It’s hard to deny CBD (and cannabis overall) is having a moment. A huge moment. As in, it’s everywhere. Wellness junkies are creating CBD health snacks and cocktails. Beauty brands are using it in skincare products to heal acne and rosacea. And pet owners now soothe separation anxiety riddled furry loved ones with CBD. The long list of healing benefits attributed to the cannabis plant keeps getting longer, and local governments are heeding the medical literature, many moving towards legalization, if they haven’t made cannabis entirely legal already.
But as society opens up to the once marginalized plant and answers the questions – what does it do and how does it work – some, like Jewel Zimmer, founder of chic, organic sustainably farmed cannabis company, Juna, believe the next ones to arise will be – how is it sourced and what’s the quality of the product. Jewel believes if you’re going to be ingesting something, it must be of the highest quality. (An ethos undoubtably stemming from her background as a pastry chef and sommelier.)
So what exactly does it mean to be the best quality when it comes to cannabis and why does it matter? Well, I chatted with Jewel to find out.
I was in the food industry for many years. I had a chocolate company. I was extracting the natural occurring botanical actives and mood enhancers from the cacao bean and putting it back into the chocolate we were formulating. We ended up launching our brand nationally with Barney’s in 2009 and were one of the first beauty foods on the market. This was before anyone even knew what an adaptogen was. We were sold on the cosmetics floor.
When I launched my chocolate company, I immediately had people in the cannabis industry coming to me wanting me to formulate cannabis chocolates. At the time I was so uninterested in working with them, I always turned it away right away. I had worked in the pastry world for many years and this boutique chocolate company was keeping me busy, and at the time cannabis was just something I had no interest in.
But back then the conversation surrounding cannabis was very subculture. It wasn’t the conversation it is now. But over the years, it continued to happen where I was getting approached by cannabis companies so much so that my husband one day said to me, you are always trying to align yourself with the universe and cannabis has been falling from the sky for you the past few years and you’re not even willing to have the conversation. It was so true. I do try to align myself and make sure I’m not missing my path, so from that minute on I made a pivot. I said, okay, the next person that asks me to consult on cannabis I will honor it and at least have the conversation and almost immediately, within 48 hours of this commitment, someone contacted me from the cannabis industry asking me to help formulate chocolates. It ended up it was a neuroscientist at USCF looking for help. The connection was instantly made and through it I started to understand the medical side of cannabis. I went down this rabbit hole and I fell in love with how intelligent and how sophisticated this plant is.
I realized then that so many of my friends and contemporaries don’t understand how sophisticated it is, so it became my mission to figure out how I was going to bring it to them and show them how I saw it through my eyes. That’s how the journey began.
We tend to know the cannabis plant for the cannabinoid THC and these days many people also know CBD, the non psychoactive component of the plant, but there are actually over 80 cannabinoids, only two of which are psychoactive.
These cannabinoids attach to receptors in the body with their whole purpose to create homeostasis in the body. It goes to the imbalances. That’s why cannabis is used to help and relieve so many things like epilepsy, cancer, inflammation, ADHD, anxiety, depression, and pain. It’s such a sophisticated and intelligent plant. Wherever the body is in need, that’s where the cannabinoids go to heal.
But there are also 120 botanical actives in cannabis. When cannabinoids and these actives – flavonals, omega-3s, and terpenes, the essential oils fo the plant, all work together and you consume them all together, amazing things start to happen. Which is why when we do our extractions, we formulate with the whole plant or the whole flower and then we test for the CBD and THC. In our hemp extraction we use the whole plant, in the cannabis extraction we use the whole flower.
What a lot of people do is strip everything out of it until there is just THC or CBD left. They strip all of the accessory cannabinoids, all of the flavanols, all of the omega-3s, and the reason why they do this is because it becomes more cost effective. Because then they are simply measuring just the THC or the CBD; this is what is called an isolate. And a lot of brands use isolate, but we are huge believers of the full plant because we believe all parts are greater when they work together. And it’s been found that CBD and THC have benefits on their own, but when they are with everything they are grown with, they work more effectively and sometimes they even work to modulate each other so they’re more effective.
The two plants are pretty much the same thing, the difference is how much THC they have. Hemp typically has less than 0.3% and the cannabis plant can have anywhere from 5-35% THC; it doesn’t always, but it can. THC and CBD are the most prevalent cannabinoids in the cannabis and hemp plants. THC is the psychoactive cannabinoid that makes you feel high, while CBD is non psychoactive and is a potent anti-inflammatory agent that helps relieve pain, stress, anxiety, and is a potent antioxidant.
We use all non-gmo, organic, sustainably farmed sunshine grown cannabis and hemp, which was very important to me from the beginning. When I first got into this, I knew right away that I didn’t want something grown in a basement in black light because I don’t think it’s possible to make an incredible product without an incredible ingredient. Just like in the kitchen, you start with the best ingredients and then you build from there. Everybody knew somebody who knew somebody who grew, but I wanted the best possible flowers I could find so I started calling farmers in Mendocino who supplied Michelin star restaurants. I wanted to source our plants from farmers that grew tomatoes, basil and all of the fruits and vegetables that would enrich the terroir. Someone with sustainable growing practices and an understanding of the plant. What I discovered blew me away. I met women who were intuitive breeders, literally growing these plants for what was healing them, to farmers who went to Cal Poly and were growing cannabis from plant tissue samples. It was all very exciting and sophisticated. Some had irrigation systems that used special microbes to feed the plants from wild blueberries. Others had planted companion plants in-between their cannabis plants, like thyme or peppers or basil, because what happens when you do this is the cannabis plants start to share their nutrients with the plants next to it and vice versa. This is why you get cannabis with flavors of basil or mango or beautiful aromas of strawberries. You get this beautiful exchange. After seeing all of this and learning from these cannabis and hemp farmers, suddenly I wanted to be a part of this world. I thought, wow, this is something out of dwell magazine. It’s sophisticated. It’s beautiful. It’s like being in Napa with all of the vineyards. I was blown away.
After I fell in love with this plant, I was like I don’t want to be high all the time, so how do I bring a product to market in a form that’s what I want to take and part of that was testing out the formulas myself and figuring out – what does it feel like to take 2mg versus 5mg of CBD and what is the perfect lock and key spot. So once we had our sourcing, I began testing all of these flowers and figuring out how they were going to be via experience, taste, smell, effectiveness, etc.
Originally, we were going to do chocolates but it’s a lot harder to cast out chocolate with each formula to test than it is to drop our formulas into tinctures. Overtime I was testing more than ten strains at a time, so I made my own tinctures I could carry in my purse. It just seemed more efficient. Then when I would pull my drops out and put them in my coffee people were always asking me, what are you doing. I would say I’m dropping which led to – dropping what? And I would say CBD and then we would get into this whole conversation about CBD and people were so intrigued. And I would say, oh, well I don’t make these, I make chocolates, but many people said, no, I want these drops. It was another “ah ha” moment for me. I started to really listen and tap into what was being asked of me and try to honor that, so we made a pivot from chocolate to tincture, but with that being said we still do plan on making chocolates.
Everything we create is formulated in a micro dose.
In the NUDE line, the cannabis CBD drops and the hemp CBD drops, are formulated for everyday wellness. We recommend you take 5mg (one dropper full) 1-3x a day depending on what you are using it for. Because we each have a unique endocannabinoid system, we can suggest a dose so you will feel it, but it’s not a lot and everyone’s body will respond slightly different. But you will feel a shift just like you do after you have a cup of coffee or when you walk out of a yoga class. You will feel more of a sense of balance. A lot fo CBD can make you sleepy and heavy, very relaxed. So we tell people to start there and then take what feels right for you.
Between the two NUDE drops, there is a slight difference between the two. Think of them like red wine for example – there’s cabernet, pinot noir and Zinfandel – and while they are all red wine, they each have a different profile. So, while both NUDES are CBD only and non psychoactive, they do have a slightly different profile.
Then the cannabis drops JADE and GOLD, the GOLD is very lifting and social. It’s key descriptors are happy, shiny, present. The JADE on the other hand is very relaxing and serene. GOLD is for a night out and JADE would be for a chill night in.
I think the cannabis industry is having its moment right now because we are at a point collectively in society where we’re looking to tune in. Everyone is so tired. We are sleeping less, are more connected via social media and have more information coming at us. People are exhausted and tired of taking Ambien. People are tired of tuning-out. They’re tired of drinking half a bottle of wine a night. People are trying to be healthier and more in-tune with what’s going on, and cannabis has this magical way of letting you tune-in versus tuning-out, which is what happens when you drink too much alcohol. People are collectively ready to be more present. It’s just the way our society is moving right now.
For Juna, what’s important to me and to us is that people understand the healing power of the plant and realize you don’t have to get high to enjoy the benefits. You can take a quarter of our suggested serving, 5mg or 1 dropper full, and while you won’t feel anything since our serving size is a micro dose already, there will be so much healing going on inside your body. Whether that be hormone balancing or mood balancing.
Right now, our cannabis products are only sold in dispensaries in California. Since launching in July, we have a handful of dispensaries we’re in in the Bay Area and have a couple in Los Angeles that are launching right now. The NUDE hemp CBD drops we can sell anywhere since that is more of a supplement, so we sell it across state lines online and we sell it in boutiques in California and in NYC. Our website has our full list of retailers.
Interview conducted by Amy Chang, edited for length; main image photographed by Wing Ta for BOND EN AVANT