What to look for when purchasing high-quality CBD products
With so many CBD companies popping up, it’s difficult to distinguish which ones offer quality products. The good news is that there are more than a few tell-tale signs to give you peace of mind that what you’re buying is safe, effective, and the real deal.
First, it’s important to know a little bit about the hemp plant, from which CBD products are crafted. Hemp comes from the Cannabaceae plant family and is known botanically as Cannabis sativa L., or industrial hemp, a legal designation from the 2014 Federal Farm Bill that defines industrial hemp as having no more than 0.3% THC on a dry weight basis (the legal limit). While there’s not enough THC in hemp to produce psychoactive effects, there are another 400+ chemical compounds to explore in the hemp plant.
There are over 100 distinct cannabinoids, or plant compounds specific to cannabis plants, CBD (cannabidiol) being one of them. Like other cannabinoids, CBD works with the human endocannabinoid system, which helps maintain the body’s homeostasis by regulating pain, inflammation, sleep, appetite, and more.
Also abundant in the hemp plant, and actually found in all plants, are terpenes. They provide hemp with its distinct scent, flavoring, and coloring. Studies have found that for hemp, terpenes contribute to what’s called the “entourage effect,” which refers to the synergistic workings of all the plant’s compounds to achieve its full benefit.
Similar to terpenes, flavonoids also exist in most fruits and vegetables. They protect these plants and provide their color. In humans, flavonoids help defend against free radicals, which cause oxidation that can damage the body. Lots of foods contain flavonoids, including green tea, red wine, and dark chocolate. Together with the hemp plant’s cannabinoids and terpenes, flavonoids work to promote the entourage effect.
This hemp plant can be made into several formulations that produce different effects. Before you purchase any CBD products, you should know what your choices are and how they differ.
Full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and isolate are the three CBD formulations. All CBD products are crafted into one of these three formulations and each type should be easy to locate, usually displayed near the product name on the front of the label. Depending on the type you purchase will determine the amount of CBD, THC, and other plant compounds the product contains and what the received benefits will be.
Full-spectrum products contain the hemp plant’s complete profile, that is, all its terpenes, flavonoids, cannabinoids, and other naturally occurring compounds, including THC--but no more than the legal limit of .3%. Those wanting to experience the entourage effect purchase products formulated with the plant’s full composition.
Broad-spectrum simply means that the THC has been removed from the product formulation. However, the plant’s remaining cannabinoids as well as the terpenes, flavonoids, and other compounds that are found in full-spectrum products are also preserved in broad-spectrum products. Therefore, like full-spectrum, broad-spectrum formulations also encourage the entourage effect. For those looking for THC-free CBD products, broad-spectrum products are the ones to buy.
Isolate formulations extract all compounds from the hemp plant except one cannabinoid, resulting in a product that is wholly (99%) a single, pure cannabinoid. Because all other plant compounds are removed, isolate products do not encourage the entourage effect. Currently, CBD is the most popular isolate; however, any cannabinoid can be formulated into an isolate, such as cannabigerol (CBG), cannabinol (CBN), or cannabichromene (CBC). Different cannabinoids have different benefits, so depending on what you’re looking for, an isolate will contain the maximum benefit of the chosen cannabinoid.
While you’re looking at the label for the type of formulation, make sure to also look for the total number of milligrams and/or milliliters the product contains. This should be easily found on the front of the label written as mg and mL. Then check that the label’s “Servings Per Container” section adds up to the product’s total mg/mL. For example, a product that lists a total of 300mg CBD and has 10 servings should list 30mg per serving. It’s important to check this not only to make sure the math adds up but also so that you know the “per serving” concentration of your product, as products differ, and tinctures, for instance, can include anywhere from 250mg to 3000mg of CBD per bottle. The difference between the two calculates to 30 one milliliter servings of 250mg equaling 8.3mg of CBD per serving compared to 60 one milliliter servings of 3000mg equaling 50mg of CBD per serving.
It’s always important to look at the ingredient panel, but first, you need to understand what you’re looking at. Quality CBD products should list CBD as an ingredient, of course, but it might not be displayed as you expect. For legal purposes and accuracy, the label needs to be specific in how it lists the cannabinoids included in the product whether it’s CBD, CBG, CBN, etc.
For example, full-spectrum products may list CBD as “Cannabidiol from Full-Spectrum Hemp Extract,” and likewise for CBG, “Cannabigerol from Full-Spectrum Hemp Extract.” Broad-spectrum products may list CBD as “Cannabis Sativa L. Broad Spectrum Hemp Extract (Aerial Plant Parts).” It’s important to note that these cannabinoids should be listed as “hemp extract” because hemp extract is made from the plant’s full profile of stem, stalks, leaves and flowers (sometimes referred to as aerial plant parts). But, hemp extract does not contain the plant’s seeds. This is an important distinction when you’re reading labels because the product must list CBD as hemp extract; otherwise, you may just be getting hemp oil (sometimes called hemp seed oil), which is oil made from the seeds of the hemp plant. Hemp oil/hemp seed oil is used as a cooking oil and is beneficial in its own right, but understand that it does not contain any cannabinoids, terpenes, or flavonoids, and will not promote any of the benefits found in hemp extract.
Certificate of Authenticity
A Certificate of Authenticity (COA) makes all the difference in determining high-quality CBD products from others because the COA tells you exactly what is in your product. When checking the product’s COA, you want to make sure it doesn’t contain any impurities, like pesticides and solvents. You’ll also want to check that what the label says on the outside matches the product inside. A company that cuts corners on validating the purity of its product is likely not selling high-quality CBD products. A recent study on CBD products shows that 70% of all CBD products sold online are mislabeled, which poses serious dangers to consumers. That’s why every CBD product you purchase should come with a COA.
Information on how to access the COA should be indicated on the product label. Often it’s listed as a QR code that allows you to view it immediately; other times, it’s accessible on the company website, which is another good resource. Legitimate companies that sell high-quality CBD will make information, FAQs, and certifications available on their website.
Do your homework to find which companies are selling high-quality merchandise. And now that you’re armed with tips on what to look for, the search just got a whole lot easier.