A nutritionist explains how she's using cannabis superfoods to improve her health.

By Julie Upton, RD
April 19, 2018

Since some 30 or so states have legalized recreational or medicinal marijuana, a growing number of canna-curious people are gobbling up new edibles to improve their health—not to get high.

These new cannabis consumers are a stark contrast to a stereotypical Taco-Bell-eating, Rick-and-Morty-watching stoner. They’re more likely to be foodies who don’t smoke, vape, or eat brownies or gummies (too much added sugar!), and many are in their 50s. These canna-connoisseurs want micro-doses of medicinal marijuana infused into great-tasting, all-natural, wholesome foods and beverages to improve sleep, bolster immunity, alleviate pain, mitigate migraines, and much more.

Some new cannabis consumers say it has helped them drink less; others find it to be a natural alternative to pharmaceutical medications to treat pain or insomnia. And contrary to popular belief, cannabis may actually help you lose weight, because it can reduce stress-related eating and drinking.

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Even though legal medicinal cannabis has only been around for a few years, the Specialty Foods Association says cannabis edibles are one of the top food trends of 2018. You can now find all-natural teas, extra virgin olive oils, nuts, energy bars, coffee, crackers, honey, and alcohol-free wines made with cannabis. There are even several artisanal, cannabis-infused dog and cat treats for your four-legged companions.

Studies show that there are more than 100 different cannabinoids and related bioactive compounds in the Cannabis sativa plant. Most of the new marijuana- or hemp-infused edibles contain one or both primary cannabinoids that have been shown to provide a wide variety of health benefits: cannabidiol (CBD) and tetra-hydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the compound that gives you a high or buzz; CBD-only products are non-psychoactive and legally available in all 50 states. (Note: There are some situations in which it’s not so straightforward, so be sure to check your local laws.)

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While research is ongoing, studies show that CBD may be a natural way to fight epileptic seizures, anxiety disorders, insomnia, chronic pain, nausea, and even some types of cancer. I have never smoked, and I would never vape nor would I eat pot brownies or gummies, but I, like many people my age, am using these new cannabis products for overall wellness. Some of my favorite CBD-only products include Buddha Organic CBD Teas and Infused Edibles CBD Almonds.

Other edibles include micro-doses of THC to enhance the health effects of CBD. This is commonly referred to as the “entourage” or “synergistic” effects of consuming a more whole plant product versus isolated compounds.

If you want to try a product that contains THC, experts provide this important advice: Start low and go slow. “With cannabis-infused foods and beverages, achieving the health effects you’re looking for may require a little trial and error,” explains Perry Solomon, MD, the medical director of HelloMD, a digital health care platform for the cannabis community. “Everyone responds to cannabis differently, and edibles are notoriously tricky to dose because several variables impact how quickly you may start to feel its effects—from when you last ate to your weight, sex, and percent body fat.”

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To try products with THC, you’ll need a medicinal marijuana card in most states. With mine, I’ve tried several foods and beverages available in California that have high CBD to THC ratios of around 18:1 to 10:1. I take no more than a few milligrams of THC in a dose. Some popular products available in California include VCC CBD Me So Honey Straws, Satori CBD-Rich Salted Caramel Almonds, Kikoko Sympa-Tea, or Care By Design Cannabis-Infused Dark Chocolate.

If I have any products with THC, like a tea, it will be at night a few hours before bed. Since it can take 90 minutes to two hours until you begin to feel any effects of THC, experts say not to take more than a single dose, even if you’re not feeling anything. During the daytime, I will have CBD-only products. While not a clinical trial by any means, I have found that I sleep more soundly, my stress level is lowered, and my muscle recovery is enhanced with a little help from therapeutic cannabis.