Why has CBD exploded in popularity (or hype) recently?

Why has CBD exploded in popularity (or hype) recently?

The UK market for CBD topped £300 million in 2020, and this figure is expected to triple within the next five years¹. So, you might be wondering, what's behind this increase in popularity - is CBD real or hype? 

Part of the reason for the rise in the number of people using CBD oil is a change in the public perception of cannabis-derived products. Thanks to new legislation and some high-profile coverage in mainstream media, there is now a much better understanding of the therapeutic benefits of cannabidiol (CBD). 

What does the law say? 

Billy Caldwell - a teenager from Northern Ireland - made headlines in 2018 when his cannabidiol medicine for severe epilepsy was confiscated at Heathrow Airport. Thanks to a public backlash, the law was changed, and now specialist doctors in the UK can legally prescribe medical cannabis on a case-by-case basis. 

Medical cannabis is a broad term defined as any sort of cannabis-based medicine used to relieve symptoms. It's used by the NHS to treat:  

  • Sickness or nausea in patients undergoing chemotherapy 
  • Stiffness and spasticity in people with multiple sclerosis
  • Two rare forms of epilepsy in children and adults 

CBD oil is also legal to buy over the counter in the UK, but it must contain less than 0.2% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This is the part that gives you the 'high' associated with cannabis and because CBD doesn't have this element, it's considered to be much safer. 

According to the World Health Organisation, CBD oil has a good safety profile and is well tolerated by most people. So, you get the therapeutic benefits without any of the nasty side effects of cannabis - one of the many reasons for its popularity. 

How does CBD work? 

CBD is extracted from the leaves and the flowers of the cannabis plant. It's one of over a hundred organic compounds found in the plant (THC being one of the others). 

These compounds work by interacting with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). This is a complex cell-signaling system found in the human body, which plays a part in regulating important functions like mood, sleep, memory, and our immune system. 

CBD is thought to have anti-inflammatory properties, as well as being an analgesic and an anti-oxidant. These therapeutic benefits make CBD popular among people suffering with chronic pain caused by long-term conditions, like arthritis and neuropathy.  

It's also used by sportspeople looking for a natural way to treat injuries and sore muscles. Some athletes believe that it can help them recover quickly without the side effects of using conventional anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen. 

In fact, there are a long list of conditions that CBD is helping to treat from acne to anxiety, and research is still uncovering the potential of this so-called "wonder drug". 

What's the picture in the US? 

The global CBD market changed in 2018 when the United States legalised the production of hemp in what's known as the Farm Bill. Hemp plants grown in the US have to contain less than 0.3% THC to be classed as legal under federal law.

The Food and Drug Administration has approved one cannabis-derived medicine, which is available on prescription to treat seizures caused by two rare forms of epilepsy. Individual states have their own laws on the use of medical cannabis and CDB oil.

The legalisation of hemp cultivation has led to a surge in the CBD market in the US, and the Brightfield Group predicts that it will reach $22 billion by 2022². 

The range of CBD products 

Unlike medicines which have to undergo extensive testing, CBD oil is an organic supplement so it isn't subject to any sort of patent. With no restrictions, it can be sold by anyone, and the range of CBD infused products is steadily growing. 

Shops selling CBD are now a familiar sight on the high street and most health food stores stock some form of cannabidiol. This reflects a mainstream acceptance of CBD’s many therapeutic health benefits and an increase in demand. 

CBD oil was only available as a tincture in its early days, but now it comes in a wide variety of forms from bath bombs to sweets. You can even have 'high tea' at a plant-based restaurant in London (though, you can't actually get 'high' from hemp tea!). 

Public opinion has undoubtedly changed, but there is still a lot of misinformation out there. At Origin'40, we are on a mission to educate our customers on how to use CBD safely, because not all products are what they claim to be. Reputable retailers should be able to prove the authenticity of its products with a certificate of analysis (COA). 

To maintain trust in the industry, it's crucial that retailers take responsible steps to check their products. Good quality CBD should be grown organically without the use of pesticides, and an analysis by a third-party laboratory will be able to authenticate this. 

The key takeaway

The CBD industry is growing rapidly both in the UK and the US. Fueled by new laws and high-profile media coverage, public perception has changed and the demand for CBD products is rising. The challenge now is to keep the public informed as new research, clinical trials deepen our understanding of CBD's health benefits.


  1. Lloyd, Joe, Savills [online] The CBD market [updated 24 Feb 2020; cited 18 Oct 2021] Available from: https://bit.ly/3n4QAUt
  2. Garber-Paul, Elisabeth [online] Exclusive: new report predicts CBD market will hit $22 billion by 2022 [updated 11 Sept 2018; cited 18 Oct 2021] Available from: https://bit.ly/3jaaa0f