Earlier this month, after the eighth week of government-imposed lockdown in the UK, reports emerged that sales of CBD across the nation had increased by £155m – a 50 per cent increase on 2019’s figures.
A study, from a private survey by Alphagreen.io, partly attributed the findings to more and more Brits looking to strengthen their immune system and focusing on self-care and wellbeing. This was clear in an additional 8.4million people purchasing since the onset of COVID-19.
According to Alexej Pikovsky, co-founder and CEO of Alphagreen, the survey “points to a heightened awareness of alternative health remedies and based on these trends, CBD product sales in the UK are likely to hit £450 million this year”.
With 21 per cent of those surveyed using CBD products to tackle insomnia and 19 per cent to address anxiety, it was found that women are more likely to be the core users for these purposes, with 42 per cent of overall users turning to the products for pain relief and management.
So is this survey really representative of the wider industry? Is CBD use soaring among those looking to develop their personal wellbeing?
It certainly seems to be the case at UK firm Safe CBD, explains company director and CBD entrepreneur Gareth Randle.
“After conducting my own trials with one month off and one month on CBD, I noticed a very big difference in my own fitness levels from the two phases. I noticed a good improvement in my recovery times, alertness and ability to push through the pain when it really burns!
“I decided to talk to a few personal trainers to find out their response and they have all been seeing benefits from taking CBD alongside their jobs, and more and more clients have been asking them about the products too.”
Gareth has discovered that the most popular products among this market are the sports gels which mainly aid with the relief of muscle pain, and the tinctures (oils) which also add an additional supplement to enhance recovery and sleep.
“In my experience,” explains Gareth, “people who train hard and have personal trainers want to improve themselves, becoming healthy and the best they can be, usually resorting to meal plans, strict diets, supplements and protein shakes. CBD is simple another supplement that more and more people are incorporating into their daily diets.”
Gareth explains that individuals with clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CECD) have a lower number of endogenous cannabinoids than considered necessary to promote health and wellbeing.
Scientists now believe CECD may play a role in fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), migraines, multiple sclerosis (MS), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), neuropathy, Huntington’s, Parkinson’s, motion sickness and Autism.
Gareth says: “Many of these conditions are treated with a range of medications that carry some heavy side effects. As the research develops, if CECD is found to be the culprit behind these conditions, CBD would help increase endocannabinoids in the body without many of the risks associated with pharmaceuticals.”
It’s not only in the UK that CBD sales have seen an increase since the onset of COVID-19. Across the pond, according to a new survey from the Brightfield Group (as reported in foodnavigator-usa.com), four in 10 CBD consumers plan to use CBD more frequently due to the pandemic, with 15 per cent looking to increase their dose.
Brightfield Group managing director Bethany Gomez says: “As the response around COVID-19 has ramped up and stores are shutting down, we are seeing e-commerce sales spike amongst some of the largest CBD companies.
“Questions abound on whether this [spike] is [just a refection of] people stockpiling, just as they are stockpiling toilet paper and rice, or if this is an indicator of future usage.”
The study shows that increased consumption can be expected. As anxiety of the number one ailment for CBD users (53 per cent of respondents reported this), with depression and insomnia falling in places three and four, CBD will be relied upon more heavily for those looking to maintain their health and wellbeing.
“When we analysed the social media posts involving CBD and the coronavirus, we found that the most common topic people were discussing was self-care,” says Bethany.
“With so much of the country in quarantine right now, many are turning to self-care indulgences to keep themselves sane and even just pass the time which is likely to help boost some CBD self-care products during quarantine time.”
While CBD retailers are enjoying a sales surge for a variety of purposes, cannabis research is also on the rise as a result of the virus outbreak.
A small-scale clinical trial at Rabin Medical Center Golda HaSharon Campus in Israel is studying the tolerability, safety and efficacy of CBD treatment for hospitalised patients with COVID-19 infections.
Due to its potential to enhance the therapeutic effect of steroid treatment, as well as treating the bio-mechanism affected by the virus, it is hoped that the study will lead to faster benefits for those suffering from COVID-19 symptoms.
Meanwhile, Olga and Igor Kovalchuk, of the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada, have been working with cannabis since 2015, using varieties from around the world to create new hybrids and develop extracts that demonstrate certain therapeutic properties.
When the COVID-19 outbreak began, the pair revisited their data to see if it could be used on this new virus. They started to examine the special proteins, or receptors, that the virus hijacks to enter the body, and have now submitted a research paper studying the effects of medical cannabis on COVID-19.
Elsewhere in Israel, a study backed by Israeli firm InnoCan Pharma Ltd, which has entered a sponsored research agreement with Ramot, the technology transfer arm of Tel Aviv University, is looking at treating the virus using CBD-loaded exomes – small particles created when stem cells are multiplied.
Revolutionary exosome-based technology has the potential to target both central nervous system (CNS) problems and the COVID-19 virus. CBD-loaded exosomes could provide a “highly synergistic” effect of anti-inflammatory properties and help in the recovery of infected lung cells, scientists believe.