I filled the dropper from the bottle and then — one, two, three, four and five — I placed five drops of the CBD oil under my tongue. Then I carefully settled onto the couch, turned on “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” on Netflix and checked my watch.
I wasn’t supposed to swallow the stuff for two minutes.
I hoped I wouldn’t drool all over my shirt.
Your local lab rat
As soon as I began this month learning about CBD oil (cannabidiol), a hemp oil that’s become popular as a kind of health supplement, I went out and bought a couple of sample packages of CBD oil soft gels.
I got different strengths and started using them, generally after CrossFit workouts.
Among the many reported properties, CBD was supposed to help with inflammation.
Sometimes, my knees get sore. I chalk it up to spending a couple of decades chronically overweight, sitting at a desk, with the bulk of my cardio activity being a run to the coffee pot to grab the occasional free donut.
Muscles get weak with little use.
It takes time to build up strength, and my knees don’t bother me nearly as much as they did when I first stepped inside CrossFit WV in late December. Back then, I was wearing knee braces under my jeans to work and icing my knees pretty much every night.
These days, I treat my aching knees like a normal person. When they bother me, I take a couple of aspirin or a cheap, nonsteroid anti-inflammatory drug. But I hoped the CBD would be like magic and — poof — my knees would feel like they did when I was 17.
The short version is I took the pills, and nothing happened. Nothing at all. I tried one pill at the lowest dose, tried two pills at a higher dose and tried two pills at the highest dose from the packages I’d purchased.
Nothing happened. I felt no different.
I wasn’t even sleepy or extra hungry, two of the potential side effects. Not that I’d notice. I’m always sleepy and extra hungry.
Maybe I was doing this wrong, I thought, so instead of going to a store that also sold CBD along with vitamins, beer, hair care products and lawn ornaments, I stopped in at Green Infusion, on West Washington Street, in Charleston.
The store is one of many shops specializing in CBD products that have opened up in the past couple of years.
I met Susan Heater, who was sitting in a chair while keeping an eye on the store. In the middle of an oppressively hot Friday afternoon, the place was empty except for the two of us. Susan, a friendly, motherly type who reminded me a little of my Aunt Barb, showed me around.
I told her which alleged effects of CBD interested me: anti-inflammation/pain reduction and anxiety relief.
“But here’s the thing,” I said. “I’m a skeptic. The New York Times basically said this stuff was a sugar pill — an expensive sugar pill. So, we have two main schools of thought. It’s either magic or it’s hokum.”
She nodded. She’d heard that before and showed me a couple of pricey products that might do what I wanted. There were different blends with different strengths, and it was all keyed to the individual.
I nodded. Uh-huh.
“Maybe you should talk to the owner,” she said.
“Yeah. Is the owner around?” I asked.
“He’s at the other store,” she told me. “On Capitol Street.”
Heater gave me her boss’ card and directions, so I drove across town to ambush Robert McComas, owner of Green Infusion, with a bunch of questions.
McComas didn’t seem to mind and told me to look around.
While I gawked politely at the range of products that had nothing to do with me, a restaurant worker from up the street came in and asked a few questions about the CBD, particularly about the THC content.
Some CBD has a miniscule amount of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive compound in marijuana. It’s legally allowed because it’s a trace amount — not enough to get anyone high — though it potentially could show up on a stringent drug test.
“Well, that’s fine by me,” the guy in the kitchen staff shirt said, laughing. “I don’t get drug tested no more.”
He wanted the stuff with the tiny bit of THC in it.
McComas explained that CBD is a set of cannabinoids taken from the hemp plant, but THC is a cannabinoid, too. Some research suggests it could be helpful in treating a few medical conditions, but McComas said as far as medical benefits went, the cannabinoids worked best together.
“Ideally, you’d get the best results from the complete plant,” he said.
He said that people are starved for cannabinoids, that prior to the early 1900s, people got cannabinoids generally through their food. It was mixed in with what farm animals ate. It was also used in a wide variety of medicines and treatments, but then fell out of favor.
“Big drug companies didn’t like it,” McComas said. “They wanted everybody to use heroin.”
Heroin was developed and marketed by the drug company Bayer as a nonaddictive substitute for morphine in the late 1800s. Initially, it was used in cough syrup and sold over the counter, as most drugs were then.
Within a couple of years, everybody with any sense figured out Bayer’s wonder drug might be one of the worst things ever to be unleashed on humanity, though it took generations to put any controls on it. By then, the evil genie was out of the bottle and was never ever going back in.
I explained I’d tried to use some pre-packaged doses of CBD, but felt nothing, no change.
He shrugged. Not everything worked with every person. There could be a lot of variance with effect and how much CBD was needed to get any result.
McComas said it might just be my preferred method of delivery.
You can smoke, vape, drink and eat CBD, but these were all second best.
“Actually, a suppository works best,” he told me.
I frowned and shook my head.
“Nope,” I said. “Nobody pays me enough for that one.”
He laughed. Green Infusion doesn’t even sell it. Second best, he said, was vaping or smoking.
Vaping is better than smoking, since it didn’t irritate the lungs, but they both got the chemical into the blood system fast and efficiently, he said.
“Not going to do that either,” I said. “I quit smoking around 10 years ago and I’m never doing that again.”
He shrugged. Good for me.
The next best way was to take the CBD oil under your tongue — just a few drops on the soft flesh and the compound would somehow seep into your veins.
Fine, I said, and bought a 500 mg strength bottle of Dragonfly CBD oil, a local brand and the cheapest of the product line.
McComas said the bottle might not get me through the whole month, but would definitely work for the next couple of weeks.
He told me if I had any questions, I could check back and hoped I would to tell him how it went.
From the store, I took my tiny bottle of CBD oil and met someone for coffee and pleasant conversation that turned into dinner and strained cross examination.
While we were eating, I got a case of nerves and began flailing around for things to say, which turned into a string of desperate, dumb questions served with a side of queso dip.
A bit early, we went our separate ways.
She went home while I walked to my car, kicking myself for being awkward, but still being present enough to notice the crazy guy wandering Charleston’s streets on a Friday night, whacking things with a pink, aluminum baseball bat.
At home, I texted her. She responded. Maybe the evening hadn’t gone completely off the rails, but I still felt edgy. I’d have blamed the coffee, but I hadn’t had any. I’d stuck with bottled water.
I made a second dinner, washed dishes, ran the vacuum and walked the dogs.
At 10 o’clock at night, I decided it was as good a time as any to try the CBD oil. I placed the prescribed five drops under my tongue, held it for two minutes and then swallowed.
The taste wasn’t unpleasant. It reminded me of cheap “Green Goddess” salad dressing.
I texted my dinner companion, “First dose taken. So far, no flying monkeys or talking furniture.”
A few minutes later, she asked me what it felt like.
I thought about it for a second. Something was significantly different.
“I don’t know if it’s suggestion or if it’s an actual effect, but I think I’m less anxious than I was just a few minutes ago,” I texted back.
That couldn’t be right.