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So what exactly is CBD oil, the cannabis-based supplement that experts say can be used to treat anxiety and joint pain?

Sales in the oil, which was legalised last year, are surging, reports Robert Picheta

If you want a better night's sleep, a treatment for anxiety, or something to get rid of your aches and pains, the cannabis plant might not be your first port of call. But weed has hit the high street - in a manner of speaking, at least - and people in the UK seem to be tripping over themselves to pick some up.

CBD oil, made from a compound in the cannabis plant, was legalised in Britain last year and has recently gone on sale at Holland & Barrett (£19.99 for 10ml, hollandandbarrett.com). It's been a hit, too - the retailer boasted a 37% increase in sales in February. "We knew there were numerous trends surfacing around this liquid, but we didn't expect to see sales increase this dramatically," a spokesperson for the health food shop said.

And it's not the only cannabis-based product to enter the market. Natural beauty companies are jumping on the hemp bandwagon - Awake Organics' offerings include a 'citrus and hemp' skin serum for banishing blemishes - while Ocado recently launched the first hemp-infused water available in the UK. A quarter of a million of us are already using CBD oil in some form, according to the Cannabis Trades Association UK.

If those figures are anything to go by, it's safe to say that CBD oil is already weeding out the competition. But what does it actually do - and does it get you high?

The answer to that last question is 'no' - regardless of how much you take. THC is the cannabis plant's psychoactive ingredient, but there are more than 100 other chemical compounds in the plant, of which cannabidiol, or CBD, is one. It's extracted by soaking the plant in alcohol and then evaporating the liquid. And unlike its outlawed neighbour, CBD won't have you rummaging for snacks - but it does come with a long list of promised health benefits.

A World Health Organisation (WHO) report suggests CBD oil could be used to treat anxiety and depression thanks to its soothing effects, which might explain the product's popularity - around four in 10 of us feel stressed during a typical week, a survey by Axa found last year, while around six million of people in the UK suffer from depression, anxiety, or both.

In true Hollywood fashion, celebrities are leading the craze; Jennifer Aniston is reported to be a fan of using the oil for a number of ailments. She has been quoted in an interview with US Weekly saying: "CBD helps with pain, stress and anxiety. It has all the benefits of marijuana without the high."

"CBD oil has a lifting and relaxing effect on mood with none of the adverse psychoactive effects associated with marijuana," says Healthspan medical director Dr Sarah Brewer. "It's a great choice if you're finding it difficult to relax, as it's not habit-forming," she adds.

The WHO report also states CBD oil's potential benefits for sufferers of physical ailments such as arthritis, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. Everyday aches are claimed to be calmed by the miracle oil, and it's even been suggested that some forms of cancer can be overcome - though experts say that more research needs to be done.

So what's not to love? The taste, for one thing. Holland & Barrett suggests dropping it under the tongue two or three times per day, but warn that the thick oil has a "distinctive" flavour. That might be an understatement; you'll need a glass of water at the ready if you do choose to go down the direct route, because the oil has a pungent, earthy taste which isn't exactly subtle.

But there are ways to get your fix that don't torment your taste buds. Stirring a couple of drops into water is far less offensive, and blending it into a smoothie can make the taste disappear entirely. Be prepared to get creative with how you enjoy the stuff - even the most passionate CBD convert would say it's an acquired taste.

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