Cannabis has never been my thing. Even though I live in Los Angeles, where it’s easier to get a medical marijuana card than a driver’s license, I haven’t partaken in anything stronger than hemp-oil salad dressing since college.
I suspect it’s because I’m someone who’s always chasing more energy, whether it’s through caffeine, intense endorphin-boosting workouts, or expensive supplements—I may as well have an IV drip of Moon Juice Brain Dust attached to my arm. And from my (admittedly uneducated) standpoint, I’ve always associated cannabis with the exact opposite effect: slowing down, chilling out, turning off. Ugh, who has time for that?
So when my editor at Well+Good asked me to test out a line of therapeutic, hemp-based cannabinoid supplements and write about it, I wasn’t super jazzed. Sure, I’d try it, but I probably wouldn’t like it (and I’d be sure to have a cold brew at the ready to wake myself back up afterwards).
As it turned out, not only did I feel some pretty unexpected physical effects from my experiment, but it made me realize just how much my type-A, go-go-go mentality is messing with my life.
But first, here's what the science says about cannabinoid supplements.
The supplements I tried come from a Colorado-based brand called Aceso, named after the Greek goddess of healing. Through a combo of naturally derived cannabinoids (compounds that interact with receptors in our cells to normalize all sorts of bodily processes) and molecules called terpenes (which give plants their scents, tastes, and therapeutic properties), the supplements are each designed to address very specific wellness issues. And since their level of psychoactive THC is below the US legal limit of .03 percent, that means that while they won't make you high (sorry to disappoint you), you can buy them in most states.
Aceso launched with three formulations: Calm (for anxiety), Soothe (for pain), and Wellness (for overall vitality). Each supplement comes as either a spray ($70), which you spritz under your tongue for a fast-acting effect, or in single-serve sachets of powder ($10-$50), which you mix with water and drink like Emergen-C.
“These are true herbal formulas that use a whole host of ingredients designed to go after [certain health] conditions."
What makes Aceso different from other cannabinoid products on the market, says product manager Kurt Forstmann, is twofold. First, unlike brands that use cannabinoids in isolation—in this case, the heavy hitter is cannabidiol, or CBD—Aceso utilizes oil that’s culled from the whole hemp plant. (The hemp products you buy in stores, by contrast, are only harvested from hemp seeds, which contain no cannabinoids.) “When you use the whole hemp plant, it’s actually more effective than if you’re just taking CBD alone,” claims Forstmann.
The plant-derived terpenes, too, help make Aceso’s formulas particularly potent. “These are true herbal formulas that use a whole host of ingredients designed to go after those conditions,” Forstmann says. Some of Aceso’s superstar terpenes include linalool, which gives lavender its calming properties, and limonene, a potent mood-booster found in citrus fruits.
After talking with Forstmann, I was definitely intrigued—and a lot more open to seeing what the stash of Aceso drink powders on my desk could do for me. But would the supplements measure up to the, er, buzz?
Keep reading to find out what happened when I tried three cannabinoid supplements to combat anxiety, pain, and malaise.
What’s in it: Along with Aceso’s signature CBD-based cannabinoid blend, Calm is formulated with two terpenes proven to reduce anxiety—limonene from grapefruit and linalool from lavender—as well as passionflower extract (another anxiety-buster) and CoQ10, which is said to have calming properties.
How it tastes: In terms of flavor, this one was my favorite—think earthy, lavender lemonade.
How I felt: I decided to test out Calm on a day that I’d had a little too much coffee while trying to meet a deadline. I honestly wasn’t expecting much, but I felt the effects almost instantly—it was like my entire body relaxed at once and I was flooded with a happy, Zen-ed out feeling. (Kind of like the one I get after a really good yoga class, but times 10.) At the same time, I also got a second wind that allowed me to meet up with friends for a late dinner—something that’s usually out of the question for me after a crazy work day.
The verdict: Calm has officially earned its place on my supplement shelf, where I'll be reserving it for high-stress days. Taking it for the first time also made me mindful of how too much caffeine contributes to my anxiety. I’ve been strictly sticking to one cup of coffee per day ever since.
How it tastes: Exactly what you'd expect from the ingredients list—like a strange mixture of cinnamon, cherry, turmeric, and pineapple. I didn’t love it, but it wasn’t intolerable either.
How I felt: I mixed up a glass of Soothe before teaching an early-morning yoga class—I wanted to see if it would relieve some lingering post-workout soreness from the day before. Although I didn’t notice a difference in terms of my mildly achy muscles, I did feel way more mentally clear and quick while teaching. In fact, I was able to get into the flow a lot more quickly than I normally do at 8 a.m. on a Sunday.
The verdict: I’d like to try this one again when I’m dealing with more pronounced pain, like a headache or a seriously strained muscle. In this instance, I felt like the yoga did more to help my soreness than the supplement did, but I do think that Soothe helped calm my nerves and boost my mood, which in turn seemed to have contributed to my uptick in eloquence that morning.
What’s in it: Forstmann calls this the “multivitamin” of the Aceso arsenal, since it’s designed to support your immune system, moods, and energy levels. Like Calm, it’s got limonene (this time from lemon and orange oil), plus detoxifying catechins from green tea, hefty doses of vitamins B6 and D3 (as well as some others), and that cannabinoid blend, of course.
How it tastes: Similar to Calm—an earthy lemonade flavor—but without the floral overtones.
How I felt: Wellness has a less clearly defined purpose than the other two supplements, so I wasn’t really sure when or why to take it. I opted to test it out after lunch on a workday, to see if it would give me more stamina to power through an assignment. I can’t say that I detected a huge impact on my energy levels, but I did feel a lot more focused than I normally do in the afternoon—and that warm, fuzzy, peaceful sensation came back momentarily, which was an unexpected bonus.
The verdict: Wellness is a pretty tasty way of getting some extra nutrients in, and I could easily see it becoming my go-to afternoon beverage. (Especially now that post-lunch coffee is no more.)
The whole Aseco experience was really eye-opening for me. Obviously, you should always see your doctor if you're experiencing serious anxiety, pain, or other alarming symptoms, but when it comes to run-of-the-mill aches or typical work-day stress, I'm glad to have another natural option to turn to—one that I was honestly pretty skeptical of before I tried it. Cannabis, I misjudged you. (But I draw the line at CBD tampons....)
This post was originally published on September 16, 2016; it was updated on August 4, 2018.
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