Serving up CBD: Is it worth the upcharge?

MILWAUKEE — It's one of the biggest trends out there -- CBD-infused drinks and food, but are these products worth the extra money people are paying for them? Sometimes, the answer is no.

At the Milwaukee Brat House, they're serving up something extra. For $3 more, you can get a sausage infused with CBD. Plus, your mustard and kraut comes with a drop of CBD oil stirred in.

"People do order it from time to time," explained Drew Retherford, Brat House event manager. "They'll see it on the menu. A lot of times, it's just gonna spark interest and questions."

CBD or cannabidiol is part of the Cannabis Sativa plant, which people most commonly call marijuana or hemp. Most often, CBD is derived from the hemp plant and contains little to no THC -- less than .3%.

Drew Rutherford, Milwaukee Brat House

There's been a surge of bars and retailers adding CBD to their offerings. At the Great Dane Brewery, people can find CBD-infused cocktails and beer.

The question is, are these items an effective way of getting CBD into your system?

Dr. Cecilia Hillard, a researcher at the Medical College of Wisconsin, is an expert in pharmacology and biochemistry of cannabinoids and endocannabinoids. She's been studying CBD for decades. Hillard said many of the products CBD is being added to are not an effective way to get it into your system.

"CBD is not very well absorbed orally," Hillard said.

Hillard said CBD can help treat anxiety and insomnia, but the way it's ingested makes a difference.

"Only a small fraction of the dose that you actually swallow into your stomach makes its way into the bloodstream," explained Hillard.

She said the most effective way to ingest CBD is vaping, which she doesn't advocate. The next best way is a drop of oil under your tongue.

Dr. Cecilia Hillard, Medical College of Wisconsin

"Because it's very oily, it will go right through those membranes of the cheek or the gums and get into the blood," Hillard revealed.

When taken as an oil, Hillard estimated 20% to 25% of CBD is absorbed into the bloodstream. When eaten, it's more like 10% to 15%. She said the amount of CBD absorbed goes up when combined with something fatty and down in something watery.

"Putting CBD into a glass of beer, compared to putting it into a milkshake," she said.

A low dose of CBD in cocktails, seltzers, and coffee without cream may go right through you and you probably won't feel any effects. So what does Dr. Hillard think of a CBD brat?

"Bratwurst are full of fat, so I think you probably will get CBD into the body that way," she said.

"I haven't gotten any reports of miracle cures from eating our brats," Rutherford said.

The Brat House doesn't list any specific amount of CBD on its menu.

Great Dane Brewery sent Contact 6 the following statement about their CBD products:

"The CBD served in the beer and mixed drink offerings at the Great Dane restaurants is a high-quality water-soluble isolate. CBD isolate is very soluble in liquids while CBD oils and tinctures have a very low solubility ratio. While the 7-milligram amount in each drink or beer we serve is generally less than a therapeutic serving, it is important to consider that some people will have more than one or two beverages which could put them into the CBD 'relax zone' meaning they might feel very calmed but not necessarily sleepy. The consumer's body weight and general tolerances must also be considered. Given these variables, we chose an amount that we think is reasonable for the average patron. As far as the effects, there have been many long-time beer connoisseurs who, when trying the beer, report a feeling beyond just a beer-related consciousness change. They feel more relaxed and in a calmer state of mind. This may be from the uplift in serotonin that CBD provides. There is some subjectivity here like with alcohol itself or any prescription drug but our patrons enjoy the addition of CBD and report positive effects. Thanks for considering us in your journalistic adventure. The Great Dane has been an iconic dining and meeting place in Madison for 25 years and we are pleased that you included our restaurants in your written piece."

Hillard said about 25 milligrams has been helpful for treating anxiety. However, if you're drinking something watery, the digestive tract and liver will break down much of that before it gets into the bloodstream.

Consumers should ask how many milligrams of CBD are in an item they're ordering. If you're getting one drink with fewer than 10 milligrams, it may not be worth the upcharge.

Right now, there's no FDA oversight of CBD products. That means there's no guarantee what'd on the label is what you're getting. In addition, there are other risks associated with consuming CBD like pesticides, metals, and molds getting during the production process. Before consumption, you should ask yourself if you trust the brand behind the product.