When I first learned about hemp oil, I'll admit I was a bit skeptical. My mind immediately turned to weed and the unnerving experiences I'd had with heightened anxiety in college. For me, a person who's already predisposed to overthinking, marijuana, no matter what the form, would typically put my mind into overdrive and result in a common yet dreaded side effect: paranoia.
A bit of online digging led me to realize that the active ingredient in Charlotte's Web Everyday Plus Hemp Oil, the product I'd been offered to test, was the chemical compound CBD, which stands for Cannabidiol. Unlike THC, the other crucial compound in hemp and marijuana plants, CBD does not produce the psychoactive effects that make you feel "high"; instead, it actually eases anxiety and makes you less likely to freak out.
One study comparing the effects of THC and CBD even found that, while THC increased anxiety by activating the neurotransmitters involved in the "fight or flight" response, CBD actually repressed autonomic arousal—or the nervous system response associated with sudden increases in heart rate or respiration. In other words, CBD is ideal for people looking to relax and unwind—not get out of their minds.
While the science behind CBD oil assuaged many of my concerns, Charlotte Figi's inspiring story was the kicker. Figi, a 6-year-old girl diagnosed with a rare and resistant form of epilepsy known as Dravet syndrome, was actually placed on hospice care and given a "do not resuscitate" order when her parents, desperate and frustrated with pharmaceutical medication, considered medical marijuana. Charlotte is now 99% seizure-free since she began supplementing with Charlotte Web's CBD oil, which the brand named after Figi.
I was in awe of CBD's potent effects, especially when I learned that the oil could be used to treat everyday ailments like anxiety, chronic pain, migraines, nausea, and inflammation in addition to serious issues like epilepsy, cancer, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson's. With that, I threw caution to the wind and asked for a sample. Here's what happened when I took one full dropper of Charlotte's Web's Everyday Plus Hemp Oil in the mint chocolate flavor every morning for seven days.
MY FIRST IMPRESSION
It was actually a bad bout of jet lag after a trip to California that inspired me to finally test out the CBD oil (I'll admit that my weed-based reservations kept me from trying it for the first few months). Knowing that the oil had also helped people with sleep issues, I squeezed one full dropper of the Everyday Plus oil onto my tongue, per the instructions, and waited.
Thirty minutes later, I was surprised by how subtle the effect was. While I expected a hazy nodding-off effect similar to melatonin's, the oil simply relaxed my body ever so slightly—my heart stopped pounding against my chest, my legs stopped kicking beneath my sheets, my mind stopped racing. I wasn't sure if it was the oil or the late hour, but eventually, physical relaxation gave way to mental relaxation, and I drifted off to sleep.
Reflecting the next morning, I was most surprised by the fact that I never felt "high" in any way—there was never a moment of It's kicking in; I can feel it now like with pain medications or even anti-anxiety drugs. Considering it takes time, consistency, and the right dosage to experience the full effect, I continued taking the oil once a day for the next six days. Here's what went down:
It made me less anxious and on edge
While normally I'd be slightly tripped up by little things like an overly crowded subway car or a full inbox at work, the CBD oil seems to have taken the edge off of my anxiety a bit. Rather than overthinking a sternly worded email or analyzing a social interaction, I've found it easier to recognize the irrationality of these thoughts and actually let them go (instead of ruminating on the situation). In some ways, I feel more like myself. With that said, I've still experienced some social anxiety when meeting new groups of people—I'd be interested to see what taking the full recommended dose would do.
I'm more focused at work
I work well under pressure, but being extremely busy at work has almost made me less productive—I'm constantly distracted by email, Slack, and the people around me, to the point where getting my work done becomes difficult. This week, however, I've found it easier to put my blinders on, block out all distractions (especially social distractions) and focus on one task at a time. I think this is partly related to the lessened anxiety—I feel more frazzled and off task when my anxiety is running high. It almost feels like a newfound sense of clarity and calm that enables me to focus.
I'm falling asleep faster
I assume this is also a side effect of the eased anxiety, but I seem to fall asleep within the 20- to 30-minute range rather than my normal 45 minutes to one hour (or longer). Not only do I seem to be skipping (or at least shortening) the whole tossing-and-turning phase of my sleep cycle, but I'm able to snap out of the overthinking mindset that often keeps me up at night. Of course, there's no telling whether a big life event would kindly disrupt this newfound bliss, but I'd like to think it's helped on day-to-day basis.
Would I say that CBD oil has fundamentally changed my life? No. But per the Charlotte's Web website, this is the typical first experience. "Anyone who has ever started a new vitamin or supplement routine knows the short answer to how long it takes to kick in is—'it depends,'" reads the article on what to expect from hemp oil. "For many newcomers, they're not sure what to imagine, or some anticipate a huge change right away. For most of us, though, dietary supplements take time."
With that said, I'm definitely intrigued enough by the subtle effects to continue taking the oil and possibly even to up the dosage to the recommended two full droppers of the 30mL bottle per day for a week or so. Plus, I take comfort in knowing that it's an all-natural treatment for anxiety that's responsibly grown on family farms in Colorado. Something that's safe, legal, requires no prescription, and makes me less anxious, less scatterbrained, and more focused? I'm definitely on board.
Have you tried CBD oil? Share your experience in the comments below!