On a bleak day back in February, I was out running errands when I almost literally walked into a sidewalk sign for CBD — a minimalist shop had popped up in the clean white foyer of the Hudson Wellness Center. I went in. I asked a medical staffer to recommend the strongest stuff they had for “rest and relaxation.” I left with a bottle of Charlotte’s Web Extra Strength Hemp Extract Oil and have not been the same since.
Had fate not intervened, I never would have thrown $75 toward such an impulse buy. Even by the standards of FDA-unregulated panaceas that nobody really understands, the ever-widening sea of CBD options is enough to make one’s head spin — some say the market will surpass $1 billion by 2020. (As a reminder, though you probably don’t need it: CBD, or cannabidiol, is a non-intoxicating compound of the cannabis plant.) But some fads choose you.
About a week after I placed the first dropper full of my new purchase under my tongue, my toddler son woke up with a 105.2-degree fever. I do not normally handle his sicknesses very well. During fevers past, as my husband will tell you, I have threatened to throw myself off the balcony. But now it was as though a pink salt lamp were glowing between me and my emotions. I had mostly assumed this would just be another tincture on which I’d wasted good money, but I couldn’t help but notice that ever since I’d started my CBD regimen, the screams of my child weren’t as piercing; the lacrosse-ball-sized knot under my left shoulder blade was releasing.
The effects became even more pronounced with some fine-tuning: Now, about a month in, I have increased my intake to anywhere from 50 to 100 mg per day, sometimes spread out between two doses, but usually all at once, a little while before dinnertime (I’ve found it works better when I don’t have it too close to meals). It takes less than an hour to kick in and has mostly replaced my nightly glass(es) of wine (the downside being that I’ve traded the wine’s terroir for the taste of organic extra-virgin olive oil with a bong-water finish). I am relaxed all evening long — although still alert enough to do loudmouth-pigeon voices for my son’s bedtime stories — and seem to sleep deeper. Basically it’s like being high without being high.
My particular dosage is not for everybody, I have learned — many people on Reddit seem to need less, whereas when my husband tried it, he wasn’t sure he felt any effect at all (Big CBD will tell you this likely means he is among those slow responders who need more consistent use to notice a benefit).
I’m still working out the possible reasons I apparently prefer not only this specific dosage but also this specific company’s proprietary blend of CBD oil (I have tried comparable products from similar brands and didn’t get quite as high-but-not). Surely there’s a marketing placebo involved: The Times recently referred to Charlotte’s Web — founded by the seven Stanley brothers way back in 2012 — as “the Uber of CBD.”
When I called up one of the Stanley brothers, second-oldest Joel, to ask him why certain brands seem to work better for some people than others, he pointed to the human endocannabinoid system, a network of feel-good chemicals that can be activated by CBD. Different hemp extracts have different genetics, and depending on the person, Stanley explained, “every hemp genetic has the potential to be special — we all have our own unique makeup, our own unique endocannabinoid system that these products work with and help to bring balance to.”
When I told him about the one time I ingested much more than the recommended dosage — like 300 mg — just to see what would happen, Joel Stanley did not approve. (What happened was I felt my bones dissolve into the couch. I watched Toy Story 2 with my son and picked up on nuances in the movie I’d never before understood. I sucked down an entire tin of stevia hard candy that suddenly was bursting with flavor.)
Charlotte’s Web produces what’s called full-spectrum CBD oil — meaning they incorporate compounds from the entire plant rather than just an isolate of CBD — the reasoning being that whole-plant-derived products are said to work better because of the “entourage effect” in the body. Anyway, one of those compounds is a trace amount of the psychoactive THC. The legal limit is just 0.3 percent, but for some people, evidently, 0.3 percent is not nothing: “We all have a different threshold for compounds like THC,” Stanley noted. When I’m not macrodosing, the only negative side effect I’ve noticed is a slight increase in appetite. Otherwise, this is the most calming thing I’ve done since yoga — and even my yoga teacher said she’s noticed a whole new energy in me.
Out of an abundance of caution and because the medical journalism around CBD is young, we edited this post slightly to remove some references to its potential health benefits.
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