Nature’s Nutraceutical

Writer Rob McGovern | September 9, 2019

Cannabidiol (CBD) accounts for about 40 per cent of the cannabis plant’s extract and is gaining in popularity to the point where sales, in various forms, are predicted to hit US$23 million by 2023 according to a study from Brightfield Group. With the US leading the way when it comes to embracing and utilising it (this year’s Oscars gift bag was full of CBD products), CBD is here to stay.

According to a report from the World Health Organization, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of abuse or dependence potential in humans, and to date there is no evidence of health problems associated with the use of pure CBD. A good start for advocates. And according to a Harvard Medical School blog post by Peter Grinspoon, MD, the strongest scientific evidence for CBD is its effectiveness in treating childhood epilepsy syndromes, such as Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, which typically don’t respond to anti-seizure medications. In numerous studies, CBD was able to reduce the number of seizures, and in some cases, to stop them altogether. CBD is also commonly used to address anxiety and insomnia.

Grinspoon also points out the main concern around CBD is that it is sold as a supplement, not a medication, and currently the Food and Drug Administration in the US doesn’t regulate the safety and purity of dietary supplements. This means you can’t be certain that the product has active ingredients at the dose listed on the label. Another concern related to the CBD itself is that it can raise levels of certain medications in your blood, so speaking to your doctor beforehand is a good idea.

Even with these concerns, the industry in the US is booming and shows no sign of slowing down. From the more traditional balms and salves, CBD has made its way into everything from soda, wine, coffee, cocktails and even olive oil in recent years. You can expect it to make its way into yoghurts, soups and even salad dressings in the near future.

And the companies putting these products out aren’t just tiny start-ups or niche industries. This past April (on April 20th no less, internationally known as ‘weed day’) Carl’s Junior, a US fast food chain with almost 1,500 outlets worldwide released the Rocky Mountain High: CheeseBurger Delight. Admittedly, the hamburger, which contained the company’s signature Santa Fe Sauce infused with CBD oil, was available for just one day and only in Denver, Colorado, but it has been reported that they sold over 2,000 before running out of the special sauce. Even Coca-Cola is said to be considering some kind of CBD beverage.

The James New York NoMad, an upscale hotel in Manhattan, is one of an increasing number of properties that have embraced CBD. The room service menu there has a number of CBD-infused dishes including spicy meatballs containing 15mg of CBD, a butter lettuce salad with 20 mg and an olive tapenade with 16.6 mg among other items.

When it comes to CBD (and THC) and food, there are a few standout names. One of them is Chef Dave Hadley. At the forefront of the burgeoning industry, Denver, Colorado-based Hadley’s profile was given a significant boost when he won his episode of the popular Food Network cooking show Chopped back in February 2017. It was the first time a chef who is so heavily associated with cannabis was featured on the show (although he didn’t cook with cannabis). Hadley says that thanks to exposure from the show, people travelled from around the country to the restaurant he worked at to try his food.

While the US is undoubtedly the epicentre of the edible and infusion movement, the idea is taking hold around the world. Hadley says, “I just got back from Thailand [where he spent time at Gaggan, the fourth best restaurant in the world according to The World’s 50 Best Restaurants], and I got to see how crazy the weed industry is out there, even though it is a bit hush hush. They are looking to the US and seeing that we are doing…and they are thinking they can do it, too.”

In Hong Kong, the Dangerous Drugs Ordinance prohibits the import of cannabis or any products that contain controlled cannabinoids (such as THC), but CBD is not considered a dangerous drug controlled under that ordinance, and so it is surely a matter of time before entrepreneurs test the limits of the law. 

When it comes to cooking with CBD and THC, Hadley says it is very simple, and much like any other ingredient “it has to do with working with flavour profiles and knowing where to work it in.” It has taken him time to work out how to incorporate CBD into South Indian food, known for its bold flavours, without losing its own. 

Considered a leading figure in this industry, Hadley consults with companies that produce marijuana edibles and creates infused dishes for events. “I have made appetisers like spring rolls and mini cheesecakes that have 2-5mg of THC/CBD in them,” he says. “These kinds of dishes are key to normalising the idea of consuming THC and CBD, which is a huge step.”   

The tide is increasingly turning, especially in the US, with everyone from people with medical conditions to professional athletes seeing and feeling the benefit of CBD as a health supplement. There are, of course, plenty of people who are cautious, but Hadley continues to win people over, including a former sceptic ––his mother. “She is now in her 50s and now uses a tincture that is 600mg of CBD with 2.5 mg of THC for arthritis.