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What’s the Difference – THC, CBD, and Hemp in Beverages

You’ve probably heard the terms THC, CBD, and hemp popping up more often lately. These cannabis derivatives have become one of the fastest-growing ingredients in the past few years. You can find them in everything from gummy candies to seltzers and other beverages. Similar to “functional” beverages, these ingredients are natural and plant-derived, and can be used to enhance drinks. They make a great alternative to alcoholic options and can be used in many zero-proof cocktails. 

THC*, also known as tetrahydrocannabinol, is the primary psychoactive cannabinoid extracted from cannabis. In other words, it’s the part that gets you high. It’s been touted as an alternative for people who are avoiding alcohol, but still want a bit of a buzz from their beverage.

CBD* Cannabidiol is also extracted cannabis, but because it doesn’t include any THC, there are no psychoactive effects. Instead of the high usually associated with cannabis, you’re left with a gentle boost that’s been proven to help in the treatment of anxiety, insomnia, and chronic pain, among others concerns. Similarly, hemp is defined as any part of the cannabis plant with no more than 0.3% THC, low enough that there’s no psychoactive component. 

CBD and hemp are generally thought of as safe substances for people in recovery. Their natural properties can actually reduce cravings and can help people who are trying to avoid more harmful substances such as alcohol. Unlike THC, there have been no proven risks of addiction and they aren’t substances that you can overdose on. However, many people still feel uncomfortable taking any kind of substance. If you think that any of these ingredients could potentially be triggering, talk to your support system or avoid it altogether. 

If you’re interested in CBD, THC, or hemp, here are a few of our favorite beverages to help you up your zero-proof game! 


Cann is a social tonic that contains CBD and a low dose of THC, so there is a high involved. Their tonics are inspired by classic cocktail flavors such as lemon lavender and grapefruit rosemary, and made with natural ingredients. If you’re not interested in the CBD/THC combo, they also offer Unspiked Caans, which have the same great flavors without the high. 


Aplos Calme is a functional, non-alcoholic spirit that is meant to provide a “gentle, calming feeling within 15-30 minutes after just one or two servings.” They achieve this by blending citrus and herbal botanicals with wide-spectrum hemp. Pour yourself a serving before bed, or bring a bottle to a dinner party as a digestif. 


Dram offers CBD-infused sparkling waters, which maximize bioavailability by using water-soluble cannabidiol made from Colorado-grown hemp. Alongside CBD, their products include adaptogens known to assist the body in adapting to the various stressors of life, while promoting long-term resilience of body and mind. Dram also has a line of CBD drops that can be added to zero-proof cocktails instead of bitters.

Aurora Elixirs

Aurora Elixirs crafts sparkling beverages using organic, sustainably-grown hemp from a single farm in Oregon. Hemp is at the center of their recipes. The combination of citrus, herbal, floral, and earthy flavors found in their product line has been specifically designed to enhance the terpenes in their hemp oils. 


W*nder is a range of CBD seltzers designed for every part of your day. They offer specific blends to promote energy in the morning, focus in the afternoon, and relaxation in the evening. They also invest a portion of their profits to support entrepreneurs from communities that have been negatively affected by the prohibition of cannabis, so you can know that every sip is helping a worthy cause. 

*The use of CBD or any other “functional” ingredients is a very personal choice. If you are in recovery or working a program, please consider discussing the use of such ingredients with a medical provider or sponsor.