Seemingly overnight, CBD is everywhere and in every conceivable product. While CBD overload may vary by the city, here in Delish's headquarters of New York City, it feels like the signs are everywhere: CBD-infused smoothies, chocolates, seltzers, gummies, olive oil, honey, and so much more are offered at cafes and stores, while CBD massages and facials appear on spa menus. You name it, CBD oil can be infused in it.
CBD can be an intimidating concept, because the chemical compound is derived from the cannabis plant and thus is associated with marijuana—so despite its ubiquity, it doesn't seem like something you should admit to dosing in front of your boss. But clearly, the culture is changing, and you might be intrigued, or just befuddled, by it all. In pursuit of understanding and relaxing the tense muscles in our jaws, we called up two CBD experts to explain.
What is CBD?
First, the initials themselves. "CBD is a compound found in the cannabis plant. It's one of two that are the most common," says Aryn Sieber, the founder and CEO of CannaCauses Foundation and Cannaisseur Brands. "The other one is tetrahydrocannabinol, which is THC, the one that gets you high." There are over 100 types of cannabinoids in the cannabis/hemp plant, but these are the ones you hear about now.
Understandably, you might associate anything related to cannabis as "drugs," because the plant has been stigmatized and criminalized for over a century in the United States. But "CBD in and of itself does not give you a 'head high,' or that psychotropic high, like THC does," Sieber says. It is associated with pleasant benefits, though, which is why people are so interested.
"Each one of those [cannabinoids] targets different receptors in the body that act on different things and bring your body into a state of homeostasis, which really means that your body is functioning as it was intended to," says Feliks Gurevich, the founder of Baked Bazaar, an online marketplace of artisanal CBD products. "Sometimes people get anxiety or pains, and your body can actually combat those, but it needs something to tell us what exactly to fix."
He is careful to extol too many of the supposed virtues, however, because the FDA has yet to approve CBD for medical use (except in one epilepsy medication) and thus the benefits are not federally sanctioned or proven. So, unofficially? Most products on the market claim to help aches, pains, jitters, and other symptoms of anxiety.
Why is it everywhere all of a sudden?
You're not insane. Our experts point to one piece of legislation in the U.S. that changed it all. "I think the driving force behind the green rush right now is the 2018 Farm Bill, which was actually meant to help farmers with our disputes with other countries," Gurevich says of the law that legalized the growth and sale of hemp.
"When Trump signed the bill for hemp to become legal, the commercialized form, that it can cross state lines—that's when the surge really came. Everybody and their brother is doing a hemp CBD product and they tout it with all these healing medicinal benefits and so on and so forth," says Sieber.
And undeniably, the culture around cannabis has changed hugely in the last five years, as more and more states and cities have decriminalized marijuana purchase, possession, and usage. "Cannabis has actually become a little bit more mainstream," says Gurevich. "It's becoming more of an accepted...I don't want to say drug, but it's an accepted form of healing."
Why is it so expensive?
So maybe you're interested in trying a CBD product. But when you go to purchase a CBD cookie at your local cafe, it's somehow like $9. What gives? The answer is not really regulations, taxes, and production costs, though. "A couple of years back, before the Farm Bill, CBD was actually very expensive to produce. When it became a little bit more mainstream and more farmers began growing it and distributing it, the prices dropped significantly," Gurevich says. "However, there are a lot of people that are trying to get into the space to basically capitalize on this."
"Greed. It's just the fact of the matter," Sieber says. "I was once told, how much do you sell it for? You sell it for what you can get." That said, with all the new competition, and with a more and more educated consumer, prices are likely to come down in the years to come.
Should I eat CBD in food?
If you went to college (or have ever traveled through Amsterdam), it's likely you've seen "edibles" for sale, baked goods or candy laced with THC. Similarly, there are loads of food products out there these days that are infused with CBD or baked with CBD oil. Gurevich's business, Baked Bazaar, features loads of such products, including caramel bars, lemonade, brownies, coffee, and even mac & cheese.
"This is my favorite topic! There are endless possibilities for CBD," says Gurevich. "We have an olive oil. We're currently working on getting a coconut oil, raw sugar, simple syrups, and other ingredients that can be used in baking and cooking full meals. There are a lot of opportunities for baking with CBD." He's also seen people drizzle their CBD olive oil on, say, a caprese salad.
That said, you shouldn't expect some major effect from CBD-infused foods. "When you eat it, it has to then go through your stomach lining, your liver, your kidneys, the whole natural nutrition system. The caution is: why are you using this? Because if you're using it for medicinal benefit, let's say for a migraine or anxiety or that, I'm not so sure I would eat it with food," Sieber explains. "A beverage is better because the biological availability is going to be faster and more in a liquid than it will be in a solid food." Faster still would just be a tincture or oil, consumed directly or applied to the skin.
FYI, the flavor of CBD-infused treats can have a slightly earthy after-taste or smell that is certainly not for everyone. It varies by product, but consider checking out online reviews before you buy—or start taste-testing at a cafe near you.
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