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CBD & Coffee - Two different substances with a similar history

18/05/2020 10 MIN. READ Tim Dresemann
18/05/2020 10 MIN. READ Tim Dresemann

All humans strive to improve themselves. Since we’re just going to assume you are human as well, you’re surely familiar with this feeling. We try to optimize ourselves as well as our lives by either learning new skills, aiming for better jobs, or working at any flaws that might be holding us back.

Nowadays, modern life has little empathy for personal and individual conditions. For example, you wouldn’t bail on an afternoon meeting simply because you’re feeling tired that day and for us to be able to stick to our responsibilities while more or less pushing our own feelings aside, we may need a little extra help: coffee.

Of course, you could also drink a relaxing tea, do some breathing exercises, stretch your body, or get some fresh air instead- everyone has their own methods to deal with life’s challenges. But for the sake of this article, let’s just assume you’re the type to turn to coffee for energy.

CBD & Coffee- Two different substances with a similar history

Everything at a glance!

  1. The first appearances of coffee
  2. The rise and fall of cannabis
  3. Coffee culture
  4. Cannabis culture
  5. The demand for productivity!
  6. Cannabis gets an update
  7. Cannabis and coffee
  8. Coffee and CBD


1. The first appearances of coffee

Rest assured, you’re definitely not alone in your love for coffee. Even J.S. Bach was an avid coffee lover back in his day. He even went as far as showing his affection for the energizing drink in one of his works known as the “Coffee Cantata” already in 1732. In this piece, Bach dedicated a whole aria to his favorite drink. Believe it or not, Bach was an early adopter of the coffee trend; although the first coffee house had already opened in Hamburg in the 1670s, new trends took quite a while to spread back in the olden days. The first cup of coffee wasn’t sold in Berlin until 1721!

However, not everyone was on board with the new trend. But that’s how it always is when something new comes up- some love it, some hate it. Admittedly there’s a bit more of a push back when the trend in question has to do with psychoactive substances. The Swedish king Gustav III. was very opposed to the idea of coffee. He even went as far as pardoning two convicts only to “prove” the harm of this substance by using it on them as guinea pigs. As you can probably imagine, his demonstration was a flop, and coffee or more specifically caffeine remains the most widely consumed psychoactive substance in the world in our day and age.

Even if it’s true that coffee had its first appearances as early as in the 9th century - it’s still incredibly young compared to cannabis. Could this whole coffee hype die down anytime soon…?

2. The rise and fall of cannabis

The rise of cannabis

The healing effects of cannabis were already described in one of the first medical scripts written by a man named Shennong (meaning “divine countryman”) in China over 5000 years ago (!!). This useful plant has left its traces in various cultures in history, ranging from the hieroglyphs in ancient Egypt, the clay tablets of the Assyrians, to the work of the Irish doctor William Brooke O´Shaughnessy.

While based in India as an army surgeon, William discovered the healing qualities of the cannabis plant (and he also experienced the many other positive effects of cannabis first hand). He then wrote one of the first “modern” works about the healing effects of cannabis back in 1839, which wasn’t particularly exciting for the people of India as cannabis was already yesterday’s news to them. Still, to the rest of the world, it was revolutionary.

This paper was so widely celebrated that apparently even Queen Victoria’s personal doctor, J. Russel Reynolds, recommended the use of cannabis for menstruation pains. At least that’s what the legend says. In reality, there are a couple of discrepancies in the timeline; by the time Reynolds took up the position as Queen Victoria’s doctor, she was already 59 years old and it’s questionable whether or not she still suffered from menstruation troubles as she was certainly no young lady anymore.

The fall of cannabis…

Either way, it’s clear that once coffee and cannabis were introduced into western European society, they weren’t only seen as mere substances such as tea or spices that are a nice little addition to daily life. Instead, they exploded in their popularity among the people. How cannabis fell back out of the favor is well known to us.

Cannabis was widely consumed in Germany without any hint of regulation up until 1872, the substance was then declared illegal on December 10th, 1929 after a series of tightening regulations. The consumption of cannabis was officially banned and punishable in Germany and even up until this day there have only been a few tweaks here and there in this law. Keep in mind, the Narcotics Law of 1971, which is the controlled-substances law of Germany, only tightened the legislative grip around cannabis even more.

In short: The cultivation, trade, purchase, and ownership of cannabis are punishable in Germany (although the consumption of cannabis isn’t on this list, it would be quite tricky to get your hands on the plant without breaking any of the rules above).

However, modern times are opening up the eyes of the law to the fact that a strict prohibitive approach may not be the right answer for proper drug regulation. When we take a look at how other countries deal with cannabis, such as Canada, a few states in the USA, Uruguay, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Luxemburg (just to name a few), one thing becomes clear to us: There is a better way.

3. Coffee culture

Coffee was also still legal back in 1972. And… it still is. It’s quite clear that coffee and cannabis are very different from one another. However, they do have more than their soaring reputation in western Europe in common: both of these “drugs” are derived from plants. The word “drug” actually originates from the Dutch word for “dry”: droog. In the 17th century during the Dutch colonial rulership, the term was used to refer to dry substances derived from plants, such as herbs, spices, or tea. The modern meaning for the word “drug” didn’t arise until later but is directly originated from the Dutch term “droog”.

Coffee and cannabis, the most popular drugs of our time, were welcomed into western European societies with great enthusiasm and are still admired today. Just think of the standard coffee breaks in offices and factories, in fact, it’s simply expected for every company to have a coffee machine for its employees to make it through the day. Or even think how cafés make up a large part of a city’s culture- it’s the go-to spot for any meetup with family, friends, or dates. Coffee influenced the structure of society so greatly that it even created a new literature style dedicated to it.

4. Cannabis culture?!

Although such a reaction to coffee may seem extreme, it’s nothing compared to how society reacted to cannabis back in the day. To the average caffeine-addicted person nowadays who grew up listening to the dangers and prohibition policies of cannabis, this may sound strange. How could a substance that’s mentioned in a mere whisper on the streets compete in popularity against coffee, which most people consume in close quantities to water?

Believe it or not, in the 19th century, there were plenty of hashish-consumption clubs in Europe in which little more was on the agenda than simply consuming cannabis in its predominant form: Hashish (i.e. the concentrated and pressed resin of the female cannabis flower).

These clubs were in no way shady meetup locations where a group would gather to plan the next political revolution, in fact, it was the opposite. In the Hachichins club (“The Club of Hashish consumers”) you’d find many famous names on the regular members list: Honoré de Balzac (“La Comédie Humaine”), Alexandre Dumas (“The Count of Monte Cristo”), Baudelaire (“Les Fleurs du Mal”), and Victor Hugo (“Les Misérables!”). Considering how many excellent creations came from these members (and many more which aren’t listed), it wouldn’t be too far fetched to assume that some of the cannabis-infused conversations held in these clubs might have been the inspiration behind some of their masterpieces.

5. The demand for productivity!

Although both cannabis and coffee seemed to be incredibly popular in western European societies and weren’t only celebrated in separate classes, there is one big difference between the two substances which led to cannabis ultimately getting kicked to the curb: While coffee energizes you (and may even make you feel fidgety and nervous), cannabis is known to have the opposite effect. Coffee wakes you up in the mornings, cannabis puts you to sleep at night, coffee gives you a boost of energy throughout the day, cannabis mellows you out, etc. When you look at how these various effects fit into society, one thing becomes clear: Coffee increases your productivity, cannabis decreases it. It’s as simple as that. One fits into the new age of industrialism, the other… doesn’t.

It doesn’t take much brainwork to guess which of the substances would fall into the favor of the ruling systems. The average factory owner won’t have much patience to indulge a plant that makes its workers daydream and philosophize with coworkers about the rise and fall of the roman empire instead of getting work done. On the other hand, a substance that can make workers appear punctual and feeling energized and motivated even though their late shift didn’t allow for sufficient sleep? Bring it on!

6. Cannabis gets an update

We’ve now come to the end of our little journey through history. So what do things look like today? Fundamentally, not much has changed. Coffee still wakes you up while cannabis has more of the opposite effect. However, both are just as popular as before except that cannabis is still illegal. There wouldn’t be more to add to this story if it weren’t for CBD.

What exactly CBD is won’t be covered in this article (but we do have another article explaining this in great detail for those interested). The legality of CBD is another topic that we’ve covered for you in a separate article but won’t be going in on much here since it would double your reading time. What we will tell you, is that cannabis no longer refers to a single narcotic substance anymore.

Modern research has shown that there are many more sides of the cannabis plant and that the commonly with cannabis associated “high” isn’t the only effect you can get from it. When consuming cannabis, in any given form, the effect you’ll experience stems from a variety of components. The cannabis plant, more specifically the female cannabis flower, is a mixture of many different substances. Hundreds of terpenes (= fragrances and flavors) are combined with another hundred or more cannabinoids. Only a single one of them, THC, is responsible for the infamous cannabis “high”. This means that there are many more (still often intoxicating but possibly beneficial) substances in cannabis we can take a closer look at. Currently, CBD is the most popular sister-molecule of THC.

Because of the “special” laws regarding cannabis, many CBD products are legal to trade after fulfilling certain conditions, even though they originate from the illegal cannabis plant. CBD products have been prospering in their newfound popularity and the CBD market is only growing bigger with every passing day. You may even think this “new” hype could be a subconscious yearning for the past comfort of cannabis in everyday life.

However, the bigger the hype, the wider the different spectrums of products appear: CBD isn’t only sold in form of oils, sprays, ointments, bath additions, or tampons anymore. Oh no- you’ll also find CBD products like Vape Pens that claim they’ll give your furry companions a new perspective on life, or that a pair of training shorts containing CBD may help you become the next greatest world athlete, or even that resting your head on CBD-infused pillows will give you the nights rest of a lifetime. After all, supply always follows demand.

7. Cannabis and coffee

Although there are many borderline ridiculous ways CBD is being used, a relatively new but sensible way is by mixing the cannabinoid into your morning coffee. The idea of mixing coffee with cannabis isn’t a new one- even the hashish-loving author Dumas was quite the coffee fanatic. He went as far as dedicating an article in his piece “La Grand Dictionnaire de Cuisine” in 1873 to coffee. The coffee-cannabis combo was also widely popular in the late 60s: the so-called “Hippie Speedball” gave the perfect kick to start off your day both energized and relaxed and was therefore part of the daily morning routine among cannabis connoisseurs.

    8. Coffee and CBD

      While the “Hippie Speedball” tries to balance out the drowsiness-inducing effect of cannabis (in most cases containing high THC content) with the energizing effects of caffeine to get the best of both worlds, the CBD-coffee combo works very differently. Since the effects of CBD are more subtle compared to that of THC, it’s the caffeine that tends to have a more dominating effect. It’s a well-known fact that caffeine can help you feel more awake (at least for a short period of time). However, it is also known that too much caffeine can have a handful of unpleasant side-effects: the shakes, feeling jittery, nervous, or on edge for example.

      And here’s where CBD comes into play! CBD is said to have its own subtle benefits that can counteract precisely these negative side-effects of caffeine. It’s calming but not sedative- which is exactly what most people look for to balance out the double espresso they drink after a tiring afternoon at work or after a big carb-heavy meal at lunch.

      In short, the Hippie Speedball primarily tries to balance out the intoxicating effect of cannabis (which is caused by its THC-content), whereas the CBD-Coffee combo aims to get the energizing benefits out of coffee while avoiding its unpleasant side-effects which can lead to the opposite of productivity if the dosage is too high.

      Does it actually work?

      No clue. Since researchers generally don’t have much to say on the topic of cannabis, we’ll have to look for an answer elsewhere. If you trust people on the internet, there are whole communities that swear by its positive effects.

      Fortunately, you’ll be happy to hear that you don’t have to travel all the way to the US to buy a CBD-Latte anymore, as CBD-Cafés are now also available in Germany. The first CBD-Café, Cannameleon, opened up in Würzburg and received a ton of media attention for it. Shortly after, more such cafés started opening in other cities as well (especially in Berlin). If you want to give the coffee-cannabis combo a go, you can easily add some CBD Oil into your usual coffee to see if it’s truly worth all the hype.

      What does research have to say?

      From a scientific point of view, there isn’t much to say about the CBD-Coffee combo. As there is already little research to begin with in this area, an objective statement can’t be made just yet on its effects. We can say, however, that there are a few studies that show certain effects of CBD which theoretically should balance out the negative side-effects of caffeine. But still, while there are studies that show promising results of CBD, there are also studies that don’t. We also must keep in mind that the CBD dosages tend to be much higher in studies than the dosage we would use for our coffee. After all, research is focused on finding treatment methods for illnesses, not for curing an accidental caffeine-overdose.

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