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I tried Philly’s CBD and hemp products so you don’t have to

Philly businesses are selling CBD-spiked ice cream, bath bombs, sports salves, seltzer water, and more. I tried nine products to see which, if any, are worth the price.

The cannabis compound CBD is popping up in a wide range of products, including sparkling water (pictured here), ice cream, lotions, bath soaks, and more.
The cannabis compound CBD is popping up in a wide range of products, including sparkling water (pictured here), ice cream, lotions, bath soaks, and more.Read moreGrace Dickinson / STAFF

Philadelphia shops, markets, and cafes have fully embraced CBD, the marijuana extract that’s supposed to help relieve aches, anxiety, and insomnia — all without getting you high. Nationally, the compound has become so wildly popular that it’s been called “the new avocado toast.” Locally, it has shown up in all sorts of products: ice cream, bath bombs, salves, cocktails, even seltzer water. And it’s skyrocketing the price of anything it touches.

Cannabidiol, CBD’s full name, is one of the 80-plus active chemicals in marijuana; unlike THC, the best-known of those, it has no psychoactive (a.k.a. high-inducing) effects. Fans have credited it with sometimes life-changing results, like reducing stress, pain, and symptoms of various diseases. But the scientific and medical communities have remained skeptical. (The FDA has approved it for treating only rare, severe forms of pediatric epilepsy.)

Could the trendy wellness ingredient be worth the hype — and the money?

To find out, I tried an array of CBD products, all of which are available in Philly (and often online). This list isn’t exhaustive — there are plenty more options — but after these CBD experiences, I felt I had a pretty good picture.

Anthology Wellness 250mg Tincture

CBD total: 250 mg per 15 ml bottle

Price: $35

Where to find it: Anthology Wellness, 825 N. Second St.

If you’re new to CBD and want a straightforward introduction, an oil-based tincture might be the way to start: Many users say it’s the best medium for reaping the compound’s health benefits. It’s also a frank introduction to its pungency.

Of the many products at Northern Liberties CBD shop Anthology Wellness, the 250 mg tincture falls on the lower end of the potency scale. (It’s also on the cheaper side.) Co-owner Michael Beck recommends taking two full droppers of the oil — a mix of CBD oil and coconut oil — per dose.

I followed Beck’s instructions, doubling up on the dose and putting the oil under my tongue. The first thing that struck me was the pure-weed taste, followed by two minutes of feeling a bit more at ease.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t much after that. Subsequent uses merely left a greasy, acrid taste in my mouth, and I concluded the first time provided just a placebo effect.

Little Baby’s Non-Dairy Chocolate CBD Ice Cream

CBD total: 100 mg per pint; 25 mg per serving

Price: $15 per pint

Where to find: Little Baby’s Ice Cream shops at 2311 Frankford Ave., 4903 Catharine St., 19 S. 12th St., and 3401 Walnut St.

Who doesn’t feel somewhat relaxed while eating ice cream? My experience with Little Baby’s coconut-based, agave-sweetened chocolate ice cream was pleasant, but I doubt the 25 mg of CBD per serving had anything to do with it. And I definitely would prefer any pint of Ben & Jerry’s to its distinctly herbal flavor.

The chocolate itself isn’t rich or dark, but instead has a taste reminiscent of Yoo-Hoo. If the ice cream were offered to me, would I eat it? Yes. Would I buy it again at a whopping $15 a pint? Definitely not.

PlusCBD Oil Softgels Single Pack

CBD total: 30 mg per package; 15 mg per gel capsule

Price: $6.79

Where to find: Penn Herb Co. Ltd., 601 N. Second St.

The closest thing to medicine, CBD gel caps are the easiest way to consume something that otherwise tastes like weed. If you don’t have any aches, pains, or insomnia to treat, it’s also the least fun. I felt like I was taking a vitamin C supplement. The capsules went down with a large gulp and no discernible effect.

Dram Lemongrass Sparkling Water + CBD

CBD total: 20 mg

Price: $3.69

Where to find: Weavers Way Co-op at 559 Carpenter Ln., Mount Airy

Of all the products on this list, this sparkling water was the only one that made me feel worse. Halfway through the can, I started stressing out about having to finish it. In the end, the last bit went down the drain because the taste was so repulsive.

In what I presume was an attempt to mask the CBD, Dram flavors this sparkling water with lemongrass, lemon balm, lemon rind, hibiscus, and Siberian ginseng. The result tastes like a cross between fizzy Emergen-C and one of those cold-remedy herbal teas — the kind where you’re grateful your congestion has weakened your sense of taste and smell. Unless you enjoy holding your nose as you drink, leave this out of your grocery cart.

Anthology Wellness CBD Oil Salve with Arnica and St. John’s Wort

CBD total: 500 mg per 1-ounce container

Price: $70

Where to find: Anthology Wellness, 825 N. Second St.

Scent proves a better facet of CBD than taste. This salve has a nice honey-meets-rosemary fragrance that’s aromatic without being overpowering. Made from a mix of beeswax, shea butter, extra-virgin coconut oil, and olive oil, it can be applied topically to painful areas or simply used as a moisturizer. Though I don’t (currently) have any aches to soothe, I can attest that this works just fine as a fancy (if pricey) lotion alternative.

Anthology Wellness Bath Soak

CBD total: 120 mg

Price: $15

Where to find: Anthology Wellness, 825 N. Second St.

Sinking into a hot bath has to be one of life’s greatest pleasures, so this bath soak was easily the most enjoyable CBD product I tried. No matter whether the compound works, the bath itself will no doubt bring on a state of relaxation. Plus, the soak includes rose petals that swim around you in the water, a spa-like perk for just $15 — certainly a steal in comparison to some other CBD products.

CV Sciences CBD Gold Gummies

CBD total: 10 mg per package; 5 mg per gummy

Price: $39.99 for 30-count bottle

Where to find: Weavers Way Co-op at 8424 Germantown Ave., Chestnut Hill, and 217 E. Butler Ave., Ambler

These gummies were the best-tasting CBD product I tried. They were reminiscent of Flintstones gummies — a multivitamin masquerading as a candy, tasty for something that’s possibly good for your health. Again, I didn’t notice any effects after popping them, but if you subscribe to the benefits of CBD, they’re a pleasant way to consume it. The vegan, gelatin-free gummies have no artificial flavorings.

CBD Unlimited Peppermint Flavored Hemp-Derived CBD Oil

CBD total: 125 mg per 5 mL bottle

Price: $28.99

Where to find: Burman’s Health Shop, 3409 Edgmont Ave., Brookhaven

Available in orange and mint, these oils (unsuccessfully) attempt to disguise CBD’s earthy taste with strong flavor extracts. I opted for the mint, which did provide a slight tingly sensation but which is far from a breath freshener.

Veggimins CBD Chocolate Bar

CBD total: 50 mg per 1.1-ounce bar

Price: $20

Where to find: Essene Market & Cafe, 719 S. Fourth St.

As with almost all the products on this list, the price tag on this was a shocker. Sure, it contains 50 mg of CBD, but at $20, it’s smaller than a standard Hershey bar. As for taste, the chocolate bar has a cocoa-nib flavor — intense, bitter, with strong earthy notes. It’s not super-sweet, but if you’re a fan of dark chocolate, it’s a serviceable after-dinner treat. Even so, I’d save your money for quality dark chocolate.