When CBD (cannabidiol) first started to pick up steam in 2017, the buzz seemed to stem from curiosity more than anything. How could something made from cannabis or hemp be so potentially beneficial, without having any psychoactive effects? But as the benefits became more widely talked about (and it became officially legal thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill), the ingredient started popping up in everything from chocolates to dog treats. Now, CBD has gone from wellness niche to something that even your “just say no to drugs” mom is into.

CBD is available in a variety of formats, including in oils and tinctures, gummies, and now CBD water.  One of CBD’s most talked about benefits is helping to lower anxiety—something that’s certainly at a high right now. It can cause more people to wonder if CBD water could be the solution to their pandemic-induced anxiety, or at least help in some way.

But certainly you don’t want to shell out for something that isn’t legit. Before you buy into CBD water, it’s important to know what it is, how it could be beneficial, any risks, and how to know what products are truly worth your time and attention. This guide explains everything you need to know.

How it’s made

As a refresher, CBD is one of several active compounds in marijuana (and hemp). It’s extracted from hemp or cannabis plants either to produce a solo CBD-only compound, or a full-spectrum compound that includes CBD plus other compounds from the plant. Jamie Evans, the founder of The Herb Somm and author of The Ultimate Guide to CBD, explains that CBD water is simply water that has been infused with CBD.

If you’ve ever tried mixing a CBD oil into a glass of water at home, you know first-hand that water and oil don’t mix easily. Because of this, Evans says CBD water companies use nano emulsion technology which helps with infusion by lowering the surface tension of the water. “It makes the molecules in the water less likely to stick to themselves and more likely to interact with the oil,” she explains. “By agitating the mixture together, the CBD that’s in the drink is broken down into microscopic droplets, which prevents the oil from separating out. This process helps CBD be more easily absorbed by the body.” For this reason, it can be beneficial to buy CBD water rather than making it yourself.

How is CBD water different than CBD oil?

If you’re trying to decide between buying CBD water and CBD oil (which consists of extracted cannabidiols that are diluted in a carrier oil), Evans says it’s primarily a personal choice as they have the same benefits. “One benefit to the water is that it may have a higher bioavailability rate,” she says. Because the body is 60 percent water; it’s potentially easier for the CBD in water to be absorbed than the CBD in oil. But more scientific research need to be done to confirm this potential benefit.

But in general, she says both CBD water and CBD oil have the same potential perks as the benefits stem from the CBD itself, not the water or oil.

What are the benefits of CBD water?

1. It could help with anxiety

This is the big benefit that’s linked to CBD. “Some scientific studies find that CBD helps with stress and anxiety because of the way it interacts with receptors in the brain,” Evans says. “CBD might also help decrease cortisol levels by interacting with CB1 and CB2 [cannabinoid] receptors found in the brain and body.” These receptors are part of the body’s endocannabinoid system, which is made of receptors throughout the nervous system that are activated by cannabinoid compounds like CBD. Another scientific study found that CBD has a noticeable impact on serotonin levels in mice, which could be another reason why it could help with anxiety. (However, more research is needed to confirm this effect in humans.)

2. It may help with workout recovery

CBD and other cannabinoids have long been associated with lowering inflammation, which is beneficial for everyone, but Evans says it means CBD water could be extra beneficial for athletes. “Inflammation can cause muscle soreness and the water is of course good for hydration,” she points out.

3. Sipping CBD water may be good for your heart

There is some preliminary evidence to suggest that consuming CBD could help lower blood pressure and improve overall cardiovascular health. While promising, more scientific studies on humans need to be done to confirm these benefits.

4. It could help relieve migraines

You know the CB1 and CB2 receptors Evans mentioned? There’s some evidence that suggests this interaction could help relieve migraines, too. “Cannabinoids… present a promising class of compounds for both acute and prophylactic treatment of migraine pain,” concludes a 2018 review in the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology , thanks to their anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. (However, more research is needed to understand exactly the mechanism behind these potential benefits, as well as how CBD can be most effectively used to treat migraines.) Proper hydration is also important for avoiding migraines, which is why CBD water in particular may be a good solution.

How to make sure you’re buying one that’s legit

While Evans says the number of CBD waters on the market continues to grow, she says not all of them are high-quality. “Something people should know about buying CBD products in general is that brands are not required to test the CBD they’re using,” she says. She adds that some brands are going the extra mile to prove the authenticity by getting a certificate of analysis (COA), showing that the CBD in their products have been tested.

A study conducted in 2017 found that almost 70 percent of online CBD products are mislabeled, either having substantially more or less CBD than advertised. Looking for a COA on a product ensures that what’s on the label matches what’s in the product. “The fact that so many brands don’t test their products or use proper dosage could be one reason why some people report not feeling the effects of CBD at all,” Evans says.

She adds that dosage is also something else it’s good to look for on CBD water labels (or the very least on the brand’s website.) Most CBD water brands have between two to five milligrams of CBD per serving.

Risks and side effects to be aware of

Before you dive into CBD water, Evans says there are some risks and side effects to be aware of. First, if you are taking any medications or have any medical conditions, she says it’s best to talk to your doctor before trying anything with CBD in it. She also says CBD water shouldn’t be mixed with medications that have a grapefruit warning as CBD and grapefruit are known to interact with two types of p-450 liver and gut enzymes that break down over a third of prescription drugs. If you’re pregnant or nursing, it’s probably best to skip CBD water.

In terms of side effects, there are none to be aware of if you don’t have any underlying medical issues or are taking medication and keeping consumption moderate. It’s worth reiterating that unlike THC, CBD water will not make you high.

In general, CBD water is low-risk and could be beneficial, especially in terms of improving mood, lowering anxiety, and reducing inflammation. But, as with any wellness purchase, it pays to do your research before you drink it up.

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