Is this cannabis compound a new miracle elixir or does its global hype mean we’ve already hit peak CBD?
To persuade consumers of CBD’s legitimacy, photogenic packaging and clever marketing go a long way.
If 2018 was the year that CBD seeped into everything, 2019 will be the year we’re over it. From CBD lattes, brownies and beauty oils to ice cream, cocktails and dog treats, the non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis plants is popping up everywhere. Is this the dawning of a new miracle elixir, or does all the hype mean we have already reached peak CBD?
A year ago, CBD was a little-known substance. Now, it’s as if consumers have suddenly discovered birth control or penicillin. Casting its calming, pain-reducing powers into every sector, it has gone from being the reserve of 20something stoners to a mainstream panacea. In food, we’ve seen fast-casual chain By Chloe introduce a line of CBD-baked goods called Feelz by Chloe, while Dez, a Middle Eastern restaurant in New York, offers soft-serve ice cream topped with CBD-infused olive oil. Increasingly recognised as a hero ingredient in beauty, a number of brands are touting its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, among them Lord Jones, Votary and Cannuka.
To persuade consumers of CBD’s legitimacy, photogenic packaging and clever marketing go a long way. Brands such as Fleur Marché tap into the female cannabis market with starter kits that alleviate PMS symptoms, while Vybes, a recently launched CBD-infused drink, adopts an Insta-friendly aesthetic for with its tonal pink packaging.
The list goes on and perhaps reaches its peak with the somewhat ludicrous example from wedding brand Zola. Its current New York pop-up store, likened to an Apple store for wedding planning, is complete with a CBD lounge to help overwhelmed couples catch a moment of calm.
Amid the proposition of CBD as the cure-all for today’s overwrought consumers, what evidence is there to truly demonstrate its effectiveness? The answer is very little.
With anxiety arguably the defining sociological condition of today – especially among Millennials – and the overnight creation of a legitimate cannabis industry thanks to the growth of marijuana legalisation, you can see why consumers are charmed by the plant’s promises. That, paired with consumers’ growing desire to take healthcare into their own hands, is already fuelling a billion-dollar industry. According to a new estimate from cannabis industry analysts the Brightfield Group, the hemp-CBD market alone could hit £17.1bn (£21.7bn, €19.2bn) by 2022, while interest in CBD as a search term is now four times higher than it is for THC – the psychoactive constituent of cannabis – according to Google Trends.
Amid this burgeoning revolution and proposition as the cure-all for today’s overwrought consumers, I ask what evidence is there to truly demonstrate its effectiveness? The answer is very little. At present, research is extremely sparse simply due to the slow legalisation of cannabis itself. Anyone who tells you anything categorical about what CBD does to your body is fibbing – because right now, nobody really knows.
Dr Esther Blessing, a psychiatrist and researcher at New York University, says that ‘most of the products where people are putting CBD in coffee or food, there’s no solid evidence that they contain enough CBD to do anything… A CBD coffee may only have five milligrams in it. In order to treat anxiety, we know you need around 300 milligrams.’
So while baristas, beauty brands and even brides might be overdosing – or in reality, microdosing – on CBD, does it hold potential as a medicinal alternative? ‘I think there’s good evidence to suggest that CBD could be an effective treatment of anxiety and addiction and other disorders,’ says Blessing, ‘but we need clinical trials to find out.’
Snake oil or the 21st-century cure-all? In my opinion, the medical industry needs to dig its heels in with fact-based findings before we waste our money on £10 ($12.85, €11.25) CBD lattes.
For more on what’s driving our obsession with CBD, subscribers can read our viewpoint with Melisse Gelula, co-founder of Well + Good.