What to look for when buying CBD oil
Cannabidiol (CBD) was still an illegal substance until the 2018 Farm Bill made industrial hemp, and therefore, hemp-derived CBD, legal for production across the country. Salons, spas, online retailers, health stores, and even major pharmacies are filling their shelves with an ever-growing variety of CBD-infused products.
The CBD market is growing rapidly and doesn’t seem to show any sign of stopping. Unfortunately, until regulations for testing and labeling are in place, the CBD market is still “buyer beware” and there are no regulations in place for safety, purity, or optimal dosage.
It is possible to find trustworthy CBD products, especially when the necessary precautions are taken. Here’s a quick beginner’s guide to buying CBD oil including terms to know, cost, and how to read a CBD oil label.
What is CBD oil?
The term “CBD oil” is used to describe several formulas and products that are either concentrated or infused with CBD, a non-intoxicating cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. Most commonly, quality CBD oil will refer to oil containing pure CBD and no other cannabis compounds. CBD hemp oil is extracted from hemp, which is legally defined as containing less than 0.3% THC. Full-spectrum or whole-plant CBD oil includes more than CBD, such as cannabis-derived terpenes as well as trace amounts of THC and other cannabinoids. Broad-spectrum contains a similar spectrum of cannabinoids but without any THC. CBD oil and other CBD products may contain trace amounts of THC, but it’s highly unlikely to produce an intoxicating effect or show up on a drug test.
Most commonly, CBD oil will refer to oil containing pure CBD and no other cannabis compounds. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Is CBD oil legal?
While the 2018 Farm Bill (or Agriculture Improvement Act) removed hemp-derived CBD from the list of illegal drugs, it also left the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in charge of oversight. The agency has been clear that CBD-infused products are not approved for sale or use in humans or animals, but that hasn’t stopped some states from creating their own laws.
Consult your state’s local cannabis laws and regulations to find out if CBD products are considered legal to buy in your state.
How much does CBD oil cost?
CBD oils are popular and therefore not cheap in the current market. A 1-ounce, or 30-milliliter, bottle of CBD oil can cost between $30 and $200. While it’s difficult to say what’s a fair price for CBD, a lab-tested product typically costs $50 to $60 per 1,000 milligrams.
What to know about CBD oil labeling
Until federal agencies determine final and enforceable regulations, the potential for mislabeled and poor-quality products is high. Knowing what to watch out for on a CBD oil label can improve the odds of finding a high-quality CBD oil and other related products.
CBD oil labels should not make any medical claims. The FDA monitors and regulates claims of medical efficacy related to any unapproved substance. The agency has sent warning letters to several companies that sold CBD products with labels claiming the contents could prevent, treat, and cure serious diseases. Yet plenty of companies voluntarily follow FDA standards and prohibit unverified claims on their labels. Words such as “cure,” “prevent,” “reduce,” and “treat” can be red flags that a seller isn’t operating with integrity.
Some CBD oil labels are fraught with marketing terms and buzzwords that appear to signify medicinal value. Terms such as “organic,” “all-natural,” and even “pure” have no scientific meaning, and shouldn’t be considered a sign of a trustworthy CBD oil. Products claiming to contain hemp or hemp seed oil aren’t the same as hemp-derived CBD oil, and won’t necessarily contain any CBD. Cannabis-derived CBD oil is produced from cannabis plants that contain THC above 0.3%.
To meet federal legal criteria, CBD oil must contain no more than 0.3 percent THC. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Key indicators of quality CBD oil
Most reputable CBD oils include the following information on their labels:
- Amount of CBD as an active ingredient per serving
- Supplement Fact Panel, including other ingredients
- Net weight
- Manufacturer or distributor name
- Suggested use , broad-spectrum, or isolate
- Batch or date code
The information contained in this article is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prevent any illness. Please consult with your physician and discuss any prescription medications you are taking before using CBD products.
Best CBD oils to buy
There are a few helpful hints to know if you want to buy CBD oil or other CBD products. If an isolate is 99.9% CBD or more, it’s highly unlikely that it will have trace amounts of THC. Purity ranges of 99.5% or lower may still have trace levels of THC. Avoiding trace amounts of THC may be important due to personal preference, or as a precaution against failing a drug test. If using CBD to treat inflammation, it may be helpful to note that a 2015 study showed that CBD oil with low THC may be more effective in treating inflammation than a CBD isolate.
What To Look For In CBD Oil Sourcing, According To Experts
Dr. Bindiya Gandhi is an integrative medicine physician with expertise in functional and holistic medicine based in Atlanta, Georgia.
Commissions we earn from partner links on this page do not affect our opinions or evaluations. Our editorial content is based on thorough research and guidance from the Forbes Health Advisory Board.
Table of Contents
- CBD Oil Sourcing: Why It Matters
- What to Look for When Shopping for CBD Oil
- How to Find a High-Quality CBD Brand
With so many CBD shops popping up, it’s easy to step into the nearest store and grab whatever product you see first. But CBD, or cannabidiol, is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and quality can vary dramatically between brands and products.
Here’s what you need to know about CBD oil quality and sourcing and vetting CBD brands to find the best one for you.
CBD Oil Sourcing: Why It Matters
“Knowing the source of the hemp used in making a CBD product is important because it gives you insight into [a variety of components],” says Vanessa Niles, M.D., a medical cannabis expert at Heally, a telehealth platform for alternative medicine based in New York. Source information can indicate whether the hemp is sustainably farmed; organic; contains pesticides, heavy metals or other fertilizer chemicals; and has been tested by a third-party laboratory.
“Harmful additives can undermine the quality and safety of CBD oil,” says Dr. Niles. For instance, hemp plants treated with nonorganic chemicals can create a bitter taste. Even worse, you may end up ingesting those chemicals in the final product in harmful amounts, which can result in serious health conditions, such as kidney damage and cancer.
Variability in quality and lack of regulation in the CBD market ultimately affect how consumers feel about the cannabinoid. In fact, 21% of U.S. adults think CBD should still be deemed illegal and 19% remain on the fence with this issue, according to a recent Forbes Health survey of 2,000 U.S. adults conducted by OnePoll.
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What to Look for When Shopping for CBD Oil
Here are a few important factors to look into when buying CBD oil.
A Certificate of Analysis (COA)
A COA detail compounds found in a CBD product. Sometimes, you can easily find a product’s COA on the company’s website. If not, the company may send you a copy if you request one.
If a company doesn’t have a COA or won’t send you one, consider it a red flag. At best, it indicates a lack of transparency. Worst case scenario, the company isn’t testing the safety or validity of its products, or it received problematic results that it doesn’t want to publish.
According to Steven Phan, founder of Come Back Daily, a CBD dispensary in New York City, trustworthy COAs should feature at least three panels:
- The cannabinoid analysis, which indicates the weight and concentration of the cannabinoids found in the product.
- The heavy metals analysis, which indicates the levels of heavy metals like cadmium, lead, arsenic and mercury found in the product. High or extended exposure to heavy metals can result in severe health issues, including kidney damage. Anything more than 0.001 mg/mL of cadmium, 0.003 mg/mL of lead and 0.0001 mg/mL of mercury would be considered problematic.
- The pesticides analysis, which measures traces of the substances used to protect plants during the farming process. Exposure to pesticides can result in weakened immunity, hormone disruption and liver toxicity. In children, parental exposure to pesticides may also cause cancer and birth defects. There are dozens of pesticide chemicals used in agriculture, but some examples of chemical levels to avoid are 40 parts per million (ppm) of cypermethrin and 7ppm of ethylene oxide.
“The easiest red flag is when companies just have a cannabinoid panel, because they’re choosing to not spend the extra money to be transparent with their customers,” says Phan.
A COA may also include contents like terpenes (organic compounds associated with cannabis aromas), mycotoxins (mold toxins) and residual solvents (organic volatile chemicals).
The use of a third-party laboratory for product testing is another important aspect of a COA and a company’s trustworthiness. Results are more likely to be accurate and unbiased with third-party testing. You may also want to research the third-party lab itself to ensure it’s also a trustworthy and qualified entity.
A Short, U.S.-Grown Ingredient List
Unless you’re buying pure CBD oil (called CBD isolate), you’re likely ingesting other cannabinoids and compounds called terpenes in products labeled “broad spectrum CBD” and “full spectrum CBD,” the latter of which includes small traces of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). When several cannabinoids are present together, they can produce a mutual enhancement called the “entourage effect,” which can increase the product’s overall wellness benefits.
Common cannabinoids—in addition to CBD and THC—include cannabigerol (CBG), cannabichromene (CBC), cannabidivarin (CBDV) and cannabinol (CBN).
Common terpenes include limonene (known for its citrusy, sweet and tart flavor), pinene (known for its piney flavor) and sabinene (known for its woody, citrusy and spicy flavor).
Generally, CBD oil is mixed with an inert carrier oil. The most popular carrier oil is medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil, which is often found in coconuts. MCT oil is easily digestible and has anti-inflammatory properties that boost its overall wellness benefits. You can also find CBD oil mixed with almond oil, sunflower oil, olive oil or vegetable oil, giving you more options to find what works best for you.
Organic, Non-GMO, Vegan and Gluten-Free
Organic CBD oil is free of synthetic chemicals like certain pesticides. In order to claim a product is organic, a company or part of its operations must be Certified Organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Not all CBD companies provide USDA Certified Organic products, and some may claim select ingredients are organic when a product as a whole isn’t certified. You can see which CBD oil companies are Certified Organic on the USDA website.
Non-GMO CBD oil comes from hemp plants that aren’t genetically altered through external intervention. The non-GMO (genetically modified organism) designation is verified by the Non-GMO Project, a nonprofit organization. Many CBD brands claim to provide non-GMO products without official verification. Ask for more information regarding where their hemp plants come from to be sure.
Vegan CBD oil is easy to find since CBD comes from the hemp plant and animal products aren’t used to extract the oils or create tinctures. It gets tricky, however, when CBD oil is incorporated into products like edibles, which may contain gelatin or dairy.
Gluten-free CBD oil is also common but not guaranteed, as some hemp plants are grown around other crops that contain gluten. Tinctures, capsules and topical products are usually gluten-free while CBD edibles like gummies are more likely to contain gluten. If you have a gluten allergy, check the ingredients list and sourcing information of any CBD product you buy.
Natural Flavor CBD
FAB CBD’s products are made from organically grown, lab tested, Colorado hemp. Their range of products include CBD oils, gummies, topical CBD cream, a vape pen and more.