I'll admit to having been a CBD denier. I dismissed it as a bullshit trend; the second-most overrated after kombucha. The variety of products I'd tried always left me feeling somewhere between slightly nauseous and groggy. And mentally dull. It didn't seem to matter what form the product took, or which sort of extra bells and whistles had been added to "enhance" the oil.
Add to that the dizzying variety of distinctions: hemp extract vs. hemp seed oil, full-spectrum vs. broad-spectrum, oils vs. tinctures, the addition of terpenes, the claims of "sustainably grown," "lab tested," and "pure," and, most maddening, the all-over-the-map price points that make no clear sense. Reading ingredient labels left me further confused, but more determined to sort it all out.
I wanted something simple, but my standards were high. A Google search for "organic CBD drops" was a rabbit hole of false leads and dead ends. So I created my own filters, and after researching about a trillion oils, winnowed down the options from there.
Filter #1: Organic
If I opt for organic vegetables, why shouldn't my CBD oil rise to the same standards? This one simple step eliminated all but a handful of products.
Filter #2: Purity
I wanted plain CBD oil drops, not a Wiccan brew of essential oils, spices, and exotic immunity boosters preserved in alcohol. Furthermore, I'm a grown-up, I don't need my CBD oil to taste like a candy cane or an orange popsicle, and I couldn't find any good reason why it should contain another ingredient besides its carrier oil. Coconut-derived MCT oil is the popular go-to of the industry; it's quickly-absorbing and easy to digest, and pretty much tastes like nothing. Works for me.
Filter #3: Price point
This part was shocking; price points have little bearing on quality. I saw prices vary as much as fifty bucks between products that for all intents and purposes, were virtually the same. Some of the more expensive ones had prettier bottles or cooler-looking labels, but were actually of inferior quality to some of the cheaper brands.
Filter #4: A little help please!
I needed word from an entity who knew more than I did. I looked at several "Top 20" lists online, but a lot of those sources were dubious, and literally none of the selections on the lists I saw passed the filters I had set. In the end, CBD Validator was my go-to: "the first and only independent, unbiased and easy-to-use tool that rates CBD oils using a 50-point proprietary rating system based on source, price per dose, safety, quality, and transparency."
From there, it was a short walk to their highest-ranked oil. Sitting at #1: Bravo Botanicals.
Bravo's oil met all my criteria, and at only $30 for a 500 mg bottle, they also KO'd their competitors on price. Certified USDA and Vermont Organic, full spectrum, subtle flavor, and only two ingredients, but the proof was in the dropper. After putting it to the test I'm here to say that Bravo Botanicals CBD drops are nothing short of bliss in a bottle.
But that needs some qualifying. Fortunately—at least at this stage in my life, knock wood—I don't suffer from many of the conditions CBD oil is said to remedy; seizures, chronic pain, inflammation, or anxiety. I wanted to know how it effected sleep, stress/irritability, and focus. I can't speak to other factors.
Sleep: I am not, by nature, an early riser. But I aspire to be one. An intermittent pattern of waking bright-eyed, mind racing, at 4:00 a.m. doesn't do me any favors, and by the time I get back to sleep, it's time to wake, and my whole day is lost to a foggy drag. I wanted to know if CBD drops could get me to sleep, and keep me sleeping through the night, without the next-day hangover I've experienced with over-the-counter sleep aids. Bravo's drops passed the test. Without changing any other aspect of my routine, I'm weeks in, and have not once seen the dreaded digits "4:00" glowing in the darkness of my bedroom. It was a complete turnaround.
Stress: What if, I thought, the Bravo dropper helped get me through those days when there just aren't enough hours. Could CBD oil really quiet the drumbeat of a work-related panic? Evidently, yes. But it wasn't like a two-martini lunch. I wasn't bleary-eyed or slurring my speech; I could function. But on those days when life felt like a runaway train, I was unflappable, I stayed on track, and I enjoyed the ride.
Focus: See above. This was something that especially concerned me, because I wasn't willing to trade my short-term memory for a sense of calm. In the end, I found that this wasn't a factor. In fact, with the reduction in stress, my focus improved. It was a win-win.
I learned that there are some obvious distinctions I had never considered about CBD, like the way the plants are grown and the method by which the oil is extracted. Bravo is a no plow, no till, organic farm, that boosts its soil's beneficial microorganisms with biological compost teas. They use only subcritical CO2 extraction to process the plant, which means their product is never touched by ethanol or alcohol, and it's free of chlorophyll and residual plant waxes. As I later discovered, these are not common industry practices., and I do believe it makes a difference.
Side effects? None that I've noticed. Do I use the drops every day? No. And my sleep pattern has seem to reset, for now. But should I find myself waking to the dreaded "4:00," there to remind me that, no, I won't get right back to sleep, and yes, the entire rest of the day is a is going to be an unqualified wash, I'll know where to turn.