With an abundance of CBD shops popping up around the country, you need to know about CBD oil quality and sourcing and vet brands to find the best one for you. How do you know which CBD products are best for your needs? We’ll give you a few things to look out for when choosing your CBD goods.
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.
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Charlotte’s Web CBD Oil
Charlotte’s Web CBD Oil
- Approx. 60mg of CBD per 1-milliliter serving
- Certified organic, USA grown and U.S. Hemp Authority Certified
- Full-spectrum CBD oil is derived from premium hemp extract
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.
How to Choose the Best CBD Product for Your Needs
In the wellness and health industries, cannabidiol (CBD) has been as popular as avocados on Instagram over the past few years.
That popularity has continued to surge, regardless of the fact there simply isn’t as much robust data about CBD and the industry as there is in the food, beverage, or supplement categories, for example.
To meet consumer demand of this ‘green rush’, we’re left with a saturated market that includes varying levels of quality CBD products. So how do you know which CBD products are best for your needs? We’ll give you a few things to look out for when choosing your CBD goods.
Check the label
Even with speedy advancements in CBD regulation in North America, there are still shady companies trying to make a quick buck in the crazed CBD market.
Over the past year alone, studies suggest that up to 60% of CBD products are mislabeled, specifically in their cannabinoid content. These CBD brands aren’t mentioning the levels of THC in their products, or have synthetic cannabinoids that have been known to make some people ill. These are known as ‘white label’ CBD products.
Comparatively, CBD products that are sourced from high-grade hemp facilities, for example, are typically from companies that control every stage of the process – growth, formulation, and production. At Fusion CBD Products, we take pride in the fact we only use the highest-grade industrial hemp sourced from farms in the United States, so we can reassure our consumers what they’re getting is the real deal.
So, you know you can trust the CBD company you’re buying from is understanding how involved they are with the product (just ask!) from hemp growth to product.
What’s the source
Where the hemp is being sourced from in your CBD product matters.
Like we mentioned above, U.S.-grown hemp like we use at Fusion is a-okay. European hemp is also an excellent choice; the UK, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, and Italy all have extensive experience cultivating hemp.
Adding to the credibility of European- and U.S.-based hemp is the fact both continents regulate growers through strict guidelines and standards, so you know what you’re getting is quality.
Another consideration to make is knowing how the hemp was sourced. Extraction methods are different from company to company. Ideally, you’ll want to find hemp that’s been sourced via a CO2 solvent that dissolved CBD molecules. This method pulls higher volumes of cannabinoids from the plant for a higher purity. Plus, this method doesn’t add any other chemicals.
If you’re choosing CBD products with hemp that was extracted in another way, be sure you know the chemical ingredients they used in the process, as they could be harmful to you, or pale in effectiveness compared to purer CBD oils and products.
Do (more) research
You know through years of Google experience that you shouldn’t believe everything you read on the web (well, except for this), and therefore you should be doing your own diligent research.
One common question we always find from our consumers even after doing their research is the difference between full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD, which we can quickly clarify.
Full-spectrum CBD products are made with hemp that contains all the plants’ compounds, not just the CBD alone. So, these products often include terpenes and other naturally-occurring oils, as well as small traces of THC.
Comparatively, broad-spectrum CBD falls between pure CBD and full-spectrum CBD. It’s more or less full-spectrum CBD, minus any traces of THC.
Another thing to be mindful of when choosing the best CBD products for your health needs are the ratios of CBD and THC in the product. High CBD and low THC amounts in a product can be more effective at easing symptoms like anxiety and stress, while products with lower CBD-to-THC ratios can be better for physical pain or chronic diseases.
Generally, you should have no trouble finding sourcing methods, ingredient lists, and other important information regarding a company’s CBD products – if it isn’t easily accessible, that could be a red flag!
Now that you know how to pick the best CBD products for you, check out our online store full of CBD items sourced from the highest industrial-grade hemp in the U.S.!