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Cannabidiol, or CBD as it’s commonly known, is the non-psychoactive compound of marijuana. It’s the part responsible for the medicinal and therapeutic qualities of the plant, and scientific studies have proven its efficacy as a treatment for anxiety, depression and seizures, as well as pain and diseases caused by inflammation. When separated from THC (the mind-altering compound) this chemical powerhouse is federally legal to sell and consume across the United States.
As the reported medicinal benefits of cannabis have gained more traction, leading to an uptick of strains engineered with higher doses of CBD, wellness entrepreneurs have taken note. You’ll see it listed as an ingredient on the labels of artisanal chocolates, “clean” beauty products, concentrated tinctures and ingestible oils. Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle site Goop even has a recipe for a CBD Julep—a cocktail that’s ”perfect for kicking relaxation mode into overdrive.”
“More and more people are trying to place it in the context of a health and wellness experience,” says Lou Sagar, owner of The Alchemist’s Kitchen, a plant-medicine store in the East Village with its own line of CBD-infused products. “The fact of the matter is, the plant has some very profound benefits on stress, pain, and inflammation that are nothing to do with the psychoactive.”
Around 70 percent of the Alchemist’s Kitchen’s customer base are women looking to make educated choices about what they put in, on, and around their bodies. CBD tinctures and oils are purchased from the counter after a personal consultation, so every individual understands exactly what they’re buying and how to use the product for optimal results.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, many New Yorkers are seeking something to help with this city’s classic maladies: “What we’re seeing with a person who’s generally healthy, their number one purpose is managing stress and anxiety,” says Sagar. “CBD is really very good at cutting into anxiety. The body produces CBD itself, so when you bring in cannabidiols in a potent way it activates brain receptors that send messages to relax.”
Tessa Rushton, co-founder of Higher Wave Wellness—a hub for products that enhance well-being—mixes CBD into her smoothies and coffee: “Incorporating CBD into my regimen has definitely brought a sense of calm and focus to my days,” she explains. “In New York, regardless of personality type, the lifestyle is demanding and you are constantly on the go. It’s easy to get thrown off balance. CBD lifts my energy, and allows me to feel more centered and productive going about my day.”
Products like Cocorau’s CBD Bites, which are stocked at The Alchemist’s Kitchen, The Ace Hotel, and Inscape meditation studio, are making CBD not only normal, but luxurious. These $15 cacao treats come presented in a golden box, and the tagline on the Cocorau website reads “sublime, supreme, sensual”—a self-care indulgence.
Cocorau founder Konstanze Zeller notes that her most loyal customer buys them to aid his depression, while Zeller herself uses CBD for a variety of purposes, from post-workout muscle soreness to jet lag.
“Awareness is increasing,” she explains. “It’s not being stoned, it’s about your wellbeing and healing things in your body eventually.”
As with any trendy wellness ingredient, there’s a risk CBD may become an expensive gimmick, and intention is crucial if you want to harness the plant’s medicinal benefits, warns Sagar.
“The person doing it like ‘oh I’ll try it in my smoothie’—their body isn’t necessarily focused on it helping with back pain or stress,” he explains. “But ‘I’m going to take a few drops of this at night to see if it will help me improve my sleeping behavior,’ that’s medicinal intention… I think our job is to honor this plant because if it’s done properly it could revolutionize this next generation and how people use plants.”
CBD isn’t solely a trend, it’s indicative of a larger movement away from big pharma and towards natural remedies. With resources like The Alchemist’s Kitchen, wellness-minded New Yorkers are being empowered to feel better every day, on their own terms.