Welcome to ON BEAUTY, a monthly feature highlighting creative, like-minded people who inspire us.
There are some topics that feel a bit novel to broach, and cannabis, though it’s becoming much more mainstream, still falls in that category for us. We’re intrigued, of course, but few companies have appealed to us from a brand or trust perspective, and so we’ve hovered on the periphery of this movement with a lot of curiosity and some unanswered questions. And then we discovered Juna, a chic line of oils that approach cannabis as one would approach a meal at a Michelin-starred restaurant or a fine wine. We sat down with Jewel Zimmer, the founder, to learn about microdosing, thoughtful growing, and how to enhance your everyday experience.
I wanted people to understand that cannabis, at least Juna, was going to be something that they could use and feel intellectual, savoir faire—that very elevated social experience.
How does one go from pastry chef to cannabis entrepreneur?
I was a pastry chef for many years. I had my first daughter and was trying to work these 14-hour days. I would bring her in, throw her on table 25, nurse her when I needed to, and I just felt like—I guess this is kind of my restaurant, I’m the pastry chef! I got this! And finally, they were like…just no! This is not working. So, I took that moment and was like, ok this is crazy, I should really take maternity leave and figure this out.
And even when you’re working, you’re still a mom full-time. You think, how do I do what I love but still be a mom? I decided to launch a chocolate company in 2009. I had various connections from being in the restaurant industry, and I was working with a chemist in France at the time extracting the polyphenol antioxidants from the cocoa bean. I kind of backed into the best, most unique single origin handcrafted chocolate I could find. And Barneys picked it up right away—it was like the first movement of beauty as wellness; it was a beauty food. And I think back on it, because Barneys got it, but I was so before my time. Now we have Moon Juice and we have CAP Beauty and we have Sun Potion and adaptogens everywhere, and, at that time, it was so…very few people got it. I had a very cult following, and it was a timing thing.
But because I was infusing things into my chocolate, I was getting requests from cannabis companies that wanted to make chocolate. And for the first couple years, I said no; I just didn’t understand cannabis and it was nothing I wanted to be involved in. This was back in 2011, 2012. Then there was a moment when the conversation changed. I got a call from a neuroscientist who said that a friend of a friend said maybe I could help him with some chocolate. My husband was making fun of me a little bit and said, “You know, Jewel, you’re always trying to connect with the universe, you’re chanting, you’re meditating, you’re always wanting to align yourself, you know? And this keeps raining from the sky and you keep passing it by.” And when he said that to me, I was really humbled, and, like, you’re right. Why does this keep showing up and why do I keep disregarding it? And he was like, “Just do me a favor and pay attention to it for a minute and see what happens.” And the second I did that, I started to go really deep and research this plant, and when I realized how amazing and how intelligent it was, I was so embarrassed that I’d had no idea. And I was like, well if I didn’t know about this plant then who else doesn’t know about this plant?
I started asking my friends and contemporaries, and the response was really interesting because half of them didn’t know anything about it and were kind of standoffish when I brought it up, and the other half was like, I already knew this, you didn’t know about this? But it was a secret, you know? Yeah, we use cannabis, but we don’t talk about it. There were these dots that weren’t connecting for me and I was like, how can I be involved in this and have it be…not embarrassing, but celebrated. How do I be proud of using this? How do we move that conversation forward?
I did a little bit of consulting and got to the point where I was like, I really want to share this. I was still really nervous about walking into a dispensary and buying something that’s on the shelf, because even with the most reputable brands, people were saying, well it says this dose but take a half, or take a quarter. And this was only a few years ago. So, I sourced the product, found a chemist, found a lab and made my very first piece of infused chocolate, and tried it. And it was a microdose—a 3mg dose. I don’t know what I thought was going to happen, I really don’t, I was all, “I have to have my husband here!” It wasn’t like I’d never smoked before. I mean I grew up smoking, but this whole edible thing freaked me out because I’d heard so many stories. And I had the best night. I barely felt it, but it was just enough to take the edge off and make me feel less intense and see things from a different perspective. And that was another moment for me where I was like, why are we all drinking two glasses of wine a night? We should be using cannabis and not just take the edge off but also do amazing things for our body.
Microdosing requires people to tune in because it’s subtle, so you learn how you feel and become empowered to control or change your experience based on what you need. It’s very empowering. It changes your perspective and perception of so many things.
So you started making chocolate but landed on an oil?
I spent the better part of last year passing out samples to people, different strains, and asking them to give me their feedback on what kind of experience they had. At any given time, I was playing around with five or ten strains of cannabis. And casting them in chocolate takes a minute, you know? So I was making these oil-based drops and throwing them in my bag. I’d drop it in my water, drop it in my coffee. People were always like, I want those. That was another thing I ignored for a long time, like, that’s great, but I make chocolate.
So that was happening, and simultaneously in the summer we were trying to find a chocolate box, and we pretty much knew that when the regulations came out, they were going to ask for child resistant. We looked from here to Italy and couldn’t find anything that didn’t feel cheap or flimsy or like something that I could open and close which was a problem, and it wasn’t coming together. And that’s when we were like, well everybody loves the drops, let’s do the drops. The chocolate will follow. I’m not sure when—the drops have become so fun, and there’s such a huge movement with food and the drops; I mean it’s the perfect adaptogen, right? You can add it to your coffee, you can add it to your smoothie, you can put it in a cocktail. The timing of that has been really good.
Cocktails? Coffee? What’s your favorite way to take it?
I love to take it under my tongue. It tastes good and it’s easy for a lift anytime. The carrier oil for all four products is organic MCT oil—MCT oils are like the best fat from inside the coconut. They work to boost brain function and cognitive improvements and they’re very bioavailable—anything that’s put inside an MCT oil will absorb into the body quicker. They benefit in all kinds of ways. For our hemp oil we use an MCT oil that actually still has a lot of that coconut essence, so you can’t really taste the hemp at all, and for the three cannabis formulations we use one that doesn’t have much of a coconut taste, so you really taste the nuances from the plant and flower.
The hemp one, because the MCT has a little of that coconut flavor, is good with any juice. It is amazing in coffee; it’s perfect in anything chocolate-y. I love it with mezcal and tequila. Because you use such a little amount, it’s like adding bitters or something. There’s a significant movement around cannabis and wine, and I’ve seen people at restaurants drop tincture into their wine. I’m also a sommelier, so for me, the idea of mixing the two is like…why? When you can enjoy them individually on their own in their own way...but people are doing that.
Are your oils different flavors?
They’re not. I went back and forth around that. I was finding such beautiful sun-grown plants…I kind of just wanted to focus on the way that they tasted. We weren’t getting that weed-y taste. We were getting these very subtle herbal/floral tastes. You can taste the layers. You might drop it on your tongue and note the citrus, but the finish of it could be like you had a mint leaf in your mouth. There are a lot of subtleties to them. They’re like wine, right? We’re celebrating the whole plant.
Is all cannabis created equal?
I can’t stress this enough—I truly believe that cannabis is not all created equal. There’s so much going on in the industry now, and like anything, we have to look at our sourcing and we have to look at where the product is coming from and how it’s grown. Is it grown indoors under a bunch of lights; are we trying to push it in a certain direction? For years, so much of the cannabis in this country was grown under lights to push it into the highest THC possible, right? And my belief, especially from being a pastry chef in the fine dining food industry for so many years…I mean, we had to understand exactly where all of our produce was coming from. Who was the farmer, what was the farm, what did it look like? All of the restaurants I worked with, we visited every farm we ever bought from before we bought from them. Same with the meat, we always got to know everyone.
When I first got into this, that was a really big missing piece. I had to try to find people. I started literally cold calling farmers up in Mendocino, like, hey! This is who I am, this is what I do, I kind of want to get involved in this industry–can I come up and check out your farm? And they’d be like…who are you? Shocked, like why would I drive 3.5 hours on a Sunday with my kids and my husband to see their farm?
In the last few years I think there’s been a major shift, because all the sudden the cannabis farmers in Northern California are being celebrated. They’re on some of the best terroirs in the world—other than places like Afghanistan—for growing cannabis, and they’re doing amazing things. They’re letting nature do it. I mean they’re growing biodynamically and growing with permaculture techniques. Some of them have been doing this—it’s been in their families for generations up in Humbolt and Mendocino counties and they’ve perfected these beautiful plants. And they’ve never aimed for high THC like a lot of the indoor growers have, they’ve just aimed for what nature can give them, and the result is this very diverse plant, not just THC, but all of these cannabinoids, all of these terpenes, and so the experience you’re getting is just completely different.
Happy, relaxed, anxious, paranoid, sleepy…what determines your cannabis experience?
How the plant is grown or where it’s grown, or the actual seed will determine what kind of experience or effect it’s going to have because of its cannabinoid or terpene profile. The cannabis plant itself has over 80 known cannabinoids. The cannabinoids we most know of are THC and CBD—and we didn’t know about CBD until a few years ago. There are 80 identified ones, and they all do different things. Terpenes are the essential oils of the cannabis plant. When terpenes are broken down molecularly, they’re the same structure, no matter where they’re found. So the terpene limonene is very prolific in citrus, and it’s also very prolific in certain strains of cannabis. Terpenes grow in the plant by what’s outside: what’s the atmosphere and the habitat and environment around them, and sometimes plants will engage in a stronger terpene to protect themselves. So these cannabinoid patterns and these terpenes— their footprint is going to determine how you’re going to feel.
And just because it’s non-psychoactive doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to feel nothing...It activates cannabinoids in your body which is why you feel happy when you eat chocolate, and why it balances your mood.
THC is psychoactive. CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid in cannabis. It reacts with different receptors in the body, and, to confuse you even more, our bodies have what’s called an endocannabinoid system. It was just discovered in 1996, so this is really new to everybody. This internal endocannabinoid system works synergistically with the immune system and the nervous system, which is why cannabis seems to help for medical reasons, because it interacts in all these other pathways of the body. Cannabinoids will attach themselves to the receptors in the endocannabinoid system.
The majority of the research on the endocannabinoid system and how cannabis is actually used in our bodies is happening in Israel, Spain and Canada. Not much is happening here because we are federally illegal. And that’s going to change soon. It’s so important because of what they’re finding in these other countries—the findings are incredible. So, at some point, we’ll start doing more research here, for sure.
What’s the difference between hemp and cannabis?
Agricultural hemp is a kind of Cannabis sativa, but it’s bred to have almost no THC in it. It also tends to be a little more fibrous and stalky, so it’s really good for clothing, building things, things like that. But it is very high in CBD naturally. So really, the difference is just how much THC is in it.
Agricultural hemp is growing in places like Colorado and Kentucky in huge agricultural fields. In Kentucky, it’s where tobacco used to be grown. It tends to have a very good terroir and environment for it, and I think that State alone is going to help push through much clearer legality moving forward. Hemp and even cannabis have the potential to change our world. Any type of outdoor farming is very regenerative and reduces climate change, and because the hemp crops—especially in places like Kentucky and Colorado—are so huge, they’re positively impacting the environment. There are so many layers…the agriculture of hemp is so vast and they’re being mindful and using techniques that are also helping the environment on this regenerative path that’s pretty amazing.
But will hemp CBD have the same benefits as cannabis CBD?
CBD is the same thing whether it comes from the cannabis or hemp plant. The difference is just that if it comes from the cannabis plant, it could have some THC in it. But CBD is known for its potent anti-inflammatory effects, and it’s a powerful antioxidant. Its purpose is to activate receptors in the endocannabinoid system to create homeostasis. So its whole job is to go into the body and balance whatever is out of balance. Which is amazing; which is why it’s used for balancing mood, it’s used for balancing hormones, it’s used for balancing appetite, it’s used for balancing inflammation. It’ll go to wherever you need it. It’s so fascinating.
What about CBD versus THC?
So with CBD, depending on the strain and the other accessory terpenes and cannabinoids, you could have an uplifting effect or you could have a more relaxing effect. You could take 30 different CBDs in one week and potentially have different effects. Sometimes it’s what your body needs and other times it’s really just the strain.
THC has its own set of benefits, and one important thing about the cannabis plant is that nothing is isolated, because it’s called the entourage effect—they work synergistically. There’s a benefit to having a little THC with your CBD, which is why a lot of people prefer a cannabis-derived CBD versus a hemp-derived CBD. Even though it might just be a little amount, they will have a different experience.
I can’t stress this enough—I truly believe that cannabis is not all created equal. There’s so much going on in the industry now, and like anything, we have to look at our sourcing and we have to look at where the product is coming from and how it’s grown.
It’s essential to find a product that uses a full spectrum or full plant extract. A lot of CBD products will use just CBD, just an isolate. And there’s nothing wrong with that because you do get the benefits of the CBD, but you don’t get the benefits of everything else in that plant, which for me is so key. I mean they’re all there, why would we take out one thing? The sum is greater. But a lot of people only want the CBD and will isolate it during the extraction process, because once you isolate the CBD, it doesn’t taste like cannabis anyone. So that’s attractive for companies.
What would you say to a person who is scared of cannabis because she needs to be a functioning adult?
Hemp and cannabis are regulated by different industries. With hemp, you don’t need a special license or permit from the state. It just needs to be lab tested to prove that it’s under .03% THC—so basically trace amounts. I run tests on every batch of everything I make through a third party and we just got our hemp back at 0% THC, because we get it at .03% and then we dilute it with our carrier oil, so by the time it actually tests for us there’s none. Which instills a lot of confidence, I think, because if you go to a dispensary and buy CBD, there’s a chance that it has THC in it. It’s just so important, I think, especially as a mom or as a functioning individual who needs to be able to, like, get in the car or be with your kids or go to work—you need to know that you can take 5mg or 10mg and go on with your day.
In small amounts, THC is known to improve cognitive function in a developed brain. It’s a powerful neuroprotectant. And actually, CBD is a powerful neuroprotectant, too, which is so ironic, because cannabis was known to kill brain cells and make you feel dumb, and now we’re understanding that with microdoses, we can build cognitive function. It’s all about the bell curve too; once your body has gone over a certain threshold, that also changes the way cannabis will absorb and be processed by it. UCSF Is doing some incredible studies on this—they’re actually bathing the brain in THC and reversing the effects of Alzheimer’s. It’s crazy. It’s literally the adaptogen of all adaptogens, you know? The exciting thing about this plant is, we’re just at the start of it. We don’t even know yet what it’s really capable of.
Tell us more about microdosing:
Microdosing is about introducing a really small amount of something and feeling the maximum benefit from it. Most plants or any adaptogens work on something called the bell curve—once you go over that threshold it can actually start to do damage. If you’ve had too much, you don’t get the benefits anymore. You know the saying less is more? It’s really valid when it comes to cannabis and probably any plant. You may not feel really high, but you’ll gain the most benefits.
When you microdose, it’s better to do it cumulatively, so you get that cumulative benefit and your body starts to really work with it and process it. CBD’s job is to create balance in the body so if every day you’re encouraging your body to create balance, imagine what’s going on inside your body in six months.
People will say, I could never use Juna because I need 20mg; I could never have just a 5mg drop or a 2mg drop, and actually, you can recalibrate your endocannabinoid system. You start taking little amounts. You might not feel it as much, but you’ll get all the benefits.
Because it’s microdosing, it requires people to tune in because it’s subtle, so you learn how you feel and become empowered to control or change your experience based on what you need.
It’s very empowering. It changes your perspective and perception of so many things.
Are there any benefits of CBD used topically as skincare?
I use the hemp CBD everyday internally, and I also cleanse my face with it. I love it. And I’m not marketing it as this oil that does everything because I don’t want to confuse people—like yeah, you can put it in your cocktail, you can also give yourself a massage with it. But I mean, literally, I use it for everything.
In terms of CBD and skincare—it’s like putting Fleur Vibrante on your skin in the sense that I feel like it’ll heal anything. I put it on rashes. My 12.5-year-old just started to get one pimple a week. I feel so bad for her, she’s got such beautiful skin but this one huge pimple, and so we put it on at night and literally in the morning, it’s either half the size or it’s gone. It’s amazing. Every now and then I’ll see what’s going on with CBD in terms of trademark and patent, and I’ve read all kinds of things, like, I think there’s somebody trying to use it in replacement of Botox. It’s an anti-inflammatory, it helps balance and reduce redness, it’s an antioxidant…
What does Juna mean?
Juna is a made up word…it’s A mood. I wanted people to understand through the name that cannabis was not subcultured and that it actually didn’t have to be medicinal. I mean, it is, and we can’t deny that, but there’s also so much pleasure there too. I want people to understand that cannabis, at least Juna, is going to be something that they can use and feel intellectual, savoir faire—that very elevated social experience. We were researching different eras and enclaves of people and Peggy Guggenheim came up, and you know, she used to roll with a lot of people but one of her groups of friends was like, Djuna Barnes and Alice B. Toklas, and these women were huge cannabis enthusiasts. And they were also known as some of the amazing artists, writers, poets, and intellects of their time. So, it seemed kind of fitting, like, wow, this is really the essence of a thriving experience.
But also, Juna is/was the goddess of the earth and fertility. And cannabis is a female plant and we haven’t even begun to know scientifically why yet, but there is a deep connection between this plant and women. It’s so fertile, it just never stops giving. So yeah, there’s a whole other conversation about cannabis and women.
Your branding is much more sophisticated than one might expect from a cannabis company.
The design piece is big for me—it always has been. It was the same with chocolate and it goes back to all the restaurants I worked in. They were always Michelin-starred restaurants or Michelin-starred chefs, one or the other, and everything is so mindful. When a plate comes to the table we’re thinking, how are people going to react to it first, is it going to be aroma or is it going to be visual? We’re constantly thinking about detail.
To design a product, it was the same way for me. I think about all the hard work that these farmers are putting into it first and foremost. And then it’s going to a chemist. Things are being fermented; the cannabis is being extracted. All of these steps, and along the way, who I consider the best of the best in their fields is putting every piece of expertise that they know into it. So when I get it and do the final step, I feel like I have to help people to understand how important and how special it is. I want people to have an experience. From the first time that they visit the website or have the product in their hand, I want them to know, just by looking at or touching the product, that this is something more than just cannabis or more than just chocolate. This is really special. That piece is really important to me.
So where do we start with Juna?
I have one Nude that’s just CBD, so if you want to feel nothing psychoactive, go with that. You won’t feel anything psychoactive, but you’ll start to understand how cannabis works in your body. And just because it’s non-psychoactive doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to feel nothing. It’s like having a cup of coffee. Or even if you have a cup of chamomile tea. Even chocolate, right? It activates cannabinoids in your body which is why you feel happy when you eat chocolate, and why it balances your mood, because it’s actually activating cannabinoids.
Jade is a 1-to-1, so it’s equal parts THC and CBD, and I’d say that one is probably the most popular. Our key descriptor words are serene and leisurely and that’s literally what it is. You’re so chill. Everything is just cool. And it’s so light, it’s a light, light formula. Our drops have a calibrated dropper inside so you can measure your experience. It’s a really great opportunity to find out what your body needs. Thoughtfully play around with discovery, instead of thinking, ok, if I eat half a cookie or eat a quarter of this piece of chocolate…it’s a really calculated way to figure out where you go.
I would say the Jade and the Nude are probably my most popular products because they are really mellow and a lot of my clientele are people like me who are like, what? Cannabis? No, I do not like feeling stoned, I always feel anxious. And it’s just like, ok you guys, that’s not going to happen. And then the Gold—it’s just bright and happy. You feel the most with the Gold but I’m hesitant to say that because it’s still a microdose; it’s still a very small amount. I mean, you can take more if you want. I always tell people, especially people who are nervous—just take 1mg! You’re not going to feel anything except for, like, I want to take more. Tomorrow night I want to see what happens when I take 2mg. And kind of go from there.
It’s just so important, I think, especially as a mom or as a functioning individual who needs to be able to, like, get in the car or be with your kids or go to work—you need to know that you can take 5mg or 10mg and go on with your day.
What product do you personally like the most?
I love the hemp Nude. That’s the one I take every day. That cannabinoid profile really works for me. I feel like it just gives me a little bit of a lift every morning. Everything’s a little more focused and I’m just a little less reactive. And the cannabis Nude version is really nice too; I’ll lean more toward that one if I have a really bad headache…it works differently. It’s the exact same thing but because they’re full-print extracts and not just an isolate, they are working differently because of what else has been extracted from the plant.
You know the saying less is more? It’s really valid when it comes to cannabis and probably any plant. You may not feel really high, but you’ll gain the most benefits.
Can you travel with cannabis products?
You can travel with hemp mostly anywhere. I think there are some states that have actually banned it—one of them is Nebraska—but pretty much anywhere.
What is your favorite ritual?
Oh my gosh…so many rituals. I do love to meditate every day. I love my coffee in the morning and sometimes if I can’t handle the caffeine, I’ll even drink a decaf. Love love love my coffee.
I mean…honestly, I want to say chocolate. Chocolate or jasmine.
I grew up in British Columbia and I love to go back there every summer. It’s hot, the mountains, the fresh water…I love it.
Chocolate! Cannabis and chocolate.
What’s your must-have product for a long-haul flight?
Lypo-Spheric Vitamin C. It’s vitamin C that’s been encapsulated in an emulsification, so it goes right into your bloodstream. It’s like being hooked up on an IV of vitamin C.
Do you have any special charms or talismans?
I am known to always have a stone on me. I have a big collection and I’ll definitely choose one for whatever energy I think I need for the day. I use my tarot cards a lot—I don’t carry them around but I use them weekly. I find them really meditative, and if I’m having a hard time with something I’ll go to the cards and sometimes I swear I’ll even try to trick the cards to test them and they never fail me. I think it’s just about having a connection, you know, and really trusting your own intuition.
What is your dream In Fiore product?
Well…my dream product would be if Julie made a CBD balm. After we make the cannabis extract, after all the botanicals are extracted out, there are two byproducts: one is a really dry flower, something that’s been completely dehydrated, and the other is the fat. I gave her some cannabis fat and she made Fleur Vibrante with it. The cannabis fat is almost a coral color, so the balm is this beautiful color, and of course, it smells intoxicating. Julie thought it smelled a little weed-y but I’m like, I don’t smell anything! You know what’s crazy is there’s a sensual aspect to that smell. I can’t even imagine. If she sold that, it would be, like, literally, gold.
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