Cannabidiol (CBD) has been a game changer for me. A component of the hemp plant, CBD, unlike THC, doesn't have psychoactive properties; it won't get you high. Instead, it's supposed to have the calming and pain-relieving benefits that many patients seek in medical marijuana.
I was skeptical of all the hype, but ever since I started using about 20-30 milligrams of CBD a day in a tincture under my tongue, I've noticed a huge difference in my anxiety symptoms. I feel calmer, I'm not plagued by racing, intrusive thoughts, and I don't get the dreaded butterflies in my stomach for no reason nearly as often. But while I've added CBD to my repertoire to treat my bipolar II disorder, I've realized there's a specific way to take it for maximum benefits — and all these companies schilling CBD and adding it to everything from sparkling water to jelly beans to ice cream aren't helping anyone. In fact, they're part of the problem.
As a fitness editor, I'm inundated with CBD pitches daily. There's always a new company with a tincture, cream, or food that promises to ease anxiety, help you sleep better, and relieve pain. It's not like these products are completely snake oil; there is some scientific evidence that supports the health benefits of CBD. A study published in January 2019 found that cannabidiol can decrease anxiety and improve sleep. Another study published in the European Journal of Pain found that CBD applied topically can help relieve arthritis-related pain and inflammation “without evident side effects” — but this study was conducted on rats. Another study found that cannabinoids can relieve pain in patients with malignant diseases, but this was administered via mouth spray in a THC and CBD ratio of about 1:1.
The major component in these studies? The amount of CBD administered. For anxiety and sleep, the subjects received 25, 50, or 75 milligrams of CBD. For pain, the rats were given between 0.6 and 62 milligrams a day topically, with 6.2 and 62 milligrams a day being the effective doses. And for pain relief via mouth spray, the amount was about 27 milligrams of THC and 25 milligrams of CBD. Personally, I find my effective dosage is around 20 to 30 milligrams of CBD a day with a tincture and a gummy or two. And while everyone is different and will handle doses differently, it's unlikely that five milligrams of CBD from candy is enough to make much of a difference. If someone is looking to truly reduce their anxiety symptoms or relieve pain, they are unlikely to find it in a scoop of ice cream or a whole CBD-infused cheeseburger.
How Is CBD Administered?
The effectiveness of the CBD also depends on how it's administered. The most effective way is through smoking or vaping, and several companies, like Kurvana, have released CBD-only vape pens. Taking a dropper of CBD tincture sublingually (under the tongue) is the other most effective way to take CBD. Hold for a minute, and then swallow. Both are the quickest way to deliver CBD to your bloodstream, and should kick in between 15 and 20 minutes. Taking it orally, whether as a pill or in food or drinks, is another way to get CBD into your system. This is where companies are looking to cash in since many people may not feel comfortable smoking or putting a dropper of something under their tongue. Taking a couple gummies with 10 milligrams each may add up to an effective dose for a person, but anything that has to pass through the digestive system can hinder CBD's effectiveness.
How Much Does CBD Cost?
Another issue? The cost. Recess sparkling water doesn't come cheap at $5 a can with only 10 milligrams per serving. To get an effective dose, you would have to drink half the six-pack. And there are coffee shops all over New York City that charge a few extra bucks to add some CBD to your coffee. In reality, many of these places just put a dropper of a tincture to add five or more milligrams of CBD to your ordinary beverage — something you could do yourself. If you're worried that CBD will make you sleepy (it doesn't make me sleepy but it does to others), then having it alongside your coffee may be beneficial. But if you're looking to reduce anxiety, getting hopped up on caffeine may not be the best choice.
You can also buy tinctures for yourself — I'm a huge fan of Sunday Scaries CBD Tincture ($75 a bottle for a 500-milligram bottle, about 30 milligrams per dropper) — but those also don't come cheap. Depending on what brand you opt for and how much CBD you want per serving, CBD oils can range from about $40 to about $275 a bottle.
CBD Oil Versus Hemp Seed Oil
You also need to be sure you're getting the real deal. CBD is sometimes sold under hemp oil, and hemp oil contains CBD. Hemp seed oil, on the other hand, is derived from the hemp plant and may have other wellness benefits such as healthy fats, but doesn't contain the CBD most people are looking for. If you're looking for true CBD, check your label: CBD is listed as cannabidiol, full-spectrum hemp, hemp oil, PCR (phytocannabinoid rich) or PCR hemp extracts, according to Healthline. Hemp seed oil, on the other hand, will be listed as cannabis sativa seed oil.
Is CBD FDA-Approved?
To make things more complicated, while CBD is legal, it's not FDA-approved, save for one cannabis-derived and three cannabis-related drug products, all of which are only available with a prescription. The cannabis-derived drug, Epidiolex, has been approved to treat seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS) or Dravet syndrome (DS), according to Medscape. It's best to talk about this option with your doctor and not rely on over-the-counter products. There is even some evidence that CBD can do damage to your liver, although further studies need to be conducted.
It seems like companies are preying on vulnerable customers who have heard the CBD hype but may not know the best way to get it. Although there is limited research on just how effective CBD is — we shouldn't jump the gun and call it a miracle cure for everything just yet — the benefits look promising. But as of now, the pros of CBD seem to be mostly anecdotal. As someone who has found relief in CBD, I encourage people to do their own experimentation, but realize that the health benefits they are looking for will most likely come from a reputable brand's tincture, capsule, or salve — probably not from a gimmicky CBD-infused junk food.