While the concrete scientific evidence behind CBD – a chemical compound found in cannabis – might still be in its infancy, it hasn’t stopped people talking about its life-changing benefits for everything from period pain to arthritis and anxiety.
Made by extracting non-psychoactive compound CBD from cannabis plants (meaning it lacks any mind-altering effects), it’s thought that CBD might work by attaching to receptors in the body’s own endocannabinoid system.
This is a complex biological system involved in maintaining aspects of our health, such as memory, sleep and mood. But is it all it’s cracked up to be? We spoke to the experts – and some women who’ve given it a go…
THE ISSUE: A third of us confess to having sleep issues or insomnia, while 48% say we don’t get enough shut-eye. Cue lavender baths and trying every herbal supplement under the sun.
HOW CBD MIGHT HELP: While more research needs to be carried out, studies suggest that CBD could be helpful in treating insomnia. Dr Dani Gordon, an expert in cannabis-derived medicine, adds: “CBD has been shown to help with the stress response, which may be useful for anxiety and stress-related sleep problems.”
TRIED & TESTED: Colette McBeth, 44, an author from London, first tried CBD for her insomnia six months ago. “I took two drops on my tongue and was asleep within about an hour. “But the next morning I woke up with a cracking headache and felt woozy all day. I gave it another go and I slept well, but again I felt terrible the next day. I know it works for some people, but unfortunately it’s not for me.”
THE ISSUE: One in four of us will experience mental health problems according to the NHS, while charity Mind says that nearly six in every 100 people suffer from an anxiety disorder. GPs often prescribe selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a type of antidepressant, to treat the condition.
HOW CBD MIGHT HELP: “SSRIs increase the availability of happy hormone serotonin in the brain, and CBD is thought to work in the same way,” says Angelina Nizzardi, a wellness coach and founder of Green Goddess.
Angelina believes CBD can be seen as a natural, alternative antidepressant – but she’s careful to stress that you must speak to your GP before stopping any SSRI prescription. Earlier this year, a small study of people with anxiety or a sleep disorder found that after a month of taking CBD daily, 80% reported a significant improvement in how they felt.
TRIED & TESTED: Psychotherapist Nova Woodrow, 40, from Bedfordshire, tried CBD oil after she had her daughter, now six months old. “I had quite a bit of anxiety and I’d read CBD could help,” she says. “It was fantastic and really carried me through. I used one squeeze of a dropper (0.7ml) a day and my anxiety went down the first day I tried it.”
THE ISSUE: Aches and pains can range from sore post-gym muscles to serious health conditions. The usual answer is a painkiller, topical heat cream or a trip to the physio.
HOW CBD MIGHT HELP: More and more studies show that CBD has anti-inflammatory properties, and it’s this that can help reduce pain. “If you suffer chronic inflammation with something such as arthritis, reducing the inflammation will by extension usually reduce pain,” says neuroscientist Dr Edward Jones. One recent study showed that cannabinoid oil could help prevent pain and nerve damage caused by osteoarthritis while another found it helped reduce the pain associated with MS and cancer.†
TRIED & TESTED: Ellen Jones, 41, from Surrey, has suffered from backache after having a C section three years ago. “My sister uses CBD for fibromyalgia, so I thought I’d give it a try, too. “It’s helped hugely – I have better flexibility, I can pick up my son with ease, I’m sleeping a million times better and I can even run now. “I couldn’t do any of those things before. I spray it under my tongue a couple of times a day, and while it doesn’t taste great, it’s worth it.”
THE ISSUE: Having the usual time-of-the-month cramps and bloating? It’s usually a hot water bottle or painkillers to the rescue.
HOW CBD MIGHT HELP: Some women rub CBD oil like a balm on the abdomen, or even add it to a tampon for localised treatment – although this has been widely discouraged by medics as it risks infection. There’s very little research so far, but Dr Jones says that as with other pain conditions, it’s about the anti-inflammatory properties.
“If a woman finds CBD helps, it’s likely to be an outcome of it being anti-inflammatory, rather than that it specifically treats abdominal cramps. Very few compounds target one body area.”
TRIED & TESTED: Susie Carroll, 30, a teacher from Leeds has used CBD for period pain for three months. “I’ve tried adding it to drinks, but I prefer to just take one drop under my tongue. Not only does it help relax my muscles, but I now have the least painful periods I’ve had in years.”
THE ISSUE: Dryness, intimate pain or chafing during sex… None of those are sexy companions in the bedroom, but they’re all too real for some women.
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HOW CBD MIGHT HELP: Products such as Love Honey’s Intimate CBD Oil, £29.99, are part of a growing niche market. Some experts believe it could be that CBD is helping other issues such as anxiety and even the pain from micro-tears caused by dryness, rather than treating the dryness itself. But can an oil really help with intimacy issues? Dr Gordon concludes: “It’s an unknown at this point and we can’t make that claim.”
TRIED & TESTED: Julie Relf, 28, from Derby heard about CBD while on holiday in Los Angeles and added it to her bathroom cabinet. “I had quite a lot of discomfort during sex because of dryness, and using CBD as a balm has helped to soothe and relax me – as well as the added bonus of more pleasure with my partner.”
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