Photo credit: Solen Feyissa on Unsplash

Recently awoken nightly by our neighbours’ midnight jump-rope workout, I stay awake for hours. I am tired but unable to sleep, anxious and irritated.

Hi, neighbours!

This extended period of stay at home, work from home, school from home has us all cooped up, climbing over each other in a small space every Groundhog Day. My anxiety is surely all in my mind, but it feels physical (and cornering and petting every neighbourhood dog I see is giving me but temporary relief).

I have never before used sleep aids – and we all know that there are no magic bullets – but I am willing to look into CBD and its claims to help with anxiety and sleeplessness, without the long-term dependency issues.

There are CBD extract shops popping up all over town, offering creams, oils and gummies. You can get a CBD coffee or order a juiced-up juice. There are even CBD pet products!

What is CBD?

CBD is short for “cannabidiol”, and it is extracted from the cannabis plant (aka marijuana). CBD is legal in Hong Kong and does not result in euphoria or intoxication, but it is supposed to have moderating effects on anxiety, psychosis, depression, pain, appetite, memory, seizures and other brain activity.

Hemp is the name given to a subclass of the cannabis plant that has very low levels of the illegal (in HK) marijuana component THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), and CBD can be derived from either THC-heavy cannabis or hemp. THC is illegal in Hong Kong, and all products found here should be THC free.

CBD advocates swear it helps with sleep problems, reduces inflammation and provides pain relief. As the ultimate sceptic, I wanted to test this for myself, but what should one look for in a CBD supplement?

OBX hemp farm

An OBX organic hemp farm

Which CBD to try?

Open Book Extracts (OBX) Asia imports CBD products into Hong Kong from organic hemp farms in the USA.

I emailed OBX Asia’s CEO, Laurie Goldberg, with my CBD questions. “First determine what particular issue you are trying to resolve,” Laurie suggests. “It may be sleep, anxiety, muscle discomfort, a skin condition, etc and get a recommendation for a product to try based on that.”

But isn’t one CBD oil the same as the next? How do CBD products differ for various issues?

Laurie says that CBD differs the way in which wines do, with the terroir, geography, grape varietals, weather conditions and winemaking techniques having an impact on the quality of the product.

This is actually not good news. It would be simpler if all CBD products were the same. But we’re going to have to trust that the products sold in Hong Kong are all of a certain standard while keeping in mind that some may work better than others.

Given that, we need to consider the strength of a product.

We recommend 25mg of CBD per day as a starting point for people who are new to CBD. We also recommend taking it as part of your daily routine as the effects are cumulative.

– Laurie Goldberg, CEO of Open Book Extracts Asia

The next layer of complexity to consider is what’s included along with the CBD – which means we need a brief introduction to terpenes.

Common terpenes. Illustration by @painting.daffodils

Terpenes are naturally occurring compounds that determine smell (yay, chemistry!). The fresh, woody aroma of a pine forest comes from a terpene called pinene. Limonene can be found in, well, lemons and other citrus fruits. These terpenes are also common in cannabis. Terpenes have been found to have various health benefits such as anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties (for example, the terpene curcumene is one of the major chemical constituents of the wonder spice turmeric), and they may behave differently when combined than when acting alone – this is known as the entourage effect. Read more about terpenes in this great article.

So a CBD product that includes terpenes or herbs in its formulation may be more effective than one with just CBD alone. The CBD is the “hero” ingredient and stimulates the endocannabinoid system, while terpenes, herbs and other natural ingredients support a specific need – for example, a CBD gummy with melatonin to treat sleeplessness.

Case study

I found myself an expensive tube of CBD mints from Lucent Botanicals that contain 10mg of CBD per mint along with melatonin, a blend of herbs and three different terpenes (myrcene, terpineol and terpinolene). Many of the products I looked at have “secret formula” blends of terpenes for day or night, and I appreciate that this company shares their ingredients.

Did it work? Well, yes, it did. Whether it was accumulated fatigue, my alcohol-free nights, the peppermint tea before bed, the placebo effect or the CBD mint itself, I still awoke, but the fog did not lift from my brain and I was able to go back to sleep. The experiment continues, and it’s looking pretty good.

No one wants to be reliant on this kind of product long term, but if it can help to break the unhealthy sleeping patterns I have lately found myself in, it will be worth it.

In general, it’s a good idea to try a variety of topical and ingestible products and doses and recognise that you may not necessarily feel an immediate effect. The experience can vary a lot from person to person.

When purchasing CBD products in Hong Kong, it’s important to pay attention to the exact composition of an item. Look for reputable retailers and brands that make third-party lab reports available to customers. While you may make every effort to avoid THC, there are no guarantees. Some companies still specify CBD as a prohibited substance as a condition of service, and you should check whether this applies to you.

CBD at elephant grounds, Hong Kong

LIFE CBD can be found at Elephant Grounds

You can order a CBD coffee at many coffee shops around town or any number of CBD food and drink products at Sheung Wan café Found. However, what I am really interested in is the special relationship between CBD and beer – the next article up from Brew 852!

RELATED: November 2021 sees the opening of Unbothered, a CBD bar in Lan Kwai Fong

For more article like this, like Foodie on Facebook

IT, burger & beer specialist at Foodie. Loving sichuan like a drug, hit me up with that peppery numbness

Win tasty prizes in our Valentine’s Day giveaway!

Join our biggest giveaway yet and win prizes for you and your partner