This Caffeine-Free Drink Legit Makes My 3 p.m. Slump Disappear

Photo: Nataša Mandić

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I stopped drinking caffeine a number of years ago after realizing how much it stoked my anxiety, and my transition away from the drug (and yes, it is a drug, per the FDA) has been relatively painless—save for the near-debilitating slump I experience around 3 p.m. daily. Initially, I reached for sweets to give me a quick pick-me-up, but while the sugar worked briefly, it left me feeling even more tired and rather hangry (apologies to anyone who was trapped in a meeting with me) before the day was over.

After experimenting with a few different options (chlorophyll water, which felt healthy but didn't have the energizing effects I wanted; an apple and almond butter, which energized me quite a bit but also messed with my digestion), I started playing around with CBD chocolate latte.

If you're not familiar with CBD, it's a compound found in cannabis or hemp that's non-psychoactive—meaning that, unlike THC, it won't get you high. It has been shown, however, to have a number of interesting effects on the body. I've been taking it regularly for anxiety and experiencing a fairly noticeable difference, but according to Gretchen Lidicker, the health editor here at mbg and the author of the upcoming book CBD Oil: Everyday Secrets, because it's biphasic, meaning it can have one effect at a certain dose and the opposite effect at another, it can actually energize you as well.

"Some research actually suggests that CBD can promote wakefulness and can react with some of the same receptors as caffeine," she says. "This might be contrary to what you've heard before—CBD does seem to work for insomnia, but experts think it’s more about how frequently anxiety plays a role in insomnia." The whole point of taking CBD is to bring balance to the endocannibinoid system rather than dramatically pulling it in one direction or the other." The other good news? You can't really overdose on CBD. According to Lidicker, "People taking a 'higher' dose of CBD—think 100 milligrams a day—might experience headaches or fatigue, and it can also interact with medication, so talk to your doctor." But with each dose around 10 milligrams, you could drink a LOT of lattes before experiencing negative effects.

The cacao in the drink offers its own energizing benefits, which come largely from theobromine and anandamide, which is also an agonist of the body's cannabinoid receptors. It's known as the "bliss molecule" for its ability to stimulate positive emotions in the body. While there's some controversy about the amount of actual caffeine in cacao (it varies from plant to plant but is generally negligible), the bean also contains theobromine, a relative of caffeine that's been found to increase alertness.

Because the CBD doesn't noticeably alter the flavor, I'm free to experiment with the many perfect pairings for cacao—some days I'll sprinkle in cinnamon and cayenne for a Mexican chocolate vibe, while on others I'll go for lavender for a bit of Provençal calm. Mixing it up ensures I never get bored (which is, perhaps, my No. 1 food lament when incorporating functional options into my routine).

Want to make it yourself? Try out my basic recipe, below. This recipe can be used to make a hot beverage (in case, like me, you spend much of your summer in a very air-conditioned office), or it can be poured over ice for a refreshing drink.

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CBD Chocolate Latte

Serves 1

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsweetened plant-based milk of choice
  • 1 tablespoon raw cacao powder
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • Flavorings of choice (a splash of rose water, sprinkle of cinnamon and cayenne, a pinch of cardamom, a dash of culinary lavender, ground to a fine powder)
  • 1 dropperful neutral-flavored CBD oil (I like CW Hemp's Olive Oil Everyday and Care By Design's 18:1 blend)

Method

  1. Combine all ingredients except CBD in a small pot.
  2. Bring just to simmer over medium heat, whisking to break up any clumps.
  3. When it just simmers, remove from heat and whisk in CBD.
  4. Pour into a mug or over ice. Serve immediately.

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