In a short period of time, CBD has gone from an obscure compound that only patients in the know would seek out to a wellness sensation that has swept the nation. When hemp was officially legalized in the 2018 Farm Bill, the ingredient started popping up in everything from hummus to mascara.
As a result, the CBD marketplace is crowded. But, the market is also under-regulated. There might be tens of thousands of CBD products available today, but as we touched upon last week, not all of them are created equally.
Until the FDA steps in to provide official guidance and regulation, the onus is on the consumer to vet their CBD products for quality and safety.
Are you wondering how to buy good quality CBD? Ask these five questions before you buy and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a savvy CBD consumer.
Who Grows The Plants?
Farming practices matter! Hemp plants are great bioremediators, which means they can pull up all kinds of things from the soil they’re grown in. If the soil is contaminated with heavy metals or other nasties, they could end up in your CBD product. Same goes for any pesticides or fungicides that might have been used on the plants. When you can, seek out CBD that comes from organic farms, or, in the absence of full organic certification, that was produced without pesticides and other chemicals.
For more, check out our two part series on hemp:
How Was The CBD Extracted?
After the hemp plants are harvested, they need to be processed to remove the CBD from the plant material. This process is called extraction, and it can be done in several different ways.
Some extraction methods involve chemical solvents like butane or propane. When done poorly, there can be traces of these unhealthy chemicals left behind in the extract.
Today, the cleanest and one of the most common ways of extracting CBD is using CO2. It is a naturally occurring and clean solvent that leaves behind no residue, and it is quickly becoming the gold standard for the CBD industry (and it’s the gold standard for California Craft, too).
Has The CBD Been Third-Party Tested?
Unfortunately, because the CBD industry isn’t regulated by the Food & Drug Administration as yet, there are many mislabeled and misrepresented products out there on the market.
The FDA has done sporadic sampling of CBD products over the last several years, and they are consistently finding that products are often mislabeled as far as potency is concerned, and occasionally products contain undisclosed THC.
By choosing products that have been tested by independent third party labs you can ensure that the product potency is accurate. Third party testing is becoming the gold standard for quality and safety, so be sure to look for a product’s Certificate of Analysis (COA) on the company’s website or ask for it from the company directly. If they cannot or will not provide it, move along.
The COA will also ensure that the product doesn’t contain any pesticides, fungicides, molds, heavy metals or residual solvents.
What Kind Of CBD Is It?
There are lots of different CBD extracts out there. You might see terms like “full-spectrum,” “broad spectrum,” or “isolate.” What do these mean? And how do you know what kind of CBD is right for you?
Full-spectrum products conta
in a CBD extract that has all the plant goodies that were present in the plant. They will contain CBD, trace amounts of THC that are naturally produced by hemp plants, along with other cannabinoids and beneficial compounds like terpenes. Because of a synergistic relationship between all these therapeutic compounds in hemp and cannabis (called the entourage effect), a lot of folks find optimal relief and effect from full-spectrum products.
Broad-spectrum products contain all of the beneficial compounds present in the plants, but the extract has been refined to remove all traces of THC. These products are great for folks who want to enjoy CBD but are worried about THC showing up in drug tests, or for folks who want to stay away from THC altogether.
Isolates are extracts that have been refined to be almost 100% pure CBD. They contain no other plant compounds whatsoever (read: THC free). Isolates are most often sold as white colorless and odorless powders though you can also find them in oils, beverages, topicals and other products. Isolates don’t offer the benefits of the other therapeutic compounds in the plants, and emerging studies are showing that often higher doses are needed when using a CBD isolate product.
The best CBD for you is the one that does what you want it to do! You might want to experiment with all three of these types of CBD to find the best option.
One thing people are often confused about is how much CBD is in a product. Most folks have no idea how much CBD is a “low dose” or “high dose” or how much CBD they should be taking themselves.
The quantity of CBD in a product is measured in milligrams (mg) and should be listed on the product label. The label should tell you how much total CBD is in the product, along with the quantity of CBD per serving. You can cross reference to make sure the label is accurate by checking out the COA (as discussed above).
Some products might have relatively low (5mg or less) doses per serving, while others can be high (50mg+) per serving. Next week we’ll tackle finding the right dose for you, but in the meantime remember that the higher the CBD content the higher the price. Ultimately, you have to find the best formula for you when it comes to potency, effectiveness and price.
Lauren Wilson is a bestselling author, freelance writer, and educator. She is the author of Healing with CBD: How Cannabidiol Can Transform Your Health Without the High (Ulysses Press, 2018) and The CBD Solution: Wellness (Chronicle Books, 2020). Her third CBD title, The CBD Solution: Living will be out March 30, 2021. You can find her online at laurenmwilson.com.