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CBD and Alcohol

CBD and Alcohol

By now, you’ve heard about CBD products and their beneficial properties. From reducing nervousness, promoting restful sleep, and soothing sore muscles, CBD can help boost your overall health and vitality. With more CBD products than ever on the market, you can now experience CBD’s beneficial effects in your chosen form. 

At face value, CBD and alcohol have similarities: they can both promote relaxation. Yet, you might have heard some contradictory information about mixing the two. You could have seen a CBD margarita at your local bar and also heard that CBD can help you recover when you’ve had a bit too much to drink the night before.

So are alcohol and CBD a match made in heaven, or a poison and its remedy? Read on to find out more about how these two substances interact.

How Does CBD Work?

CBD, short for cannabidiol, is one of over 100 cannabinoids found in marijuana and hemp plants. Although CBD and its famous cannabinoid cousin—THC—both interact with the human body’s Endocannabinoid System (ECS), CBD does not have psychoactive properties. 

How does it work? It all comes down to CBD’s regulatory effect on our ECS. Today, many consider the ECS as the “12th organ system.” It’s a complex structure of nerve receptors located in the central nervous system and peripheral nervous system. While researchers need to study these receptors further, they are now thought to regulate:

  • Appetite
  • Response to stress
  • Memory
  • Mood
  • Healthy, restful sleep
  • Bodily discomfort

When THC enters the body, it binds to ECS receptors and overloads them, resulting in its psychoactive “high” effects which can induce increased appetite, relaxation or nervousness, and short-term memory loss.

While people have long turned to marijuana for relaxation, it now seems possible that some of the plant’s most positive effects in relation to relaxation may actually come from CBD, not THC. After all, marijuana contains CBD, too.

In isolation, CBD provides relaxation without the negative side effects some people experience with THC. Unlike THC, CBD does not bind to ECS receptors. While the way it acts is not fully understood, scientists now believe that CBD improves communication between the Central Nervous System and neurotransmitters. 

In the process, it promotes health and regulation in all the areas listed above. 

Hemp vs. Marijuana

If you’re interested in the health benefits of CBD but worried it will get you “high,” it’s important to know that CBD products including oils, balms, and capsules do not have psychoactive properties. While CBD is present in both hemp and marijuana plants, commercially available CBD must be extracted explicitly from hemp.

The 2018 Farm Bill legalized CBD at the federal level (although state-by-state regulation still varies). According to Forbes, hemp “will no longer be equated under drug laws with its psychotropic cousin, marijuana.” For a plant to be classified as hemp, it must contain less than 0.3% THC.

Tip: Be sure to buy your CBD from a trusted brand that tests their products to avoid any adverse effects.

How Does Alcohol Work?

While CBD affects the ECS, alcohol affects your whole body. The BBC explains that within a few seconds of your first sip of alcohol: 

  • Alcohol enters your stomach and small intestine and begins to pass into your bloodstream
  • As your blood circulates, so does alcohol, interacting with your brain, your muscles, and your entire body
  • Because your body cannot store the alcohol, it treats it as a poison and tries to break it down
  • Your liver produces an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase, which converts the alcohol into acetaldehyde (the substance that causes hangovers). Then, it is further broken down into vinegar, salts, and water for uptake and elimination.

But how does it get you drunk? While alcohol is a depressant, many of the effects we expect from it—from lowered inhibition to relaxation to poor coordination—come down to its action on one neurotransmitter, Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA). GABA dampens your body’s responses, and alcohol stimulates your brain to produce more of this substance. Essentially, it slows down your reactions, from external stimuli to your own internal stressors.

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Alcohol and CBD 

As you can see, CBD and alcohol affect the body quite differently. While CBD promotes healthy regulation of the nervous system, alcohol affects your entire body, where it’s recognized as a poison that our liver must eliminate. 

So why do people use them together? Next, we’ll take a look at the CBD and alcohol interaction, as well as the reasons why so many people use CBD for help with alcohol withdrawal. 

CBD and Alcohol Interaction

What happens when you take CBD and alcohol together? You’re essentially combining two substances that can make you feel relaxed and sleepy. James Giordiano, Professor of neurology and biochemistry and neurology, explains in Vice that “On CBD, you’re very chill, very lighthearted, mellow. The alcohol will make that more intense.”

CBD and alcohol tend to increase each other’s effects. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? It depends on the effects the user is hoping to experience. 

Giordiano does not recommend combining the two, stating that the combination is too intense. However, as breweries begin to experiment with CBD and mixologists mix up CBD cocktails, it’s clear that some people enjoy consuming the combination.

Finding CBD Cocktails

Depending on your state’s laws, if you want to try the CBD and alcohol combo, you may be able to find a CBD beer or cocktail at your local bar. While CBD is legal at the federal level, it’s important to note that state-by-state CBD regulations vary, so you may not be able to find a CBD cocktail anywhere in your entire state. 

  • For example, in New York, CBD is legal. But CBD edibles fall into murky legal water. They’re available, but they’re technically banned. 
  • Because edibles and dietary supplements fall under FDA regulation, they’re subject to different laws than topical CBD oils and balms. While some states allow CBD in all its forms, you may be surprised to hear that others have legalized marijuana yet banned CBD drinks and edibles. 
  • If you’re unsure of the status of CBD in your state, check out our state-by-state guide.

If there are no CBD Sazeracs in your state’s bars, you still have options. Try mixing your own CBD cocktail at home using a high-quality CBD oil. Its herbaceous notes pair well with gin, as well as neutral spirits like vodka.

CBD as Hangover Remedy

CBD isn’t only a potential alcohol pairing: it’s also a potential remedy for a hangover.  

If you drink alcohol (or if used to), you’re likely familiar with its nasty adverse effects. You wake up at 11 a.m. with a headache and nausea, and there’s nothing you want more than to drink a gallon of coconut water and seek the shelter of your couch. Unfortunately, you have things to do. The show must go on.

On days like these, people and cultures have developed hundreds of supposed methods for mitigating hangovers. What’s your go-to hangover remedy? You may have tried all of the following:

  • Sports recovery drinks
  • A hearty meal
  • Exercise
  • Eating pickles
  • The “hair of the dog,” or drinking just one more drink
  • An herbal supplement

Now, there might be a new hangover remedy in town: CBD. Many of the symptoms of a hangover include nervousness, bodily aches, and poor appetite. When you take into consideration that CBD can help promote relaxation, ease discomfort, and aid health and vitality, the logic checks out. 

There’s no known cure for a hangover except time and, of course, drinking plenty of fluids while you wait. While the clock ticks on, try adding CBD oil to your hangover smoothie, or make some comfort food with CBD butter to see if it improves your symptoms. 

Tip: CBD is hydrophobic, meaning it does not bond to water. To experience its best effects, make sure your CBD oil can bind to another fat. When it comes to your smoothies, try adding a small amount of coconut milk.

CBD and Alcohol Withdrawal

If you’re trying to quit drinking alcohol permanently, finish out a dry January, or just drink less on an everyday basis, CBD might be able to help. 

Disclaimer: There is no proof that CBD can help treat or mitigate any substance abuse addiction whatsoever. Studies are few and inconclusive. 

If you drink alcohol regularly, you may have come to depend on it for certain mood-enhancing effects, including decreased nervousness, relaxation, and restful sleep. When you stop drinking alcohol or significantly decrease your alcohol consumption, you might find it difficult to:

  • Relax at the end of your day
  • Fall asleep at night
  • Deal with everyday stress
  • Stay positive and upbeat

Since CBD can help with all of the above, a virgin CBD cocktail might help you feel more relaxed at the end of your night. As an added bonus, it’s healthy to take CBD throughout the day. Take this as an opportunity to learn how to make CBD oil so that you can use it as often as you’d like. You can add CBD oil to your coffee to experience its soothing effects along with the energy of caffeine. Just be sure to add milk or a milk-substitute so your CBD oil has something to bind to.

Plant People CBD

If you’re looking to add CBD to your routine, make sure you trust your source. Plant People CBD is grown from 100% organic hemp in Colorado. Our full spectrum CBD contains a variety of beneficial cannabinoids. Try our topical balms, moisturizers, as well as our specially formulated CBD tinctures to promote health, longevity, and your own well-being. 

Should you want to pair it with your wine, or use it as a substitute, CBD’s health benefits are many. The more research conducted, the more these very benefits will come to light. 

That said, if you have a severe impairment or chronic pain that requires specific treatment or medications, consult with your doctor before applying or consuming CBD. 


Reviewed by Gabe Kennedy

 Co-Founder of Plant People, Gabe Kennedy is an acclaimed chef and entrepreneur. Growing up in a house of healers and herbalists, he is passionate about the power of food as a tool for health, and actualized this passion and belief system into his company, Plant People. Named to Forbes 30 under 30 Gabe has shaped menus and cooked his way around the world with his mission to promote a more communal, green and healthy world.

 Gabe is a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and Cornell University School of Hotel Administration. You can learn more about his work at his website.

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