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The U.S. is a stressed-out country. About eight in 10 Americans say they're stressed at least some of the time, if not more, according to a December 2017 Gallup poll. At the same time, many of us turn to alternative medicine as a solution to what ails us when it comes to stress and anxiety.

It could help explain our apparent taste for gummy vitamins. Driven by health-conscious adults, the gummy vitamin global market is expected to grow from $2.68 billion in 2016 to $4.17 billion by 2025, according to a Transparency Market Research report.

And sitting square in the crossroads of the rising alternative medicine movement and anxiety economy is the CBD gummy.

Born in 1920, the gummy has evolved into something with more staying power thanks to the addition of the highly touted cannabidiol (CBD). And as far as trends go, CBD gummies have made the list — Google's “Year in Search 2018”, that is — ranking No. 3 in the most searched foods for the year.

“With so many flavors, shapes, various textures to consume and with the ability to mix various types of cannabinoids into this treat it seems like such a versatile delivery method for anyone who likes flavored candy,” said Ian Pedersen, founder and CEO of Source CBD in Sedona, Arizona. “There is also an attachment to our youth and love for stretchy, soft fruit-juice-flavored treats. Coupled with the versatility of the CBD or cannabinoids being mixed in, it makes for a great and tasty delivery method.”

What Exactly Are CBD Gummies?

CBD gummies are made by combining gelatin with a sugar or sweetener along with a juice of any flavor, then typically infused with a water-soluble CBD isolate or infused oil, according to Pedersen.

He said producing gummies with gelatin has been the most popular way to make the candies for many years. Gelatin gummies can have a solid consistency, but one downside for some consumers is that it is derived from animal collagen.

A second method using agar-agar sourced from red algae as the gelling agent is much more popular with the vegetarian and vegan community, Pedersen told Weedmaps News.

“And works exactly the way the gelatin does, however, it would be fair to point out that gummies made with agar-agar can come out much more firm than a gummy made with [animal-derived] gelatin, depending on how much agar-agar is used,” he said.

But Pedersen's personal favorite gummy-making method is the one using pectin, baking soda, butter, and corn syrup along with the traditional sugar and flavored juice.  

“These have a wonderfully soft and scrumptious consistency, which melt in the mouth nicely,” he said.

Combine the chewy texture and sweet flavor of gummies with the touted wellness benefits of cannabidiol (CBD) and you have what turned out to be Google's third-most-searched term for food items in 2018.

Of course, individual CBD gummy companies will add their own twist on the process. Katie Stem, CEO of Peak Extracts in Portland, Oregon, said its recipe is corn-free because corn is a common allergen. Though the company has developed a line of CBD gummies, they are not yet available for sale.

Stem said that the process of making CBD gummies varies based on the type of extract used.

“We make them with activated, full-spectrum cannabis oil extracted with CO2,” said Stem. “Others may use BHO [butane hash oil] or CBD isolate. The extract is infused to the hot gummy mixture and then molded into shapes.”

For DIYers, there is another option: making CBD gummies at home. Florida-based sells a botanical extractor that allows consumers to infuse their own topicals, tinctures and edibles.

Why CBD Gummies Are Trending

Ayana Lage, spokesperson for Hemp Bombs in Tampa, Florida, points to the potential benefits of CBD itself as the reason for the high ranking.

“As people continue to learn about CBD and its benefits, we'll see even more people seeking out CBD products,” Lage told Weedmaps News. “We've seen a huge increase in interest since 2016 as people learn about CBD and its potential benefits for pain, sleep, inflammation, anxiety, and so much more.”

Hemp Bombs sells three types of CBD gummies: original and sleep, each with 15 milligrams of CBD per gummy; and high-potency with 25 milligrams of CBD per gummy. They're marketed for relaxation, sleep, and pain relief. They come in six flavors: cherry, grape, strawberry, lemon, orange, and lime.

Meanwhile San Diego, California-based Sunday Scaries are made with broad-spectrum CBD, boosted with vitamins B12 and D3, which the company says increase the bioavailability of the 10 milligrams of CBD in each gummy while providing the benefits of those vitamins, including fighting fatigue, reducing anxiety, and boosting the immune system. The company also recently launched a vegan gummy line.

Co-founders Mike Sill and Beau Schmitt recommend their gummies for anyone dealing with common stressors and anxieties such as rush-hour traffic and imminent work deadlines.

Ultimately, the popularity of CBD gummies is most likely a combination of factors, including increased availability from loosening cannabis laws, potential wellness benefits such as anxiety-reduction, and bite-sized convenience.

In social media culture, it's become a meme for people to comment on stressful situations by saying they need a CBD gummy, or using an image to describe how relaxed CBD gummies make them.

“Gummies are an easy way to ingest CBD and an on-the-go way to incorporate CBD in your day-to-day routine,” said Sarah Remesch, founder of New Highs CBD in New York. “Gummies are used as an alternative way to consume CBD and should be vetted using the same attention to ingredients, formulation, and COA [certificate of analysis] documentation as any other CBD product.”

Peak Extracts' Stem echoes this sentiment. She said consumers should look for CBD gummy companies that perform batch testing for potency and offer clear labeling of milligrams of CBD in each unit.

“Testing of the extract for heavy metals and pesticides would be lovely,” she added.

She said that assuming they are made with hemp-derived CBD, they are in theory legal in all 50 states. However, there is the possibility that some products will contain THC, because even CBD derived from hemp, when not in isolate form, can have a significant dose of THC when concentrated. She said it's important to note that intoxication, or even failing a drug test, are possible with CBD gummies.

Regardless of these possible shortcomings, CBD gummies aren't showing any sign of slowing in popularity.

“Gummies remain one of the most popular edibles because of shelf stability, ease of dosing — you can bite one in half — and of course they're delicious,” Stem said.