GDS 2020: CBD – what is it really good for?

From balms and shampoos to oils, capsules, brownies and herbal cultivars, CBD offers much, but what’s the evidence?

Professor Adam R Winstock, Consultant Psychiatrist and CEO, GDS

CBD is bloody everywhere. It’s transformation from being the less sought-after part of the cannabis plant to a multi-billion-dollar industry in the space of a few years is truly remarkable. It’s marketed to us as a universal solution to the creases of 21st century life, with little more actually on offer than a halo of wellbeing that that we can all bathe in (yep there are CBD bath bombs and skin creams) and feel better (and often much poorer) for.

Non-medical CBD has benefitted from the approval of predominately CBD based cannabis medicines that have demonstrated positive effects on certain forms of childhood epilepsy. But efficacy in one rare condition does not equate to wider benefits in other health conditions or even to promote general wellbeing. Penicillin is great if you have certain bacterial infections but not others. It’s an antibiotic so it’s not good for insomnia or headaches and offers nothing of value to you if you have nothing wrong with you are after a general pick me up.

Regulatory confusion across countries where it’s usually marketed as a health food supplement, means inaccurate labelling with respect to CBD and THC amounts is normal and seemingly tolerated.  Poor labelling and variable quality control often limit the potential of any individual to know exactly what they are consuming and hence determine any link between use and benefit beyond placebo – one of our best and cheapest medicines, if you are lucky enough to be receptive to such effects.

OK I think my cynicism may have crept through, but given the absence of regulation and quality control and zero requirements to substantiate any alluded to benefit, I do think many of the CBD products being marketed offers the greatest and most consistent benefit to the producers and marketeers, rather the consumer. However, my opinion is largely driven by a generic scepticism and unfamiliarity with the full body of research. And it is increasingly being challenged by people I meet who report significant and consistent benefits from pain relief and better sleep to helping with anxiety. GDS is always up for being challenged and learning.

So, as part of GDS2020 and as part of a deeper diver into medical cannabis we are running a CBD section this year. If you have used CBD in the last 12 months with the aim of treating a medical condition or just making you feel better or look better, we would love you to share your experience with us.

Please take some time out this week to help us figure out what the deal is with CBD so we can take a look at where your investment may be wise and when you might be better off looking elsewhere. Take part in GDS2020 at