When someone first suggested I take cannabidiol to help me calm down, I flat-out refused. "I hate weed," I said firmly, recalling the last time I'd smoked it back in first year, when I'd whiteyed and stared at myself in the mirror for three hours.
But cannabidiol is not weed. Well, not exactly weed. Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the two main components that make up marijuana. The other is THC, which is the mind-altering molecule that fuelled my 3am narcissism-fest.
Over the past few years, as places across the US and around the world legalise marijuana, the medical uses of CBD are becoming increasingly interesting to doctors and scientists. This year alone, there have been hundreds of studies into the component and its medical effects.
Epilepsy has proved to be a particularly interesting area of study, with success story upon success story flooding in of children going from having (in some cases) 200 seizures a month to one or two mild ones a week.
However, there are plenty of other medical issues that could potentially benefit from CBD, one being mental health. The scientific evidence for its ability to quell anxiety, dampen psychosis or lift the mood is patchy at best, although the American National Institute on Drug Abuse says "CBD has shown therapeutic efficacy in a range of animal models of anxiety and stress, reducing both behavioural and physiological (e.g., heart rate) measures of stress and anxiety."
As someone dealing with anxiety (hi pals, isn't this pool getting crowded?) all day, every day, this sounded like something that was at least worth a shot.
I contacted Charlotte's Web by the Stanley Brothers – a CBD hemp oil company named after a little girl called Charlotte, a CBD epilepsy success, and after the brothers (there are a lot of them) from Colorado who own it.
Their hemp oil is apparently the "most trusted", which is good for me and my tattered memories of first year. They kindly send me some of their Everyday Advanced Oil; they recommend taking 0.6ml twice a day. I decide to try it for a week.
Here's my diary of what happened.
(FYI, being a worrier, I started by freaking out that this wasn't legal in the UK. But Charlotte's Web is on sale in the UK and their PR kindly sent me this statement: "Regarding legality, CW Hemp is compliant with US law regarding the manufacture and sale of dietary or food supplements. Our products meet the EU standard of less than 0.2% THC to be regarded as hemp and we market our products as a food supplement and adhere to those labelling laws."
So as long as we're in the EU, we're good. Oh wait...)
Oof. Despite hemp oil being called "oil", it is, well, oilier than expected. The thick liquid is not the most pleasant thing to swallow first thing in the morning. Perhaps tomorrow I'll try it in coffee instead. In fact, I'm not going to lie guys, I feel kind of sick.
Despite the somewhat non-encouraging start to my hemp oil adventure, about half an hour later I do start to feel calmer, more rational and, actually, pretty chilled out. Is it a placebo effect? It's almost certainly a placebo effect. Either way, I'm willing to give it a go again tomorrow to find out.
Manic morning. My train is 10 minutes late, then the Tube's delayed. To top it all off I accidentally explode a spot which does not stop weeping until mid-morning. By the time I arrive at work, I am half an hour late and feeling all sorts of harassed, hot and stressed out.
How will hemp oil fare under these circumstances?
I put two drops in my coffee (yes, I realise mixing hemp oil with caffeine is a bananas thing to do but I need coffee and it is recommended on the website). The oil is much less unpleasant to intake this way, although it does hugely change the taste of your coffee, so perhaps save it for your instant coffee rather than your £5 slow-roasted French drip turmeric latte.
I do a bit of work and eventually realise that yes, I've slowed down, my thoughts are more in order and I don't feel the manic need to run around like a headless chicken anymore. Sure, this could just be due to me settling down after the Tube rush but I'm going back again tomorrow.
It's Friday. What is there to be stressed about on a Friday? It usually consists of shaking off the remaining cobwebs of Thursday night's one-too-many glasses of wine and coming up with a plan of how to juggle work and the important task of WhatsApping the group to talk weekend plans.
But I had a big meeting. With my boss and big boss. It's been in the diary for a week and I'm not sure what it's about. Stress central.
The meeting's at 11 so I swallow my two droppers at 9.45 (in coffee again, I'm not going back to drinking the stuff straight) and wait for my stress to dissipate.
Except it doesn't. As we get closer to 11, I begin to worry more. And then some more. Until I've got a really sexy sweaty pair of palms.
The meeting is cancelled, and it's not a big deal, but I'm disappointed in the hemp oil. Perhaps I'm putting too much pressure on it.
It's Saturday. I'm a touch hungover. OK, more than a touch. We've run out of coffee pods too, which means I have to wait until I haul my sorry arse out of the house to the Costa down the road (again, I avoid the wanky coffee because no way am I paying money to ruin a perfectly good French drip).
When I do finally imbibe some oil, though, I reckon I start to feel better. Those voices of "Oh, you probably DID offend so-and-so last night" (standard hangover anxiety) start to fade. Could it be the oil? Or could it be the fact that it's 3pm and my hangover is loosening its grip? Either way, by the evening, I'm doing a-ok.
I am sick. I have flu. I am in bed watching Don't Tell The Bride re-runs. The thought of dripping oil down my throat is not appealing. I skip a day. Sorry guys.
I continue to have a cold. But it's back to work like the brave little soldier I am. First thing, I grab a coffee, and inject two droppers of hemp oil.
For some reason, Monday morning doesn't seem full of the usual "oh my goodness there could be a disaster around every corner" situations I normally conjure up in my mind. Maybe it's because it's sunny outside (always a bonus), maybe it's because my brain is fuzzy with phlegm, maybe it's because my nose piercing, fed up with endless nose-blowing, is pulsating in pain. Maybe it's the oil. Either way, I spend the afternoon praising the oil, wishing I could bathe in it. The phlegm may be causing me to lose it a little.
Last day. I dutifully dropper my oil into my coffee. I do consider adding it to my Lemsip but come on people, I am not an animal.
Do I feel calmer? I ask myself. I do, I definitely do. But is it due to life's ebbs and flows? Like, this past week was a good week, not particularly stressful, nothing terribly traumatic happened (to me, I mean, there was plenty going on all around the world). Next week might be a bad week where things seem harder to cope with.
So how much of this is to do with the hemp oil? I don't know. I feel OK. And I wouldn't give it up now. I like the feeling I get from it. What I don't know, though, is whether that feeling is something I've conjured up in my hope that CBD oil will work or whether it's something that's a direct consequence of taking the oil.
Either way, I like being calm.