Why CBD Oil Is Showing Up on So Many Menus

CBD oil comes from the cannabis plant but doesn't have the psychotropic effects that THC has. (Photo: ElRoi/Shutterstock)

There's no scientific evidence supporting the health benefit claims of CBD oil — yet. But some studies and anecdotal evidence say this oil, which comes from the cannabis plant, may help manage physical pain, stress, anxiety and depression, as well as fight some diseases.

CBD oil or cannabidiol doesn't cause the psychotropic effects that THC (tetrahydrocannabol) oil causes. It's made from specific varieties of cannabis, the plants often called hemp. Unlike marijuana, it doesn't get you high. It's legal in most states — although it's technically not legal on the federal level — and its popularity is growing.

A CBD oil-infused smoothie

CBD oil smoothies
These smoothies are infused with .5ml of CBD oil that may help manage stress, anxiety and depression. (Photo: Aversa PR)

Fuel, a Philadelphia health-focused restaurant, sees CBD oil's popularity as an opportunity to add it to smoothies. They created three new Dream Smoothies that contain .5ml CBD oil with the option of adding more oil for an additional price.

Rocco Cima, owner of all three Philadelphia Fuel locations in University City, Center City and South Philly, doesn't make any medical claims when adding CBD oil to the smoothies. He suggests that people do their own research to decide if CBD oil-infused edibles are right for them. He considers the oil to be a supplement.

"It's like any kind of supplement," said Cima. "That's the best way to describe the oil. If you don't describe it that way, the majority of people won't know the difference between it and marijuana."

Cima looks at CBD oil like taking a daily vitamin, and he drinks the smoothies himself. The oil doesn't affect the flavor.

"Because we put it in smoothies with a lot of fruits and vegetables, they cover up any potential taste," he said. "It definitely has a smell to it, but it's all masked by the ingredients in the smoothies."

Fuel launched the Dream Smoothies in early October. The drinks have been their top seller since.

"Some people are coming in daily. We're getting a lot of repeat customers," said Cima. "A lot of people are curious and just want to try it."

He believes he's the first in the country to offer smoothies with added CBD oil, but he's not the first to offer edibles with the oil. Willie Nelson has a line of coffee called Willie's Remedy that's infused with CBD oil. New York City's Koku, which serves up plant-based soft-serve with nutritious toppings, sells a Zen bowl that includes CBD cacao. And Adriaen Block touts itself to be the first CBD restaurant and bar in NYC. It offers eight cocktails with added CBD oil, a special CBD sauce for burgers or veggies, and a whipped cream infused with the oil to top desserts.

But are these CBD oil-infused edibles worth the extra money?

Your due diligence

Before you believe everything you read about CBD oil — like mascara infused with it will give you immediate plump eyelashes — do your research. (Photo: marinafrost/Shutterstock)

While Cima makes no health benefit claims on his CBD oil-infused smoothies, other producers and sellers do. CBD oil's popularity is growing because of claims that it helps with anxiety or depression, or that the oil makes chronic pain more bearable.

There are even those who claim it's a cancer-fighting miracle. The FDA sent out warning letters last year to four companies that were making claims about the oil's effects on cancer. The companies were distributing the products "with unsubstantiated claims regarding preventing, reversing or curing cancer; killing/inhibiting cancer cells or tumors; or other similar anti-cancer claims. Some of the products were also marketed as an alternative or additional treatment for Alzheimer's and other serious diseases."

Experts say "evidence for most benefits is lacking," according to WebMD. There are no industry standards, and the quality of oil varies from producer to producer.

(The one area experts say CBD oil does have benefits is in certain epilepsy patients who have two rare forms of epilepsy. An FDA advisory has recommended the approval of an oral CBD solution for treating those patients.)

As Cima said, it's important to do your own research before deciding to add CBD oil in any form — oil, pill, cream or mascara. Yes, there's a CBD oil-infused mascara on the market that promises plump lashes on first use — probably one of the claims that's more marketing ploy than real.