Even prior to the increasing global trend towards the legalisation of cannabis based medicinal products through healthcare providers, the presence of CBD products on the commercial market has exploded, with everything from CBD massage oils to chewing gum to gin. CBD is therefore quickly becoming an everyday product on the high street, but this expansion into the market is not entirely positive. Rather, as CBD products become more and more commonplace, the expectation of patients around its efficacy is complicated due to various competing claims from different, unregulated products.
What’s the difference between CBD supplements and medicinal cannabis?
Overwhelmingly, wellness products and hemp-based CBD products primarily made from cannabis sativa are classified as herbal supplements and remedies rather than as medicines. Therefore, CBD products can be seen as relatively similar to other popular herbal plant remedies like maca or turmeric.
What must be noted about these products though, despite the fact that self-administrated CBD may have generally beneficial health or placebo effects, is that no medicinal claims can be made about these products and they cannot be prescribed as medicines.
Therefore, GPs should be aware that discussions with patients about commercial CBD products should only be in regard to more minor lifestyle and dietary benefits and should only be discussed at the same time as discussions about proper clinical therapy are also taking place.
GPs should also be prepared to discuss with patients that there is little regulation with commercial CBD products so the efficacy of these products i slargely questionable and caution should therefore be taken when using them.
The problem with a lack of regulation
Notably, the lack of regulation and information around retail products and the quality of their constituent ingredients has led to certain products being exposed for having practically no beneficial ingredients or even worse, for containing potentially harmful ingredients with impurities and toxins.
Additionally, the cannabinoid balance within retail products also needs be carefully considered, as different extraction methods for producing CBD garner different results and concentrations of cannabinoids in the final product.
To account for such concerning differences within commercial CBD products, a good quality CBD supplement should provide as much information as is possible about the product. Certainly, the product should have a fully itemised ingredients and composition list and should also ideally show the lab testing results that demonstrate the product’s purity. At the very least, retail products should be Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) confirmed. Generally, if any retail products do not meet at least some of these conditions they should not be considered for use.
When selecting CBD products currently then, as there are no strict market regulations on retail CBD supplements, caution should be taken to ensure the products are GMP confirmed and have an itemised ingredient and composition list so that the product’s purity and cannabinoid concentration can be confirmed or at least estimated. Cautious investigation into the manufacturer and the product should also take place before using the product.
Most importantly for GPs, under no circumstances should such retail products be formally advised to patients as medicinal remedies for any symptoms. Rather,proper clinical therapies and care plans should be formulated in close collaboration with the patient to effectively treat their specific, personal needs.
Further investigation and research into cannabis use (both recreational and medical) is thoroughly encouraged by The Academy, particularly through the use of our own online courses, evidence base and whitepapers. Specific information on medical cannabis versus herbal medicine can be found in our free introductory course.