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You can now find CBD in all sorts of beverages, from soda and coffee to tea and beer.
The FDA has taken this stance on CBD food and drinks because there’s a lack of scientific data on whether or not CBD is safe to consume. The agency says it’s only seen limited data and the data that does exist actually “point to real risks that need to be considered before taking CBD for any reason.” Health officials are concerned that CBD has long-term health effects that might not show symptoms for years, and thus the FDA has not added it to the “generally recognized as safe” list of food additives.
Why do companies put CBD in food and drinks?
Orally ingesting CBD may be more dangerous than people think.
The FDA has only approved one CBD product for oral consumption, — a prescription-only drug to treat two rare and serious forms of epilepsy. CBD is not approved as a food additive, and it’s illegal to market any food products or dietary supplements with CBD. This includes the oodles of CBD-infused seltzers that have become so popular in the last couple of years,
What is CBD?
After the 2018 US Farm Bill made hemp farming legal as long as plants contain less than 0.3% THC, products with CBD began flooding both virtual and brick-and-mortar shelves. Tinctures, capsules, snack bars, beverages, body oils, pain-relief salves and more — all infused with CBD — soared in popularity.
CBD became so popular because of its purported health benefits. Here are some of the claims:
But experimental anxiety, which is when stressors are applied to make a volunteer feel anxious for a test, is different than clinical anxiety, and long-term, rigorous clinical trials are necessary to find CBD’s real-life effects on patients. Several are under way right now, including one Blessing is conducting at NYU, but the process of completing those, finding appropriate dosages, and creating a consistent drug that can meet Food and Drug Administration approval standards takes time. “Getting into the full pipeline of FDA approval is probably eight to 10 years away,” Blessing says.
Cannabidiol—more commonly abbreviated as CBD—isn’t psychoactive and, apparently to the man’s disappointment, won’t get you high. Instead, many people report that consuming it makes them feel less anxious, helps them sleep, or eases joint pain. Over the past two years, CBD in the form of oils and supplements has become widely distributed across the United States, even in places with no level of cannabis legalization. Now the trend’s new frontier is food. My first clue that it had hit some kind of critical mass was seeing a local restaurant put a sign out front announcing the debut of CBD empanadas. From design-oriented Instagram seltzer to your local pizza place, brands and restaurants want you to order some CBD and eat your feelings.
Sometimes, products that claim to contain CBD don’t have any at all when tested, Blessing says. More commonly, though, cookies and beverages simply contain far less than 300 milligrams of CBD, which is the minimum amount she says has been found effective in the preliminary science so far. Vybes, a brand of CBD-laced drinks, has 15 milligrams of the compound in each bottle. Feelz by Chloe, a line of CBD desserts from the vegan fast-casual chain By Chloe, has said in the past that each dessert contains only 2.5 milligrams of CBD a serving.
Whether that $3 will get you anything is a more complicated question. Esther Blessing, a researcher and psychiatry professor at New York University Langone Health, is one of only a few researchers who have completed a review of CBD’s effects on mood. She looked at its potential to treat anxiety, and although she stresses the results are very preliminary, she sees a lot of promise. “Studies so far have shown that CBD of a specific dose is roughly as effective as drugs like Valium and other benzodiazepines in reducing experimental anxiety,” she says.
Still, Blessing notes, amounts below 100 milligrams haven’t even been tested, so it’s not impossible that small amounts may have some effects. As far as anyone knows, heating up CBD doesn’t degrade its effects, and early evidence suggests that taking it along with high-fat food (like a dessert) aids the body’s absorption of the chemical. Beyond that, all anyone has is guesswork. By Chloe didn’t respond to a detailed list of questions about its sourcing and dosing, but I tried a few of the company’s CBD treats anyway. They were all incredibly tasty, and after consuming three cookies in the course of 24 hours, I accidentally fell asleep on my couch at an indeterminate time of the evening and woke up at 4:30 in the morning. Was it the CBD, or was I just tired? Maybe it was a classic placebo effect, in which I expected to be relaxed and became so.
The problem is, it’s not easy to know what you’re actually ingesting, or if it’ll actually change how you feel. At best, CBD in America exists in a confusing state of quasi-legality and yet-to-be-realized potential. Experts estimate that the market for it could balloon to $22 billion by 2022, but with cannabis and hemp laws changing rapidly across the country, the chemical is almost entirely unregulated on the consumer market, with no end-product labeling or composition standards to help shoppers understand what they’re buying.
The market is rife with misinformation even when CBD is sold as a relatively simple oil or supplement. When it’s squirted into a latte or baked into a cookie, CBD’s uses and effects get even more opaque. The chemical’s loudest advocates make health claims far beyond the current scientific evidence, and its harshest critics often dismiss the compound entirely as just another snake oil in America’s long tradition of health scams. Journalists are starting to get a handle on what CBD actually does and what is actually known about it, but along with researchers and regulators, we’re still playing catch-up when it comes to the people who have pushed the compound into what feels like mainstream overnight success: entrepreneurs.
However, it is not clear whether it would be advisable to consume higher doses of CBD than is currently in these products. “I do worry that if people believe a small amount is good and it’s completely safe, they may believe a large amount is better, says Dr Sarah Jarvis, GP and Clinical Director of Patient Info."
Cannabidiol, or as it’s better known CBD, is a legal cannabinoid (chemicals found in cannabis) and can be sold in the UK .
"Many of the CBD products available on the high street contain so little CBD that you would need to consume vast quantities to even approach some of the doses that are administered in clinical trials of medicines", concludes Sumnall.
Coffees and cakes may contain between 5–10mg of CBD. But clinical trials administer doses of around 100–1,500mg per day, with medical supervison.
"But there is no good scientific evidence that these consumer products have any real benefits.
"There is a greater public awareness of the potential therapeutic uses of medical cannabis and cannabinoids such as CBD, particularly in light of the UK government decision to permit some cannabis prescriptions in response to high-profile campaigns by the families of children affected by severe epilepsy," says Professor Sumnall.
“Businesses have picked up on growing public awareness and have been promoting their products online, in high-street retailers and increasingly in food and drink,” says Professor in Substance Use, Harry Sumnall, Liverpool John Moores University. We spoke to chefs at two restaurants who use CBD on their menus in completely different ways.
“CBD tends to work well in foods with a stronger, earthy taste, such as chocolate and coffee”, says Meg Greenacre, head chef at Erpingham House in Norwich. "I’ve been inspired by menus in London to create a delicious CBD brownie for our customers here. I was surprised that during taste tests, no one could tell which brownie the CBD was in and actually, most people thought it was the batch that did not contain it. I am looking into adding CBD to more sweet bakes such as nutty flapjacks and beetroot chocolate cake , which naturally have a deeper and richer flavour, complementing the earthy, almost bitter, taste and smell of CBD oil.
What is it doing in food?
It's not the psychoactive cannabinoid that gets you high, called THC. Instead it's a product believed by its high-street users to have medicinal properties, such as relaxation and pain-, nausea- and anxiety-relief, although studies are not conclusive.
CBD is normally sold in combination with a base oil, such as olive or coconut, as a supplement, vape, gel to be applied to the skin and more recently, in food and drink.