It’s said to help everything from insomnia to anxiety and joint pain and as a result, is one of the most in-demand supplements of the moment. It’s also one of the most misunderstood - here’s what you need to know if you’re thinking of taking it

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Medicinal cannabis may only available when prescribed by a specialist doctor, but its less controversial counterpart, cannabidiol (CBD) can be found on the shelves of your local health shop and is fast-becoming one of the most buzzed about supplements on the market.

Derived from hemp  plants, it has a wide range of purported health benefits that include the relief of joint pain and stress. Meg Mathews , founder of , has even said that it helped ease her menopause -related anxiety. "It has beneficial effects on the brain to promote relaxation, better sleep, and general feelings of wellbeing," Healthspan  Medical Director Dr Sarah Brewer explains and, in case you were worried, it won’t make you high. “CBD is non-intoxicating and void of any psychoactive-inducing properties," she says. What's more, CBD face oils  are also starting to spring up, proving just how versatile the chemical is.

How CBD can benefit both body and mind

In a nutshell, CBD has a direct effect on brain receptors to reduce pain perception and lift mood. “The way it does this though is utterly natural and extremely clever,” says Dr Brewer. “It enhances the effects of other natural brain chemicals like serotonin (often described as the happiness hormone) without stimulating the parts of your brain that marijuana does (because of its THC content).” It’s therefore not addictive as it doesn’t produce the same ‘high’ as marijuana does. It’s also been linked to helping those with social anxiety  and is being investigated as a treatment for panic attacks , OCD  and post-traumatic stress disorder  too.

It can also help the sleep-derived. “CBD is a popular treatment for insomnia, and promotes refreshing REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement - the dream phase) to reduce excessive daytime drowsiness,” says Dr Brewer, a benefit that she’s experienced first-hand. “Since I started taking a CBD oil capsule at night, I’ve slept really deeply and awoke feeling refreshed.”

From a physical perspective, CBD extracts have been linked to the relief of joint pain  due to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.

Taking a CBD oil supplement - start gradually

A gradual approach is recommended - start low and build up your intake if needed. “For general wellbeing, I’d recommend a dose of 6.4mg one to three times a day, or 15mg strength once or twice a day (i.e. up to 30mg per day),” advises Dr Brewer. Check the advice on dosage that accompanies your CBD supplement of choice though, as instructions can vary.

There are also several ways to get your CBD fix. CBD oil, the fastest way to get it into your system, capsules and powders. CBD oil has a slightly bitter taste that can linger in the mouth though, so capsules such as those from Healthspan , from £27.95, might make it easier to swallow. “Healthspan’s CBD oil is obtained from industrial hemp plants that are grown in Europe without herbicides or pesticides, is purified, independently tested to ensure they are non-GMO and certified to contain trace amounts of psychoactive ingredients such as THC,” says Dr Brewer. She highlights that trace elements of THC will have zero effect on your physical or mental state. Healthspan is also a member of Cannabis Trades Association UK, a body that ensures legal and ethical CBD trading standards and provides certification of analysis at the point of sale to show the actual CBD and THC testing levels for each batch.

There have been lots of new launches as of late, one of particular interest being Lloyds Pharmacy’s Celtic Wind Crops Multi-Complex range  of CBD products. As well as CBD capsules , £74.99, and a CBD powder , £64.99, that you can add to porridge, cereals and smoothies, you’ll also find two 5% strength CBD oils ( 10ml for £19.99  and 30ml for £79.99 ). “LloydsPharmacy has chosen to stock Celtic Wind Crops  CBD oil as it’s one of the only products to use 100% of the whole hemp plant; many other brands extract the CBD seed oil and place it into another carrier oil, which can change the overall product’s profile,” says Shilpa Shah, LloydsPharmacy Pharmacist. “Celtic Wind’s manufacturing process means they can identify exactly where the crop is sourced from and how the products are manufactured which is very important to us.” What’s more, their CBD oil doesn’t contain herbicides or pesticides and is gluten-free and suitable for vegans too. By also providing the supplements in a pharmacy environment, customers can also seek out information from trained healthcare professionals to better inform their purchases.

Another product that has acquired a following as of late is Purephyto . Not only does the brand's range of products come with endorsements from world champion boxer Billy Joe Saunders and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu champion Kywan Gracie, but George Lamb  also recommended the supplement to his mother to help her manage the symptoms of her chronic rheumatoid arthritis. The result is that it reduced the number of painkillers she took per week from 20-30 to 12.

The side-effects

On the whole, Dr Brewer highlights that CBD’s pretty well-tolerated across a wide dosage range (of up to 200mg per day when taken orally). There are a few aspects to bear in mind though but nothing to be too concerned about. “Reported side-effects such as dry mouth, low blood pressure, lightheadedness and drowsiness are rare,” says Dr Brewer. “A report from the World Health Organisation (WHO) on CBD also confirms that it has a good safety profile too.”

It can conflict with some prescribed medications though. “CBD interacts with liver enzymes involved in breaking down many of them,” Dr Brewer explains. “This can slow the way some drugs are metabolised, so blood levels rise, which may lead to side-effects. If you are taking any prescribed medicines, it’s important to check with a doctor or pharmacist before taking CBD. If your doctor is unable to help,  has a useful drug interactions checker  which, while it does not specifically include cannabidiol (CBD), does include cannabis. If your medicine is known to interact with grapefruit juice, then you should also avoid taking CBD as well.”

Furthermore, CBD's not for use during pregnancy or breastfeeding too.