This is not your grandmotherâ€™s Christmas cookie. Or is it?
There was a time, not so long ago, when the term CBD required explanation, when it carried more than a whiff of mystery.
These days CBD is almost as ubiquitous as Bernie Sanders bumper stickers and maple syrup in this region, selling briskly in markets and coffee shops in the form of tinctures, oils and sweeteners.
A compound derived from the hemp and cannabis plants, CBD (short for cannabidiol) holds promise for treating many of the same ailments as marijuana, but unlike THC (short for tetrahydrocannibinol), the compound found in recreational marijuana products, it has no psychotropic properties. As evidence of its therapeutic value grows and the hemp industry expands, CBD has become all but mainstream. Itâ€™s not so hard to imagine Grandma slipping a few drops into her favorite cookie recipe.
â€śIf itâ€™s edible, you can put CBD in it,â€ť clinical herbalist Stephanie Boucher told an audience of 20 who gathered last week at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Springfield, Vt., to watch her concoct CBD-infused candies and cookies, along with other DIY gifts.
Part chatty baking demo, part information session, the sold-out workshop gave home bakers, hemp growers and the CBD-curious a step-by-step guide for making holiday goodies using store-bought CBD, as well as for extracting it from hemp plants, which are related to marijuana but are legal to grow in Vermont.
Boucher first made a bubbling, sweet-smelling sauce using chocolate and peppermint extracts and an olive-oil based tincture from Lily Hill Farm in Johnson, Vt., which she poured into candy molds, cooled and then dusted with cocoa powder.
Next, she whipped up some traditional sugar cookies featuring lavender honey and kava tincture in addition to a couple of teaspoons of CBD oil, filling the small room and adjoining kitchen with a homey, nose-tickling aroma with just a hint of something earthy. In between measuring and mixing, she explained dosage and terminology, answered questions and described the health benefits of CBD.
â€śIt can be really helpful for a lot of different ailments,â€ť Boucher said. Although scientific research backing these benefits remains elusive, many people claim that CBD oil can help reduce pain, inflammation and anxiety.
The compound pairs particularly well with cookies both for scientific reasons â€” it mixes well with fats â€” and for psychological ones: A warm, chewy cookie is a fitting vehicle for delivering a put-your-feet-up sensation.
â€śYouâ€™ll feel a lifting of spirits, but not a psychotropic high,â€ť Boucher explained.
A graduate of the Vermont Center for Integrative Herbalism in Montpelier, Boucher worked for several years at the Vermont Patients Alliance, a medical dispensary in Montpelier, where she gained experience baking with cannabis and hemp and witnessed the explosion of interest in cannabis/hemp products. By the time she left last spring to start her own practice, Cannabotanicals, she was baking batches of 64 cookies at a time to meet the demand for CBD and THC products.
While thereâ€™s no shortage of hemp to meet that demand â€” more than 400 Vermont farmers are currently registered to grow hemp, according to the Vermont Agency of Agriculture â€” Boucher, who lives in East Montpelier, sees herself as a key link between growers, retailers and consumers.
â€śThereâ€™s a whole variety of products out there, and it can be super confusing,â€ť she said. â€śThereâ€™s just a few tricks Iâ€™ve learned along the way.â€ť
CBD-infused oils and sweeteners are a relatively simple way to get CBD into your favorite recipes, said Boucher, who has a potency calculator on her website, cannabotanicals.net, and has recently begun offering a range of custom infusion services. She recommends using â€śfull extractâ€ť products (or isolates if you donâ€™t want even the trace of THC found in regular CBD products) and pairing CBD with other herbs that can enhance the health effects youâ€™re aiming for. Hence, her addition of lavender and kava, both known for their relaxing properties, to her sugar cookies.
â€śI call it the gateway herb,â€ť Boucher said. â€śI feel like itâ€™s a great entryway to help people reach their health and wellness goals and connect more with the natural world.â€ť
The benefits of going natural donâ€™t come cheap, though. A 1-ounce bottle of CBD oil retails for around $50.
Those who grow their own hemp or want a more affordable CBD option can make their own infusions from hemp flowers, a process Boucher also explained step-by-step during her workshop. She did not, however, demonstrate, for reasons of both time and odor.
More scientist than baking pro, Boucher was happy to have help with her tasks from workshop participants who ranged from young to old and were drawn to the workshop for a variety of reasons.
Tina Feindel, of Springfield, said she came because sheâ€™s a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church and likes to support its programs. She already uses a CBD salve and a chocolate-mint oil to ease pain and inflammation, but even after watching Boucherâ€™s demonstration she remained a bit intimidated by the idea of trying to cook or bake with it.
â€śIâ€™m not so great with math,â€ť said Feindel, who was helping clean up in the kitchen in between recipes.
Larry Tsetsi, of Charlestown, who was also helping with cleanup, said that both he and his dog suffer from anxiety and that he came to the workshop primarily to learn more about dosage. He plans to try the recipes at home.
Sharon Mueller, who lives in Springfield and is a produce manager at the Upper Valley Food Co-op in White River Junction, came in part because she believes CBD has promise as an alternative to pricey and addictive prescription medication and dangerous substances.
â€śCo-ops are selling CBD like crazy,â€ť explained Mueller, sampling a bit of sugar cookie dough from a beater before washing it. â€śWeâ€™re concerned about the opioid crisis in our communities. If we can find healthier ways to help people alleviate pain, we want to support that.â€ť
â…“ cup honey
8 teaspoons lavender
8 tablespoons CBD-infused butter or 7â…“tablespoons butter, plus 2 teaspoons CBD oil (330 mg)
Â˝ cup sugar
1 teaspoon kava tincture
1Âľ cup flour
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
Â˝ teaspoon baking powder
ÂĽ teaspoon salt
In a small saucepan, heat honey and lavender until boiling for 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Cream softened butter in a mixer for 2-3 minutes. Add sugar and cooled honey and cream again. Add egg and kava, beating another 1-2 minutes.
In a medium bowl, combine dry ingredients. Using 3 separate additions, add the flour mixture to the butter and sugar mixture, incorporating fully before adding more.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment and scoop tablespoon-sized balls of dough onto sheet, 2 inches apart. Using a floured glass or the palm of your hand, flatten cookies to around ÂĽ inch in height. Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. Makes 33 cookies, each containing 10 milligrams of CBD.
Sarah Earle can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3268.