A Beginner’s Guide to Shopping for CBD

It won’t get you high. It will get you relief.

July 18, 2018 9:00 am
Cannabis CBD oil extracts in jars near a slide of marijuana cones in metal box on a gray background, marijuana leaf
Your CBD options are pretty much endless
Olena Ruban / Getty

Magic elixir? The new avocado toast? CBD is neither.

Hype aside, the cannabis compound is (pretty much) legal and won’t get you high. Beyond that? Everyone’s still working out what it does, though plenty of wellness brands (and the FDA) think the benefits could prove massive.

It’s also a market that’s about to explode: one study expects CBD products to grow to $2.15 billion industry in 2021, a sevenfold increase in just three years.

So we asked two cannabis experts about the buzz, and then picked out seven CBD-infused products that could do you some good.

You won’t go schizo. We promise.

Give us the elevator pitch for CBD …
“CBD (cannabidiol) is considered the main medicinal component of cannabis,” says Craig Henderson, a combat veteran and founder of Extract Labs, a line of CBD-infused wellness products. “While THC gets you high, CBD won’t. It has helped people with everything from chronic pain, anxiety, and insomnia, to epilepsy, Parkinson’s and tons of other serious medical conditions.” It’s also the second-most abundant cannabinoid found in cannabis (behind THC).

So why would someone want this rather than THC?
Because of the benefits, sans the psychoactive “high” typically associated with THC.

Is it good for you?
“What interests me most about CBD is how strong of an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant CBD is,” says Dr. Robert Flannery, the first PhD in the U.S. with certified technical expertise in growing commercial cannabis and founder of Dr. Robb’s Farm (see below). “CBD/cannabis has been reported to be twice as strong of an anti-inflammatory as prescription hydrocortisone and 20 times stronger than aspirin.” It can also help with anxiety, depression, seizures, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, chronic pain and “some evidence that suggests that CBD in conjunction with THC will kill breast and glioma cancer cells.”

What do regulators think?
That’s a work in progress. Extract Labs does offer this caveat on their site: “In keeping with FDA regulations, Extract Labs does not make specific claims, but encourages customers to seek out more information about usage and benefits from trusted third-party sources.” Having said that, the feds just approved a CBD-infused oral solution for the treatment of seizures associated with two forms of epilepsy.

Digression: How does one get a PhD in growing cannabis?
“Technically, my PhD is in plant biology with an emphasis in environmental horticulture and a specific expertise in hydroponic crop optimization for cut-flower production,” says Dr. Flannery, who got the degree from UC Davis, recently ranked the number-one plant-science school on the planet by US News and World Report. “Cannabis production is basically cut-flower production with a majority of it being done in hydroponics. So basically, I was technically trained by the best plant science school to grow weed.”

Nice. Let’s talk legality. Is CBD actually legal? In all 50 states?
“At the federal level, the law is somewhat murky,” says Dr. Flannery, who notes that CBD is legal nationally if it’s derived from industrial hemp grown for academic research or under a state-sponsored pilot program. “The legality of CBD derived from all other sources is subject to state law. So I guess the right answer is that not all CBD is legal in all 50 states, but there are positive signs that it may be soon.”

What does a CBD product that is “full spectrum” mean?
It means the product contains all of the cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant in nature. “Some products are made with CBD isolate, meaning CBD is the only cannabinoid,” says Henderson. “Full spectrum products will also include CBG, CBC, CBN, THC and dozens and dozens of other cannabinoids. The benefit of this is called the ‘entourage effect’ — these cannabinoids work synergistically, and as a results, full spectrum products are generally more effective.”

What’s the hardest part about creating a CBD product?
Well, there are obviously some sketchy companies. Extract Labs actually creates all of their CBD in house, while other brands contract facilities to make CBD for them — as more of a drinker, your correspondent would equate this with whiskey brands who outsource their distilling and production.

What can you make with CBD?
Where to begin? Besides wellness products, we’ve got beer, mints, massage oils, cocktails, popcorn … and more below.

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Extract Labs
The Boulder-based wellness brand mentioned above offers an array of body care products. “If the person is familiar with THC products and smoking, we recommend our CBD concentrates, specifically our (full spectrum) crumble,” says Henderson. “If they are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with cannabis concentrates, we suggest our tincture. This product is very easy to understand and consume, and a customer can easily work it into their daily routine. If the person also has specific chronic pain in a certain area, the muscle cream can be very helpful as well.”

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Dr. Robb’s Farms Mom’s Formula
It’s kind of like a once-a-day multivitamin that “promotes a feeling of well-being and can decrease anxiety levels,” among other health benefits. Dr. Flannery originally developed the products for his mom to get through chemo and radiation therapies related to her breast cancer (thankfully, she’s currently cancer free). It’s CBD in conjunction with THC that helps with anxiety and sleep while offering anti-inflammatory benefits.

“CBD made easy,” they say. Get a box of CBD products delivered to your door every month (tinctures, teas, etc.)

FlowerPower Coffee
We tried this CBD-infused coffee, and it seemed to leave us with fewer jitters while still providing a nice java experience (they also do decaf and edibles).

Dirty Lemon
A tropical, CBD-infused “functional beverage” that was actually inspired, taste-wise, by the pineapple express strain of cannabis. So, fruity.

Floyd’s of Leadville
Softgel caps, tinctures, protein powders and more for health and exercise recovery, from former professional cyclist Floyd Landis.

The Alchemist’s Kitchen
These New Yorkers offer a little something for everyone and, well, everything: Concentrated oils, balms, toothpaste, lubricant (!), face creams, anti-inflammatory roll-ons, salves and even CBD-infused edibles and topical supplements for your pet.

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