Some states are cracking down on CBD oil in food and beverages. But the buzz around CBD-infused booze is only getting stronger. What really happens when you combine cannabidiol and alcohol?
Alcohol isn’t typically something we consume for health reasons. But while it may seem counterintuitive, a larger trend of making alcoholic drinks “healthier” means that it’s easy to find mixed drinks that incorporate nutrient-rich juices, probiotic kombucha, and even kale. It’s no surprise that bartenders around the country are adding CBD to beer or cocktails.
But does combining alcohol and CBD offer any health benefits or disadvantages? Read on to learn about the scientific research and my first-hand experiences with CBD beer and cocktails.
Does CBD Interact With Alcohol?
If you want to know what researchers think about mixing CBD products and alcoholic beverages, there’s not much hard science to look at. The most direct study on the subject was published in 1979, and it focused on understanding whether CBD and alcohol might impair people’s motor functions and health.
In the study, researchers conducted several trials on ten participants. They gave them just alcohol in the first trial, just CBD in the second, and a combination of alcohol and CBD in the third. They then measured the participants’ blood alcohol levels. Finally, they administered a series of physical tests to observe how the different substances affected them.
The researchers saw that adding CBD neither decreased nor improved the effects of alcohol. They concluded that CBD is more or less inactive when it mixes with alcohol.
They also noticed that CBD seemed to lower participants’ blood alcohol levels. However, the researchers were not able to explain why this happened, or why having lower blood alcohol levels didn’t lessen participants’ overall sense of intoxication.
Can CBD Reduce Alcohol’s Side Effects?
There’s one other study on CBD and alcohol, but it doesn’t focus on their interaction. In the 2014 study, researchers set out to see if CBD could protect the liver from developing “fatty liver disease.” This condition can lead to fatigue and abdominal pain, and in more serious cases, jaundice and internal bleeding.
Fatty liver occurs when there is an abnormal buildup of fat in the liver, and the number one way to create that buildup is through excessive drinking.
Without getting overly technical, the researchers thought CBD’s antioxidant properties could help prevent this liver disease by inhibiting the buildup of fat in the liver. They also theorized that CBD might also reduce some of the buildup by activating a process in which the body cleans out damaged cells to regenerate new ones.
To test this idea, the researchers fed lab mice alcohol and then injected some of them with CBD. After examining tissue samples, they saw less fat accumulation in the livers of the mice who had received CBD.
The limited scope of these two studies means that there are still many questions about CBD and alcohol. But they provide evidence for an important point: adding CBD to alcohol does not make you feel more drunk.
Because CBD occurs naturally in the cannabis plant, there’s still a misunderstanding that it will make you feel high. So when some people hear about adding CBD to alcohol, they might assume it will get people more inebriated. But that is not the case, and we should not consider CBD an inherently dangerous thing to add to a beer or cocktail.
Brooklyn’s Baba Cool Cafe lets customers add CBD to their beverages. Photo credit: Nic Dobija-Nootens.
Right now, there’s a small number of breweries in the U.S. adding CBD into wine and beer. Coalition Brewery in Oregon makes a CBD-infused IPA beer, and CannaWine and CannaVines make a variety of CBD-infused wines.
I live in New York, where it’s difficult to find pre-packaged CBD-infused beer or wine, so I went to two local restaurants known for serving mixed drinks that incorporate CBD. However, because of a recent CBD crackdown in New York, I was only able to get a real CBD drink at one of the locations.
Gabriella Mann is the owner of Baba Cool Café in Brooklyn. There, they offer customers 10mg drops of full-spectrum CBD oil in their coffee, tea, beer, and wine.
Mann believes that food is medicine, and was “always drawn to herbal remedies to ailments.”
“With the right nutrition, we can maintain our health, prevent colds and headaches, strengthen our immune system, and increase our energy levels.”
“I was not using CBD before we incorporated it into our menu,” Mann said. “But after trying CBD drops for sleep and headaches, I thought it would be a great addition.”
With the right nutrition, we can maintain our health, prevent colds and headaches, strengthen our immune system, and increase our energy levels.
— Gabriella Mann, Baba Cool Cafe
There, I tried an IPA beer with some added CBD. Since it was my first time trying CBD with alcohol, I asked Mann what I should expect. She told me that “CBD in a beer might make someone feel extra chilled out and euphoric.” She also mentioned that because CBD acts as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, it could “counteract some of the negative effects of drinking alcohol.”
What does CBD beer taste like?
CBD-infused IPA. Photo credit: Nic Dobija-Nootens.
Unlike adding CBD oil to coffee, which can give off a slightly oily taste, my CBD beer tasted exactly like beer. Only instead of giving off a heady, hoppy smell, the IPA had a lighter, sweetly floral smell.
As far as taste and aroma were concerned, I thought the CBD made the drinking experience more pleasant. But it’s difficult to say whether the CBD affected how my body processed the alcohol.
I hadn’t eaten much before sitting down for the beer and I still didn’t feel much of a buzz after finishing it. So, I wouldn’t be surprised if the CBD had slightly dampened or delayed the effects of the alcohol.
The next place I visited was Adriaen Block, a bar in Queens. This was the first bar in New York City to offer CBD in alcoholic drinks. They usually offer a full line of CBD-infused cocktails, but that wasn’t the case when I visited. Due to New York state’s policy changes, the bar wasn’t adding CBD to their drinks at the time. Instead, they offered me a CBD gummy bear to eat alongside my drink.
Zsolt Csonka, the owner of Adriaen Block, had been experimenting with CBD for some time before he opened his bar. “The way I see it, it’s an extremely great ingredient that can be used for many purposes,” Csonka said. “I used it for personal wellness and mindfulness, then I started adding it to drinks and foods.”
Like Mann told me about my CBD beer, Csonka said that “having a CBD cocktail would not slow you down or make you sleepy.”
Instead, “it will reduce your anxiety and stress level, mellow you out, and make you loosen up.”
In terms of the quantity and amounts, Csonka said he offered both full-spectrum CBD (which contains small amounts of THC) and CBD isolate, and would usually add a small amount of the tincture to each drink, about 0.13mL.
What happens when you combine CBD gummies and alcohol?
Although I wasn’t able to experience how the CBD might enhance the flavor of my Stoney Negroni, I do think eating the CBD gummy affected how the liquor hit me. I often feel a buzz even halfway through a cocktail. But after finishing the whole drink, I barely felt the alcohol.
Until recently, Adriaen Block offered a line of CBD-infused cocktails. Photo courtesy of Adriaen Block.
It’s an extremely great ingredient that can be used for many purposes.
— Zsolt Csonka, Adriaen Block
When it comes to enhancing the drinking experience, I think CBD might make alcohol consumption a little more enjoyable for some. But these CBD-infused drinks didn’t leave me clamoring for more.
It was a nice change for me to feel the intoxicating effects more slowly and subtly. I’m not sure, however, if that was a direct effect from the CBD. It could also have been a byproduct of the CBD lowering my blood alcohol level.
And there’s no guarantee that the effect will be the same for everyone. Further research will explain more about how cannabinoids and alcohol interact with each other and with the body.
It’s also important to note that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved CBD as an ingredient for food or beverages. While the 2018 Farm Bill made CBD legal, it’s still up to the FDA to study the effects of CBD and to determine whether it can be generally recognized as safe. This means that restaurants and manufacturers that mix CBD into beer, wine, or cocktails are, at best, operating in a legal gray area for now.
For now, it may be too soon to make definitive claims now about CBD and alcohol. However, curious CBD consumers are likely to continue experimenting with infusing cocktails, wine, or beer. If you want to see what the hype is all about, I would encourage you to try it for yourself.
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