It’s an understatement to say that cannabidiol (CBD) is everywhere you turn. Celebs like Mandy Moore and Michelle Williams have used Lord Jones CBD lotion to prep their feet for red carpet heels, while Kristen Bell swears by the same lotion for back pain. CBD massages are popping up in spas across the nation. You can walk into a neighborhood cafe and get your latte with extra foam and CBD oil. It’s a wellness ingredient that appeals across generations (millennials are sipping on CBD-infused sparkling water for anxiety; Baby Boomers are using it to ease arthritis pain) and even species. (Got a stressed dog? There’s a CBD chew for that). It feels like we’ve reached peak CBD… or have we?

Even though the science hasn’t quite caught up to the word-of-mouth reputation, unlike most wellness fads — ahem, the baby food diet, raw water, and juice cleanses — CBD seems here to stay.

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The Rise of CBD as Self-Care

CBD’s meteoric rise comes at a time where the wellness industry is booming. Along with mindfulness and meditation, CBD is riding the wave of our current fixation on self-care. It’s an antidote to our overly-stimulated and overly-stressed world, where anxiety is more prevalent than ever. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in America, affecting 18.1 percent of the population aged 18 and over. In an American Psychiatric Association (APA) poll last year, researchers found Americans, and especially women (who tend to be more anxious than men), had increased levels of anxiety from 2017 in 2018 in areas of health, safety, finances, relationships, and politics.

It is only fitting then, that CBD’s popularity has grown in parallel with a desire to find a natural solution to rebalance our lives. Women have traditionally been at the forefront of wellness movements, and they’re also the ones leading the CBD trend. According to 2018 State of Cannabis Report by Eaze, a cannabis marketplace, women and female Baby Boomers are driving the growth for cannabis and CBD demand, and the total number of CBD consumers doubled in 2018. Eaze has also seen an overall shift toward wellness. Across all demographics, consumers are reducing alcohol use and prescription and OTC pill consumption in favor of cannabis products as a healthier alternative. Eaze’s CBD-only consumers reported a variety of effects such as relaxation, anxiety relief, stress relief, and pain relief. As a plant-based extract, it’s easily added to beauty products, food, gummies, beverages, topical creams, and more — there’s something for everyone’s product and taste preference, making the barrier to trial relatively low. Last year, Eaze launched Eaze Wellness, a curated menu of hemp-derived CBD products that can be shipped to 41 states and DC.

The research is still young, and many of CBD’s health benefits have still yet to be conclusively proven. However, there are numerous ongoing clinical trials to test CBD as a treatment for everything from drug addiction to PTSD to anxiety disorders. And research will only speed up in the future.

CBD Goes Mainstream

In December, the 2018 Farm Bill — which among other things, legalizes hemp — was passed, a huge boon to both farmers and the CBD industry. CBD can be sourced from either hemp or cannabis (the latter contains more than 0.3 percent THC, the substance that actually gets you high), and with the passage of the bill, industrial hemp is now removed from the federal government’s list of controlled substances, where cannabis still remains. With fewer restrictions around domestic hemp production, the industry is poised to grow, and hemp-derived CBD along with it: Some industry analysts, like those at Brightfield Group, project the CBD market to grow to $22 billion by 2022.

The FDA is still the ultimate regulator of food and health products that contain CBD, and its current position is that the inclusion of CBD without approval is illegal. However, the agency is mainly actively enforcing this only in cases where there are claims that are a threat to public health, which is why you still see a ton of products available, many of them marketed as ways to generally help people chill out.

Joel Stanley, co-founder of Charlotte’s Web, an early company in the CBD space, notes the Farm Bill will allow more expansive research into hemp in general. “This is very exciting, as I believe the iceberg has barely surfaced as to how valuable hemp can be. We have to remember that as long as the DEA considered hemp and CBD a controlled substance, our research institutions were effectively denied access to study the plant. This research will inform the future of agricultural and manufacturing practices, and certainly lend to newly validated uses and product formulations.”

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Scott Hix, Managing Director of Aethics, a CBD company designed for everyday athletes, agrees. “For years, CBD has been lumped into the same category as marijuana. There has been a stigma associated with it and questions regarding legality, both on the consumer and retail side. With the passing of the Farm Bill, we have already seen a growing interest from major retailers. CBD will quickly become more accessible. You’ll be able to walk into your local CVS or Walgreens and purchase CBD products.”

For now, Stanley says, “I’m excited to see the progression of the category expand into many different food, beverage, and cosmetic innovations. In 2018, we saw lots of interest from many large brands in consumer packaged goods. I wouldn’t be surprised if 2019 is the largest year of entrance for established brands.” Case in point: Last year, rumors swirled around that Coca Cola was exploring CBD-infused beverages. The company later denied this claim, but said it was “closely watching the growth of non-psychoactive CBD as an ingredient in functional wellness beverages around the world.”

CBD for You

For a substance intended to quell anxiety, there is an anxiety-inducing number of product options available on the market. But whether you choose to drink, smoke, or chew your CBD, there are a few rules of thumb to keep in mind. As with anything, research is key.

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“Buying CBD is like dating; you should keep your standards high. It’s a good thing to be picky about what websites you purchase products on and how those products are made and sourced,” says Charlotte Palermino, who leads content strategy and brand development for Nice Paper, a site dedicated to cannabis education.

Charlotte’s Web’s Stanley says, “While it’s true that ‘fly-by-night’ companies have always taken advantage of every hot new supplement category, there are also many excellent CBD companies that place a high priority on quality and consistency.” He recommends looking for brands that have an established track record and have ultimate control of their raw hemp materials to control for safety and batch-to-batch consistency.

Hix notes that while CBD regulations and enforcement of growing techniques will rise, this will take some time. “The source of your CBD matters. Look for US-grown hemp that’s certified by state departments of agriculture. Also, look into the extraction method of the brand you’re looking at. This varies widely, but it should be natural and organic.”

There are three kinds of CBD: full spectrum, broad spectrum, and isolate. As Palermino explains, “Full spectrum CBD is made from the whole plant, which contains other cannabinoids. Isolate is only CBD. This is important to note as full spectrum has trace levels of THC (less than 0.3 percent) and isolate contains no THC. Broad spectrum CBD is somewhere in between, with only the THC being removed and maintaining other cannabinoids found in hemp. Some studies show you need a higher dose of CBD isolate to be as effective as full spectrum but for now, the research is limited, and your priority when buying CBD should always be purity and accuracy.”

Note that there is no one-size-fits-all dose; how CBD reacts with any person will vary depending on individual genetics, metabolism, and other factors. “A good rule of thumb is to start with body weight and remember that CBD is a daily habit,” she says. “Start slow and try 1 to 6 mg of CBD for every 10 pounds of body weight. You can always add more and you’ll learn over time what works best for you. Just remember: This isn’t Advil. More doesn’t mean stronger effects. There is a host of research on both animals and humans that show too much or too little CBD doesn’t work. You need to find your Goldilocks zone.”

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(Photos via Charlotte’s Web, Aethics, and Lord Jones)

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