Cannabidiol (CBD) from Hemp, the rising star molecule fascinating the natural markets. A view from Europe Dr. David Daguet, PhD Scientific Director
CBD, the iconic representative compound of Cannabis sativa, is the subject of a rocketing trend, but this substance and the very exciting opportunities it brings is still facing barriers worldwide. Hemp is becoming a significantly interesting raw material for different reasons. Several ingredients with health benefits have been identified in all parts of the plant. Obtained from the seeds, hemp oil and hemp proteins present high nutritional values, while the stems can be used to produce eco-friendly insulation for houses. Regarding physiological properties, the flowers produce compounds called cannabinoids, such as the well-known CBD or THC. Over 100 cannabinoids have already been identified, and very recently two new cannabinoids have been discovered, one of them being much more psychoactive than the well-known THC.
Last but not least, one major key advantage of hemp is its limited environmental impact and feasible agronomical properties, making its cultivation a valuable diversification of agriculture. Hemp cultivation could become a new source of work and income for farmers.
A lot of confusion, despite promising health benefits
Even if the frontiers between the pharmaceutical and nutraceutical, not to mention physiological, properties of CBD must be disentangled, clarification must also be provided in communication concerning hemp cannabinoids. Despite its promising and innovative components, hemp is harshly and inconsistently regulated in the European Union, for example. To illustrate this purpose, it should be considered that in France, crops are strictly regulated and only 20 varieties of hemp are authorised to be grown. These controlled varieties are characterised by less than 0.2% THC and a low amount of CBD, leading to THC-free oils and proteins naturally containing very low levels of cannabinoids such as CBD. A low natural level of cannabinoids in the final products is the result of traditional transformation processes, and not intentional enrichment. Based on this very strict traceability, Vidya is able to produce hemp seed oil with high nutritional values and proteins with no THC and naturally low level of residual cannabinoids.
Hemp seems to suffer from an undeserved “bad” reputation. Indeed, despite the fact that CBD is not psychoactive and has been used for more than 50 years in some countries for its health benefits, media and consumers still confuse CBD and the psychotropic compound THC.
Regarding the health benefits of CBD, it seems that CBD may help to manage anxiety and mood disorders. The anxiolytic effects of CBD have been extensively demonstrated in animal studies and in healthy volunteers subjected to anxiety induced by several situations including the simulation of public speaking, for example. More precisely, CBD seems to act on the reduction of anticipatory anxiety. A recent clinical study conducted in Japan confirmed the very interesting anxiolytic activity of CBD on a specific population of teenagers with social anxiety disorders. After only 4 weeks, the evaluation in the form of a questionnaire showed that CBD decreased their anxiety . Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, CBD seems to indicate positive results for the relief of joint pain, even if more studies are needed to clarify the mechanism of action and the active dosages . The analgesic property of CBD is often used in pharmaceutical products in association with THC . The analgesic property of CBD, as well as its anxiolytic property have been confirmed in a study on 397 subjects conducted in New Zealand, but with limitations due to individual reactions to the treatment . The long-term uses of hemp extracts, for health purposes associated with the treatment of diseases that are aimed at improving a patient’s quality of life, are still not globally recognised. Dravet syndrome or resistant epilepsy may be alleviated by CBD . Interestingly, in the context of refractory epilepsy treatment, CBD-rich extracts seem to present a better therapeutic profile than purified CBD, at least for the population of patients studied with refractory epilepsy. The roots of this difference are likely due to the synergetic effects of CBD with other phytocompounds . CBD is currently used by people suffering from multiple sclerosis. Effectively CBD could be advisable to reduce fatigue, pain, spasticity, and ultimately improve mobility . Because of an ageing global population, CBD’s ability to provide neuroprotection should also be considered . As described above, CBD could be a valuable natural alternative for epilepsy and multiple sclerosis providing more comfort in patients’ lives and it may also provide beneficial effects for those with Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
Which regulatory status for CBD?
CBD is a very promising compound for the nutraceutical market, due to its numerous potential health benefits, but it is also used and coveted by the pharmaceutical industry. The criteria required for the future authorisation of CBD in nutraceutical products are of two main considerations:
• The physiological properties and related health benefits provided by CBD independently of therapeutic properties.
• And the authorised dosages enabling the physiological health benefits, which are lower than the pharmaceutical ones.
There is no shortage of examples in the current regulations to pave the way for CBD, like with ascorbic acid. At high doses of often more than 1,000 mg/day, ascorbic acid, better known as vitamin C, is a medicinal product, while at lower doses compatible with Recommended Daily Intakes, it is a food supplement. And finally, at a very low dosage, it is the food additive E300, an antioxidant that protects food.
Then the debate could focus on determining what dosage of CBD should be classified in each type of use. Despite their various interests and promises, CBD and hemp are still facing opinion and regulatory barriers in Europe. Now allowed in several states of the US, although uncertainties still remain at a national level, there is no doubt that CBD will be authorised both in Europe and in North America.
Spotlight on the regulatory status of CBD in Europe.
Very recently, CBD has been classified as a Novel Food, but with some restrictions concerning products derived from Cannabis sativa: “Some products derived from the Cannabis sativa plant or plant parts such as seeds, seed oil, hemp seed flour, defatted hemp seed have a history of consumption in the EU and therefore, are not novel. Other specific national legislation may restrict the entrance into the market of this product as a food or food ingredient in some Member States. Therefore, it is recommended to check the status of Cannabis sativa with the competent national authorities” (EU Novel Food catalogue ).
The Novel Food Catalogue states on cannabinoids including CBD: “extracts of Cannabis sativa L. and derived products containing cannabinoids are considered novel foods as a history of consumption has not been demonstrated. This applies to both the extracts themselves and any products to which they are added as an ingredient (such as hemp seed oil). This also applies to extracts of other plants containing cannabinoids. Synthetically obtained cannabinoids are considered as novel”.
Considering the two above statements about Cannabis sativa and cannabinoids, hemp seeds, flour and seed oil remain excluded from the categorisation of Novel Foods if cannabinoids have not been added as ingredients. Consequently, traces of cannabinoids, but with undetectable THC, are then authorised because they have not been added as an ingredient.
This information should be treated with caution as the Catalogue has no legal status. In practice, it is the national authorities that have the final say on whether foods containing CBD may be placed on their market with a varied range of decisions. For example, in Ireland, the authorisation of CBD products will be based on the manufacturing process applied; oil prepared through the cold pressing of hemp seeds may be sold on the basis that this oil contains low levels of CBD. In contrast, Belgium does not authorise products that contain CBD.
Vidya is currently working with the professional union Synadiet and some new products could be registered in France even though Vidya’s products contain only natural traces of CBD. For any help, or to discover our cold-pressed hemp seed oil and proteins cultivated and made in France, please contact our sales team.
Is the future promising?
Considering the present regulatory situation, and how it is changing this seems complicated. The FDA concluded that CBD does not meet the definition of a food supplement, while in Europe, CBD has been classified as a novel food, THC always being classified as a narcotic. Even if the FDA has pledged to define the regulatory conditions of lawful sales of Cannabis sativa-derived products, the process will be long. The first step will be the definition of safe ingredients.
Considering that the interest, the curiosity and also the knowledge of consumers, or potential consumers, concerning CBD or hemp-derived products is still increasing, we should be optimistic. The sales of existing products are still increasing, and more and more new products are entering the market despite the regulatory situation.
Effectively, pressure from consumers, and in some case patients that have no choice but to improve their quality of life by taking CBD, could help CBD to be authorised for use in food supplements. We could then hope that cannabinoids, and more specifically CBD, will no longer be the symbol of the difficulties encountered by the nutraceutical, food & beverage, or even cosmetic, markets by introducing innovative plant-based renewable ingredients.
At Vidya we are confident in a positive future for CBD in food supplements. As a result, we continue to improve our knowledge and to implement our technical platform, using analytical tools and capacities to be able to positively respond to market expectations.
In an ideal world, hemp will become one of the best representative case studies on our modern ability to rapidly develop an eco-friendly, sustainable and circular profitable economy. But this is not an ideal world.
There is a consumer demand for CBD and hemp-derived products. Scientific studies, experiments and clinical trials are discovering and demonstrating the physiological properties and health benefits of CBD. Hemp cultivation could represent a new source of income for farmers. As a result of all of this, we may wonder if our scientific tools, the new ingredients and claims regulations, the safety procedures, are really adequate for consumer expectations, really adequate for the innovation requirements and the unstoppable globalisation of the market.
The coming years will provide the answers.