Could CBD be the secret to health and wellbeing? – Belfast Newsletter

Ethos co-founders Fergal Kerrigan and Amy O'FlahertyEthos co-founders Fergal Kerrigan and Amy O'Flaherty
Ethos co-founders Fergal Kerrigan and Amy O’Flaherty

CBD products are enjoying a boom time, with the ingredient added to everything from sweets to skin creams, but Fergus Kerrigan, co-founder of Ethos, which manufactures a range of CBD oils, still occasionally gets asked – ‘will it make me high?”.

The answer is ‘no’. CBD is one of the many cannabinoids, or chemical compounds, found in marijuana and hemp, but, importantly, it does not contain the illegal mind-altering THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) that gets you high.

“Some people might still be dubious because of the associations with weed and we are trying to break down that stigma,” said 30-year-old Dubliner Fergus, who runs the company with his partner Amy O’Flaherty.

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CBD oil starts with the hemp plant

But the pair can understand some people’s hesitancy.

“There are hemp stores that are popping up all over Dublin. They have the big cannabis leaf out the front and look quite intimidating. So when we were coming up with the brand we needed to make sure that we completely steered away from this,” said Amy.

The couple has developed a range of three CBD oil products.

Packaged in sleek white bottles (with not a cannabis leaf motif in sight), a dropper dispenses the oil, which comes in two strengths, 600 mg and 1,200mg.

One of the products

For CBD novices, the array of potencies on offer can be bamboozling, so Fergus explained: “Some CBD products on the market will use percentage instead of giving the milligram dosage.

“Our 600mg is a two per cent CBD oil. With some CBD oils you might see a higher potency, say a 10 per cent oil, but they’ll tell you to take one or two drops of it.

“Ours is a slightly lower potency, but we’ll tell you to take a little bit more of it, so you’ll actually end up with the same amount of CBD content per day.”

Fergus first came across CBD a couple of years ago when he was suffering from a period of really poor health.

“For nine months I suffered fatigue and migraine – it was kind of like living with a mild flu.

“I was let down, in a way, by traditional medicine. I went to the doctor three or four times and was given rounds and rounds of antibiotics. It transpired that it was a gut-related issue and the antibiotics were just making it worse.

“I was desperate to try anything and I went to see a functional medicine doctor.

“She changed my diet completely at the time, to a more plant-based one with a lot less sugar.

“She also introduced me to different food supplements – one of them being CBD.

“Simultaneously I had an auntie and another family member who were using CDB for arthritis and another who was going through cancer treatment and they were using it for the pain and to give the body a bit of extra strength during that time.”

The CBD, which Fergus was getting from the States, helped his ailments, but he wondered why he couldn’t find reputable, high-quality CBD products in Ireland, which is why he decided to join forces with his partner Amy and manufacture CBD products from Irish-grown hemp. The seed was literally sown and Ethos CBD & Wellness was born.

The product range developed by Fergus and Amy, 29, incorporates essential oils – something she has had a long-term interest in.

She explained: “I was big into essential oils, particularly how they can be ingested. So, we thought could we incorporate the beneficial properties of essential oils with the CBD.

“For our Sleep oil we have incorporated chamomile, which is a relaxing extract that’s been used for years and we also included spearmint essential oil.

“The Balance oil has peppermint and the herb ashwagandha.”

There is a third product, without any essential oils.

The couple launched the company last November, right in the middle of the Coronavirus crisis, which turned out to be opportune timing.

“I think there’s a lot of people out there who would never have considered CBD, but what we are finding is that people have more stress and anxiety at the moment, which therefore impacts their sleep, so they are more open to trying other methods. They aren’t going to go to their doctor as a first port of call and ask for sleeping tablets, they want a natural alternative that they can incorporate into their day-to-day life,” said Fergus.

Proponents believe CBD can help with a spectrum of disorders, everything from stress, to anxiety, to acne to epilepsy, but, producers cannot claim it’s a ‘cure’ for health issues. In the UK, CBD can be sold and advertised only as a generic food supplement.

“We are trying to promote a more balanced lifestyle, which CBD can play a role in,” said Amy.

“We are not saying it will cure your sleep completely or completely cure your anxiety, but it is something you can add to your wellbeing toolkit to support that.”

Fergus added: “Our customers come to us with stress/anxiety issues, chronic pain, arthritis, back pain, migraine.

“People who are going through cancer treatment find that it can help with pain and nausea from chemotherapy. Others just take it for just general wellbeing. “One of the key things CBD has is an anti-inflammatory property. If you can keep inflammation down in the body you are going to have a lot healthier wellbeing.”

Ethos products are made from hemp grown on a farm in Wicklow.

“People maybe think that hemp can only be grown in a warmer climate, but hemp is a very robust crop,” said Fergus.

“We sow it in April/May each year and it is harvested around the end of August/start of September once the crop has reached its full potential.

“In Ireland, there’s between 100-200 farmers that have licenses to grow the crop, it’s becoming a bit more popular and farmers are seeing it as an alternative to the traditional tillage crops.”

Amy added: “We call hemp a wonder plant because not only does it produce CBD-based products, but it is also really nutritious – the seeds are rich in protein and omega 3 -and it is such a sustainable plant, it is used also for bio plastics, there’s so much that can be done with it.

“Part of what we are doing in the background is pushing the hemp agenda in Ireland a little bit more and trying to create more awareness of the opportunities available with hemp as a plant”

The Ethos products are available online and the company has just kicked off a nationwide rollout, which means they will be available in pharmacies and health food stores in the Northern Ireland in the coming months.

Would it help our journalist sleep better?

Like many people, the pandemic has wrecked havoc with my sleep. Not only do I struggle to achieve some shuteye, but upon reaching the land of nod, elaborately crazy dreams make for an exhausting and disturbing night.

Having adhered to the rules of good ‘sleep hygiene’, eschewing electronics and caffeine before bedtime, having lavender-scented baths and milky drinks, et cetera, but still finding it hard to drop off, I decided to give the Ethos products a try.

The company has a specially developed ‘Sleep’ product, which contains chamomile, long celebrated as a sleep inducer, and spearmint, a stress reliever.

The instructions say to drop the oil under the tongue for between 45-60 seconds, then swallow. It tastes like grassy olive oil, which doesn’t sound particularly appetising, but is.

Over the course of the last 10 days I’ve been taking the Sleep oil and the Balance oil, which contains peppermint, which is good for the digestive system, and ashwagandha, an ancient medicinal herb, which is thought to reduce anxiety and stress.

I’m definitely sleeping better and feel a bit calmer. Is it coincidence? Wishful thinking? Psychosomatic? Who knows. But, if I’m sleeping like a baby and not feeling as strung out by the pandemic, homeschooling and life in general, I’ll keep on taking it.

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