Ever since I had a bad trip from a batch of pot brownies during my freshman year of college, I swore off all edibles. So initially, I hesitated when I was introduced to Sakara Life's hemp chocolates a few months ago. However, these nutritious and delicious treats aren't supposed to get you high out of your mind — in fact, you won't even get high at all. While hemp oil is produced from the hemp seeds of cannabis plants, this product doesn't contain compounds of THC which triggers the cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1) that produces the high. Instead, Sakara Life founders Whitney Tingle and Danielle DuBoise use hemp oil as a non-psychoactive to alleviate anxiety, depression, PMS, insomnia, inflammation and chronic pain. "CBD compounds are powerfully healing (and completely legal!) and promote a relaxed, tranquil state," they explained in an email.
Dr. Earl Mindell, RPH, MH, PhD and author of Healing with Hemp Oil, supports these claims and advises that people look for how the hemp oil has been extracted, whether or not it is organic, and if the amount of CBD is clearly listed on the label. According to Dr. Alka Sharma, hemp seeds are "rich in protein, polyunsaturated fatty acids, omega 6, omega 3 and insoluble fiber" and are a "good source of Vitamin E antioxidants." They also contain several minerals including potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc, calcium and phosphorus. The only potential disadvantages that she mentioned come from hemp's anticoagulant nature so it can potentially cause diarrhea and cramps after consumption.
"The cannabis plant has been used both medicinally and ceremonially throughout the world for centuries," added DuBoise and Tingle. "It is one of the 50 fundamental herbs in Traditional Chinese Medicine, and in Ayurveda, it is considered a heavenly, sacred plant revered for its role in humankind's spiritual and mental evolution. We are proud of these cacao pyramids because they are the epitome of food is medicine. They're delicious, healing and we love to use them as part of our wind-down self care ritual."
The fact that there are only 30 pieces of dark chocolate in a 2.65oz jar which sells for $45 would make anyone on a budget take about five steps back, but I felt like it was worth the price. For me, it's not necessarily the taste — which is a combination of raw cacao, coconut sugar and hemp oil — that keeps me coming back for more, but the feelings that the chocolates provide. This is one of the only products that has helped me unwind at the end of a long, stressful day — I say this as an active tea drinker who regularly attends yoga classes as a way to "chill out." I usually pop one or two of them at night before I go to bed because I'm a restless sleeper. Any time that I skip on the snack, I end up staying awake for hours running through the list of things I need to complete.
Even though Sakara Life's founders are wellness experts and assured me that all of their products are tested by a board of medical and wellness experts, I had to find out if the chocolates were really legitimate or all in my head. I have a tendency of being a self-medicator. so I wanted to get insight from medical doctors on my special evening treat.
Dr. Jordan Tishler, a Harvard University physician and MD, cannabis therapeutics specialist and President/CEO of the Association of Cannabis Specialists, seems to think the latter. "This is an expensive product that uses hemp as a pure marketing tool," he says. "While it's great that they include nutritional information and ingredients (many products don't), they're useless."
According to Dr. Tishler, hemp is a cannabis subspecies therefore products that contain hemp oil have a low amount of cannabinoids. "Hemp oil is of no real benefit, despite the commercial push to make people believe it does," he says. Since there are only 2mg of hemp oil in the chocolates, he says that there aren't many cannabinoids in it at all. Tishler warns that not all cannabinoids products are effective and that "inhaled and orally ingested are really the two routes that are legitimate." He concludes that "cannabis, when used properly for the right condition, can be helpful."
Dr. Junella Chin, an MD registered with the New York State Medical Marijuana Program, treats patients with CBD infused products for diseases such as anxiety, insomnia, arthritis, back pain, chronic migraines and neuropathy. She recommends that people interested in using CBD products start off extremely slow in small amounts. "With any new products, always best to start small in case there are any adverse effects," she says. "Just like you would do a "patch test" when trying new skin products. Everyone reacts differently and metabolizes CBD at varying rates."
Based on some online reviews, Dr. Chin was able to point out that most of the people buying Sakara Life's hemp chocolates are dealing with issues related to relaxation, anxiety, insomnia and seek an alternative to prescription medication which legitimized the product for her. With an anti-anxiolytic product like this, there aren't any negative side effects which is a huge relief.
"While CBD hasn't been on the market for very long, making studies limited, experts do believe it's a much safer alternative to benzo medication ( i.e. xanax) — especially long term," she says. "Interestingly, CBD reduces anxiety through its mediation of the neurotransmitter GABA, which results in a quieting and calming effect. With CBD oil supplementation, patients don't have the racing thoughts that paralyze them at work or keep them lying awake in bed at night."
So what's the verdict? Sakara Life's chocolates probably aren't going to necessarily absolve ALL of my problems, but they certainly make me feel better while I deal with them which makes me a satisfied customer. Oh, and every state should follow California's lead and legalize recreational marijuana.
Sakara Life, Hemp Chocolates, $45, available at Free People