Meet the British Muslims who say CBD oil is a 'halal healer'
And with its reported mental and physical health benefits it could, according to some Muslims, provide a 'halal' alternative to cannabis consumption.
Despite some of the stigma indiscriminately attached to all cannabis-derived products, a number of Muslim entrepreneurs are among those at the forefront pushing for greater awareness around the potential benefits of CBD oil.
With many Muslims in the UK facing a mental health crisis in their communities, in parallel with a stigma around mental health issues, some are turning to alternative ways to manage their symptoms that include consuming 'calming' CBD oil.
Zaki, 22, is a British Muslim who says she tried CBD for the first time last year to help manage her mental health. She says she has used CBD oil daily and describes positive effects.
"It really helped with the physical manifestations of my anxiety like fast heartbeat and shortness of breath," she told The New Arab.
British-Nigerian Muslim comedian Nabil Abdulrashid, 34, who achieved viral success on the current season of Britain's Got Talent, also spoke to The New Arab about how he uses CBD for medical benefits.
|With many Muslims in the UK facing a mental health crisis in their communities, some are turning to alternative ways to manage their symptoms|
"I have a lot of injuries and aches that have accrued over the years. So it really helps ease the pain without the side effects and dangers of conventional pain killers."
Abdulrashid also claims mental health benefits, explaining that taking CBD has helped him with "anxiety and sleeping issues".
Whilst cannabis and cannabis-derived products come under harsh legislative restrictions in many parts of the world or are considered culturally and religiously taboo, cannabis is thought to have been used medicinally for thousands of years in the Middle East and Asia and countries across the world are slowly acknowledging its safety and potential.
However, cannabis and hashish consumed in their traditional form are held to be 'haram', or impermissible in Islam, due to their intoxicating properties, unlike CBD.
In the UK, Muslim CBD entrepreneurs are among the leaders of the industry.
The New Arab spoke to Housam Nasr, a Muslim CBD entrepreneur and co-founder of the cannabis PR company, London Canna Group, about this emerging industry.
"We realised how big of a misunderstanding there was around CBD and cannabis in general and we decided that there was a huge need to raise awareness for both consumers and businesses."
CBD carries some controversy due to its association with cannabis, but it actually comes from the less potent hemp plants and doesn't contain high levels of psychoactive 'THC' tetrahydrocannabinol compound that cannabis smokers enjoy for its euphoric, sleepy effect.
In recent years, it has gained widespread attention in the world of wellness with some users reporting beneficial effects in countering anxiety, seizures and chronic pain, although many mainstream medical studies dispute these claims saying further research is needed to determine CBD's benefits and safety.
According to Mayo Clinic, CBD use "carries some risks...though it's often well-tolerated, CBD can cause side effects, such as dry mouth, diarrhea, reduced appetite, drowsiness and fatigue. CBD can also interact with other medications you're taking, such as blood thinners".
Another problem may be the purity and dosage of CBD in products, according to Mayo Clinic, "with a recent study of 84 CBD products bought online showing that more than a quarter of the products contained less CBD than labeled".
To demystify concerns about the CBD industry, Nasr's group organised the Europe Canna Expo last year at the Excel centre in London (which was recently turned into the first NHS Nightingale hospital for Covid-19 patients), bringing together companies from around the world as well as "the leading minds in the field, doctors and physicians who can share their knowledge to the intrigued."
Nasr was born and raised in London but is of Egyptian descent. He believes that there is a stigma towards CBD in his community, and says it will take time and education to overcome this.
"I have a responsibility to educate and be part of the conversation to mainstream the powers of this plant as it really is life changing," he told The New Arab.
"CBD is only one of over 115 cannabinoids in the plant, and the more we raise public understanding, the more research is conducted to understand what other ailments it can help with."
|In the UK, Muslim CBD entrepreneurs are among the leaders of the industry|
While many countries across the world have moved to legalise medicinal cannabis products, Nasr notes that in the UK, "our research is so far behind so many other countries, and in 2020 patients having to travel to get medication for their children is simply unacceptable."
However Nasr remains optimistic about the future of CBD as the industry grows.
"I feel in the UK the stigma is slowly changing and positive conversations are being held in government to ensure consumers are protected and only the most reputable, safe and tested products are being allowed to be sold by retailers."
His colleague, Idriz Gashi, originally from a Kosovan background, agrees. "It was very hard to explain to my family what it is that we do as a company and what CBD is," he said. "They were very reluctant to try it at first but they did and they haven't looked back since".
Ruqaiya Haris is Social Media Editor at The New Arab
Follow her on Twitter: @ruqaiya_h