Cannabidiol (CBD), the compound in marijuana that doesn’t get you high, is popping up in everything from salads to sundaes.
According to studies, CBD may tout several therapeutic benefits, including decreasing anxiety, reducing seizures, and minimizing inflammation. As someone who lives with anxiety, I’m personally most interested in the anti-anxiety factor.
Although you can take CBD several ways, from vaping to gummies, one unique way to consume CBD is through coffee.
Proponents, like Craig Leivent, PharmD, co-owner of Flower Power Coffee Co. (a maker of CBD-infused coffee and edibles), say that the combination of CBD and coffee will give you the alertness of coffee but without the jitters.
But High Times magazine, which covers all things marijuana-related, thinks the idea was ridiculous. Their logic makes sense: If CBD is known to make you sleepy, wouldn’t it fight with the caffeine and leave you groggy?
In terms of potentially helping with anxiety, wouldn’t the caffeine, which may make anxiety worse for some, override the anti-anxiety effect of the CBD?
Bonni Goldstein, MD, a California-based physician who specializes in cannabinoid therapy, is also skeptical. Especially when it comes to proper dosage and the temperature of coffee.
“Those who want to use CBD for serious medical conditions, such as seizure disorders or inflammation from autoimmune disorders, should not take CBD in this manner, as accurate CBD dosing is extremely important for efficacy in these types of illnesses,” Goldstein says.
“For a healthy person who wants to take CBD as a nutritional bonus or supplement, [dosing] issues are not as important.”
Goldstein also adds that a recent study looking at CBD stability in cannabis tea found that temperature affects CBD content, “meaning the milligram amount of CBD someone might require for his or her condition will not be consistent when delivered in a heated drink,” she explains.
But some people are really loving CBD coffee. Ian Ford, owner of Caffeine Underground, a coffee shop in Brooklyn, New York, says that since he started selling the brew, business is booming. It’s becoming so trendy, even Willie Nelson has launched his own CBD java.
So we decided to test it for ourselves.
If I drink CBD coffee for five days, will I be able to work? Will it still curb anxiety, even though coffee may increase it? Can I stay focused?
My 5-day CBD coffee experiment
For this trial, I used CBD-infused ground coffee from Flower Power Coffee Co. I made this decision completely based on convenience. There are two nearby cafes in Brooklyn serving and selling bags of the brand.
However, there are numerous CBD coffee products on the market I was interested in trying, including the Wellness Blend from New Hampshire-based Vera Roasting Company, which was founded by a professor of organic chemistry.
It’s also important to note that as part of my daily routine, I strictly limit my coffee intake to two or three medium cups a day and absolutely no coffee after 2 p.m. — hard stop.
Since instilling this strict cut-off time (I may have cheated a few times with espresso martinis, but that doesn’t really count, right?), I’ve been sleeping well without any sleeping aids, despite living with anxiety.
- If I drink CBD coffee for five days, will I be able to work? Will it still curb anxiety, even though coffee may increase it? Can I stay focused?
Day 1: From focused at work to an unplanned afternoon nap
It’s my day off, so I order a CBD latte with almond milk from Caffeine Underground in Brooklyn. The latte is delicious and goes down smooth. I can’t taste anything except a regular almond milk latte.
After a few minutes, I feel alert and focused.
It’s different than just a caffeine boost, but hard to nail down the exact feeling. I start to breeze through emails.
I’m hungry, so after about 15 minutes, I order a piece of toast with CBD-infused jam.
I wish I hadn’t. It tasted fine, but then the headache sets in.
Having two “doses” back to back was too much for me, apparently. As soon as I get home, I hit the couch and crash hard for two hours. It would’ve been a great nap, but I have deadlines and an early day tomorrow.
I’m not a regular napper, and feeling pressure to meet my deadlines in less time isn’t good for my anxiety.
Goldstein says that CBD affects everyone differently, and that contrary to popular belief, CBD is actually a stimulating compound in low doses. So the combination of CBD and coffee could be overstimulating to some, which could be what was going on with me. For others, it may be just right.
Still, I like how I felt after that first cup, so I wasn’t too discouraged.
Day 2: Feeling alert, yet calm
Outside the cozy Vittles Cafe in Brooklyn, there’s a chalkboard highlighting “cannabis lattes.” I order one iced with almond milk and chat with the cafe’s owner about CBD and its potential health benefits for the body.
As I drink my CBD coffee, I tell her about what happened yesterday and how I may have taken too much. She suggests spacing out the doses more, waiting at least three hours between each serving.
As I finish my latte, I feel great: super alert, but surprisingly calm. And I figure out what the sensation was that I couldn’t nail down from yesterday.
It was as if someone spiked my latte with teeny tiny bits of Xanax.
Just enough to take the edge off, but not enough to make you feel like you’re under the influence of a drug.
Before I leave, I buy a bag of Flower Power’s coffee ($15) to finish the experiment at home. I decide to walk the 3 miles home because I’m feeling great. No nap today!
Day 3: Is drinking one regular cup of joe first the trick?
I’m a full-time freelancer, but I work as a weekend producer and editor for a large website. It’s only around 16 hours a week, but it’s intense as hell. I start early — 7 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays — which means I stumble out of bed and walk the 7 feet to my desk at 6:58 a.m. and log in.
It’s a demanding role where I need complete focus.
These weekend shifts are usually three-cups-of-coffee days. I start the morning with a regular cup of coffee and get to work.
I decide that cup No. 2 will be the CBD cup. I’m nervous how it will affect working, but attempt it anyway. At 9:30 a.m., I make the Flower Power coffee.
The coffee’s instructions say to only use a teaspoon and a half for proper dosage of 5 milligrams of CBD for a 6-ounce cup.
I prefer my coffee black and only drink it with almond or oat milk when in a cafe. I opted for the New York blend, and I really like it. It’s dark and rich with no hint of CBD or “marijuana” flavor.
I’m plowing through my shift and feel great. Maybe that’s the key? One regular coffee first and one CBD? I feel even better than yesterday.
I’m alert with no headache. Caffeine can sometimes give me heart palpitations and shaky hands, but today I feel calm. I don’t feel any anxiety or added stress over deadlines, and the day is flying by.
I look at the clock and it’s already 2:30 p.m., so today is a two-cup-only day. It may be the first time in months I didn’t have three cups of coffee during a weekend shift.
After my shift, I go for a 6-mile run in Central Park in the summer heat. I feel really sleepy much earlier in the evening than usual. I can’t blame the CBD, since it’s most likely the sun and exercise, but it’s something to note.
Day 4: Anxiety in overdrive
I slept well and wake up refreshed. I have two regular coffees in the morning before 9 a.m., forgetting I’m supposed to be drinking the CBD coffee.
I make the CBD coffee on my third cup, but it wasn’t the best idea. I have a headache and it’s only 10:30 a.m. I still have more than four hours left of my shift. I know my headache could be from lack of sleep, dehydration, and the 95-degree heat wave we’ve been having all week, but it’s a rough morning.
I survive the shift but felt like I could’ve put my head down on my desk at any minute and fallen asleep. I’m worried about any potential typos I could’ve made, and my anxiety is in overdrive. I feel pretty wrecked.
I spend the rest of the afternoon and evening watching TV and sipping a large glass of wine. I turn in for bed early.
I think three cups of coffee is too much, CBD or not.
Day 5: Feeling sluggish at softball
I decide to start my last day of the experiment with one regular cup of coffee, followed by the CBD coffee. That seems to be the best combination for me.
I think the Flower Power CBD coffee is delicious, and it goes down smooth.