The Magpie Anthology

CBD in the Time of Covid

Can this budding plant extraction provide lock-down relief? By Jane Cooke

First extracted from the cannabis plant in the 1940s, CBD is the second most prevalent cannabis compound and is finally being studied and used to alleviate an abundance of maladies, including the lock-down symptoms of anxiety, depression, cravings and joint and muscle pain.  A quick ‘CBD scan’ through historical accounts tells us that cannabis has been used without hesitation for over 6,000 years, mainly in India and Asia, for its health benefits. (Boy, can we be late to a party here in the west!) CBD (cannabidiol, not cannabis oil) in particular – a benign compound found in cannabis and a bountiful gift of nature – doesn’t make you hallucinate, giggly and helpless, or tempt you to try heroin.

Western understanding of cannabis was only realised in the 1800s when an Irish doctor learned of its medicinal uses in India – a continent that has managed to preserve its use of natural medicine alongside the rise of pharmaceuticals. CBD is now approved by the FDA in the US and currently in the UK, manufacturers can put as much or as little CBD as they like in their products. This makes choosing a good product difficult. A new European Food Safety Authority has ruled that CBD products may need to go through robust safety checks, which will promote clarity and quality but many take years to complete. (We may have side-stepped this due to Brexit!)

As the free market dictates, thousands of companies have stampeded to market, selling CBD products of wildly varying quality and effectiveness. Plenty more research is needed to satisfy the medical community of its safety and benefits before the true value of CBD can be realised, but it’s finally well underway with President Nixon’s ‘war on drugs’ vibe now mercifully on the wane. In the meantime, the key to navigating this market explosion and finding a product for certain non-viral ‘Covid Complications’ is to understand some basic names and facts, what constitutes a quality product and how to take it for your individual needs.

CBD Explosion!

It’s sold as creams, oils, tinctures, balms, serums, edibles like gummy sweets and honey sticks, patches, paste and even suppositories – and added to beard oil, candles, mascara, facemasks, lattes, vapes and sex lubricants!

Terminology Essentials

  • Cannabis contains more than 480 chemical compounds, including many that have only recently been, or are yet to be, studied.
  • CBD (Cannabidiol) is the second most prevalent compound and is ‘non-pyschotic’ (won’t get you high).
  • CBD oil ­– oil is just one of many carriers for Cannabidiol (others include creams and edibles).
  • THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), not to be confused with CBD, is the compound that will get you high – it’s ‘psychotic’.
  • Hemp and cannabis are one and the same plant but different uses determine how the plant is grown.
    (Hemp is used for industrial purposes like clothing and rope, the plant is grown taller an thicker and it contains next to no THC, whereas cannabis plants, from which shorter, leafier plants are grown for medicinal and recreational uses will contain 5% or more of THC. It’s all in the horticulture.)
  • Hemp oil (or cannabis sativa seed oil) is extracted from hemp seeds, it’s rich in fatty acids and great for skin hydration, but it doesn’t contain much CBD, if any.
  • Medicinal marijuana is refined THC and/or CBD without the nasties or variables that make research unreliable and give cannabis a bad reputation.
  • CBD plus THC, though often consumed together, have widely different effects and sometimes interfere with one another. ­CBD can lessen the effect of THC (making it ‘anti-psychotic’).
  • Still with me?

Natural chemical reactions are constantly taking place in our brains and produce our perception of reality. Certain chemicals (‘drugs’), when ingested, combine with chemical receptors (neurotransmitters) in our brains and elsewhere in the body, altering this perception. We all know about alcohol, nicotine and probably serotonin and melatonin, for example, and this is how CBD works too. CBD acts positively as a receptor for serotonin, for example, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood and social behaviour.

CBD and THC (‘The High Compound’) interact with the body in very different ways. It’s early days, but CBD appears to partially counteract the mind-altering effects of THC and to have anti-psychotic effects! Medical marijuana with a high CBD content generally produces a more calming effect, and possibly an anti-depressant one too. This is why the two compounds are often combined for treatment. Treatment for childhood epilepsy, for example, will contain high CBD and low THC. But with so many cannabis compounds, separating out the individual effects from the ‘whole plant’ synergy is at entry level.

CBD & Medicinal Marijuana Uses (possible ‘Covid Complications’)

Scientifically-proven treatments: improved short-term sleep, anxiety reduction with associated blood pressure decrease, chronic pain in adults (joint and muscle pain from inactivity or trying new forms of exercise), inflammation (from over-doing the gardening or jogging), epilepsy (specifically two forms of the childhood disease), nausea and vomiting during chemotherapy, reduced patient-reported symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS).

Reported, ‘anecdotal’ treatments: reduction in cravings (including tobacco and alcohol), depression, inflammation, IBS, paranoia, PTSD, dementia, schizophrenia, Tourette’s Syndrome, symptoms related to cancer and the side effects caused by cancer treatment, psoriasis and osteoporosis.

Case in Point

Charley Hoffman, the golfer, signed up to promote a new line of CBD products after the World Anti-Doping Agency took it off the prohibited list in 2018.

Saracens rugby players, George Kruis and Dominic Day have launched their own CBD online business, embracing CBD after experiencing increased calmness, faster physical recovery after training and injury and a preference for natural, organic alternative to prescription medication. Hundreds of professional athletes are now using CBD in rugby, boxing, MMA, track and field, diving and swimming – see

Not on the High Street

With health food, beauty and specialist stores currently closed for CBD lock-down relief purchases, we turn to the Internet. As a general rule, if you can buy it on the high street or from ‘generalist’ stores online, your CBD product is unlikely to contain high doses of CDB and definitely no THC. Over-the-counter CBD products in oils, tinctures and tablets typically provide 10-60mg of active ingredient as a recommended daily intake. (Low doses of 100mg or less and are a highly effective food supplement.) High doses of over 100mg can interact with prescription drugs so take medical advice before exploring these if in doubt.

Another factor to consider is the ‘bioavailability’ of CBD as some formulas lose much of the active CBD during digestion.

Lab tests from the Centre for Medical Cannabis in London last year found that 38% of high street CBD oil products contained less than half the quantity advertised and many products contained high levels of ethanol (alcohol) – one even enough to qualify it as an alcoholic beverage – wine is cheaper! Unfortunately, it seems that the most expensive products are producing the best results. The factors that make a quality product in this market: small-batch production, elaborate extraction techniques, organic farming and multiple rounds of third party testing contribute to high prices for good CBD products.

Once you’ve found a quality product, you need to consider the how you take it and which dosage to use. Taking it sub-lingually (under the tongue) is a good method for general wellbeing benefits as it goes directly into blood stream, while a topical application to the skin is better for targeted areas, like sore muscles, but takes longer to work. UK-based pioneers in the fine art of CBD consumption, Marisa Schwab and Floriane von der Forst, provide top-end CBD products and first-rate advice on which type of product to take for what symptom – see

As with all medicines and remedies, it’s not one-size fits all (something sadly outside the remit of the NHS). Everyone is different, and the dosage you need will be influenced by your age, weight, metabolism, diet and numerous other variables. The amount you need also depends on what you’re using it for and the severity of your symptoms. You can discover the best CBD dosage for your individual needs using an AI algorithm and then track and analyse the results using an app – see

The surging popularity of CBD (among ‘boomers’ especially) and increasing research and development into its potential health benefits herald a new era in which we understand, rather than fear, the cannabis plant. Many of us are upping our health regimes during the Covid era – to help reduce stress and anxiety, sleep better, and alleviate chronic pain – and CBD can play an essential part. This is only beginning of our understanding of CBD and many researchers believe it will prove more important that THC for medicinal usage. I could express my excitement at the growth of research into THC as well, but as a UK Government-registered primary health care professional I choose not to – yet!


Cannabis – The New Wave

An ancient remedy in a modern market

21.9.19 by Jane Cooke

E mail: Jane Cooke

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