Consuming it raw may be the only way to experience its benefits.

By Kimberly Holland
July 08, 2019
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You can’t walk into a pharmacy, spa, or food store without running into a variety of CBD products. Indeed, the CBD craze has everything from lipstick to smoothies bearing the CBD “relaxation” promise.

Creative culinary types are also venturing into CBD-infused foods. If you’re curious about cooking with CBD, it’s important to know when and how you can use it. Some methods destroy the compound’s beneficial properties, while others don’t. Knowing how to use it will promise you the best results and the greatest benefit.

What Is CBD Oil?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a type of cannabinoid, an active compound found in cannabis. CBD is present in marijuana, but it’s found in higher concentrations in hemp, the cousin of the marijuana plant. Unlike weed, however, CBD does not produce a “high” like marijuana’s active cannabinoid, THC.

Despite that, CBD oil does have some benefits. According to studies, people who use CBD may experience reduced anxiety, better sleep quality, and improved symptoms of movement disorders, among many other possible benefits. It may also help people with a variety of neurological conditions, including epilepsy and mood disorders.

By law, hemp-derived CBD oil cannot have more than 0.03 percent THC, so there are no psychoactive effects. CBD oil can be taken sublingually (under the tongue), swallowed, or used in edibles. It can also be applied topically or ingested with a vaporizer. Cooking with CBD oil excites a lot of home cooks, but it requires a bit of care and thought before you pour your bottle into a batch of brownies.

Can You Cook with CBD Oil?

Yes, you can, but you may not get the benefits you’re seeking. It all depends on how you use it.

“CBD is regarded as a relatively stable botanical, but it does lose potency over time, as it degrades,” says Dr. Glen Miller, an organic chemist at the University of New Hampshire and the founder of Vera Roasting, a specialty coffee company that produces CBD coffee infused with resveratrol. “The literature suggests that degradation occurs primarily in three ways, including exposure to acid and exposure to basic/alkaline conditions.”

He continues, “But the most likely cause of CBD degradation is oxidation, which occurs upon exposure to oxygen or air, especially at elevated temperatures, but even at room temperature over longer periods of time.”

In short, any time you do anything other than take CBD right from the oil and into your mouth, vape pen, or onto your skin, you risk losing some of its benefits. Do you lose a lot? No, but cooking is a 1-2-3 punch to CBD because of the ingredients and the heating. The more you do with CBD, the greater the potency loss may be.

“As CBD does degrade both under acidic and basic/alkaline conditions, I would expect that applications utilizing CBD under either sets of these conditions—for example, CBD mixed in vinegar or a food or drink containing citric acid—would be less than ideal,” Dr. Miller says. 

Does Heat Destroy CBD’s Beneficial Properties?

As CBD heats up, it will begin to evaporate, and that can cause the compounds in the oil to break down. Using more won’t necessarily help either. The effect happens exponentially.

“Overheating CBD can cause it to lose some of the beneficial properties, including terpenes, flavonoids, and other cannabinoids,” Elaine Valenza and Kathleen Tremblay, co-founders of CBD brand Sonder Grace say. “The boiling point of CBD is between 320 degrees and 356 degrees Fahrenheit. That being said, CBD can be baked or cooked and still retain most of its nutritional benefits.”

Cookies baked at 350°F? Valenza and Tremblay say the CBD would still remain potent since the internal temperature of the baked goods is much less than when fully baked.

Stay away from frying or sautéing, Valenza and Tremblay say. The benefits will start to dissipate with the increased heat.

The Bottom Line: You can cook with CBD oil—and you should if it’s of interest to you. But if you don’t experience any effects, it could be the oil has lost its potency. Consider uncooked applications, like protein balls or stirring it into tea or coffee.

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