My coffee shop is not unusual in selling CBD products. In New York, and all over the country, you can find CBD oil in convenience stores, CBD vapes in smoke shops, and CBD tinctures and topical creams in beauty stores. You can buy CBD dog treats in Chicago, a $700 CBD couples massage in Philadelphia, and CBD chocolate chip cookies in Miami. CBD is also being combined with ice cream, savory snacks, and cocktails. Even Coca-Cola is reportedly working on a CBD-infused beverage.
In late June, the US Food and Drug Administration could approve the Epidiolex, a pharmaceuticalized form of CBD for several severe pediatric seizure disorders. According to data recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the drug can reduce seizures by more than 40%. If Epidiolex wins approval it would be the first time the agency approves a drug derived from the marijuana plant. (The FDA has approved synthetic THC to treat chemotherapy-related nausea.)
Maybe you have heard of CBD coffee, maybe you haven’t. Simple as it sounds, CBD coffee is coffee infused with CBD (cannabidiol). It is a growing sensation in the coffee industry that can help add some mellow to your cup of joe. Don’t worry, CBD is a non-pyschoactive ingredient, so you won’t feel groggy or zoned-out. Rather, people turn to CBD for its potential relaxing effects on the body, whereas mentally you should still get the same zip from caffeine that you are used to.
The few CBD studies out there give us limited information, and hardly any about recreational CBD use. One study gave people different amounts of ingested CBD (100, 300, and 900 mg), as well as, for comparison, a placebo and Klonopin; those people then had to give a public speech, an action associated with high levels of anxiety in the broad populace. Neither 100 mg nor 900 mg, nor the placebo, had any effect. The 300 mg dose, though, did have a measurable calming effect on heart rate, blood pressure, and anxiety. (The Klonopin also worked.)
Until 2017, products containing cannabidiol that are marketed for medical purposes were classed as medicines by the UK regulatory body, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and could not be marketed without regulatory approval for the medical claims. CBD oil with THC content not exceeding 0.2% was legalized throughout the UK in 2017. Cannabis oil, however, remained illegal to possess, buy and sell.
“We’ve found that an effective dose for psychological issues, like stress anxiety, generally tends to start out at 6 mg and can go up to 20 mg,” says Zachary Clancy, a horticulturist and clinical herbalist at the Alchemist’s Kitchen, which sells a wide range of CBD goods at its retail store in lower Manhattan and also sells wholesale to restaurants. (Clinical herbalists can complete any of a variety of educational programs and apprenticeships to gain that title.)
The first step to finding your correct CBD dosage is getting as much information as you can about the product you’re using. What is the concentration of CBD? Are there third-party lab tests that can confirm that? The CBD industry is still mainly a grassroots therapeutic movement, and as such, largely unregulated. Concentration and purity levels can differ greatly depending on the manufacturing process.
But it’s not just that coffee shops don’t have to be specific about what CBD in a latte is supposed to do, and thus don’t — legally, they can’t. “Once anyone, outside of the one FDA-approved medication, says ‘Hey, if you drink this, it’ll cure your anxiety, or your seizures, the FDA is going to come knocking at that point,’” says Carson. When shops offer CBD-infused products, then, they are relying on the customer — and perhaps the placebo effect — to fill in the blanks.
CBD interacts with the body through the endogenous cannabinoid system (ECS) or endocannabinoid system. First discovered in the late 1980’s, the endocannabinoid system regulates the body’s homeostasis, or general state of balance, impacting such functions as mood, sleep, appetite, hormone regulation, and pain and immune response. Like an acrobat on a highwire, as the environment around us impacts our normal balance, the endocannabinoid system “corrects” by mediating our body’s reaction to keep us level.
Multiple studies showed that CBD has properties that reduce inflammation. As such, it can be used to decrease sebum production. In other words, CBD oil might be good for your acne problem. One test-tube study showed that CBD had a noticeable effect on the sebaceous cells. When they came into contact with CBD, these cells stopped secreting any excess sebum. On top of that, CBD also lowered inflammation and stopped the so-called inflammatory cytokinesis before it manifested. Another separate study yielded similar results.
The only study that has tested the bioavailability of inhaled CBD is from 2014; it found a bioavailability of about 25 percent for 100 mg and 200 mg doses of CBD using a Volcano vaporizer. (The topical lotions are even less studied; there have been no clinical trials on them at all.) This is more efficient than ingesting CBD, in the same way that vaporizing THC is more efficient than eating it. To get an effect, you should ingest a different amount of CBD than you’d inhale ... but how much is that? How much is too much?
The coffee creation is the brainchild of chef Leighton Knowles, co-founder of the New York- and Ohio-based company, Flower Power Coffee Company. The beans are purchased from 70-year-old coffee purveyor D’Amico Coffee Roasters, a family-owned shop Brooklyn. Rather than dropping CBD oil into a drink, Flower Power’s formula is infused into ground beans before they’re brewed. Flower Power co-founder and Brooklyn pharmacist, Craig Leivent, says that the few other CBD-infused coffees on the market coat the whole bean with oil, which, he says, doesn’t provide a consistent measurement of CBD per cup. “When you drink our coffee,” says Leivent, who has a doctorate in pharmacology and an undergraduate degree in botany, “you get the alertness from the caffeine but without the jitters.”
Cannabinoids are a class of compounds that interact with receptors throughout your body. CBD is just one of dozens of cannabinoids found in cannabis, including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the one responsible for marijuana’s famous high. Medical cannabis is technically any cannabis product used for medicinal purposes, and these can contain THC or CBD or both, said Nick Jikomes, a neuroscientist at Leafly, a website that provides information about legal cannabis. “A common mistake people make is to think that CBD is ‘the medical cannabinoid’ and THC is ‘the recreational cannabinoid.’” That’s inaccurate, he said, because THC is a potent anti-inflammatory and can be helpful for pain.
On a sunny but unseasonably freezing April afternoon in New York, I walked the 10 or so minutes from the L train to Caffeine Underground, a coffee shop in Bushwick that triples as an art gallery and community center. The open-concept space serves lattes and espressos and a variety of milks (oat, almond, macadamia) and plenty of “wellness” options (Kava tea, Bulletproof-style coffee, activated charcoal add-ins). But there’s one totally unique item: Cannabidiol-infused (CBD) coffee.
“Research shows that CBD content decreases when it is exposed to heat. It’s likely that the reduction in efficacy is due to the lower content. For instance, studies show that 71 degrees F can accelerate the degradation of CBD in a solution, resulting in less CBD. Potentially adding CBD to hot coffee may degrade it and reduce the amount of CBD available for absorption."
Our Editor’s Pick is the tincture from CBDistillery. This tincture is available in five strengths ranging from 250mg to 5,000mg, which accommodates a wide range of THC preferences, as well as 15 and 30 milliliter containers. The tincture has a price-point that is slightly below average, making it a good option for value seekers. The tincture, which is non-flavored, routinely undergoes third-party testing to ensure safety and high quality; the testing results are available on CBDistillery’s product pages.