CBD In Food: It’s Not B.S., It’s Beneficial
by Danielle Cheesman (@daniellesaid)
Jamie Hall first began using CBD as a postpartum aid.
She found it more gentle than other pharmaceutical options, and began making infused treats for other moms, too. Just a few years later, she is now putting the final touches on her cookbook Alternative Alchemy, full of CBD-centric sweets, snacks and small savories (like soups, dips and dressings) that are packed with herbs and adaptogens, and are largely (but not entirely) vegan and gluten-free. Check, check, check!
Here, she reveals to Fleur Marché why she believes CBD is beneficial to your mental health and why she prefers to consume it with food. (Plus, she shares her dos and don’ts for cooking with CBD, and three recipes that are perfect for fall. Pro Tip: Consuming CBD with a healthy fat is most ideal.)
'Alternative Alchemy' is due Fall 2020 via Prestel Publishing. Follow Jamie at @AltAlchemy.
What was your relationship with CBD before you decided to incorporate it into your cooking?
I began taking CBD after the birth of my daughter. I realized fairly quickly something wasn’t “right” with the way I was feeling. Postpartum depression didn’t feel accurate; I was rightly wound, anxious and compulsive—all things I knew to be symptomatic (for me) of sleep deprivation. But when I tried to sleep—and I really tried, even bringing my mother for a few weeks to help—I simply couldn’t. I could hear the baby crying when she wasn’t and I’d lie in bed checking the time as it grew later and later, then earlier and earlier, knowing I’d barely slept.
My father has struggled with depression since childhood on and off, and I’m fairly well acquainted with antidepressants. Long story short, they have never worked well for me, and as a breastfeeding mother I wasn’t comfortable trying. My husband and I had recently become very natural and minimal with our lifestyle, as new parents often do, and he suggested cannabis, which I tried but didn’t like the psychedelic aspect—at least not for day-to-day prime parenting hours. And with a little research we found CBD, which was exactly what I was after. Calm, naturally-occurring and I used full spectrum with organic plants.
Why did you ultimately decide to add CBD to food? What was your initial inspiration and reasoning?
I began putting it in food when I started to research how it was processed by the body and endocannabinoid system. I realized it helped absorption to consume it with a fat. Even more importantly, I personally felt as though CBD had a more even, lasting effect when I took it on a full stomach. It’s more of a supplemental approach, as opposed to trying to use it the way you might THC-heavy cannabis. They don’t have the same desired effect, therefore it made sense to look at CBD differently.
...I personally felt as though CBD had a more even, lasting effect when I took it on a full stomach.
Left: Pumpkin Spice Latte; Right: Pumpkin Mole
I've had experiences where [CBD] left me feeling a bit sluggish or a little spacey. I found this to be the case if I vape or take a straight tincture without food...
What has been the biggest benefit you’ve seen or felt from merging the two?
While CBD is not the same as THC, I've had experiences where it left me feeling a bit sluggish or a little spacey. I found this to be the case if I vape or take a straight tincture without food, and found that consuming it with a fat eliminates the potential for the hollow, echoey feeling I've gotten from time to time. Additionally, when consumed with a healthy fat it’s more often what I don’t feel that stands out: I’m less anxious, less tense, a little brighter and softer mentally. I also find my appetite is more level and so is my sleep. I would add that I find consistently taking a small dose in the morning and evening (with food) might just as likely be the key. A lot of the people I bake for seem to echo this sentiment: consistency and food are very important.
Why did you decide to write Alternative Alchemy?
I decided to write a cookbook because a family friend and food writer suggested I contact his agent. He'd been eating my treats for a while and was particularly interested in the ingredients in addition to CBD. I bake using non-refined sugars, nut flours and generally no diary, just eggs occasionally. I also use a lot of adaptogenic herbs and low baking temperatures (or molded, i.e. uncooked, treats) for my stuff. I'd been selling CBD treats to others—moms, in particular—to combat stress, anxiety and postpartum woes, and I'd compiled enough stuff to make it seem do-able, so I spoke to the agent and wrote a proposal.
I'd been selling CBD treats to others—moms, in particular—to combat stress, anxiety and postpartum woes...
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
What kinds of CBD are best for cooking, and why?
Such a good question. One of my long-term favorites is Charlotte's Web; it's dependable and mild-flavored. (It is, however, not certified organic, but the plants they use are.) I use extra strength and my go-to dose for any CBD is 15mg. I've recognized a trend as of late to go much higher, but I agree with the "if some is good, more is better" approach. Charlotte's Web is a less dense or oily composition and I find it works really well if you want to dose things after baking. For example, cookies can be dosed per cookie fresh from the oven to avoid the potentially damaging effects of heat, and Charlotte's Web sinks in nicely. You can also add more for people who think 30mg is their magic number, and dose someone else's slightly lower. Post-baking dosing is always less pressure. I love adding Feals brand in savory things like pesto or oil-based salad dressings because it's so flavorful and complex. It's a very full-bodied tasting CBD and it's fun to showcase that flavor. Another brand, Best Buds, is a very smooth, slick CBD that works very well for molded (uncooked) treats that set in the freezer like ice creams or bars. They're both full spectrum and organic, which is always nice, too.
What are some no-nos when it comes to cooking with CBD?
Don't go over 350 degrees or you compromise the CBD. Also, don't ever try to sauté directly in CBD oil. It won't work. It can be added to dough batter, but it's not a cooking oil. If you can avoid heat and drizzle the oil over a finished recipe or over an uncooked, oil-based dish, it's always best. But if you have to cook it, don't exceed 350 degrees or it loses its potency.
...If you have to cook [CBD], don't exceed 350 degrees or it loses its potency.
Left: Jamie's Kitchen; Right: Jamie with her family
Finally, what do you hope to achieve with Alternative Alchemy? What do you hope it does for its readers?
Two main things: I hope it makes mental health a more approachable thing for the masses. When you're not feeling "right" it's overwhelming, especially if you're a new mother or just really suffering. CBD is a way to own your mental health when you're not necessarily able to navigate the insane insurance system because it's hard, or you have a newborn crying and you haven't slept. Sometimes people are in a very hard place and they need more help, but other times you can take a deep breath and try to sort yourself out and find something that will work more naturally and evenly. Chemical isn't always more effective or better, but it's almost always more immediate and potent. CBD is gentle, but effective.
And second, I hope the book offers a different take on food. The overarching point in all this is to take care of yourself: eat foods that will support your efforts to feel good. Don't deprive yourself. Go for healthy, long-lasting, complex foods that will keep you optimally fueled and that won't upset your body's natural systems. Everything should work together.