A new cafe, online comparison site and weekly talks in Lancaster are all focusing on CBD and its potential health benefits. But what is CBD and why are people so excited about it? Nick Lakin reports...
Humans have a long and complex relationship with the cannabis plant.
There is evidence that cannabis has been used for its medicinal properties since the Stone Age, but it is only until relatively recently that scientists have been able to understand how it interacts with our brains and bodies.
While cannabis is classed as an illegal drug, cannabidiol (CBD), which is non-psychoactive, is classed as a food supplement by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in the UK.
It’s a complicated subject.
CBD is one of more than 100 cannabinoids scientists are now aware of and comes from the seeds, stalks, and flowers of plants like hemp.
There’s a difference between hemp and the cannabis plant, although hemp is a member of the cannabis family.
Studies have found that CBD possesses therapeutic properties that can balance the body and potentially assist in the treatment of an array of symptoms and conditions.
Some of these include arthritis, chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, schizophrenia, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and even cancer.
In Lancaster, a couple from Overton have opened up the city’s very first cannabidiol (CBD) infused coffee shop, while a former nurse has helped to set up what is reportedly the world’s biggest CBD comparison website.
Others in Lancaster work as brand ambassadors for CBD oil companies springing up in America and Europe, and regular talks are being held at The Storey Institute, discussing the science behind something that has long been a taboo subject.
For Lesley Hartley, who runs Dam Good Coffee Shop in Penny Street with her husband Warren, CBD has helped her deal with chronic pain.
The couple opened the cafe earlier this month, offering coffee and cakes with a twist - a “shot” of CBD, either in the form of a spray or an oil.
Lesley, 33, said she discovered CBD after experiencing “a lot of negative side effects” from prescription medication.
She said: “I’d been having a lot of tests and taking tablets which have caused a lot of negative side effects, often making me feel worse, and then I discovered CBD.
“An American friend came to visit and brought some CBD gummies, and it helped me a lot.”
Warren then visited Amsterdam on holiday, and spoke at length to someone in one of the shops there.
“I brought it back in an oil form,” he said.
“Lesley started using it and that got us into researching it.
“At first it started off as a bit of a joke, and we were saying ‘let’s open a Koffieshop’, and then it just happened.”
The Dam Good Coffee Shop is a member of the Hemp Trade Association and all of its suppliers are accredited.
Warren said: “At the end of the day it’s all about personal choice. We don’t ever push it on anyone. We want to pay our way with coffees and cakes and the CBD is trying to help everyone else out.”
Lesley says she has felt the benefits of CBD oil, and her chronic pain has reduced considerably.
She said: “Everyone that has been in has been really happy with it, and everyone has wished us well.
“It would be great if those people who have bought from us could let us know how they’re getting on. Come and tell us your experiences of it.”
The World Health Organisation does not recommend cannabidiol for medical use.
But at its November 2017 meeting, the WHO Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD) concluded that, in its pure state, cannabidiol does not appear to have abuse potential or cause harm.
It also said: “Initial evidence from animal and human studies shows that its use could have some therapeutic value for seizures due to epilepsy and related conditions.
“Some people have been using cannabidiol to calm spasms during epileptic fits. The New England Journal of Medicine also published a study lately saying there is some evidence it may be effective during epileptic seizures. This means it could have some medical use but more evidence is needed.”
A spokesperson for the Morecambe Bay Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “The use of CBD oil is not included within medicines policies in Morecambe Bay and therefore we could not comment on any associated health impacts.”
Cannabinoids are able to elicit their natural balancing effects by interacting with the endocannabinoid system (ECS).
The ECS consists of a series of receptors that are configured to accept cannabinoids – including endocannabinoids that are synthesized by the body, and phytocannabinoids that are found in plants like hemp.
The ECS, responsible for regulating an array of physiological processes that are instrumental in maintaining health, was discovered less than 30 years ago.
A new company has been set up in Lancaster called CompareCBDonline.com, a comparison site for CBD oils that are available online.
They are based at Riversway House in Lancaster Road.
Sales director Steph Dawson, 54, a former nurse, said she started taking CBD and immediately noticed a reduction in her blood pressure and aching joints.
She said: “Just picture two middle aged women who have all the stresses and aches and pains associated with getting older, trying to find out about CBD oil.
“We were both new recruits in the CBD market and decided we would do some research into what products and companies were out there.
“It was like the blind leading the blind!
“We found a few sites and started trying to navigate around some of the worst websites I have ever looked at.
“The links didn’t take us to the correct pages, they would mention things like ‘Isolate’ but not tell you what it meant, and the saga continued.
“After an hour of basically finding nothing, we were ready to throw the laptop because we were so frustrated, when James, Bernie’s son walked in and asked us what we were doing.
“I told him about the research we were trying to do and said, ‘It would be so much easier if we had a Go Compare for CBD oil’.
“Two days later I was chatting with James when he said he was going to develop a comparison website for CBD products as a gift for his mum and I.
“He had a few people who were interested in doing this with him and Bernie and I joined the team.
“The team have been working tirelessly to get this ready to launch, but we are very nearly there and it is the largest CBD comparison site in the world.
“It has over 1,000 products with companies from the USA, Europe and the UK.”
James Fraser, Ryan Arkwright, and Lee Brennand describe themselves as brand ambassadors for a US based company that produces and sells CBD oil.
They recently attended a summit in Prague in the Czech Republic, to learn more about the science behind it.
James now hosts talks on the benefits of CBD at The Storey in Lancaster every Thursday at 7pm.
He said: “I talk about the Endocannabidinoid System and the history of hemp, people talk about their own experiences, people come to learn a little bit more and educate themselves.
“And we can put people in touch with products.
“I’d love it if people came to attend the meetings to find out more.”
Lee said: “We’re not doctors we’re people that have done a lot of research about it and we can point people in the right direction in terms of what might be right for them.
“We’re just trying to educate people about things they need to do, encouraging them to find their own sources and then they can come back and talk to us.
“I would say do your own due dilligence, look at the lab reports.
“There are a lot of companies out there that are false branding.” Lee said an individual would need 50mg of CBD per day to reach homeostasis - the maintenance of a constant environment within the body.
The nervous system and hormones are responsible for this.
James added: “It really excites me, so we need to tell people about it.
“If you’re sitting on something that could be really important, I think you’ve got to talk about it.
“It’s basic biology and unfortunately we’re not being educated about it.
“I’m going to try and do one talk every Thursday at 7pm at Exhale at The Storey.”