it from the Controlled Substances Act. One might think that this would remove the stigma, but it cuts both ways. “The convergence of cannabinoids with adult and medical cannabis use is a double-edged sword,” says Stark. “It encourages people to try hemp products, but it is a stumbling block for regulators who see it as a trojan horse for full decriminalisation of marijuana.” Although cannabinoids represent only 2% of what the plant can do, according to Stark, it takes up 98% of the NHA’s time, partly because demand is so strong and partly because of the murky regulatory landscape.

Ingredients Insight /

“Hemp is not a cure-all for everything, but it is the most easily digestible plant protein,” Stark explains. “I’m really passionate about the fibre and the grain, too, but we also want to investigate the full spectrum of cannabinoid products. We are seeing more isolation of CBD, but it would be interesting to see an investigation of the effects of all cannabinoids working together.” The US Food & Drug Administration (FDA), however, finds itself in an awkward position.

Ongoing scientifi c research reveals that CBD has countless potential health benefi ts.

“The convergence of cannabinoids with adult and medical cannabis use is a double- edged sword.”

Erika Stark

“The FDA does not see cannabinoid products as legal, although it is legal to sell them,” Stark adds. “This situation prevents larger companies from using CBD as an ingredient in their products. CBD products are available, but it is like the Wild West here, as consumers don’t know which ones are good products. We need the FDA to change its approach to regulating CBD as a food product but there are few clinical trials being done to prove its safety and efficacy.” Many academics who feared the loss of federal funding had put research on hold until late 2018, when the Federal Farm Bill removed hemp – defined as cannabis and its derivatives with extremely low concentrations of (THC) – from the definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Trials have started but are in their early stages.

The blurred line between food and drug In most European countries, CBD products containing less than 0.2% THC are legal. Sale is unrestricted in many countries with the UK, Germany, Switzerland and Austria the biggest markets. In terms of health benefits, consumers rely largely on studies from the

8,000 National Hemp Association 71

How far back, in years, it is thought that hemp was fi rst domestically cultivated as a plant, with evidence of hemp fabric dating back thousands of years ago.


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