An introduction to CBD and products available in Hong Kong
Here are the need-to-know basics to get you started
CBD products are now easily accessible in Hong Kong, be it online, in stores, or as added ingredients in food and drink in cafes . With the increase in product availability, it seems like the CBD movement has made enormous strides forward in the city.
“People in Hong Kong, as well as mainland China, have not lost their connection to plant and herbal remedies for overall health and wellbeing like we have stateside and to an extent in Europe,” explains Jamie Leilani Pelayo, co-founder of Natureofthings, a wellness platform from the US that offers an array of CBD luxe bath products and bodycare. “I think Hong Kong consumers are very savvy and knowledgeable on using natural remedies to take care of themselves,” she adds.
At first, products available in the market – may it be digestible or topical – are mostly used for anxiety, sleep disorders, and chronic pains, but today even beauty industry retailers are embracing the anti-ageing and antioxidant properties of CBD, and are releasing more skincare products in the market.
“When Saint Jane launched in January 2019, there were not many luxury CBD brands on the market, especially ones that focused on skincare,” says Casey Georgeson, CEO and founder of Saint Jane, a luxury beauty brand offering CBD-infused skincare products. “The market at the time was dominated by edibles, tinctures, and products targeted for muscle and pain relief. That lack of beauty-focused products is why I created Saint Jane. Once I learned about CBD’s powerful benefits that transform the skin, I wanted to share those benefits and created a Luxury Beauty Serum with thoughtfully curated botanicals that supported CBD’s wellness mission,” she adds.
With so many available options, it can get overwhelming which product to use, and how to even get started. So, let’s break down the basics.
RECOMMENDED: If you’re looking for skincare products without all the extra fuss, check out this list of the best homegrown skincare brands in Hong Kong .
An introduction to CBD and products available in Hong Kong
What is CBD?
CBD stands for cannabidiol, an active ingredient in cannabis derived from the hemp plant. Hemp is often confused with marijuana hence the stigma surrounding CBD. Though coming from the same family, these two plants are very different. “CBD is considered non-intoxicating, so individuals will not get high when consuming it,” explains Fiachra Mullen, marketing director of Altum International, a cannabinoid innovation platform that distributes various CBD products for the retail, food, and beverage industry. Hemp plants don’t produce enough tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to have an intoxicating effect, unlike its cousin marijuana, so CBD derived from hemp is not psychoactive.
How does it work, and how does our body benefit from the use of CBD?
“The benefits of cannabidiol are numerous and vary person to person,” says Mullen (Altum). “CBD helps moderate the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is the system responsible for regulating mood, appetite, stress, sleep, motor control, immune function, and more. CBD helps balance some of the imbalances in our ECS. In other words, CBD helps balance the system that balances us,” he adds.
The human body naturally produces its own endocannabinoids to support this system, but just like any other nutrient, it can sometimes cause deficiencies, and that’s when CBD comes in for support. “Everyone is familiar with the effects of caffeine on their body,” says Mullen. “Unfortunately, the caffeine experience usually ends with an ‘energy crash’ and sometimes an uncomfortable feeling of agitation if taken in high quantity.” He then explains that CBD can help balance some of these adverse effects and even prolong the positive ones. “As it promotes homeostasis in the body, CBD helps even out any increased agitation or nerves from caffeine consumption. It also lessens the suddenness of the ‘energy crash’, allowing the individual to come gently back down to regular energy levels – usually in time for evening relaxation or before bed,” he explains.
People often take CBD to help with anxiety, pain, depression, and sleep. But, there’s a much wider use for it on our skin. CBD helps improve skin hydration and reduce inflammation, which helps treat skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and acne. And because of its antioxidant properties, it helps in managing ageing and dry skin.
Are there any side effects? And can CBD make you fail a drug test?
CBD is considered non-intoxicating, so individuals will not get high when consuming it. “CBD products generally do not cause side effects, but we do advise that anyone already taking significant medication to consult their physician before adding CBD to their daily routine,” explains Mullen. “CBD is unlikely to cause someone to fail a drug test (World Anti-Doping Agency, WADA, have announced that CBD is not a banned substance for professional athletes), but we do recommend that individuals who are required to take drug tests – for work or other reasons – clarify whether CBD is considered a banned substance for their particular situations,” he says.
In Hong Kong, pure cannabidiol (CBD) is legal and is not classified as a dangerous drug provided the company importing and distributing the products are licensed to do so. THC and its derivatives are prohibited in Hong Kong, so CBD products coming from proper channels in the city contain no traces of THC. “Hemp has been used as a wellness tool for thousands of years, and its safety has been validated by numerous scientific studies,” explains Melany Dobson, founder of Treaty, a premiere CBD company from the US whose edible products are currently being sold at Joyce Beauty in Hong Kong. “We encourage the person to ask questions and educate themselves about CBD; there is a lot of confusion and misconception, and it helps to be informed!” explains Dobson. “Most drug test companies only test for the THC cannabinoid, which is the psychoactive compound in marijuana plants. You can contact the lab to verify what you will be tested for,” she adds.
How to choose the right CBD products
The type of CBD product you choose should come down to what exactly you need to get out of the product. But before deciding, know that not all CBD are created equal. When reading each product description, look out for the following terms: full spectrum , broad spectrum , and isolate . To make it easier to understand let’s compare it to a burger, do you want a regular burger with just meat? Or do you want it with cheese and all the other fillings? The same goes for full spectrum, broad spectrum, and isolate.
Full spectrum – refers to CBD extracts that contain all naturally occurring compounds found in cannabis plants, including terpenes (what gives marijuana its unique smell), flavonoids, and other cannabinoids. In other words, full spectrum has it all, which includes THC. Sometimes referred to as ‘whole plant CBD’, full spectrum CBD oils or tinctures processed from hemp never exceed 0.3 percent THC so it cannot make a person high. Some skincare products label their ingredients as full spectrum if the whole plant is used for the CBD extraction, but if there are zero traces of THC this falls under the broad spectrum.
Broad spectrum – refers to CBD extracts almost the same in full spectrum CBD, except that THC is removed after the compounds have been extracted from the plant.
Isolate – refers to CBD extracts that only contain CBD. They don’t contain terpenes, flavonoids, or any other cannabinoids.
CBD comes in many forms – If you’re ok with the taste of liquid drops under your tongue, then high-grade oil or tincture products are suitable for your consumption. If you want to skip the vegetal and earthy taste, you can opt for pills, capsules, gummies, and food-infused products like chocolates, cookies, and other treats.
Topical and digestible CBD products
“For customers who are buying CBD for the first time, we recommend starting with a CBD tincture. It is the classic type of CBD product and one of the most straightforward to use,” says Mullen (Altum). “One simply uses the dropper to place some CBD oil under their tongue, leave it there for 30 to 45 seconds (to allow absorption) and then swallow the rest of the oil,” he adds.
“We recommend titrating your dose,” Dobson (Treaty) shares. “Start low and go slow. Titration is the process of determining the medicinal dose that reduces symptoms to the greatest possible degree. Titrating requires consistently and slowly increasing the daily dose you take. This practice helps to develop mindfulness and strengthens the relationship one has to our health,” she adds.
For topical applications, products with CBD include serums, lotions, creams, balms, or body wash. Choosing depends on what you expect from the product but always opt for high-quality products from reputable manufacturers. As with any skincare products, avoid harmful ingredients, and opt for ones that are free of pesticides, and heavy metals.
“For CBD, it is important that it is clean and thoroughly tested,” says Georgeson (Saint Jane). “The hemp plant, where CBD is extracted from, is a bio-accumulator – which means that it soaks up all the toxins and other harmful chemicals that are often present in the soil. It’s essential to use CBD that has been grown with meticulously clean standards from seed to bottle,” she explains. “Saint Jane is a clean beauty brand, that means that all of our products and ingredients are 100 percent free of toxins, harmful ingredients, and pollutants,” she explains. “We sustainably source our materials and test our formulas for integrity and efficacy. To ensure the highest quality, we publish all of the third party lab tests with complete transparency.”
Learn the basics of CBD and get started with products available in Hong Kong
Is CBD Legal in Hong Kong? All Your CBD Questions, Answered
Local entrepreneur Denise Tam is the Co-Founder of Hong Kong’s premier CBD beauty & wellness destination Heavens Please and from where we’re sitting, no one in town is as well versed on CBD as she is. Since CBD Wellness is absolutely exploding across the globe, (some of you may remember that it was one of the major 2019 Eco Wellness Trends Green Queen forecasted back in Jan), we sat down with Denise and drilled her on ALL our CBD questions like what the heck is it exactly? Will it make us high? Can anyone take CBD? And is it even legal in Hong Kong? So. Many. Questions.
Below is Part 1 of our fascinating and highly informative interview. Don’t forget to read Part 2.
What Exactly Is CBD?
CBD, which stands for cannabidiol, is a chemical compound found in the hemp plant known as a a phytocannabinoid. While there are over 100 phytocannabinoids, only one is psychoactive, that would be THC, aka tetrahydrocannabinol, aka the one that makes you high. On the other hand, CBD is non-psychoactive and has even been shown to be counteractive to THC’s psychological effects.
CBD has a wide range of therapeutic properties including anti-inflammation, anti-oxidant, neuroprotective, pain management, sleep disorders, anxiety and depression. Extensive scientific researches also show that CBD can benefit patients who are suffering from Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, epilepsy and cancer.
CBD is extracted from the whole hemp plant (flower & leaves) and is most commonly available in drops, tincture or vape form, which basically means in oil form and which is why you have properly heard people talk about CBD oil.
CBD vs. Hemp Oil: What’s The Difference?
Hemp oil is different from CBD oil. Hemp oil, most commonly known as hemp seed oil, does not contain CBD or THC. While it does come from the hemp plant, hemp oil is extracted only from the seeds, whereas CBD is a chemical compound extracted from the whole plant (see above). Highly nutritious and a great source of Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids, hemp oil is generally used in food as a salad dressing and in skincare/ cosmetic products for its moisturising properties.
Hemp is in the Cannabis family, the difference between hemp and marijuana is the THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD level. Marijuana bred for recreational use usually has high THC content (up to 20%), which makes it psychoactive, hemp has a generally low THC amount (under 1%).
Does CBD Contain THC?
There are three types of CBD:
Full Spectrum CBD, which can contain a trace amount of THC (0.2
1% depending on its origin) since all other compounds extracted from the plant are included.
Ideally, this information should be provided on a product label, but the reality is that many CBD products today are marketed as dietary supplements, which means they are not regulated rigorously and the labelling requirements are still fairly opaque. As a consumer, it can be confusing when buying a product, which is why it is important to purchase CBD products from a store/brand you trust, preferably one where you can ask questions. A reputable seller will happily provide lab reports on demand which indicate the cannabinoid contents and percentages.
In general look out for words like CBD/ Cannabidiol/ Cannabinoid Extract/ Hemp CBD/ Cannabis Sativa Extract/ CBD Isolate when you are looking to purchase a CBD product.
Is CBD Safe?
As per the World Health Organization (WHO), CBD is deemed a safe, non-toxic and non-addictive substance. Here’s what they have to say: CBD is generally well tolerated with a good safety profile.”
CBD has few known side effects and when they occur, they are typically minor and non-threatening. A recent report by the National Cancer Institute – a branch of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) – notes that overdosing on CBD is virtually impossible, and the same is true of THC and marijuana. Per the report: “Because cannabinoid receptors, unlike opioid receptors, are not located in the brainstem areas controlling respiration, lethal overdoses from Cannabis and cannabinoids do not occur.”
Is CBD Legal in Hong Kong?
CBD is legal in Hong Kong. According to several official government press announcements, CBD (cannabidiol) is not classified as a dangerous drug and is therefore not controlled under the Dangerous Drugs Ordinance.
It’s important to note that THC and its derivatives are illegal in Hong Kong and anything containing these substances is prohibited. When purchasing CBD products, it is important to look at labels or ask the seller to make sure you are purchasing Broad Spectrum CBD or CBD Isolate-based products to avoid unintentionally breaching the law.
Can I Travel With CBD?
Travelling with CBD is possible, but it also depends on your final destination and which type of CBD product-base you are carrying so it’s worth familiarizing yourself with the allowed percentages. For example, the US allow a THC level under 0.3%, the UK and most EU countries under 0.2%), Japan (like Hong Kong) is at 0%. However, some Asian countries, like Taiwan and Thailand, classify CBD as a regulated medication- only 1-2 months supply are tolerated. In Singapore, CBD is prohibited by law.
Travelling with CBD can definitely be complicated, due to the largely controversial history of cannabis, so to be safe, always check local laws before deciding to bring any CBD products with you.
How Will CBD Make Me Feel?
Since CBD is not psychoactive, you won’t get a strong feeling from it, it’s more of a subtle effect to balance the imbalances that exist within your body. The calming effects tend to more noticeable if you are experiencing anxiety or depression. If you suffer from chronic pain, you are likely to feel quick relief thanks to CBD strong pain-relieving properties.
How Does CBD Work?
The Endocannabinoid System exists in all mammals, including humans and animals (this include our pets). It plays a crucial role in regulating our physiology, mood, and everyday experience. In other words, the system is a master regulator for all other systems of the body. The research on cannabis led to the discovery of this previously unknown biochemical communication system in our body and the discovery of receptors that respond to cannabis, as well as the identification of the endogenous cannabinoids released in our own bodies that bind to these receptors. This binding brings on therapeutic effects, and ingesting CBD can activate the receptors to boosting signalling, making it safer than most pharmaceutical drugs on the market when treating anxiety or other conditions.
Can Everyone Benefit From CBD?
Absolutely! Since CBD is non-intoxicating and proffers relatively few known side effects (dry mouth, fatigue, nausea, change in appetite, drowsiness), it is safe for all ages. There are known cases of parents using CBD to help treat epilepsy in their child or elderly people using it to alleviate Parkinson’s symptoms. CBD is ideal for anyone who does not want to experience the psychoactive effects of THC but enjoys the therapeutic effects of the cannabis plant.
Pre-clinical research indicates that CBD has potent anti-tumoral, antioxidant, anti-spasmodic, anti-psychotic, anti-convulsive, and neuroprotective properties. CBD directly activates serotonin receptors, causing an anti-anxiety effect. People who are dealing with the following health conditions may benefit from CBD usage: Anxiety/ Stress/ Depression/ Sleep disorders/ Pain/ Inflammation/ Acne/ Addiction/ Muscle spasms & Epilepsy.
Keep in mind that ingesting CBD can interact with certain medications that metabolise through the liver. Make sure to check with your GP/Family Doctor how best to proceed. Infants and pregnant women are not recommended to ingest CBD as there isn’t enough research on its effects on fetus development.
Thinking of dosing your cat/ dog with CBD? Why not! CBD is safe for humans and for your beloved pet. They have an ECS system inside their body just like we do, and CBD works the same way on them as it does on us. Just make sure to adjust the dose depending on their body size (and check with your vet to be sure).
Have more specific questions about CBD? Denise can help! Contact her at [email protected].
Lead CBD photo courtesy of Getty Images.
Local entrepreneur Denise Tam is the Co-Founder of Hong Kong's premier CBD beauty & wellness destination Heavens Please and from where we're sitting, no one in town is as well versed on CBD as she is. Since CBD Wellness is absolutely exploding across the globe, (the uber fans amongst you may remember that it was one of the major 2019 Eco Wellness Trends Green Queen forecasted back in Jan), we sat down with Denise and drilled her on ALL our CBD questions like what the heck is it exactly? Will it make us high? Can anyone take CBD? And is it even legal in Hong Kong? So. Many. Questions. h