Saturday, 5 May 2018

CBD Oil in the UK

Related imageThe issues surrounding medical marijuana and the legalisation of CBD in the United States are pretty well known. This is not the case in the United Kingdom so you may be surprised to learn that CBD oil sold in the UK is legal, with caveats. In this CBD, we outline what CBD is, how it can help you, its exact legal status in the UK, the types of products available and the most reputable companies.

CBD Basics
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of over 100 identified compounds (called cannabinoids) in the cannabis plant. It is probably the second best known (behind tetrahydrocannabinol or THC), but it is the most abundant compound. Unlike THC which is known to get you ‘high,’ CBD is non-psychoactive which means it is even safe for kids to consume it.

Cannabinoids are agonists and bind directly to the cannabinoid receptors on your cells. These receptors are found all over the body, especially on the skin, digestive tract and also in your reproductive organs. When you consume cannabis, you are ingesting agonists that interact with different cannabinoid receptors in the body. These receptors are part of the larger endocannabinoid system (ECS).
The ECS is an enormous network of cell receptor proteins with various functions. Your ECS is involved in mood, immune function, motor control, memory, sleep, appetite, pain perception, bone development and much more. The ECS also has four primary functions: energy balance, immune balance, stress recovery and neuroprotection. CBD interacts with the balancing system to provide users with medicinal benefits.

The CBD molecule has a similar composition to chemicals created naturally by the body known as endocannabinoids. Rather than getting bogged down by scientific details about why CBD works, let’s check out a few benefits.

CBD Oil Benefits
Image result for cbd oil
The rising demand for high-THC cannabis strains meant that CBD took a back seat for far too long. Legal issues surrounding THC finally ensured the development of the CBD market. Over in the United States, the case of Charlotte Figi brought CBD into the international spotlight.

Charlotte suffers from Dravet’s Syndrome, a rare condition which caused the unfortunate girl to have hundreds of seizures a week. After taking a cannabis strain with a high CBD content and practically no THC, her seizures were reduced to a couple per month. Soon, medical research found that CBD was not only useful for kids with epilepsy, but it also had a variety of uses. You can take CBD if you suffer from any of the following:

  • Diabetes
  • Chronic pain
  • An anxiety disorder
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Depression
  • Motor disorders
  • Cancer
  • Psychotic disorders

There has been a variety of medical studies which show that CBD is capable of helping patients with each of the above conditions. While it is not necessarily a ‘cure,’ CBD can significantly improve your mood and ease painful symptoms with no side effects. Crucially, an increasing number of patients are dumping their addictive prescription medication in favour of cannabidiol. However, what is its current legal status of CBD oil in the UK?

CBD in UK Laws
On October 13, 2016, the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) decided to classify CBD as a medicinal ingredient. It confirmed and updated the decision on December 30, 2016. This is a significant change to the law in the UK as it means CBD is not just a ‘food supplement’ like it is in the United States.

According to the director of inspection and enforcement at the MHRA, the organisation decided that CBD was medicine. It came to that conclusion based on evidence that people are using the product in the belief it will help their medical condition.

It is a decision designed to improve the standard of CBD on the market which is potentially great news for consumers. Previously, people were forced to purchase their CBD on an unregulated and potentially dangerous market. Now, manufacturers have to prove that their CBD products meet a set level of quality, safety and effectiveness standards. However, there is some concern that the MHRA’s set of criteria is too strict which may lead to a shortage of CBD.

Image result for chronic painThe decision is bad news for smaller suppliers because if manufacturers require a license to sell or else they have register CBD products as traditional herbal remedies, they will pay a small fortune. The application costs over £100,000!

It is important to note that cannabis is still illegal as it is not considered to have therapeutic value. As a result, you can be arrested and charged with possession. We hope this landmark decision is the beginning of a drive to legalise marijuana in the UK (at least for medicinal purposes), but we have to admit, such a ruling is a long way away if it ever happens at all.

Types of CBD Products Sold in the UK

CBD Hemp Oil
CBD oil is the most popular product sold in the UK. It is available in different strengths and comes in the form of oil that has been extracted from the cannabis plant via supercritical CO2 extraction. The best brands sell full spectrum CBD oil which means you benefit from a host of terpenes and legal cannabinoids. To consume, simply place a few drops beneath your tongue, hold it for a few seconds and swallow.

Alternatively, you could create an e-liquid from it and vape in the same way as you normally would with an e-cigarette.

CBD Capsules
If you don’t like the taste of oil, you can get your fill of CBD in capsule form. Simply swallow with water and reap the rewards of this amazing medicinal product.

CBD Edibles
If you have a sweet tooth, why not try a CBD edible? You can purchase gummy bears, taffy, and mints filled with premium quality CBD.

CBD Lotion & Balms
If you suffer from joint pain or chronic pain in a specific part of the body, a lotion made with CBD can provide therapeutic relief. It takes a little longer to work than oil but its effects last longer.

Where to Buy CBD Oil in the UK
Although the MHRA ruling should improve the standard of CBD sold in the UK, it is best to focus on reputable companies with an established reputation in the marketplace. Elixinol is a world-renowned CBD seller, and its oil has been featured in publications such as CNN, National Geographic, Newsweek, and CBS to name but four.

The company was founded by Paul Benhaim who has been involved in the industry since 1991. As well as selling CBD oil in the UK, Elixinol also offers hemp oil liposomes, Respira hemp oil, and balm.

Image result for cbd oil
Then there is Purekana. While PureKana does not have a British presence, it does ship internationally and sells one of the best forms of CBD oil in the world. It is a relatively new company but has already gained brand recognition around the globe. It specialises in CBD oil but also offers CBD gummies, capsules and ointment.

Final Thoughts on CBD Oil UK
The UK CBD market is far from saturated, but you must still perform due diligence when purchasing CBD oil or any other product. CBD is capable of reducing the painful symptoms of a wide range of illnesses and is a natural alternative to prescription drugs.

The MHRA ruling should improve the quality of CBD oil sold in the UK, but it has also led to an air of uncertainty. Will all sellers need a specific license? Will they be prosecuted for selling without such a license? There are numerous unanswered questions, but we hope things are made clear soon.


Monday, 2 April 2018

Matcha Tea

Image result for matchaMatcha is a finely ground powder of specially grown and processed green tea leaves. It is special in two aspects of farming and processing: the green tea plants for matcha are shade-grown for about three weeks before harvest and the stems and veins are removed in processing. During shaded growth, the plant Camellia sinensis produces more theanine and caffeine.

The powdered form of matcha is consumed differently from tea leaves or tea bags, and is dissolved in a liquid, typically water or milk. The traditional Japanese tea ceremony centres on the preparation, serving, and drinking of matcha as hot tea and embodies a meditative spiritual style. In modern times, matcha also has come to be used to flavor and dye foods such as mochi and soba noodles, green tea ice cream, matcha lattes, and a variety of Japanese wagashi confectionery. Often, the former is referred to as ceremonial-grade matcha, meaning that the matcha powder is good enough for tea ceremony. The latter is referred to as culinary-grade matcha, but there is no standard industry definition or requirements for either.

Blends of matcha are given poetic names known as chamei ("tea names") either by the producing plantation, shop, or creator of the blend, or, by the grand master of a particular tea tradition. When a blend is named by the grand master of a tea ceremony lineage, it becomes known as the master's konomi, or a Butcher block of Leaf.

Related imageIn China during the Tang Dynasty (618–907), tea leaves were steamed and formed into tea bricks for storage and trade. The tea was prepared by roasting and pulverizing the tea, and decocting the resulting tea powder in hot water, then adding salt.[2] During the Song Dynasty (960–1279), the method of making powdered tea from steam-prepared dried tea leaves, and preparing the beverage by whipping the tea powder and hot water together in a bowl became popular.

Preparation and consumption of powdered tea was formed into a ritual by Chan or Zen Buddhists. The earliest extant Chan monastic code, entitled Chanyuan Qinggui (Rules of Purity for the Chan Monastery, 1103), describes in detail the etiquette for tea ceremonies.

Zen Buddhism and the Chinese methods of preparing powdered tea were brought to Japan in 1191 by the monk Eisai. Although powdered tea has not been popular in China for some time, now there is a global resurgence in Matcha tea consumption, including in China. In Japan it continued to be an important item at Zen monasteries, and became highly appreciated by others in the upper echelons of society during the fourteenth through sixteenth centuries.

Matcha is made from shade-grown tea leaves that also are used to make gyokuro. The preparation of matcha starts several weeks before harvest and may last up to 20 days, when the tea bushes are covered to prevent direct sunlight.

Image result for matcha teaThis slows down growth, stimulates an increase in chlorophyll levels, turns the leaves a darker shade of green, and causes the production of amino acids, in particular theanine. Only the finest tea buds are hand-picked. After harvesting, if the leaves are rolled up before drying as in the production of sencha, the result will be gyokuro (jade dew) tea. If the leaves are laid out flat to dry, however, they will crumble somewhat and become known as tencha (??). Then, tencha may be de-veined, de-stemmed, and stone-ground to the fine, bright green, talc-like powder known as matcha.

Grinding the leaves is a slow process, because the mill stones must not get too warm, lest the aroma of the leaves is altered. It may take up to one hour to grind 30 grams of matcha. The flavour of matcha is dominated by its amino acids. The highest grades of matcha have more intense sweetness and deeper flavour than the standard or coarser grades of tea harvested later in the year.

So what's all the buzz about matcha tea and why is it gaining such popularity? 

Matcha Green Tea has a sweet, grassy taste that makes a delightful cup and is best when mixed with milk or soy milk for an instant green tea beverage. It can also be used as an ingredient in recipes for matcha lattes, smoothies, shakes, ice cream, baking, etc. It consists of crushed up tea leaves that end up in powdered form, so it is not steeped in water like traditional tea. However, that is not the primary reason why it is different. 

Matcha Green Tea production starts about 20-30 days before harvest, when the tea bushes are covered or placed in shade. To compensate for the dark growing conditions, the plant produces increased levels of chlorophyll and amino acids. 

Increased levels may just be an understatement, because some studies have shown that Matcha produces over 20 times more anti-oxidants of regular loose green tea, and surpasses other super foods known for their anti-oxidant properties. 

 Here’s a quick comparison for an idea of the Matcha Green Tea anti-oxidant levels: 

  • 6.2 times that of goji berries
  • 7 times that of dark chocolate
  • 17 times that of wild blueberries
  • 24 times that of acai berries
  • 60.5 times that of spinach 

You can read how tea is made and the differences in the various teas including green tea: 
In addition, some tests have shown that it has cancer preventing properties, anti-ageing properties, lowers LDL cholesterol, aids in weight loss, and increases energy. There are several different grades of Matcha, from an affordable grade for every day drinking, to rare and expensive ceremonial grades. 

The Japanese have been drinking it for centuries and have a ceremony that centers on the preparation, serving, and drinking matcha. Even some westerners have found the preparation ceremony relaxing and enjoyable. Preparation does not have to be elaborate however, it can be as simple as adding a few drops of hot water to the matcha powder to create a paste, then add more water to the mixture and stir. 

Grades Of Matcha
Location on the tea bush

Where leaves destined for tencha are picked on the tea bush (Camellia sinensis) is vital. The very top should have developing leaves that are soft and supple. This gives a finer texture to higher grades of matcha. More-developed leaves are harder, giving lower grades a sandy texture. The better flavour is a result of the plant sending the majority of its nutrients to the growing leaves.

Traditionally, sencha leaves are dried outside in the shade and never areexposed to direct sunlight, however, now drying mostly has moved indoors. Quality matcha is vibrantly green also as a result of this treatment.

Without the correct equipment and technique, matcha can become "burnt" and suffer degraded quality. Typically in Japan matcha is stone-ground to a fine powder through the use of specially designed granite stone mills.

Oxidation is also a factor in determining grade. Matcha exposed to oxygen may easily become compromised. Oxidized matcha has a distinctive hay-like smell and a dull brownish-green colour.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Natural vs Synthetic HRT

If you’ve talked to your doctor about menopause, it’s quite likely you’ve been offered HRT: hormone replacement therapy. This medication provides synthetic versions of the hormones which naturally decline during menopause, usually given in a combined form with oestrogen and progesterone. It’s natural to want to find a solution to the symptoms you’re experiencing, and many in the medical profession see HRT as a solution for all symptoms of menopause. However, HRT does have its pros and cons, and there are natural alternatives to consider.

The pros and cons of HRT
Some women swear by HRT and have found great comfort in relief from their symptoms of night sweats, insomnia, continual hot flushes and vaginal dryness. Unfortunately, when you stop taking HRT, you’ll go through menopause again as your hormones decline.

HRT may also be prescribed if your doctor believes you are at risk of osteoporosis, due to the effects of oestrogen on supporting bone turnover. However, HRT has been shown to increase your risk of ovarian and breast cancer, with a review in the Lancet in 2015 showing that even short term use of HRT could increase ovarian cancer risk by up to 43%.

Natural Alternatives to HRT
Image result for natural HRTVitamin E: Around 75% of menopausal women experience hot flushes, and research has shown a significant reduction in their severity and frequency from taking 400IU of vitamin E per day. The same dose of vitamin E has also been shown to help reduce vaginal dryness. Good food sources include avocados, seed oils, nuts, leafy green vegetables, whole grains and wheat germ. If you opt for a vitamin E supplement, look for one that contains d-alpha-tocopherol, as this is better absorbed.

Omega 3 essential fatty acids: The signs of omega 3 deficiency are similar to many symptoms experienced during menopause: dry skin, fatigue, depression, and aching joints. Omega 3 essential fats also support hormone balance, and have a lubricating effect in the body, so may help with vaginal dryness, and have been linked to a reduction in risk of breast cancer. Good food sources include oily fish (salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, seafood and fresh tuna), nuts, seeds and green leafy vegetables.
Image result for natural HRT
If you don’t like fish, it’s worth supplementing fish oil daily. Look for one with at least 200mg of EPA per daily dose. For vegetarians, include flax and chia seeds in your daily diet, and look for a vegetarian omega 3 supplement.

Black cohosh: This medicinal herb has been used for centuries to support menopausal women, and may help with hot flushes, depression, night sweats and vaginal dryness. Research has shown an improvement in symptoms in up to 80% of women using black cohosh within six to eight weeks.

There’s been a lot of controversy over this herb, with some calling into question the safety of black cohosh on breast tissue. However, most recent research suggests that black cohosh is a selective oestrogen receptor modulator (SERM), which means that it stimulates only certain oestrogen receptors in the body: namely, the bones and the brain, and not womb or breast tissue. The best way to take black cohosh is as a supplement, and some menopause supporting supplements contain this herb. Or you could visit your local medical herbalist who can make you a bespoke tincture containing black cohosh.

Phytoestrogenic foods: Foods rich in phytoestrogens may help to moderate symptoms of menopause due their effect on oestrogen receptors on the cell membrane. In cases where oestrogen levels are low, they lock into receptors and stimulate a mild oestrogenic effect. Where there is an oestrogen excess, the phytoestrogens block cell receptors. Foods rich in phytoestrogens include soya foods such as miso, tempeh and tofu, lentils, linseeds, mungbeans, garlic, fennel, parsley and celery.
Image result for herbs for menopause
Milk thistle: The active ingredient in milk thistle is a bioflavonoid called silymarin, which can help to support hormonal balance through its protective action on the liver. Any excess hormones we have in our body are detoxified and excreted via the liver and gut, which makes milk thistle an excellent herb to help support hormonal balance, and to help protect ourselves against hormone related female cancers.

Related imageVitamin D: Many women are prescribed HRT as a prevention for osteoporosis, particularly if they have gone through an early menopause or have had a full hysterectomy. However, supporting bone density doesn’t rely on just having the right hormones present. There are key nutrients as well, and vitamin D is one of them. Calcium absorption depends on vitamin D, and it’s made through the action of sunlight on the skin. Our ability to absorb it decreases with age, and given the food sources are limited, it’s important to supplement. So alongside sensible sun exposure when the sun is out, supplement around 1000 – 2000 iu per day (25mcg to 50 mcg), of the D3 form, which is better absorbed.

B vitamins: If you’re experiencing stress, panic attacks, anxiety or depression, then B vitamins can be very supportive. Known as the ‘stress nutrients’, B vitamins help to support your nervous system, the production of your feel good neurotransmitter serotonin, and help your adrenal glands to manage stress. As the B vitamins work in harmony, it’s best to choose a B complex that provides a range of B vitamins from B1 to B6, plus B12 and folic acid. Food sources of B vitamins include green leafy vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, dairy and fortified foods.

But how safe is HRT?
Going through the menopause is a natural part of life for most woman and symptoms range in severity from almost none (for the lucky few) to raging hot flushes, pelvic problems, emotional flare-ups and sleepless nights. So how safe and helpful is hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and should we all be taking replacing our hormones to improve our menopausal wellbeing?

What is Hormone Replacement Therapy?
The concept of replacing lost or declining hormones has been around since the late 1800s, but HRT has come on a long way since its original use of bovine ovarian tissue (extracted from cows) and pregnant horse’s urine (popular in America). Today, the vast majority of the commonly prescribed UK and European HRT formulations are plant-derived and come from the oestrogen-rich yam plant. These hormones include oestrogen and progesterone (to boost naturally declining supplies) and occasionally testosterone too (yes, women do produce testosterone and this decreases in later life, alongside oestrogen and progesterone). Not only can replacing these lost hormones improve a range of menopausal symptoms, but HRT has also been shown to lower the risk of heart disease and osteoporosis. It’s the most effective, clinically proven treatment there is for relieving symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats, joint pains, mood swings and urinary incontinence, and for the vast majority of those under 60 years old, overall the benefits of HRT would definitely seem to outweigh the risks.

Should I be taking Hormone Replacement Therapy?
Image result for herbs for menopauseThe elephant in the room during the menopause is often ‘should I take HRT to help my menopausal symptoms?’. Most symptoms of the menopause are due to fluctuating (and then low, or no) levels of the hormone oestrogen. All types of HRT contain an oestrogen hormone and this is what replaces the body’s natural supplies. Other hormones that may be taken as part of HRT are testosterone and progesterone (in the form of progestogen). The doses and types of hormones very much vary according to your own personal medical history, symptoms and need, so it’s important to discuss your symptoms in detail with your GP and, if necessary, get a second opinion from a doctor who specialises in this area. The good news is that even low levels of HRT taken temporarily can be of significant benefit and may dramatically improve your day-to-day well-being.

What's best for me?
It’s easy to feel confused about the different types of HRT, as well as about the benefits and risks of taking it, so it’s very important that your own individual health is taken into consideration by your doctor here. HRT brings many benefits, including the treatment of vaginal dryness (which can lead to urinary tract infections), depression and loss of libido. Other positives are HRT’s ability to increase bone density and the protection of discs in the spine.

Ways of taking Hormone Replacement Therapy
HRT is taken as tablets, skin patches or gel – or as a combination of these. As the hormones in skin patches and gels are absorbed through the skin, they’re sometimes a better option to pills that are processed via the liver. As the skin is so protective, it’s hard for substances to get through, but HRT skin patches and gels are made in a different way from everyday skincare. The patches work by forming an occlusive sticking plaster-like barrier over the skin, keeping the hormone loaded onto the patch and in direct contact with the skin 24/7. The gels are normally made with the emulsifier triethanolamine, an ingredient unusually compatible with both oils and water, making it more easily absorbed into the body through the skin. One or two pumps of oestrogen-rich gel are usually applied each night. Tablets are relatively straightforward to take and it’s often handier to take the progestogen tablets, such as Utrogestan, last thing at night as they can make you feel slightly sleepy (a helpful side-effect at bedtime!). Your doctor may also suggest having a Mirena coil (IUD) fitted to release small amounts of progesterone internally. This is especially convenient as it stays in place for several years without a further thought.