What’s Behind the Hemp Hype?

A closer look at CBD products—one of Delaware’s newest health trends

 

According to a recent National Restaurant Association survey, cannabis-infused food and beverages are this year’s hottest food trend. And though it may be a while before these products hit shelves due to the unclear regulatory climate, for now, CBD, or hemp, is available locally in creams, oils, sublingual drops and gummies, to name a few.

What exactly is CBD?  It is one of hundreds of compounds found in the Cannabis sativa L. plant, more commonly known as hemp. Yes, hemp is extracted from the same plant family as marijuana, but hemp is not marijuana.

Marijuana contains tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive compound that makes it illegal in most states. CBD produced from hemp, however, is non-psychoactive, meaning it is low in THC and doesn’t cause the “high” that marijuana does.

According to Harvard Health Blog, CBD is “commonly used to address anxiety, and for patients who suffer through the misery of insomnia…which may help with both falling asleep and staying asleep.” It also is an effective treatment for chronic pain, since the “CBD inhibits inflammatory and neuropathic pain, two of the most difficult types of chronic pain to treat.”

Last year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Epidiolex, the first-ever cannabis-derived medicine for the treatment of seizures associated with two rare forms of epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome.

Karen Igou, owner and operator of Honeybee Seasonal Kitchen in Trolley Square, used cannabidiol or CBD to wean herself off gabapentin, a powerful nerve drug she used to relieve the pain of her neuralgia.

“I started carrying CBD products in the fall of 2018 because we had so many people asking for them,” says Igou. “At first I hesitated because I didn’t want to compete with the vape shop upstairs.” But she soon realized that people wanted ways to consume CBD that didn’t involve vaping.

Interested in trying CBD? In Delaware, customers are able to purchase CBD products from a variety of markets and dispensaries. But it’s worth noting that customers should make sure these places purchase their CBD products from trusted hemp producers and manufacturers, especially since the legal landscape is quickly changing at both the federal and state level.

CBD and Tulsi Infused Honey made by Rocker Hemp Co., is one of the offerings at Honeybee Seasonal Kitchen. Photo provided by Rocker Hemp Co.

Local Hemp Hype

In New Castle County, almost all the natural food stores—Newark Natural Foods, Harvest Market and Honeybee Seasonal Kitchen—carry a variety of CBD products.

Newark Natural Foods stocks a couple of CBD brands, including Plus CBD Oil and Green Mountain CBD. Harvest Market has a small selection of capsules, oils and drops from Garden of Life and Plus CBD Oil. Honeybee currently sells oils, gel caps, edible gummy candies, topical creams, pet treats and CBD-infused honey made locally by Rachel Binkley, owner of Rocker Hemp Co., a brand off-shoot of Rocker Soaps in Newark.

Rocker’s CBD-infused honey is a bestseller and has sold commercially to local restaurants like Bardea and Stitch House Brewery.

While Bardea has yet to use the honey in its dishes or drinks, Stitch House has made a specialty cocktail, the R2-CB2, a modern twist on a hot toddy with a base of whiskey, Rocker’s honey, simple syrup and lemon.

Binkley’s interest in CBD products came out of her experience in making wellness products and her own journey to improved health. After a 2012 car accident, she began taking narcotics to alleviate the pain, but it wasn’t long before the drugs took a toll on her body. So she turned to CBD oil to manage the pain. Her personal transition to CBD oil as a pain reliever made for a natural expansion for her other Rocker Hemp product lines.

Rocker Hemp Co.’s CBD oil is made with a blend of herbs. Photo provided by Rocker Hemp Co.

One of Binkley’s most popular topical products is the herbal and CBD-infused pain oil. It contains a variety of herbs, like St. John’s wort, arnica and lavender, to name a few, and 240 milligrams of full-spectrum CBD. The latter, according to one source, contains all the beneficial compounds that naturally occur in the plant versus CBD isolate, which is the “purest form of CBD” and removes “all the other compounds found in the plant.”

“I love integrating traditional plant medicine into my products,” says Binkley. “The herbal and CBD-infused topical oil absorbs transdermally (through the skin) and eases pain at the source.”

So why have CBD products become so popular lately? You can thank last year’s Farm Bill, which legalized the production of hemp as an agricultural commodity at the federal level and allowed companies to sell CBD-infused products. So long as the CBD contains less than 0.3 percent THC and is grown by licensed farmers, hemp is legal, though states can still determine the legality at a more local level. In a conflicting regulation, CBD-infused food and beverage manufacturers still don’t have clear guidance on whether they need FDA approval.

In its first-ever public hearing on CBD on May 31, the FDA’s goal was to gather information, not make regulatory decisions, on a wide range of questions and issues surrounding CBD products. Officials now have the difficult task of determining how to regulate CBD products both in how they are marketed and their overall safety.

For now, customers can purchase CBD products at several natural food stores and dispensaries that exclusively sell CBD products. 

CBD products come in various forms, including pet treats for Fido, available at locally-owned stores. Photo provided by Honeybee Seasonal Kitchen

Guide to Using CBD

Among those stores is Terrapin Select in Newark. Francesca Vavala, co-founder of Terrapin Select, a CBD company which she and her co-founder created to address the lack of education and availability surrounding CBD, had a circuitous route to becoming an entrepreneur. She began her career as a local high school English teacher and then a real estate agent. As time passed, she missed teaching and the daily challenge of problem-solving that it entails.

“Starting Terrapin was the perfect package of what I enjoyed most in life: education and sales,” says Vavala. “I love constantly learning and evolving, so it’s only natural I became an entrepreneur.”

Terrapin began originally under a different name as a company that sold its CBD products business-to-business. In 2018, Vavala opened Terrapin as both an online and physical store so that it could sell CBD products direct-to-consumer.

In addition to the lack of education around CBD and its health benefits, Vavala saw that the “only way to access CBD was through vape and smoke shops.” This made CBD inaccessible to a large portion of the population who were not willing to walk into that type of establishment.

“We wanted to change that model to push CBD more into the mainstream so consumers would see it at spas, yoga studios and gyms,” she says.

For those new to CBD products, Terrapin provides in-person consultations at its small dispensary just north of Glasgow. Terrapin’s staff are not medical doctors and cannot prescribe, but they can provide advice for customers by analyzing symptoms and walking through the various CBD delivery methods—topical, oral and sublingual.

Ready to take the leap into CBD? First, pinpoint your symptoms. A majority of customers seeking CBD products from Terrapin and elsewhere have chronic pain, insomnia or anxiety.

Next, decide on taste and delivery methods that suit your palate. Okay taking pills? Try gel capsules. Hate pills? Try gummies. Want your CBD neat? Try sublingual drops that are placed directly under the tongue. Need to ease chronic pain? Try topicals, which are available in oils and creams, and fun items like fizzy bath bombs. Trying CBD products is a process of trial-and-error. What may work for one person may not work for another.

There’s even a special category of CBD products called “petceuticals,” or pet pharmaceuticals. Dispensaries like Terrapin and Honeybee carry treats, powders, oils and creams to help relieve common pet ailments like separation anxiety and pain associated with old age.

“CBD is perfect to calm anxiety in pets like when they go to the veterinarian or during severe thunderstorms,” says Igou. “It also acts as an anti-inflammatory, so it’s great for animals (and people) as they get older.”

The Future of CBD

The expected growth around CBD-infused beverages and foods will be an industry game changer, but it’s all speculation as to when regulation and acceptance will actually come to fruition. There’s still much confusion over federal versus state laws regarding hemp and its use in food products.

Prior to the May 31 FDA public hearing, Ben & Jerry’s announced a plan to roll out its popular Half Baked ice cream infused with CBD, as soon as it is approved by the FDA for use in foods.

“We’re doing this for our fans,” said Matthew McCarthy, Ben & Jerry’s CEO, in a May 30 press release. “We’ve listened and brought them everything from non-dairy indulgences to on-the-go portions with our Pint Slices. We want to give them what they’re looking for in a Ben & Jerry’s way.”

While we wait for Half Baked to hit freezers, there are a couple of drinkable options available now. With an increase in consumers’ demand for healthier drink options, beverage makers have been busy producing new, innovative, no-to-low alcohol options.

Small drink brands like Sprig and Abracadabra are catching the CBD wave. Sprig soda is similar to the overly-hyped LaCroix sparkling water and currently is available at Bar Roja in Trolley Square, the newest restaurant in the Big Fish Restaurant Group. Abracadabra’s Chill Brew is a CBD-infused coffee made from heirloom Ethiopian coffee beans.

While CBD sounds promising for those dealing with ailments like chronic pain, insomnia, anxiety or arthritis, it has a long road ahead of it while the FDA sorts through the testimony it collected as part of those initial public hearings. And as with any over-the-counter or prescription drug, it’s best to consult your doctor to make sure there are no negative interactions with drugs you’re currently taking.

               

FDA Disclosure

The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act requires this notice: The statements made regarding these products have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The efficacy of these products has not been confirmed by FDA-approved research. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. All information presented here is not meant as a substitute for or alternative to information from healthcare practitioners. Please consult your healthcare professional about potential interactions or other possible complications before using any product.

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