The latest buzz term – ironically, without the buzz – making waves in the world of beauty and wellness is CBD.
To get to the root of this plant-powered substance, I explored different CBD products to find out what it is and how it could potentially help your health and general wellbeing.
CBD is the beauty and wellness industry’s newest super ingredient, at least in Hong Kong. In North America, where CBD is already hugely popular and fast becoming mainstream, it can be found infused in myriad oils, lotions and potions, as well as pain-relieving gummy bears and supplements for humans and sometimes pets. It’s touted as a natural remedy for many modern ailments — indeed, there’s a growing consensus that CBD is the botanical saviour to many of our health, wellness and beauty issues. But what exactly is it, and what does it do?
Cannabidiol, or CBD in short, is a non-intoxicating compound derived from hemp or cannabis, though they should not be confused as the same plant — however similar-looking. Hemp has low levels (occasionally there are traces, but with little to no effect) of the high-inducing chemical THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), whose psychoactive properties can induce mind-altering effects.
According to a report by the World Health Organisation in 2018, there are no indications of any abuse or dependence potential, and nor is there evidence of health-related problems or harmful side effects associated with the use of pure CBD. Moreover, it’s been demonstrated to be an effective treatment for epilepsy, while anecdotal evidence also indicates the potential to relieve pain, reduce inflammation, improve skin, offset anxiety … the list goes on.
How and why CBD works is due to a complex process that scientists are still trying to make sense of: the Endocannabinoid system (or ECS). This cell-signalling system, identified in the early 1990s, is something that actively exists in our bodies and is thought to play a role in regulating sleep, appetite, mood, memory, reproduction and fertility.
Hong Kong-based Pellucid Industries is creating ripples in the industry with the imminent launch of their plant-based, THC-free cannabinoid-activated products that span beauty, wellness and sports recovery. The company founder, James Yau, explains that “we’re discovering that our bodies have receptors that interact with cannabinoids, which stimulate, counter-balance and naturally benefit us in numerous ways”. Put simply, research is saying that our body is always ready to absorb the benefits of CBD.
He adds, “Pre Covid-19, we’d been travelling around the world looking into clinical studies, hospital trials and non-recreational users, and [discovering] how it’s benefited patients from the age of two to 90 years old … And through our findings, we’re convinced of its anti-inflammatory effects, both internal and external. You don’t have to get high to benefit from cannabinoids.”
Yet even with its multitudinous benefits, CBD is still held in some suspicion in Asia, which is possibly due to its uncertain legality in some countries. In Hong Kong, however, cannabinoids without any trace of THC — known as CBD isolates, which are also free of other cannabinoids, oils, and plant materials — are legal.
Yau, who says that Pellucid Industries will grow, harvest, process and produce its products, adds, “Until the preregistered and relevant licences have been secured, broad-spectrum and full-spectrum compounds are classed as illegal.”
Some users argue that full-spectrum cannabinoids provide greater relief than the isolate variety due to the combined benefits of the cannabinoids, terpenes and other beneficial plant materials. Where THC has been removed or a CBD isolate that has other cannabinoids is added, broad-spectrum cannabinoids can deliver an entourage effect by using multiple parts of the plant, while still being free of THC.
“A CBD isolate has little to no effect on the majority of the population, effectively making the product a gimmick. The benefits of using broad and full-spectrum products are far more effective,” continues Yau. “We’re glad to see more cannabinoid based products surfacing, which helps to educate the market. We feel this is just the beginning for the industry and that variety will help further expand everyone’s knowledge on more plant-based products.”
This is exactly what we’re seeing in Hong Kong, with a number of brands and companies pushing past the taboo to bring in or develop CBD products of their own, which are set to change the future of beauty and wellness on this side of the Pacific. Luxury retail destination Joyce Beauty recently introduced three CBD brands from the US for a limited period, including a line of luxury skincare and make-up by Saint Jane, bath and body-care items by Nature of Things and ingestible CBD tinctures by Treaty.
“It’s the holy grail when it comes to must-have beauty products,” says Jason Wong, director of Joyce Beauty, “so we wanted to de-stigmatise this misunderstood hero ingredient. We love CBD due to the fantastic major benefits it has on our skin health, such as its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and skin-soothing properties. It also reduces dryness, and is amazing for acne-prone, sensitive skin, as well as treating chronic skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. On top of these skincare benefits, your body also receives wellbeing benefits.”
“The response to CBD products has been overwhelmingly positive,” he adds. “We’re now even talking to our existing brands about the opportunity for new products to add to our collection. With the CBD space constantly evolving, we’ll continue to hunt down the most innovative brands for our Hong Kong customers.”
Hong Kong’s food and beverage industry has also felt the effects of CBD. Local cafe Elephant Grounds was one of the first coffee shops in the city to offer water-soluble CBD drops (from Life CBD) as an addition to all its drinks. Found, a newly opened boutique and café in Sheung Wan, is offering a whole range of CBD products and CBD-infused food and drinks.
To satisfy my curiosity, I sampled some CBD-infused creams, oils and, on several occasions, coffee to see what all the fuss is about. Keeping in mind that everyone responds to CBD differently, I felt varying degrees of its effects. With some products, none whatsoever, while others brought exceptional results in relieving migraine pain, reduced muscle soreness and less anxiety overall.
To the sceptics I’d say: give it a go. The known benefits of CBD are just the tip of the iceberg, and its potential in mental wellbeing, beauty and sports performance are definitely worth considering, especially at a time when health, both physical and mental, should surely take precedence.