With CBD’s popularity increasing, it’s naturally found its way into a greater diversity of products beyond just traditional oils, capsules and topicals.
CBD drinks are popping up all over the place, in all sorts of beverages, from tea to kombucha. Get ready for the tidal wave of exciting and probably delicious new ways to enjoy CBD.
This article aims to provide the lowdown on what drinks CBD can be found in, the benefits, drawbacks and nuances of CBD in this form, safety considerations, how to use CBD drinks and how to find them.
CBD (cannabidiol) is one of over 100 plant compounds called cannabinoids that come from hemp and cannabis.
CBD is largely non-psychoactive, and does not produce a high. CBD can be extracted from hemp and cannabis plants. This way, the benefits of hemp, cannabis and CBD can be enjoyed without the high from THC. A lot of folks find the ‘high’ associated with THC a little unsettling, as it promotes a state of consciousness that can seem scary and unfamiliar if they’re not used to it.
Whilst both cannabinoids have therapeutic potential, CBD is the preferred cannabinoid for most people due to its diverse beneficial effects without the high.
CBD works its magic by interacting with an ancient biological system in the human body, known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a vast signalling network throughout the human body, that regulates many aspects of human physiology such as:
Much like the cannabinoids found in cannabis and hemp, the human body produces its own cannabinoids. These are known as endocannabinoids. These are the messenger molecules of the ECS, that transmit signals by binding to cannabinoid receptors:
The ECS is at the root of maintaining balance across the bodies core systems, such as the nervous, immune and cardiovascular systems. Its plays a leading role in supporting human health and preventing disease.
However, sometimes the ECS can become dysregulated. Thats where CBD comes in; because it’s very similar in nature to endocannabinoids, it can help correct imbalanced signalling in the ECS, by modifying cannabinoid receptors and how endocannabinoids send messages.
CBD makes its way into drinks in a variety of ways. The less common but more ‘natural’ way is through infusion. This is typically applied to some coffees, teas and alcoholic beverages.
CBD oil may be infused with the oil of coffee beans following the roasting process. Up until this infusion method, CBD oil has been added to coffee after it has been brewed; a popular choice amongst those using the traditional oils. This new method provides a standardised dose of CBD coffee that’s ready out of the bag without having to buy any oil.
Like coffee, teas can also be infused with a standardised dose of CBD.
Similarly, tea can be brewed with hemp flowers, although its unlikely much CBD is bioavailable since the cannabinoids may not be extracted simply by applying hot water.
Enjoying CBD coffee and tea with a splash of milk may help improve the bioavailability of beverages using traditional infusion methods. The high fat content in milk aids in the delivery of CBD, which is naturally happy to be carried in fats (1).
CBD can also be extracted from hemp using high quality ethanol, in the form of a tincture. This not only allows for the full spectrum of plant compounds to be extracted from hemp, but also provides an easy means of mixing CBD with alcoholic beverages, such as beer, wire and spirits.
Coffee, Tea and other beverages may alternatively use water soluble CBD. This is a specially formulated form of CBD that is deliverable in water, which is suggested to enhance the bioavailability of CBD.
The common argument for water soluble CBD is that the human body is 60% water. Making CBD water friendly enables a more effective delivery of CBD to cells via the bloodstream.
The bioavailability of traditional oils is notoriously poor (around 4%) (2), meaning that a large amount of CBD ingested goes to waste.
More on water soluble CBD later.
Little research has been done with CBD in humans to date. The existing research may not necessarily apply to the CBD contained within beverages mentioned throughout this article. Firstly, most CBD used in research is pure CBD isolate, which does not contain any of the additional ingredients many beverages that also contain CBD do.
Secondly, CBD used in beverages is mostly water soluble. Although boasting higher bioavailability, water soluble CBD has not been widely used in research, and may not necessarily translate into enhanced therapeutic effects.
With these caveats in mind, it’s important to remember that studies to date do not necessarily reflect the effects of CBD in beverages might have.
Pain – CBD interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system, which is a universal regulator of other systems, including the nervous and immune systems. Pain can have nervous and inflammatory origins, and CBD can help support endocannabinoid function in a way which reduces pain. A large meta-analysis of clinical studies supports a strong case for CBD in managing pain (5).
Insomnia – CBD has relaxing and mild sedating qualities at higher doses. This makes it particularly effective at helping those with insomnia get a good night’s sleep. Often the bodies endocannabinoid system is either over or under stimulated, which causes sleep disturbances. CBD, as well as other cannabinoids, act as adaptogens to help balance out endocannabinoid system function. CBD has proven to be efficacious in anxiety related and anxiety independent insomnia (6), (7). Sleep disorders are also related to endocannabinoid system dysfunction, and CBD has shown promise in alleviating their occurrence (8), (9).
Anxiety – CBD, although non-psychoactive, is able to modulate certain aspects of mood and emotion. The endocannabinoid system, HPA axis and nervous system are all regulators of depression and anxiety. CBD can help put the brakes on anxiety by reducing HPA axis overactivation and increasing levels of the bodies natural endocannabinoid, anandamide. CBD also helps support a better mood through activating the 5-HT1A serotonin receptor. Clinical evidence supports a role for CBD in managing anxiety (10), (11), (12).
Psychosis – The endocannabinoid system controls many aspects of mood, emotion and consciousness. In cases of psychosis, the endocannabinoid system can be overactive. CBD helps modify the function of the endocannabinoid system to reduce psychosis, which has been shown clinically (13).
The convenience of getting CBD in the form of a beverage may be more appealing for a lot of people, especially those new to using CBD. Beverages are routinely consumed in social environments; a morning coffee, afternoon tea, and maybe an alcoholic drink in the evening. This makes the enjoyable qualities more accessible in a social setting, particularly for those who like to take the edge off social anxiety.
Drinks aren’t just a part of everyday life, they’re also delicious and enjoyable to consume. This is a major plus for those who don’t enjoy the earthy taste of full spectrum hemp extracts. Enjoying CBD in a beverage allows for the pleasurable experience of the drink, as well as the therapeutic effects of CBD.
CBD has become a popular choice in bars, with many people opting for a drop or two of oil in their drinks. There has been little to no research exploring the additive effects of CBD with alcohol. If one were to speculate, the anti-anxiety and calming effects of alcohol may be complemented by CBD, although studies are needed to clarify this.
However, there is some research available concerning how CBD may offset some of the negative effects of drinking (excess) alcohol.
Enjoying tea just got that bit better. Many teas have earthy and floral notes, which many people enjoy. CBD is no exception here, and makes a welcome addition to a tea like green tea. Caffeinated teas may be complemented by the altering and focus enhancing qualities of CBD (17), as well as providing a calming effect amidst the stimulating and sometimes anxiety inducing effects of caffeine.
Naturally caffeine free teas are typically calming and relaxing, which is a perfect compliment to the well known soothing qualities of CBD, particularly in higher doses. Teas are also a great source of antioxidants and other beneficial plant compounds, offering a synergy of nature when paired with CBD.
Similar to caffeinated teas, the addition of CBD may help reduce some of the negative side effects often associated with coffee including the jitters, insomnia and anxiety. Coffee is also a great source of antioxidants, when combined with CBD may help preserve cellular health against damage and ageing.
Kombucha is a recently popularised beverage which has been rekindled from the ancient art of fermentation. Typically, teas are fermented to produce naturally occurring beneficial (probiotic) bacteria. These bacteria are beneficial to the gut microbiota, and help maintain the health of the digestive tract, particularly the intestinal lining which protects against invasion of damaging substances.
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is found within the gut, and controls the integrity of the intestinal lining. Not only do the probiotic bacteria contained within kombucha help the ECS maintain a healthy gut, so does CBD (18).
CBD kombucha may offer a powerful synergy to help maintain a healthy gut.
There are a few important factors to consider when opting to use CBD drinks (over oils and capsules).
Solubility refers to a substance’s ability to dissolve and therefore be carried in either water or a fat. CBD is naturally fat soluble, but can be made to be water soluble. This is believed to increase its bioavailability.
Bioavailability refers to how quickly and efficiently a substance is absorbed and used in the body. Considering the human body is mostly water, delivering CBD in a water friendly format theoretically increases its potential to be utilized.
Similarly, another study suggests water soluble CBD may have a more predictable absorption rate and bioavailability, ensuring more standardised dosing (21). This may also help save on the cost of CBD products.
Whether better bioavailability translates into an enhanced therapeutic effect still needs to be studied though. There are also ways of increasing the bioavailability of oil based CBD products, so before you ditch your oil or capsules for beverages, wait for the research to catch up.
Full spectrum CBD that has been extracted from hemp naturally contains less than 0.2-0.3% THC, and is therefore legal in the United States, Europe & the UK. Novel CBD extraction techniques have used on cannabis to obtain CBD, but filter out the THC (almost completely) to maintain compliance with legislation. These are known as broad spectrum extracts.
Traditional CBD oils, capsules and topicals that comply with THC limits are generally considered legal. However, putting CBD in food and drinks has yet to be evaluated by the FDA, EFSA and FSA. In other words, using CBD in beverages is still very much a legal grey area.
Washington, North Carolina, Ohio and New York are some states that have banned the sale of CBD enhanced food and drinks until the FDA clarifies its position on these products.
Similarly in the UK and EU, CBD food and drink products may be classed as ‘novel foods’. According to the European commission, a novel food is defined as a food that has not been consumed to a significant degree by humans in the EU before 15 May 1997. Products using CBD in beverages may have to undergo a strict, costly and lengthy testing and approval process of up to 18 months.
CBD beverages tend to contain in the ballpark of 5 – 25mg quantities. This depends on the type of drink and can impact the price as well.
Many beverages will use CBD isolate, which is generally less expensive. However, CBD isolate may not provide the same desired effects as full or broad spectrum extracts. CBD isolate is used in research at significantly higher doses than typically found in beverages. Therefore, beverages using isolate may not be a realistic way to consume higher doses of CBD for therapeutic effects.
Beverages containing full or broad spectrum water soluble CBD may be more desirable, but may still have drawbacks compared to using oils and capsules.
I have excluded this because there could be 1000’s. CBD could be infused into almost any water based or lipid containing beverage.
Some drinks may contain high levels of sugar. Additionally, artificial sweeteners and colours may find their way into some beverages. Always read the labels before purchasing.
However, more health conscious brands that aim to complement the therapeutic aspects of CBD have gone to lengths to ensure higher nutritional standards.
A lot of brands use sweeteners like erythritol which has fewer calories than conventional sugar and stevia which is non-caloric and does not typically affect blood sugar levels. However, some research indicates that even non-caloric sweeteners may have an impact on the brain that affects body composition and weight.
Some use organic cane sugar. Despite being organic, sugar that is extracted from its original ‘packaging’ may still not be great for health and longevity if consumed in excess.
Fruit juices and some health shots contain naturally high concentrations of sugar. However, they are also accompanied by natural antioxidants and plant compounds (polyphenols) which may offset some of the effects of sugar.
Coffee and tea are naturally high in antioxidants and polyphenols, and low in sugar. Consuming CBD in these beverages may be complementary to their many existing nutrients.
Coffee, tea, kombucha and natural fruit, vegetable juices and shots may cater to the therapeutic aspects of CBD to a greater degree than other beverages. If using CBD to manage a health condition, always consult a physician first.
To get an idea of how much CBD drinks cost, here is a quick price comparison. Bear in mind that drinks will vary in price, so these are just a couple of examples.
For reference, CBD oils usually cost around $0.03 – 0.06 (£0.05 – 0.07) per mg, and are regarded as one of the most economical forms of CBD.
Similarly, CBD capsules run at a decent price, from $0.05 – 0.13 (£0.05 – 0.09) per mg, putting them in a close second to oils.
One of the leading CBD beverages in the UK costs £0.15 / mg (420), which is significantly more than oils and capsules in the UK.
Similarly, CBD water in the USA can run anywhere from $2-7 and typically contains up to 15mg CBD. This puts the cost anywhere between $0.13 – 0.46 / mg, which again is significantly more than oils and capsules.
It essentially depends on how frequently CBD is used, and what it is used for. Frequent use of CBD is better supported by oils and tinctures, as its more economical. But for novelty, the odd drink here and there won’t break the bank.
CBD is not a panacea, despite what many people have come to recently believe. There are side effects associated with its use, although they are considered to be mild.
Some studies have indicated that the side effect profile of CBD is preferable to that of some conventional drugs (22). However, this doesn’t mean you should ditch your medication for CBD. Always ask your doctor first before making any changes to your medications.
Studies have reported that CBD can produce:
If you are taking prescription medication and would like to know about drug interactions with CBD, you can find out at drugs.com/interactions. Ensure you consult with your doctor before using CBD.
Nanotechnology is a novel way of delivering CBD. It has not been well studied in humans. There is no established level of toxicity for CBD and it is unclear as to how its bioavailability may be impactd .
New considerations may be required regarding the upper limits of CBD taken in current research with regard to nanotechnology.
Although CBD may counteract the downsides of consuming sugar, it’s not an incentive to drink more sugary drinks than usual.
Some nanotechnology relies upon additional chemicals to stabilise CBD particles in water. Check the ingredients list for natural emulsifying agents like lecithin, instead of things like propylene glycol. In case of uncertainty, ask the company how it makes its formula water soluble.
Some research points to negative consequences of using even some natural emulsifiers (24), although more research is needed to clarify this. In the case that CBD is being used for therapeutic purposes, using a traditional oil or capsules may be preferable, just in case.
First and foremost, it depends on what CBD is being used for. Someone looking for significant therapeutic effects may benefit from using traditional products such as tinctures and capsules. These are more cost effective and can be used more conveniently to find therapeutic doses.
The way CBD drinks are used depend on the type of drink consumed.
Teas and coffees are brewed in the same way as they typically would be. Because they are drinks that are frequently consumed throughout the day, be cognisant of the dose each serving provides and total daily intake. (particularly in those using nanotechnology).
There is no reliable evidence to support dosing CBD in beverages. Many beverages use water soluble CBD, which is highly bioavailable compared to traditional oil based CBD. Therefore, going by doses used for oil based CBD will not be reliable, accurate and possibly not even safe.
Considering there is no research using water soluble CBD, it’s worth playing devil’s advocate until there is. That may involve caution before engaging in the iberal consumption of CBD drinks.
Store drinks in a cool, dry, dark place. Drinks in see through glass bottles are particularly sensitive to light, so it is important that these are kept in dark places.
It is also important to consider bottles when buying CBD drinks. Those stored on shelves exposed to bright light are likely to have been subjected to some spoilage.
Cannabinoids like CBD are susceptible to oxidation when exposed to air (19). This spoils the quality of the CBD, so its important CBD coffee and tea is tightly packed away. A tightly sealed coffee pot or pot for tea bags may ensure a longer shelf life for your CBD.
Look for products using organic, full or broad spectrum CBD. Most drinks will use a water soluble version of this and specify this type of extract on the packaging.
Some drinks will alternatively use water soluble CBD isolate. These will not be labelled as full or broad spectrum, and may appear under the terms isolate, CBD extract, Hemp CBD extract or just CBD.
CBD isolate does not possess the full range of beneficial compounds that full or broad spectrum CBD does, so it’s best to shoot for those instead.
Nanotechnology is the process of making CBD water soluble. This can be done for both full & broad spectrum CBD, and CBD isolate. Nanotechnology ensures CBD it is deliverable in liquids such as water, juices, sodas, shots, and some coffee, tea, and alcoholic beverages. The term nanotechnology is interchangeable with water soluble technology, nanoemulsified CBD, or nano CBD for short.
It’s important to be aware of the way in which CBD has been made water soluble. Nanotechnology enables CBD to be water soluble with the help of emulsifying ingredients. However, this can be done with either natural or artificial ingredients. It goes without saying that natural ingredients are preferable.
Look for ingredient lists that specify how they emulsify their CBD. A few common natural emulsifiers include lecithin, acacia gum, mono and diglycerides, carrageenan and guar gum.
In contrast, synthetic ingredients such as propylene glycol may be harmful; it was dubbed allergen of the year in 2018 (25). Carboxymethylcellulose (CMC) or polysorbate 80 (P80) can also be used to make CBD water soluble. Research in mice indicates that these emulsifiers are damaging to the gut microbiota, and may cause inflammation (26). Not ideal if someone is using CBD to reduce inflammation.
Different companies will use different emulsifiers whether they be natural or artificial. If these are not specified on the label, contact the company for further details or find another product that does.
Always ensure the CBD is from an organic source of either hemp. Hemp is a bioaccumulator, which means it takes on environmental toxins. It is important that your product specifies where the hemp is grown, and if it is organic.
Supercritical CO2 extraction is the industry standard for obtaining CBD from hemp and cannabis plants. This process produces a pure, clean, quality oil that is free from residual solvents, which could be toxic.
Extra steps may be taken in the purification of CBD products, such as winterisation. This process involves soaking the CO2 extract in alcohol and then freezing it. Winterisation can be used to filter out waxes, chlorophyll and lipids to provide a more purified CBD oil.
Most CBD topicals will contain full spectrum CO2 extracts, offering a range of cannabinoids and terpenes other than just CBD.
Some topicals may contain CBD isolate, whilst it may not provide the same degree of relief as full spectrum extracts, as many of the plant compounds from hemp and cannabis work as a team.
When purchasing a topical, make sure your product comes with lab results that confirm the CBD content of the product. This is the bare minimum of what can be provided in the way of lab testing. Test results should be provided by the manufacturer.
Some companies will have their products tested for heavy metals, pesticides and moulds. This is not yet industry standard, but some manufacturers do undertake these tests. If they don’t, then ensuring that the hemp is organic may mean that the product is not significantly contaminated by to heavy metals and pesticides.
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