Chances are you’ve heard of cannabidiol (aka CBD). As a quick refresher, this non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis has some cool potential health benefits that don’t involve getting you high. Plus, unlike THC (the high-inducing substance in cannabis), it’s legal across the U.S., so it’s not super surprising that CBD-infused foods are proving to be pretty popular, as adding CBD to meals or snacks is an easy (and tasty!) way to try it.
CBD-infused foods aren’t limited to overly sugary sweets like candy or cookies, though. There are plenty of healthy ways to make CBD edibles right in your kitchen. (CBD-infused avocado toast? Yes, please.)
What are the benefits of CBD?
Purported CBD benefits range from pain relief to lessened anxiety. Anecdotally, Blake Pearson, MD, founder of GreenlyMed.com and practicing medical doctor in Ontario specializing in cannabinoid medicine, has seen patients benefit from the use of CBD.
Here’s how cannabidiol works: THC alters receptors in your brain and throughout your body by binding to them, leading to a high, but that’s not the case for CBD, says Pearson. Instead, CBD has the ability to calm down receptors that send out pain signals. In states where medical marijuana is legal, doctors often pair THC and CBD, since CBD tamps down the effect of THC, and there can be some added benefits when both are taken together. CBD also has anti-inflammatory properties, says Pearson.
Where does the research stand on CBD’s benefits, though? Pearson says there’s a lack of randomized controlled double blind studies (the gold standard in the medical community) indicating the effects. “However, it’s a pretty benign substance,” says Pearson. “There’s no psycho-activity and it’s non-toxic.” Translation: While science hasn’t concretely proven CBD’s benefits yet, there’s close to no harm in trying it. Pearson just cautions that you should consult with your physician before whipping up any CBD-infused snacks because it can be sedative, and a health care provider will be able to recommend a good starting dose for you.
That being said, there is some research out there, although the sample sizes are all small. For a study published in the European Journal of Pain, 128 participants with allodynia (nerve pain) were given a THC/CBD spray, while 118 were given a placebo in addition to whatever other treatments they were taking. Those who used the spray reported improvements in pain and sleep quality without any side effects.
Meanwhile, for a study published in the journal Neurospychopharmacology, 12 participants with generalized social anxiety disorder were given CBD capsules, while 12 participants were given a placebo. All participants were tasked with undergoing a simulated public speaking test. Those who had taken the CBD capsules had less anxiety, fewer memory issues, and less overall discomfort during the test than those who had taken the placebo.
Research published in the New England Journal of Medicine looked at CBD’s effect on Dravet’s syndrome, a rare epileptic disorder that appears during infancy. 120 kids and young adults with Dravet’s syndrome were either given an oral CBD solution or a placebo. Those who took the CBD solution experienced significantly fewer seizures per month than those on the placebo.
Why is the CBD market exploding right now?
From Pearson’s perspective, pain relief is the biggest benefit CBD has to offer. He’s currently treating nursing home residents with conditions like arthritis and chronic pain with CBD, in some cases weaning them off opioids and other medications.
And there’s definitely a need for alternative pain relief remedies. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 115 people in the U.S. die from opioid overdoses every day (and more than 350,000 have died from overdoses between 1999 and 2016). Meanwhile, CBD is relatively side effect free, non-addictive, and is not associated with any overdoses or deaths per the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
Given its relative safety, it’s no wonder that the CBD industry is growing. In fact, the The Hemp Business Journal reports that in 2016 there were $130 million in hemp-derived CBD products sold. (Hemp is a type if cannabis plant.) By 2020, The Hemp Business Journal estimates that the hemp industry will have grown to $1.8 billion in sales, with hemp-derived CBD products and foods being two of the biggest categories leading growth.
That being said, not all CBD products are the same. While there’s a definite interest in natural and organic products in this country (according to the Organic Trade Association, sale of organic foods hit $43 billion in 2016), you can’t necessarily classify CBD as natural or organic. It depends on the brand, says Rebecca Noren, MS, RDN, so doing your research before purchasing anything with CBD, and looking at where the CBD comes from, where the hemp is grown, and whether the brand sends the CBD to third party labs to test and ensure it’s contaminant-free is important if you’re after an all-natural or organic product.
Some brands are already leading the way in this arena. Noren is a fan of Medterra, whose products are all natural, GMO free, and tested by a third party lab, she says. Some brands are even taking things to the next level with healthier-than-expected CBD edibles containing high-quality hemp-derived CBD. Take Pharma CBD Peanut Butter, for example, which is high in protein, fiber, potassium, and antioxidants, and Luce Farm Vermont Hemp-Infused Honey, which is made with certified organic coconut oil and raw Vermont honey. CBD-infused drinks, like Cannabinoid Creations Hemp CBD Water ($24 for four), and Elev8 Hemp Artisan Roasted Hemp Coffee ($14.99), exist, too.
How to Create CBD-Infused Foods at Home
Now onto the fun stuff. CBD edibles don’t have to be in the form of brownies or gummies. You can add CBD to just about any meal or snack. Follow these tips to get started on whipping up your own CBD-infused foods.
Pick your CBD wisely.
Dennis Lee, co-founder and executive chef of Namu Gaji in San Francisco and director of edibles manufacturing for Sublime Canna, prefers to use CBD isolate (a crystalline powder) for CBD-infused foods. “It’s something that’s pretty readily available, and it has a very high level of purity, which is the reason why I like to use it,” he says. “That makes it easier to dose out.” CBDistillery offers CBD isolate in a variety of sizes.
CBD oil is another option for CBD-infused foods, but keep in mind that pils can vary a lot from brand to brand according to Noren, and some have an earthy flavor. Noren likes Medterra MedOil CBD Tincture ($49.95 for 500 milligrams) because it’s flavorless. You can also look for a CBD oil that’s made with avocado oil because it’ll also be tasteless and the avocado oil has its own benefits, she says. According to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, for example, adding avocado oil to salad increased absorption of carotenoids alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and lutein, which the National Cancer Institute, American Cancer Society, and American Heart Association associate with disease prevention.
Find your perfect CBD dosage.
Remember: Always consult with a medical professional before introducing a substance like CBD into your life, says Pearson. He usually starts patients off with a small dose of 2.5 mg and then increases it from there depending on the effects. Noren says that Medterra’s CBD oil has lines on the dropper so that you can mete out your dose accurately when making CBD-infused foods.
Try it for the first time at night.
Never eaten CBD-infused foods before? Pearson notes that CBD can have a sedative effect, so give it a go at night to see how you react if it’s your first time. After all, you probably don’t want to doze off at your desk post snack.
Pair CBD with the right foods.
CBD is fat soluble (i.e. it absorbs in fat), says Lee, so it’s best when paired with healthy fats. Noren suggests adding a dose of CBD to peanut butter or avocado before topping toast. For avocado toast, Lee says he’d infuse olive or coconut oil with CBD isolate, then drizzle it over the toast before eating. Another idea is adding CBD to pesto sauce, says Noren, since it has fats from the olive oil and pine nuts. Finally, consider using CBD in a smoothie, says Noren, because you’re getting loads of nutrients from other ingredients, such as spinach and berries. Noren suggests using Greek yogurt in your smoothie since it has fat, which will promote absorption.
Make a single serving.
Think about it: If you were to make a large batch of something, it’d be pretty difficult to figure out how much CBD was in one serving, says Pearson. That’s why it’s better to focus on single serving CBD-infused foods (hence why avocado toast and smoothies are great ideas).
Don’t heat it up.
It’s best to integrate CBD into the final product rather than literally “cooking” with it, says Lee. When you heat CBD, it starts to degrade, losing its potency, he explains. You don’t want to go above 350 degrees, says Lee. Let’s say you’re preparing something like scrambled eggs and want to add CBD to your breakfast. Instead of throwing CBD into a hot pan, Lee recommends preparing CBD-infused butter and folding it into your scrambled eggs at the very end, when they’re done being cooked.
A Quick and Easy CBD-Infused Smoothie
Ready to play chef and prepare some CBD-infused foods yourself? Give Noren’s CBD-infused smoothie recipe a whirl. It can be customized with different fruits depending on your taste, or eaten as a bowl with extra fruit arranged on top or folded in.
- 1 cup frozen berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries)
- ⅔ cup Greek yogurt (opt for yogurt with a fat content—no non-fat for this recipe!)
- ½ cup packed spinach
- 2 to 3 Tbsp. milk (whatever kind you prefer)
- Desired CBD dose (2.5 mg is a good starting point for beginners)
- Place all ingredients into the blender and mix until well combined.
- Pour into a mug or bowl.
- Enjoy your delicious CBD-infused smoothie.