The first time I ever heard about CBD oil was on a podcast. Then I saw it on a drink menu. Soon it showed up on my favorite website, and as an add-on at my favorite matcha place. It reached the hands of my favorite Instagram influencers, and appeared as a new ingredient in my beauty products. So what is CBD, exactly?
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It's advertised as a miracle oil derived from hemp. When applied topically it's meant to relieve pain. When you vape it, eat it, drink it, or droplet it into your mouth, it reportedly can help treat epileptic seizures, manage anxiety, chill you out or aid in going to sleep. Unlike marijuana, CBD doesn't get you high. Some swear by its effects, but recently, there has been pushback against it. Some people have even called it "snake oil." So does it actually work? I had to try.
First things first, I live in Los Angeles. The CBD trend hit both New York and LA, hard. It's fairly easy to get your hands on CBD oil here - whether you're popping into Moon Juice, Whole Foods, or even Urban Outfitters. Plus, this is 2019. You can order almost anything online.
Secondly, I have terrible anxiety. I think it is one of my defining characteristics (unfortunately). I am prone to anxiety attacks and I do take a prescribed medication when they become overwhelming. However, I tend to vibrate with nerves most of the time anyway (fun!). I have been trying to combat them with yoga and therapy, but taking an oil every day sounds like a faster fix (or a potential disaster), and at this point in my life I am game for anything!
Lastly, I don't burn, bro. I don't 420 blaze it. I'm high on life, baby! No judgement to anyone at all, I just don't smoke weed. So I would like to reiterate, although CBD is a cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant, it is non-psychoactive and cannot get you high. I repeat, it is not THC. It will not get you high. Dad, are you listening?
I decided to start with Charlotte's Web, the CBD oil brand I had heard about first on that podcast. I looked them up online and was absolutely shook by the prices of their tinctures. The most expensive one retails for $275 and the cheapest that I could find was $99 (Now they offer a $39.99 option, but they didn't at the time). So, that's one thing about most reputable CBD tinctures, they're not cheap. Luckily, the next day I happened to be shopping at Bristol Farms (a California-based supermarket) and found some on sale for $60.
The brand offers various dosages, so as a first-timer I started with the lowest offered, which is their "Full Strength CDB Oil." The bottle offers 6.65 milligrams of CBD per milliliter. The flavor was olive oil (although they do offer a Mint Chocolate version online).
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I had high hopes, but reader, I could not get past the taste. I am very sensitive to flavors, which is great for some things (like taste-testing Pringles) and bad for others I suppose. I could have tried mint, but honestly, I hate artificial mint flavoring. I abandoned this one after a few days despite the brand's suggestion that I could put it in something like a smoothie, coffee or yogurt.
Also, I didn't feel like it was doing anything to me! I had read that consistency is key, but I wanted to be consistent with something that didn't make me gag when I smelled it - which honestly made me feel more anxious! Apparently, this product has worked for a lot of people. Great news for them! But it's not for me.
While on my quest to find something tasty that I could take daily, I stopped by Moon Juice - which offers juices as well as coffees and matchas with adaptogenic "dusts." My local shop offers CBD as a beverage add-in. The brand is still Charlotte's Web, but they only offer the highest dosage.
I decided "what the heck" and ordered a CBD-infused iced matcha, hoping the flavor of the tea would conceal the olive oil taste. And it did! Not only was the drink tasty as always (I love Moon Juice and am not being paid to say this) but it made this warm feeling spread through my body like a non-sleepy calm, and this was only a single dose. But I wondered if it might just be a placebo effect. Was I just imagining this? Or had something changed?
After some light Googling, I found that the original dosage I had been taking wasn't high enough. Apparently, the right dosage for your body is a total Goldilocks situation. You may have to try out a few different amounts before you get it just right. I wasn't imagining things. The higher dosage actually helped.
Soon after, I was able to try a CBD oil tincture from another brand. Our editor-in-chief suggested I try Hawaiian Choice CBD oil, which she'd heard about through a former colleague in Hawaii whose husband launched the company. Their products come in a spray bottle. Each spray delivers 10 milligrams, and the company advises users take one to three sprays and hold it under their tongue for 30 seconds before swallowing. The bottle is expensive - $99, but it's also flavored with passionfruit, pineapple, noni (a Polynesian fruit), and Big Island honey. Plus, it has a higher dosage than the first Charlotte's Web product that I tried.
The particular tincture I tried is labeled "Active," and the bottle says it's meant to help with exercise and appetite control. It did nothing for my appetite (nor did I want it to) but the flavor situation here is a game changer. It tastes like candy. It also seemed to impact my anxiety levels in a major way. It worked!
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After taking this brand's oil consistently, I've noticed that I feel mellowed. Not subdued, mellowed. Now when I wake up and drink a big glass of water and take my allergy pills and my gummy vitamins, I gleefully squirt this CBD oil into my mouth and it helps me to have a more focused, less anxiety-brained morning. It's not like the anxiety isn't there, it's just much quieter and doesn't radiate through my body. That warm feeling that I got from taking a higher dose is there, and when it's at its most powerful in my system, I feel looser inside my body (a positive feeling, I swear).
One morning I forgot to take some, and by mid-afternoon I felt that little pit of dread that always seems to well up inside of me shrieking again!
At first, I was confused as to why I needed to leave it under my tongue. Why not just swallow it? But apparently leaving the oil under your tongue has surprising absorption benefits.
According to marijuana education website Nice Paper, "Humans are made of water. Most CBD tinctures are made of oil. Your body is hydrophilic and CBD tinctures are the opposite (hydrophobic, remember, this is a chemistry class)â€¦ Of all the 'oral' methods [sic] this is one of the better ways to absorb CBD."
In my research I had seen that CBD can also be applied topically. It's especially healing for anyone with joint pain and inflammation, as well for people who suffer from migraines. I came across a Sagely Natural's "Relief & Recovery Headache Roll-On" one day while I was shopping at Urban Outfitters. As someone who sits in front of a computer eight hours a day, I am prone to headaches. I bought it.
The second I got a headache, I busted this Sagely roll-on out and put it on my temples and rolled it across the front of my forehead. Because it's formulated with the essential oils of peppermint, rosemary, and eucalyptus, it had an immediate cooling effect. Also, it made me smell like a beautiful forest.
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Then the CBD kicked in and the headache lessened. The dull throbbing practically vanished. Applying it topically seemed almost better than ingesting the CBD. I reached out to the company not only to profess my love, but to find out how this product works and why the mainstream (I was shopping at Urban, let's not mince words here) seems to be gravitating to more holistic health methods like topical CBD.
I spoke with Kerrigan Behrens, co-founder and CMO of Sagely, who told me that their customers are people who are sick of using traditional methods because they're not natural. "They're popping Advil or Xanax to get a quick fix - but they're excited about Sagely Naturals products because they offer them natural alternatives to those types of over-the-counter and prescription drugs," Behrens said.
She also highlighted that the delivery method is an important factor in how quickly and efficiently the CBD will work in your body.
"The most common form of CBD you'll find on the market is suspended in oil - i.e. a tincture - which has an oil dropper that you either put under your tongue or a sprayer that sprays directly into your mouth." She mentioned that if you don't love the taste of CBD, you can also take CBD capsules.
"The best way to ensure you're getting the most CBD absorbed into your body (i.e. the highest bioavailability) is to look for capsules that are water soluble," Behrens said, offering the hot tip. "If you're using CBD for symptoms like anxiety or sleep, oral applications are usually your best bet."
Now when I do something like forget to take my tincture, want to dose up because I am feeling more anxious than usual, or feel pain in my body, I have armed myself with a battery of CBD products that I genuinely feel work and make me feel less anxious and achy.
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Here are some other things I learned as I researched CBD and my own issues:
The organic beverage company Vybes makes flavored-drinks that include 15 milligrams of CBD. I have been able to find them at quite a few trendy health food shops in LA, New York, San Francisco, and Chicago. I am a big fan of Buddha Teas, which makes various CBD-infused teas that come in convenient little tea bags that I have started drinking most mornings, and they give my dosage a cozy little boost.Lord Jones makes CBD gumdrops and chocolates as well as tinctures and lotions (that are on the expensive side) that are not only delicious but will melt your anxiety into a puddle of calm. Curious Elixirs does booze-free CBD cocktails that not only chill you out but come in cute bottles so no one will know that you're not actually drinking alcohol. View this post on Instagram
If you're in Los Angeles for any reason, I recommend juice chain Kreation for CBD snacks and beverages. Their CBD brownies are especially a delight. West Hollywood restaurant Gracias Madre also has a beverage menu with a bunch of cool CBD cocktails.Hawaiian Choice also has a "Relax" tincture that I take before I go to sleep and since taking it regularly, I find that I am sleeping more deeply and for longer hours despite my caffeine intake.
There are a few things you should know about CBD besides my flawless opinion. There is a school of thought that CBD oil actually does nothing. And because CBD products are being produced without regulation, some of them might actually do nothing.
In a recent New York Times op-ed, psychiatrist Richard A. Friedman wrote that "CBD looks more like an expensive placebo than a panacea," citing a 2017 study in the Journal of the American Medical Asscociation that found that only 26 out of 84 samples of CBD products purchased online contained the amount of CBD advertised on their labels.
The FDA has even issued a warning regarding a few CBD oil brands on the internet who have been dishonest about the amount of CBD listed on their products.
So basically, If you're not buying from a reputable brand, you could be getting snake oil, because they can put just about anything in there and call it CBD. So do your research before you buy. And even if you are getting the right dosage, there is still a lot of debate about how effective CBD oil is for many types of conditions.
It's only legal in 30 states, and although it's a major hit in New York and LA, although the New York City Department of Health began cracking down in February on restaurants that serve CBD as an additive in food.
It's also a multibillion-dollar industry right now with major names in the food and beauty industry linked to it, including Martha Stewart. According to Forbes, nearly 7 percent of American adults use CBD products, and that number is expected to grow rapidly in the next several years. If CBD hasn't come to your city yet, just you wait. It's one of the 20 food trends to look out for in 2019.
Lily Rose is The Daily Meal's West Coast editor. She has never met a matcha she didn't like. You can follow her food adventures on Twitter and catch up with all of her content on The Daily Meal here.