Honestly, if you want to be confused and frustrated, I recommend trying to answer the question “Should I be taking CBD?” Products containing cannabinadiol are flooding the market Old Testament style, while at the same time, if your inbox is anything like mine, you’re probably fielding news items about little old ladies being arrested at Disneyworld for having this (legal and non-psychoactive) substance in their possession. And that’s before you get to the practical matter of whether the stuff “works,” what it can and cannot do for your health, how you figure out appropriate doses, or whether the dose even matters; a 25mg gummy bear’s packaging will urge you to be careful getting in your car while a 400mg edible from another source will be pretty clear on the whole “you will not ‘feel’ CBD working any more than you feel fluoride in your drinking water” thing.
CBD is rampaging through the beverage space, showing up as a cocktail ingredient and also finding its way into coffee, tea, enhanced water, apple juice, wine, kombucha and doubtless many more products of which I am not yet aware. Questions loom. If CBD is legal, why are people getting arrested for having it on them? If CBD is a miracle cure with no addiction risk and no known side effects or toxicity, why is anyone even concerned about it? Are there interactions with other stuff I might be swallowing? Now that it’s legal and everyone and their Labradoodle is selling some form of it, is it time to be concerned with how it’s being processed? Is there a difference between eating, drinking, vaping or topically applying the stuff? Does it matter?
Well, I’ve been conducting experiments on myself for a while now, involving vape pens and teabags, gummies and tinctures, de-alcoholized wine and enhanced fizzy-water… and here are my tentative, and not 100% empirical, answers to the big “CBD: To drink or not to drink” question. Bear with me, this goes down an absurd rabbit hole pretty damn fast.
CBD is legal. Federally. In some states it matters whether the molecule was extracted from “marijuana” or “hemp.” Cannabis sativa is the taxonomical name for both forms of the plant, though the first one has a significant amount of psychoactive THC in addition to its CBD, and the second one does not. Some states make this super annoying by specifying that only hemp-derived CBD is legal, while CBD extracted from Monsieur Chronique is not. Is it the same exact molecule either way? Yuppers.
There are currently restrictions on its use in South Dakota, Nebraska, and Idaho. Why is it problematic in those three states even though it’s not addictive and can’t get you high? Well, there’s probably both a bureaucratic answer and a very cynical one, but the one folks will give you is “it can contain trace amounts of THC,” which is true but you 100% cannot get stoned on CBD, there is more arsenic in your Merlot than TCH in your CBD. Some authorities are concerned legalizing will give people a way to establish “hemp farms” that are really “pot farms,” and I guess that’s a legitimate concern given they are so much the same thing that they have the same taxonomical name.
So, then what was the deal with the grandma at Disney? I don’t freaking know, and it’s weird because normally, cops overstepping their authority or being focused on the wrong thing and screwing up? Not an issue, right? Right.
To the extent CBD is less legal than applesauce, it’s not because of perceived health risks. It’s because the authorities have a hard time teasing apart “plant that makes you altered” and “plant that doesn’t contain the compound that makes you altered,” so they put little old ladies in the Stoney Lonesome for no reasonable reason. With me so far? Sweet.
Cannabis is a complicated plant even by plant standards-it contains over a hundred cannabinoid compounds. Again, the one that makes you stoned is Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. CBD is being studied like crazy right now but science is backing up a host of claims that it can have vast human health benefits (this is not surprising, as humans have lots of cannabinoid receptors in their bodies). Among the non-outlandish, backed-by-research potential effects of CBD: pain relief including pain caused by chronic conditions like arthritis and MS as well as side effects of cancer treatment. It does this by multiple means including reducing inflammation and messing with pain signals. It also shows efficacy with mood disorders (it reduces anxiety and depression by its interaction with serotonin receptors, like the SSRIs that are making pharma companies fat), and acne (again thanks to anti-inflammatory properties), and reduces oxidative stress and damage in the cardiovascular system. It’s been proven effective for insomnia and there’s evidence it has neuroprotective qualities and the potential to help manage neurological illnesses. Basically, the more scientists look at this stuff the more potential it seems to have. It has almost no known side effects (reduced appetite, diarrhea and fatigue have been occasionally noted). There is no known ceiling for overdose.
All bio-active substances have the potential to affect each other. You take B vitamins together because it optimizes their efficacy. You cook tomato sauce in a cast iron pot because vitamin C makes iron easier to absorb. You drink Irish coffee so your central nervous system is equal parts stimulated and depressed. Or… well. Point being, CBD can interact with other stuff you’re putting in your body.
Caffeine-coffee and CBD are buddies, working synergistically to enhance and hone one another’s benefits. People report feeling extra alert and also less jittery. Personally, I consider it exactly the same as “coffee.”
Grapefruit-There are several substances that have a negative interaction with grapefruit; odds are you are aware of it if you are on one of them. Be ye warned that CBD behaves in the same way, inhibiting the cytochrome p450 enzymes and altering metabolism. You should do some homework on CBD before making it a big part of your day if you take anything that comes with a grapefruit warning. Meanwhile, I guess it’s possible that taking CBD with grapefruit could… I don’t know, amplify its effect? But probably not.
Sedatives-There is some evidence that CBD can exaggerate sedation. Science is still sorting it out, but if you are a chronic user of sedatives you want to tread carefully, I guess.
This list is not comprehensive and you need to do your own homework as well as, you know, pay attention to your body. The truth is, it is inherently the nature of “chemicals” to interact. That’s what they do. The array of chemicals interacting in your body/mind right this second would blow your mind if you looked at a list. Most of the time, these interactions are so not-a-thing that you never hear about it.
This is where it gets truly nutsy, especially when you factor in the huge amount of poetic license currently allowed in packaging and consumer info. Look up “CBD dosing” and you’ll see everything from 5mg to several hundred recommended. Not only that: They might not mention the varying bioavailability by delivery method and/or extraction technology, which can apparently be a big deal. The good news is you’re realistically only going to experience dosing issues at the “my knee still hurts; advise?” level. You’re basically as likely to overdose on cauliflower as CBD. As in it’s technically possible to take a toxic amount of CBD but it doesn’t particularly appear to happen because people don’t take 20,000mg of it at a time. There is some evidence that prodigious amounts of CBD can lower your blood pressure. If your blood pressure is dangerously low, be advised.
Meanwhile, the suggestion is to start at about 25mg twice a day, and see what happens, increasing until you find the magic bullet dose for you.
Credit: Cloud Water
At this point, in my quest for understanding of this noisy, complicated topic, I have tried CBD in the following forms: vape pen, gummies, cookies, oil tincture, topical lotion, bath bomb, coffee, tea, water and wine. I’ve never noticed any particular effects. It surprises me because I have a strong (negative) one to THC so I assumed I had a sensitivity to cannabis in general. Not so. But importantly, I can tell you I have certainly not had any adverse effects at any dosage, so for this human guinea pig at least, there’s a lot of wiggle room on dosage and delivery. Meanwhile, some quick factoids:
•CBD is way more bioavailable when it doesn’t go through your digestive system. This means you get more out of a sublingual tincture, a spray, a salve or an inhalant than a gummy bear or a cup of java. I like MedTerra and Ojai Energetics, personally.
•A lot of companies are not transparent about their extraction methods or what exactly is in their products. This whole industry is terra nova and no one has to be excruciatingly clear on the matter. Read product literature, and if it’s more than 30% marketing mumbo-jumbo, find a product that isn’t. You should be able to figure out what you’re eating, or breathing, or drinking, without difficulty.
•A lot of companies have proprietary tech that they are very proud of and that is their thing that makes them profitable because it ain’t gonna be the CBD. Patenting a plant is a rough row to hoe or at least a tough thing to enforce-plants are alive and reproduce on their own so if it’s legal and a plant extract it’s likely to be abundant in the marketplace. Cannabis specifically is in IP bureaucratic limbo right now and I would not expect that to change soon. Thus, proprietary hardware (like vape pens) or technologies (like water-soluble extracts versus encapsulations or emulsions) are likely to be touted as “better” or “cleaner” or even “safer” as well as cooler. I am not a chemist or an engineer so I won’t hold forth on who I think is full of hooey and who has something going on.
The upshot here is that everyone has to do their own homework where this stuff is concerned, but there’s every reason to expect it won’t hurt you and ample reason to expect it might help you.
Do you like infused soft drinks? Cloud Water has really nice flavors and none of the mustiness of an oil tincture. My kids liked the grapefruit-mint-basil one a lot. It contains 25mg of CBD, and 40 calories. Aurora Elixirs also has some nice stuff, made with cocktail mixing in mind but perfectly nice on their own.
If you have a coffee thing, you might try Bulletproof or Green Roads. Bulletproof makes a lot of noise about their beans being assiduously tested for mold and other toxins too, so if that’s your thing, take note.
If you are a CBD beer or CBD cocktail aficionado, there is some (limited) evidence that combining the two might result in some lowering of your blood alcohol level compared with alcohol on its own. I personally would not count on CBD to save you from a breathalyzer, but it’s worth knowing that it has this possible effect.
The bottom line is, the CBD-infusion-of-all-things is legitimately confusing and if you are investigating CBD seriously for literally medicinal purposes, you might want to start with a straight tincture or inhaled situation to keep the data set clean. If you just like the idea of having a small amount of the stuff casually circulating in your system and seeing if you wake up one day feeling calmer than you think you used to? There are a zillion options that tend to have low doses and no particular risk beyond that you might not like the way a given one tastes. And the remedy for that is clearly to try a different one, like you would with a beer you thought was crappy. So, no, it is not necessary to do a ton of research or fall prey to excessive hype, though it’s always good to know what you’re consuming. CBD is nothing like whole cannabis (including that whole cannabis might have tons of healing properties CBD alone does not). It won’t hurt you and to achieve a toxic level of it you’d have to try really, really hard. So, if you enjoy drinking it, you should do that.