A Cannabis Skeptic's Guide to CBD: A Quick Sift Through The CBD Market

A Cannabis Skeptic's Guide to CBD: A Quick Sift Through The CBD Market

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I’ve been smoking weed every day for more than a decade to manage anxiety and depression. Plus, I love the feeling. There’s no greater relief than your first inhale of great-tasting bud and the giggly relaxation that follows. So when CBD came on the scene, I was skeptical from the get-go.

What do you mean this is “high-less” cannabis? Wasn’t the high the point and the medical benefits a lucky bonus? But in the age of COVID-19, when the whole world mirrors my sweat-soaked anxiety dreams, I figure it’s finally time to give CBD a shot. After all, “weed lite’s” most popular use is for stress, so maybe it could help us all stop clenching our jaws and imagining the end of days.

Not all CBD products are created equal, but there are a few helpful things you can do while seeking the good stuff. As you explore, remember that the CBD experience is subtler than a difficult-to-ignore THC high.

“This is definitely hard for people to wrap their heads around—especially THC consumers who typically equate cannabis with an immediate ‘feeling,’” Degelis “Dege” Tufts, CEO and co-founder of TribeTokes, tells me when I express my CBD skepticism. “An analogy I use to help people understand better is that you can’t always ‘feel’ Advil; you just feel generally better.” I’m intrigued; anything to help me cope with this new dystopian reality.

If you’re intrigued as well, consider following these five steps toward CBD mastery.


1. Investigate third-party testing.

“If you’ve ever spoken to someone who says CBD oil doesn’t affect them, it’s because they probably didn’t have quality CBD oil,” says Dr. Philip Blair, medical director of CBD brand Elixinol. He advises folks to check if their CBD has been tested by a third-party lab for such things as potency, pesticides, residual solvents and terpene profiles to help determine the quality of the product. Tufts of TribeTokes notes that products should have a QR code on the label that you can scan to read these results.

Kymberly “KymB” Byrnes, chief marketing officer and co-founder of TribeTokes, suggests you google the tests to ensure they’re from an accredited lab. “We always say, if they can’t answer your questions, you shouldn’t be buying from them,” she says.

So if a brand ignores your request for lab results—or your queries about, for example, where the plants are grown—it’s likely not making high-quality stuff. Tufts reminds Playboy that hemp CBD brands are not required to lab-test their products, but the industry insists on “self-regulation” that provides consumers with the transparent and clean products they deserve.


2. Scan the ingredients.

Cannabis-oil labels can appear to be filled with jargon if you don’t know what you’re looking at. Full spectrum, broad spectrum, isolate? Hemp-derived, cannabis-rich, phytocannabinoid.… What does any of this stuff even mean?

First, it’s important to know that CBD can be sourced from either the hemp plant, which is legal around the country, or the marijuana plant, which is legal in certain states for adult and/or medical use. The main legal difference between the two is hemp has less than 0.3 percent THC (the federal limit) and marijuana has more. Otherwise, all the experts and entrepreneurs I spoke to said the difference in experience between hemp- and marijuana-derived CBD is minimal, and adding more THC into one’s routine will be a matter of preference and access.

Why does this matter? Basically, experts like Blair believe the medical benefits of cannabis are dependent on much more than CBD or THC; they’re a combination of the plant’s 400-plus compounds, including various cannabinoids, terpenes, sugars and flavonoids. This theory is known as the “entourage effect.”

When searching for the most effective medicine, it’s best to opt for “full spectrum” products if they’re derived from hemp—meaning none of the plant’s compounds have been removed, so they can all work together in their optimal, synergetic way. Unless, says Tufts, you’re drug-tested regularly; then your best bet is a CBD-isolate product, because it won’t show up on a drug screening. Just keep in mind that you might need to take a higher dose for the full effect.

From there, you’ll want to read the label for a few other key points: Is it organic? If it truly is, it should have the USDA Organic certification seal on it. If it’s an ingestible CBD oil, you’ll also want to check what kind of carrier oils are used. MCT oil (most commonly from coconut oil) and hemp-seed oil are popular and desirable choices. If you’re looking for an organic product, make sure these oils are organic as well.


3. Check the dose.

Besides scanning the label for quality, check for quantity—as in, how many milligrams does this product contain? CBD-oil labels can be tricky to read when it comes to dose. But most often, the listed milligrams, such as 700 or 1,000, are for the entire bottle, not a single serving size. And what is a decent serving size? That’s kind of a mystery that takes a bit of personal trial and error to figure out. Blair recommends folks start with around 15 milligrams twice a day and see how they feel. He adds that good dosages are 30 milligrams a day for stress, 60 milligrams for immune disorders and as much as 180 milligrams for pain.

“I have a friend who takes 15 milligrams for anxiety and 30 for sleep. That’s her cocktail. But mine is different,” says Byrnes. “I take 50 to 70 milligrams for sleep. For anxiety I like to mix CBD and THC. Things like age, weight, underlying conditions and altitude can all make a difference. Research and experimenting are your best bet.”

It can be an expensive hobby, but she’s right: Experimenting with different doses and ratios of CBD to THC is the ideal way to find something that works for you. And remember: If you’re shopping for CBD oil, make sure each serving size is at least 10 to 20 milligrams or you won’t be able to reach effective doses without consuming half the bottle in one go.


4. Dose regularly.

Unlike ingesting a THC edible, whose noticeable effects emerge an hour or so later, CBD is more of a long game when it comes to wellness enhancement, and folks report the most benefits when they take it daily. Especially in these taxing, unprecedented times, you’ll likely get more stress relief if you take a reasonable dose two or three times a day rather than one big dose when you’re freaking out. The effects may not be immediately noticeable, but when you look back at the week you’ll likely realize it was a lot calmer and more manageable than the weeks before.

“Do you take a vitamin twice a week and expect it to make a difference?” asks Byrnes. “CBD should be integrated into your everyday lifestyle. Like an apple a day or yoga every damn day—CBD is the same.”

There are many theories to explain this. “Regular dosing creates subtle changes in metabolism and epigenetics and regulates the immune system,” says Blair. Tufts points to Harvard Medical School’s hypothesis that chronic inflammation is the “unifying theory of disease,” emphasizing CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties as its mechanism for promoting relief from a wide array of conditions. Regardless of how it works, staying dosed up definitely seems to help people the most, whether they’re using it for stress, pain or other conditions.


5. Keep track and adjust.

If you’re a regular high THC-cannabis consumer like me and are struggling to figure out CBD’s effects, start a journal. By keeping track of the dose and product, as well as your mood and symptoms, you can zero in on what—if anything—CBD is doing for you and make necessary adjustments.

“Keeping a journal is valuable because of the subtle changes you may not notice,” explains Blair. “Many people often feel there are no improvements, until they stop; then they realize many things are happening.”

CBD isn’t a quick fix, but it can be a natural antidote to stress, sleeplessness and more serious conditions. And if there were ever a time to try weed lite, it’s probably now.