Cannabidiol—more commonly known as CBD—isn't just ubiquitous on the internet these days. It's sweeping IRL wellness circles, too. Just in New York City alone, you can sip on CBD coffee at Bushwick's Caffeine Underground, swill a CBD-laced Banana Rum Old Fashioned at Bubby's in Tribeca, or pop by the West Village's Clover Grocery to pick up CBD-infused gummy candies. According to Vice, CBD consumer sales in the U.S. were more $350 million last year, and by some projections, will reach $1 billion by 2020.
Now, popular vegan fast-casual chain By Chloe has joined the party. Through Oct. 14, you can stop by either of By Chloe's Greenwich Village or Seaport locations to check out its roster of 25 different CBD-infused baked goods, as part of a 70s-inspired Feelz By Chloe pop-up line.
There’s a "Chocolatey Leafy Browney." There's something called a "Mary Jane Chill Cake." There's a cupcake with glittery frosting that'll remind you of a disco ball. There are hot pink Rice Krispie treats, and cakes covered in technicolor Nerds.
After launching a “Daily Hit” CBD brownie on April 20 this year, By Chloe sold out in less than 30 minutes, says founder and creative director Samantha Wasser. "After seeing the response from our customers, I knew we had to do something more meaningful." To pull off the pop-ups, By Chloe has partnered with cannabis product brand Toast and blog Nice Paper for various aspects, including the oil within the baked goods as well as the the in-shop boutiques selling CBD coffee, lip balm, butter, and lotion, among other things.
"The goal of the Feelz By Chloe line is to help introduce CBD in a more approachable, fun, and of course educational way," says Wasser. "Through delicious, rainbow, and sparkly treats, sweets and snacks."
But before we get to those, a bit of background:
Put plainly, CBD is a compound found in the cannabis plant. There are many of these compounds—called cannabinoids—within cannabis, and they act on corresponding receptors in our bodies and brains. Another cannabinoid you’ve probably heard of is tetrahydrocannabinol (or THC), which is the psychoactive one; in layman’s terms, THC is the compound in marijuana that gets a person high.
Unlike THC, CBD is not psychoactive in the commonly used sense of the word, in that it doesn’t produce the sense of euphoria and high associated with THC. With that said, there's ambiguity around the nomenclature of "nonpsychoactive" as it relates to CBD.
"When people use 'nonpsychoactive' in the context of cannabis, they usually mean that a product doesn't get a person high; it doesn't cause euphoria, changes in sensory perception, the classic symptoms of being high," says Bettina Huang, Co-Founder and CEO of cannabis product index website Say Hi. "The compounds you're consuming [with CBD] can and do still affect the mind in other ways that are therapeutic and not intoxicating, so there's a bit of a movement to stop using 'nonpsychoactive' in the way that it's been adopted and instead use 'non-intoxicating' in order to more accurately describe the effect. CBD therapies should really be called non-intoxicating because they are technically psychoactive."
As for how CBD can be derived, it can be extracted from both hemp and marijuana.
Hemp and marijuana are both varieties of the plant genus cannabis. Hemp is essentially cannabis that’s been bred for a number of consumer end-uses, and it contains less than 0.3 percent THC.
“Hemp has a negligible content of THC, which is the compound responsible for the experience of getting high,” says Huang. “Marijuana is typically bred with an emphasis on THC. CBD, however, can be derived from both hemp and marijuana plants, though it's found in higher concentrations in the marijuana plant.”
Unless you're buying CBD products in a state where marijuana is recreationally legal or you have a medical marijuana card, you're buying the hemp-derived kind.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Epidiolex, a CBD-containing prescription drug for certain types of epilepsy. Notably, Epidiolex is the first FDA-approved drug that contains a purified drug substance derived from marijuana.
“Science on all matters cannabis is nascent because it's so challenging for reputable universities and institutions to conduct real research due to the legal status of cannabis. It's good to keep in mind that a lot of claims about the benefits of cannabis are stronger than science can substantiate. That doesn't mean they're not true; it just means we need more research to develop a deeper understanding,” says Huang.
We thought you'd never ask! (But we tried them all, just in case.)
By Chloe's Feelz line is offering 25 different CBD-infused products, from the aforementioned disco-ball cupcakes, brownies, cakes, and Krispie treats to cinnamon rolls, babka, cookies, and dog treats. Each item on the Feelz roster has approximately 2.5 mg of CBD oil per serving. "All our products feature Toast CBD oil and that’s all. Toast is an all-natural, full spectrum hemp extract with a small amount of organic MCT coconut oil," says Wasser. In other words, the kind of CBD derived from hemp, which has none of the euphoria-inducing effects you'd get from THC.
For science's sake, we did in-depth taste testing to confirm that the Feelz items are delicious. We found that the added CBD oil didn't contribute any discernible flavor—which Wasser says is because By Chloe uses a neutral oil—though we also didn't detect any anxiety-reducing effects amongst our tester group. (One team member did however note that after trying one of the cookies, her headache disappeared.) According to Wasser, because CBD does get diluted a bit when cooked or baked, By Chloe introduces the oil into their finishings, like frostings, ganaches, and glazes.
As for what seemed to be limited efficacy, this could be the result of any of several reasons: effects that are subtle in the first place, a dose that was lower than our test group could've tolerated, or the diminished rate at which bodies absorb CBD when it's administered orally, versus through methods like vaporizing.
"The bioavailability (rate at which a substance is absorbed by the body) of CBD is much lower orally, which includes ingesting CBD oil straight or through food and drink. It's more effective to administer by means like vaporizing or sublingual extracts," says Huang, explaining that the latter refers to ingesting CBD through the placement of extracts under one's tongue, where it can be absorbed much more directly into the bloodstream through the many capillaries. "Most of the food and drink that's out there right now is very unlikely to have enough CBD in it to have much of an effect on you."
"There is a Goldilocks effect with CBD oil, where everyone’s threshold is different for what works best for them," says Wasser. "Our baked goodies are microdosed to allow our customers to dabble with CBD oil in an approachable way where they do not have to worry about dosing (e.g., only eating half a brownie)."
Great news for those of us who've never stopped at a brownie-half before, and don't have any plans to start.
The FDA approval of Epidiolex underscores the usefulness of CBD in treatment of specific types of epilepsy, and early research points to CBD's effectiveness with additional applications as well. And while it sounds like inviting CBD to your happy hour—or breakfast pastry—isn't necessarily the most effective way to ingest it, it's certainly one way to experiment at a low dose.
Have you tried CBD? Let us know in the comments!