When it comes to CBD, there are so many products on the market, and we can’t emphasize enough how important it is to know what to look (and what to avoid!) for when you’re buying CBD. In this article, we’re going to take a look at all the criteria you should keep in mind, especially when you want to buy the best CBD online.
What is CBD?
CBD is short for cannabidiol, which is a phytocannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. It interacts with your body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), similar to the way your body’s natural cannabinoids do to achieve homeostasis. While cannabinoids have been used for hundreds of years all over the world, only in recent years has the scientific community begun to research its potential benefits more in-depth.
Since the 2018 Farm Bill passed, CBD shops have opened all over the United States. Additionally, pharmacies and other stores have started to stock their shelves CBD products. You can find these products in a number of forms, including topical creams and lotions, tinctures and oils, gummies, and vape oils, to name a few.
Types of CBD
Three of the most common forms of CBD you’ll see on the market include broad-spectrum, full-spectrum, and isolates. You might also see CBD products labeled as hemp extract, hemp supplement, or hemp oil. Be aware that any time you see a product labeled as hemp seed oil, this is not CBD, and does not contain any of the cannabinoids that CBD does. That said, some CBD tinctures do use hemp seed oil as a carrier oil.
Full-spectrum CBD, like its broad-spectrum counterpart, contains all the cannabinoids in the hemp plant, but can have up to 0.3% THC content. And like broad-spectrum products, it includes terpenes, cannabinoids, flavonoids, and other compounds. Full-spectrum products do not contain enough THC to produce a “high,” but they do deliver the entourage effect.
Broad-spectrum CBD contains all the cannabinoids in the hemp or marijuana plant, but has less than 0.3% THC in it. Any industrial hemp plants that contain more than 0.3% THC must be destroyed. When broad-spectrum CBD is produced, any THC that might be in the plant is removed before production progresses. It is essential to recognize that even though there is no detectable THC in these products, there is a chance that cannabis could show up in a drug test.
CBD isolate is a third type of product you’ll likely see on the market. The CBD is extracted from the hemp plant, but is stripped of all terpenes, flavonoids, and other cannabinoids. All that is left is pure CBD in a crystallized form. These isolate crystals can be added to liquids such as MCT oil, and it will not produce the entourage effect.
Hemp Seed Products
In your search for CBD oil, you’ve likely come across hempseed oil. While hemp seed oil is full of healthy fatty acids and other nutrients, it does not contain any cannabinoids or terpenes. It’s sold on Amazon, for example, for cooking, skincare, and other uses. If you are looking for CBD, this type of product does not contain any.
Is CBD Legal?
While the 2018 Farm Bill legalized industrial hemp as a commodity to transport across state lines, CBD is not legal in all 50 states. For example, some states have only legalized it with a prescription. Before you buy CBD online, be sure to check with your state’s laws.
What is Third-Party Testing?
One of the biggest concerns regarding CBD has been its safety. Having a certificate of analysis (COA) from a lab that is accredited by the International Standards Organization (ISO) ensures the quality of the product. Recently, CBD companies have come under fire for selling products that don’t have the amount of CBD claimed on the bottle, and may even contain harmful toxins. The FDA does not regulate CBD, so having this third-party testing and a COA ensures quality and accuracy.
While many manufacturers opt for third-party testing, other companies do not. Consumers should have peace of mind that the product has been tested for mold, toxins, pesticides, fertilizers, fungi, and heavy metals, which can cause serious illnesses.
We reached out to Michael Richmond, Co-Founder and President of Green Scientific Labs, to ask more about how to read labels for accuracy, and what red flags to be on the lookout for. He says, “I would look for a FULL PANEL lab report. A report that only shows potency might help to verify label claim. However, it does not ensure the product is free of other impurities such as pesticides or microbials.”
This illustrates well why buyers should understand the importance of the other ingredients and their potency. For example, when investing in a product that has a high level of CBD (1000mg or even 3000mg per bottle), lab certification verifies the exact amounts of cannabinoids and terpenes that are on the label.
Before you start shopping for CBD, especially if you’re going to a brick-and-mortar shop, take a look at its COA online. E-commerce CBD shops should display these lab tests on their website. Richmond also adds that taking the extra step of verifying that the lab is ISO 17025 Accredited means that it complies with international standards for testing, and holds the laboratory and its processes to a high standard of competence.
FDA Regulation of CBD
Before COVID-19 hit, the FDA was in the process of establishing standards for regulating CBD, but that was been pushed off for the foreseeable future. Without FDA regulation, the standards of quality can vary from company to company, which is one reason to check out the CoA, as well as the company behind the CoA.
Green Scientific Labs has put considerable resources into ensuring the quality and standards of testing until the FDA establishes its own guidelines. Richmond explains, “We have spent a considerable amount of time and money researching the rules and regulations on a state by state basis. Our clients include over 1,200 hemp/CBD brands in the United States. I anticipate the FDA moving towards standardization of testing that would mirror what GSL is already doing.”
Where to Buy CBD
In addition to checking the COAs, you should always buy CBD directly from the source. The biggest reason for that is that counterfeit versions of brand-name CBD products can be found on Groupon, Amazon, eBay, and other online marketplaces.
Although you’re likely to find highly sought-after brand names on these sites, you have no way of verifying if they are indeed directly from the source, and if the product is what it claims to be. This can be risky because you can’t confirm if it’s even CBD to begin with, or that it’s been tested for toxic ingredients or held to other quality standards.
Researching CBD companies from farm to shelf can be daunting and time-consuming, but without regulation, some companies can take advantage of consumers. When it comes to your health and your investment, this extra time can be well worth it.
Chief Parts of a CBD Label
So what are you supposed to look for when buying CBD? Well, start with the product label, then take a look at the COA. The label is designed to provide the necessary information about the product, and the COA goes more into depth regarding the potency and presence of product ingredients. Understanding what to seek out and what to avoid will help you make more informed choices when purchasing CBD products.
Let’s break it down.
On the Label
- Full- or Broad-spectrum product: the label will tell you if the product is full-spectrum or broad-spectrum CBD (or hemp seed oil, cannabis oil, isolate, etc.).
- THC: make sure that if you’re purchasing a broad-spectrum CBD tincture that it shows that it contains 0% THC, or ND THC (non-detectable amounts of THC). Full-spectrum products should contain 0.3% THC or less.
- CBD content: two CBD amounts could be present on the label, including the product’s total CBD amount, as well as the CBD in each dropperful.
- Total product weight: how much the product in the package weighs, for example, 1fl oz, 30ct, etc.
- Ingredients: this should include the type of cannabinoid(s) in a product, as well as the carrier oil, additional essential oils, and flavorings, for example. CBD could be listed as hemp extract or cannabidiol.
On the Certificate of Analysis
- ISO Accreditation: Look for the ISO/IEC accreditation to ensure the lab adheres to the international standards of testing for CBD.
- Lab: third-party testing eliminates bias and ensures that strict guidelines and standards are upheld.
- Batch #: check the date of the test and the batch number to make sure it lines up with the product you are considering.
- Cannabinoids: labs will test for a number of cannabinoids, including several variations of THC, CBD, CBN, CBG, and CBC. You will be able to see how much total weight, mg/g, and mg/bottle are included.
- Terpenes: here, you can see what terpenes were tested for, which are included, and amounts.
- Pesticides: the COA will list all the pesticides it tested for as well as any detectable amounts.
- Solvents: solvents are used to dissolve and extract cannabinoids from the hemp plants. Look for ND or “below limit of quantification” (B/LOQ) on the report.
- Microbials: when microbes are present, that means the batch has been infected by yeast, mold, E.coli, or salmonella.
- Mycotoxins: mycotoxins can include various strains of mold and fungi, neither of which you want to be present in your CBD.
- Heavy metals: heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, mercury, and others can cause serious organ damage and cause lingering effects.
- Filth and foreign materials: these can include insect fragments, hair, metal, sand, glass, stones, plastic, and other materials that don’t belong in the product.
- Water content: this number should be very low, as the higher the moisture content, the more susceptible it is to growing microbials and mycotoxins.
How to Sort Out CBD Medical Claims
Another factor to look at when buying CBD is claims the company makes. As of this writing, the FDA has not approved CBD as a treatment for any medical condition, aside from a prescription medication for epilepsy. So for any CBD company to claim that CBD treats or cures any health condition is out of compliance with the FDA’s rules.
When shopping for CBD, be wary of any company that claims that cannabidiol can cure specific ailments such as cancer, chronic pain, or mental health conditions. More scientific research is emerging that shows how scientists are studying the efficacy of CBD for specific health issues, which is exciting, but not yet proven per the FDA guidelines. Although many of these studies are promising, making specific claims can be dangerous, especially if a person declines medical care and decides to use CBD instead.
Before using any CBD product, be sure you speak with your health practitioner. A pharmacist can discuss the use of CBD with your current medications.
We hope that this article has helped you understand more about finding the highest quality CBD products, as well as how to read the label and COA. Transparency in cannabis production helps to create a safer industry as a whole, and knowledge is definitely power in this evolving field.
“Standardization is key, both when it comes to the tests required in each state to the detection limits that should be required of each lab. Not all labs are created equal. Their ability to identify containments to a certain level or their ability to test for all product types varies—this needs to change,” Richmond concludes.
Take a look at our third-party lab reports to learn more about our products! We have every single one of our products tested before packaging and after, and each has a COA to ensure quality. Additionally, our products are all packaged at an FDA-approved facility. For high-quality CBD products that go through rigorous third-party lab testing, shop online now at Ripon Naturals!