When someone suggested I take cannabidiol (CBD) to help me calm down, I flat-out refused to do it. "I hate weed," I said firmly, recalling the last time I'd smoked it back in my freshman year, when I'd stared at myself in the mirror for three hours.
But cannabidiol is not weed. Well, not exactly weed. Cannabidiol, also known as hemp oil, is one of the two main components that make up marijuana. The other is THC, which is the mind-altering molecule that fueled my 3 a.m. narcissism-fest.
Over the past few years, as places across the U.S. and around the world legalize marijuana, the medical uses of CBD are becoming increasingly interesting to doctors and scientists (especially when it comes to epilepsy). What I'm particularly interested in, though, is CBD's potential for improving mental health.
The scientific evidence for CBD's ability to quell anxiety, dampen psychosis, and lift the mood is patchy at the moment, although the National Institute on Drug Abuse is optimistic: "CBD has shown therapeutic efficacy in a range of animal models of anxiety and stress, reducing both behavioral and physiological (e.g., heart rate) measures of stress and anxiety."
As someone dealing with anxiety — hi pals, isn't this pool getting crowded? — all day, every day, taking CBD oil sounded like something that was at least worth a shot. So, I contacted Charlotte's Web by the Stanley Brothers, a CBD hemp oil company based in Colorado. Their hemp oil had positive reviews, which is good for me and my tattered memories of freshman year. They kindly sent me some of their Everyday Advanced Oil, which they recommend taking 0.6 ml of twice a day. I decide to try it for a week.
Here's my diary of what happened.
(FYI, if you're concerned about whether or not Charlotte's Web is legal, their PR kindly sent me this statement: "Regarding legality, CW Hemp is compliant with U.S. law regarding the manufacture and sale of dietary or food supplements. Our products meet the EU standard of less than 0.2% THC to be regarded as hemp and we market our products as a food supplement and adhere to those labeling laws." Phew.)
Oof. Despite hemp oil being called "oil," it is, well, oilier than expected. The thick liquid is not the most pleasant thing to swallow first thing in the morning. Perhaps tomorrow I'll try it in coffee instead. In fact, I'm not going to lie, guys, I feel kind of sick.
Despite the somewhat non-encouraging start to my hemp oil adventure, about a half an hour later, I do start to feel calmer, more rational, and actually pretty chilled out. Is it a placebo effect? It's almost certainly a placebo effect. Either way, I'm willing to give it a go again tomorrow to find out.
Manic morning. My train is 10 minutes late, then my connecting train is delayed. By the time I arrive at work, I am half an hour late and feeling all sorts of harassed, hot, and stressed out.
How will hemp oil fare under these circumstances?
I put two drops in my coffee (yes, I realize mixing hemp oil with caffeine is a bananas thing to do, but I need coffee and it is recommended on the website). The oil is much less unpleasant to take this way, although it does hugely change the taste of your coffee, so perhaps save it for your instant coffee, rather than your $5 slow-roasted French drip latte.
I do a bit of work and eventually realize that, yes, I've slowed down, my thoughts are more in order, and I don't feel the manic need to run around like a headless chicken anymore. Sure, this could just be due to me settling down after the train rush, but I'm going back again tomorrow.
It's Friday. What is there to be stressed about on a Friday? It usually consists of shaking off the remaining cobwebs of Thursday night's one-too-many glasses of wine and coming up with a plan of how to juggle work and the important task of WhatsApping the group to talk weekend plans.
But I had a big meeting. With my boss and big boss. It's been on the calendar for a week, and I'm not sure what it's about. Stress central.
The meeting's at 11 a.n., so I swallow my two drops at 9:45 a.m. (in coffee again, since I'm not going back to drinking the stuff straight) and wait for my stress to dissipate.
Except it doesn't. As we get closer to 11, I begin to worry more. And then some more. Until I've got a really sexy sweaty pair of palms.
The meeting is canceled, and it's not a big deal, but I'm disappointed in the hemp oil. Perhaps I'm putting too much pressure on it.
It's Saturday. I'm a touch hungover. Okay, more than a touch. We've run out of coffee pods, too, which means I have to wait until I haul my sorry ass out of the house to the coffee shop down the road.
When I do finally imbibe some oil, though, I start to feel better. Those voices of Oh, you probably DID offend so-and-so last night (standard hangover anxiety) start to fade. Could it be the oil? Or could it be the fact that it's 3 p.m. and my hangover is loosening its grip? Either way, by the evening, I'm doing a-okay.
I am sick. I have the flu. I am in bed watching Don't Tell The Bride re-runs. The thought of dripping oil down my throat is not appealing. I skip a day. Sorry, guys.
I continue to have a cold. But it's back to work like the brave little soldier I am. First thing, I grab a coffee, and inject two drops of hemp oil.
For some reason, Monday morning doesn't seem full of the usual oh my goodness, there could be a disaster around every corner situations I normally conjure up in my mind. Maybe it's because it's sunny outside (always a bonus); maybe it's because my brain is fuzzy with phlegm; maybe it's because my nose piercing, fed up with endless nose-blowing, is pulsating in pain. Maybe it's the oil. Either way, I spend the afternoon praising the oil, wishing I could bathe in it. The phlegm may be causing me to lose it a little.
Last day. I dutifully drop my oil into my coffee. I do consider adding it to my cold and flu meds, but decide that I am not an animal.
Do I feel calmer? I do, I definitely do. But is it due to life's ebbs and flows? Like, this past week was a good week, not particularly stressful, nothing terribly traumatic happened (to me, I mean, there was plenty going on all around the world). Next week might be a bad week where things seem harder to cope with.
So, how much of this is to do with the hemp oil? I don't know. I do know that I like the feeling I think I've gotten from the hemp oil. What I don't know, though, is whether that feeling is something I've conjured up in my hope that CBD oil will work, or whether it's something that's a direct consequence of taking the oil.
Either way, I like being calm.