As the popularity of CBD increases, we’re all looking for more opportunities to infuse this powerful plant extract into our daily routine. But do coffee and CBD play well together or do they offer competing effects? According to a 2018 editorial from The High Times, CBD coffee is described as “the dumbest idea of all time” and a “liquid contradiction.” However, many CBD users notice valuable benefits when combining these substances. Over the past few years, Cannabidiol (commonly referred to as CBD) has stepped into the limelight as a healing compound with an abundance of benefits, including the treatment of epilepsy, anxiety management, pain relief, skin care, and calming inflammation. CBD is also described as a superstar antioxidant, protecting healthy cells against the effects of free radicals or unstable molecules that damage the body, resulting in heart disease, cancer, and other diseases. According to the National Institute of Health, CBD shows antioxidative, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective elements and has been found to be more effective than Vitamin C and E as a neuroprotective antioxidant.
Anecdotal reports advise that combining CBD with coffee provides an amplification in alertness while taking the edge off the harsher effects of caffeine (such as nausea and anxiety). The result is a burst of energy, without experiencing any jitters or jumps. As of January 1st, 2019, hemp was removed as an illegal substance under federal law. While this created a boom in the hemp industry, science is still catching up. Although there haven’t been many formal studies on the effects of CBD when combined with coffee, a few theories have been offered on how the two might interact.
Mixing CBD with Coffee
According to a study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine, caffeine and cannabis interact with some of the same pathways in the brain. The study determined the amount of coffee consumed is connected to the reduction of neurotransmitters related to the endocannabinoid system. While CBD does not appear to act directly at CB1 or CB2 receptors in the endocannabinoid system, CBD has been found to promote anandamide signaling. Anandamide (a neurotransmitter which binds to CB1 and CB2 receptors) is the body’s own, naturally produced cannabinoid. When interacting with these receptors, the body is able to regulate appetite, pain-sensation, mood, and memory. CBD has also been shown to have enhanced activity at the 5-HT1A serotonin receptor. While researchers haven’t confirmed if the use of CBD offsets damage to the endocannabinoid system by caffeine, this link invites further speculation on the benefits of pairing CBD with coffee.
Another interaction between CBD and coffee involves adenosine and its respective A1/A2A receptors. Adenosine is naturally produced in the body, acting as a central nervous system depressant, promoting sleep and drowsiness. Caffeine is an adenosine antagonist, inhibiting receptors from responding to adenosine in order to convince the body that it is alert and awake. In comparison, high doses of CBD have been shown to raise adenosine levels by preventing reuptake. Increased adenosine levels have displayed many benefits and are associated with neuroprotection and decreased inflammation following brain trauma. That being said, a build-up of adenosine can contribute to feelings of grogginess, which may back up the idea that the alertness effects of CBD and caffeine may cancel each other out when combined. According to Dr. Bonni Goldstein, the Medical Director for Canna-Centers, the important focus is on the dosage–which can vary greatly from one individual to the next. “…different responses reflect differences in the baseline endocannabinoid system function of the person who is using cannabis. If you have a normally functioning endocannabinoid system, you may have a different response to cannabis than someone who has an imbalance in his or her endocannabinoid system.” In summary, it may take a few attempts of trial and error to discover the correct dosage, allowing the body to reach a proper balance.
CBD Coffee Effects
The bioavailability of CBD also plays a major role in the effectiveness of the dose and depends on the method used to introduce CBD to the system. Ingesting CBD through food or beverage results in a lower bioavailability, as CBD is filtered through the digestive system and extensively processed in the liver prior to reaching the bloodstream. When CBD is inhaled or taken sublingually, it bypasses the digestive system and is diffused directly into the bloodstream from the lungs, providing more rapid results.
Another important note–CBD is hydrophobic and does not mix well with water. As our bodies are composed of around 60% water, this also contributes to the low bioavailability of ingesting CBD. When a tincture or oil is dropped in with water-based coffee, most of the CBD remains in the cup, with a very small amount making it into the bloodstream. CBD developers’ response to this is water-soluble CBD. To create water-soluble CBD, the molecules are broken down into tiny particles and suspended in a substance (usually guar gum) to protect the CBD during digestion. This shields the CBD from the stomach’s acids, allowing the cannabinoids be absorbed in the intestine, increasing the bioavailability of ingested CBD. While water-soluble CBD can revolutionize the world of edibles, it’s important to confirm with your barista how exactly CBD is being added to your coffee (and where it comes from!).
It’s always better to be well-informed on the product that you’re ingesting and err on the side of caution. Be wary of inauthentic CBD oils and always ask questions on how the CBD is sourced. While cannabinoids are not toxic, CBD affects specific enzymes, causing similar drug interactions as St. John’s wort and grapefruit. If you have any questions or worries of a drug interaction, it’s always best to consult your doctor before using CBD. Individuals who use CBD for serious medical conditions (such as seizure disorders/inflammation from autoimmune disorders) should pay special attention when adding in CBD to their coffee, as dosing is very important and more difficult to regulate in food and drink items.
There are plenty of demonstrated benefits to adding CBD to your lifestyle. While most evidence is currently anecdotal, science is playing catch up after years in the dark. At the very worst, adding a few drops of CBD can add a super-antioxidant to your morning routine–at the very best, CBD may enable coffee lovers to keep their morning/afternoon coffee and also enjoy a jitter-free, focused and productive day. As the wheels keep moving with research and development of CBD, we look forward to further exploring the synergism between CBD and caffeine. Until then, give it a shot! Go forth and experiment–but be sure to ask questions of your providers and continue to be your own scientist. Your endocannabinoid system (and your wallet) will thank you.
 Goldstein, Bonni. Cannabis Revealed: How the World’s Most Misunderstood Plant Is Healing Everything from Chronic Pain to Epilepsy. Bonni Goldstein, 2016.