Published on December 20, 2018

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courtesy of Recess

Reader, it was only Tuesday, and it was only 3 p.m. Faced with an intimidating to-do list and no real desire to drink yet another mediocre coffee, I popped open my first can of CBD-infused seltzer and took a sip. The product, which is currently creeping into the mainstream largely through Instagram ads and cool branding, had promised to make me feel calm, focused, and generally, on my A game. Did it deliver? It’s a little more complicated than you might think.

CBD has quickly become a wellness buzzword and is positioned to grow even more prominent in that space in 2019, as a farm bill that recently passed in Congress will officially legalize the production of industrial hemp (currently, the main source of CBD in the United States). Because its legality has largely been a gray area over the past few decades, there haven’t been many clinical studies about its benefit potential. Still, those who have worked with the ingredient harken it as somewhat of a Holy Grail.

On my desk sat cans of seltzer from two different CBD-infused brands: Recess and Dram. Both include adaptogens—herbs that have a wide range of health benefits—and CBD. In Recess, it’s found in hemp extract, and in Dram’s seltzers, it’s a CBD isolate (aka, just the CBD with no extra elements of the plant).

With colorful, Instagram-bait labeling and buzzworthy phrases like “stress management” and “cool, calm, and collected,” these seltzers feel tailor-made to appeal to an already anxious generation. After all, that very demographic revitalized another sparkling water that had been widely available in the Midwest since the early 1990s. I’m talking, of course, about LaCroix.

Except these seltzers aren’t just eye-candy that happens to come in refreshing flavors like “peach ginger” and “sweetgrass”—they also promote health benefits.

“CBD can help reduce stress, anxiety, and attention deficit disorders,” says Recess founder Benjamin Witte. “Our body produces its own slew of cannabinoids, which attach to receptors in our brain and immune system to assist with a variety of physiological processes including appetite, feelings, inflammation, pain, mood, and memory.” Through CBD can help with sleep (as Dram founder Shae Whitney attests through her own personal experience), it’s not an ingredient that will make you sleepy. Effortless sleep is simply a by-product of being less stressed.

Like many buzzy ingredients that have had their own moment in the spotlight, CBD—as yet proven—cannot totally cure ailments, and Whitney is sure to note this on the listings for Dram’s CBD offerings: “This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.”

What’s more is that people can have different reactions to different levels of CBD. What’s an appropriate dosage for one person may yield results that feel too strong or too weak for you. Recess’s seltzers contain 10mg of full-spectrum hemp oil, while Dram’s offer 20mg of pure CBD.

“Every person has a different body,” says Whitney. “We chose to put 20mg into our drinks because that’s a good starting point for most people, especially if they don’t know what to expect. We tell our customers to experiment with micro-dosing first with 10mg to 30mg and work up from there until you reach your desired body/mind state.” In addition to canned seltzers, Dram also offers CBD tinctures, so if you prefer a stronger or weaker cocktail, you can do it the DIY way.

These are the facts that I know when I take my first sip of a CBD seltzer: It should make me more relaxed, hopefully more focused, and less anxious about meeting my impending deadlines. This is what I feel: intrigued by vibrant flavors much stronger than those I’d find in a LaCroix, calmer since I took a moment for myself to crack open a new beverage at my desk, and hopeful that this would give me the solace I desperately sought.

Over the next week or so, every time I started feeling a bit tired or overwhelmed (even just slightly whelmed, sometimes), I cracked open a can of CBD-infused bubbles from my stash and for a brief moment, I felt a bit better.

Between both Dram and Recess, I found I had options. I deeply enjoyed Recess’s peach ginger flavor, which was heavy on the ginger, and Dram’s vibrant sweetgrass seltzer was like nothing I’d ever tried before. Both made for enjoyable sipping experiences and felt a little more special than the LaCroix or Spindrift I’d usually grab from the fridge.

The thing about CBD is, as most people who have tried any sort of CBD product know, it’s sometimes hard to really put a finger on actual visible benefits, especially when you are trying to gauge your emotional response. Was it my act of recognizing a need for stress relief and grabbing a seltzer to meet that need the cause for my moment of calm or was it the actual seltzer itself? Every day, I managed to get my workload sorted without too much of an emotional struggle, and still, I can’t say from a scientific perspective what the cause of that necessarily was. The empirical evidence points positively to the CBD, but these actions, alas, were not conducted in a lab.

Whitney explains the magic of CBD and adaptogens simply: “Adaptogens [including CBD] work their magic by assisting the body in adapting to the stress of everyday life. Basically, you build resilience in the brain and body and over time you start to feel less irritable, less edgy, running at the gym becomes easier, confrontation at work or home doesn’t feel so threatening. Adaptogens are kind of like body armor against the stressful world we’re living in.”

If specialized sparkling water was able to grant me a moment of calm in my tight schedule, that’s something I’m willing to accept—without, of course, becoming overzealous or overly skeptical. CBD isn’t going to replace my coffee in the morning when getting out of bed feels like an Olympic event I am vastly underqualified for or the glass of red wine I enjoy at the end of an especially long day (you guessed it: I am, in fact, a Taurus). But this seltzer, a simple swap for any other beverage I might guzzle during the workday, gave me a gentle lift right when I needed it—and I will certainly drink to that.

More CBD treats:

What It’s Really Like to Get a CBD Massage

9 CBD Gifts for Your Friend Who Needs to Chill Out

Weed Beauty Products Are a Thing and They Are Amazing