The first time I took CBD, it was in the form of a CBD-infused latte from a cafe in Brooklyn, New York. Fast forward a few years and CBD — mostly in the form of a hemp-based CBD oil taken under my tongue — has become an integral part of my wellness routine.
But sometimes I think back to that first latte and I wonder: Does it really make sense to mix CBD and coffee? Cannabidiol is praised for its calming properties while coffee is meant to keep us amped and awake. The two don’t seem to fit together...and yet CBD-infused coffee is becoming more popular by the day.
So, are these two substances the perfect match or a nonsensical combo? Read on to find out.
How do CBD, caffeine, and adenosine receptors interact?
Despite having very different effects on the body, coffee and CBD do have some similarities on a chemical level, starting with the fact that they both interact with a type of receptor in the body called an adenosine receptor.
In the case of coffee, caffeine works as a non-selective blocker of a few different types of adenosine receptors. More specifically, it attaches itself to the A1 receptor and prevents adenosine, a neurochemical that makes you sleepy, from attaching to it. Basically, caffeine tricks your brain into thinking you’re wide awake.
CBD can also activate adenosine receptors and research has linked taking CBD to higher adenosine levels in the brain. In fact, it’s thought that some of CBD’s most exciting benefits — such as its neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory properties — are thanks to its influence on adenosine receptors.
Can CBD make drinking coffee even better?
Many people report that combining CBD and coffee can reduce the negative side effects of caffeine, like jitteriness, anxiety, or headaches, and point to both substance’s activities on adenosine receptors as evidence to back it up. But experts caution against oversimplifying the relationship.
Bonni Goldstein, M.D., a doctor who specializes in cannabis told Marie Claire that because everyone reacts differently to coffee and CBD, it’s hard to predict exactly what will happen when you mix the two. “Someone’s reaction to a combination of these compounds would not be easily predictable because various doses of each would affect the response,” she explained. Goldstein also pointed out that CBD is a biphasic drug, which means that depending on the dose, it can have opposite effects. “At low doses, CBD is a stimulant and in higher doses, it can cause sedation,” she said.
At this point it's just not clear how CBD’s activity on adenosine receptors might affect caffeine’s influence on the same receptors. Any evidence that it’s beneficial to add CBD to your morning cappuccino is purely anecdotal. And yet, the CBD infused coffee market continues to grow. Could there be something to it that we just haven’t figured out yet?
Why do people take coffee and CBD together?
Looking beyond adenosine receptors, caffeine causes the brain to increase neuron firing and stimulates the production of adrenaline, which increases your heart rate and tightens up your muscles. CBD has been shown to lower blood pressure and induce muscle relaxation. So maybe the two do have some sort of complex but symbiotic relationship?
“I don’t take CBD with my coffee per se, but if I’ve accidentally over-caffeinated, I often turn to CBD and think taking it really helps me feel less anxious and jumpy,” says Hannah, a 27-year old brand consultant. According to Dr. Perry Solomon, a physician and medical cannabis expert, there’s no proof that adding CBD to your coffee helps you feel alert and cuts down on jitters, but he also can’t prove that it doesn’t help. “If it works for you — and allows you to feel focused while cutting down on jitteriness — who cares that there have been no scientist studies,” he said.
There’s also a category of people who don’t notice any difference at all. “I often take coffee and CBD in the morning at the same time,” says Ben, a 33-year-old entrepreneur who takes CBD regularly. He doesn’t feel any change when he adds CBD to his morning routine. “I think the caffeine in the coffee overpowers any calming or sleep-inducing effects of CBD,” he said.
At this point, there isn’t enough evidence to make a strong argument either way. The good news is that there’s no reason to believe it would be harmful (other than maybe to your bank account). If adding CBD to your coffee works for you, go for it. Just know that there’s very little science to back it up.