Why CBD ‘Wellness Drinks’ Are (Mostly) a Scam

CBD wellness drinks.

Most experts agree that CBD wellness drinks are dubiously effective.Image Credit: By HandmadePictures on shutterstock.

The first rule of CBD marketing is: Don’t talk about health claims. That’s how brands like Curaleaf have gotten in trouble with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), after all. However, while the mere mention of the word “health” could be enough to catch the attention of authorities, clever CBD companies have found a loophole — just replace it with “wellness.”

Since nobody’s sure exactly what “wellness” means (aside from “not being bad”), it makes an apt descriptor for CBD products (which are also dimly understood by both the media and the general public). In particular, CBD beverage makers have embraced the term with great enthusiasm, and a flood of infused wellness drinks are now hitting the market.

One of the most notable recent examples comes from a U.K. brand called MEDA, which claims its “functionally-focused beverages” are “leading the field in CBD wellness.” In mid-August, the company is releasing a line of six CBD-infused drinks (some of which, like the cherry-flavored Sleep variety, serve an obvious purpose, though others like the elderflower-mint-flavored Glow option leave more to the imagination). Each beverage will come with 15 mg of broad spectrum CBD — that’s not the same as full spectrum oil, in case you were wondering — along with a smorgasbord of natural ingredients that kinda-sorta sound like they should be good for you, like milk thistle, broccoli sprout, or dandelion root extract. All that wellness will cost you, though: The drinks are expected to go for $6.80 a piece.

If you simply can’t wait another minute to get your hands on MEDA’s offerings, you could always opt for the “next level hydration + cannabinoid wellness support” offered by companies like Isodiol. Their CBD Naturals beverage might appear to be just ordinary water, but as the company’s website helpfully explains, it’s “powered by Heneplex,” which offers “nanoamplified cannabinoid support.” Since Isodiol just acquired the company that makes this particular wellness water, no prices or product details are yet available — but other CBD waters on the Isodiol’s site are available for the low, low price of $96 for a pack of 24. 

CBD Wellness Drinks: Too Vague, Too Expensive, Dubiously Effective

“Banish the bad stuff.” “Defend yourself.” “Find your center.”

You’ll find all of these encouraging-yet-vague statements — and many more! — when you visit MEDA’s website, which showcases “New CBD Drinks [That] Help Return You to Your Optimal Self.” Isodiol’s product page is also full of crimes against language, promising “optimal cannabinoid wellness support” by “[applying] quantum physics” to the company’s “nanotechnology.” 

People who are familiar with the shortcomings of CBD beverages — according to a 2009 study in the journal Chemistry and Biodiversity, the body can only absorb between 4-20 percent of orally administered CBD, meaning that MEDA’s 15 mg CBD drinks could end up delivering as little as 0.6 mg — might wonder how infused wellness drinks get around this challenge.

Brands like MEDA and Isodiol tend to use impressive, scientific terms to describe their solutions: The former says its CBD is “micro-liposomal,” the latter says it uses “nanoemulsification.” Both of these techniques are said to significantly increase CBD’s bioavailability. However, neither brand provides any clinical data to back up their claims that their own products have greater bioavailability than the competition, though MEDA’s website does include a line graph showing how much more effective its proprietary product is compared to normal CBD (however, neither the X- nor Y-axis is labeled with any numbers). 

While it’s admirable that these brands are taking the problems with CBD beverages seriously, most consumers thinking about forking over $4-7 for a single bottle of wellness would probably appreciate a firmer guarantee of the product’s quality.

Mary Sauer
Mary Sauer
Mary Sauer is a Kansas City-based writer with work appearing in Parade, Vice’s Tonic, and Remedy Review. She writes about mental health, cannabis, and parenting.

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