It’s a jungle out there! As millions of people discover the many benefits of CBD, new companies are popping up and flooding the market with products. Some contain synthetic cannabinoids from China, some are made in dirty garages and apartment kitchens, and others are exactingly manufactured by Ph.D. chemists in certified pharmaceutical-grade facilities. So how do you tell which CBD products are gems and which ones might be junk?
Here are 8 “promising signs” I look for when I deciding on purchasing a new CBD product:
#1. Traceable: 3rd Party Lab Test Results for Each Batch
If you buy a bag of CBD gummy bears at a gas station or a bottle of CBD e-liquid at a vape shop – usually you have no idea what’s in it. To solve this problem the state of Indiana passed a law requiring all CBD products to be traceable with a scannable QR code on the packaging. You can scan each bottle with your smart phone and see lab results.
You should insist on seeing a reputable, contactable 3rd party lab (like ProVerde) test that shows the amount of cannabinoids, solvents, metals and pesticides for that specific bottle or most recent batch. Flagship companies like Bluebird Botanicals and CW Hemp do this. A lab test for a slightly different product, or from last year, won’t cut it. If a company doesn’t publish recent labs it suggests to me they are a small operation that doesn’t have the cashflow to run tests, they don’t care nor do they cater to discerning clientele, or perhaps they are not proud or exactly sure of what is in their own product.
#2. Precise: Exact & Effortless Dosing
Some of the best products say exactly how much CBD is in each unit, and each unit can be easily measured with no additional tools required, e.g. “One capsule contains 5mg of CBD.” But a lot of times it will say something like “50mg of hemp extract per mL” and it doesn’t say how much CBD is in the 50mg of hemp extract, or how much is 1 mL. They sometimes hide the CBD content on purpose a because, at the time of this writing, CBD is still illegal under federal law. But the best products are precisely measurable: they have graded measuring droppers or at least information about how much CBD per mL, scored bars of chocolate with the dose per square clearly written on the packaging, or tablets with the dose stamped on them. No one should be guessing how much CBD they’re taking!
#3. Organic: Made With Non-Toxic Hemp, Solvents & Carrier Oils
The hemp plant is renowned for pulling whatever is into soil up into the foliage – and this includes heavy metals and toxins. If they grew the hemp on a old shooting range and made a tincture, it could be loaded full of lead! The USDA does not certify hemp as organic but some of the better farms will promise their plants are pesticide-free and provide information about where they are grown. CBD oil is usually a mixture of cannabis oil and a carrier oil – so it’s assuring if USDA-certified organic carrier oil is used, rather than an industrial oil of unknown purity. Look for hemp oil extracted with ethanol or CO2 for the least residual solvent toxicity. Rosin (solvent-less extract) tinctures made with organic carrier oils are one example of a product that appears to be crafted with non-toxicity in mind.
#4. Pure & Standardized: 3rd Party Certified Manufacturing Facility
Current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP) is a code published by the FDA for manufacturing clean, pure pharmaceuticals. Top-tier vitamin supplement labels like NOW and Jarrow follow this, as do a very small number of hemp extract companies. A “cGMP Certified” facility has been inspected by a 3rd party to be clean as a whistle, safe, and everything is measured and done with scientific precision rather than guessing. An example of CBD companies claiming CGMP certification are Quicksilver Scientific, located near Boulder, Colorado or Endoca in the EU.
#5. Effective: High-Absorption Technology
Only about 6% of the CBD of a standard tincture is bioavailable. A new class of liposomal nanoemulsified CBD products has immediate onset and 6-times-higher absorption rates. I find it’s extremely soothing and potent. Look for Nano-CBD or other terms used to describe similar high-absoption technologies like: liposomal, micoremulsions, micellized, or water compatible (“water soluble”) CBD. Companies like Joy Organics and THR Technologies claim to have high absorption products. Just because a product isn’t “state of the art” doesn’t mean it’s bad. Traditional CBD oil tinctures work slower but meet some people’s budgets and wellness needs just fine!
#6. Safe: Disclosed THC Levels
For millions of people subjected to random drug testing or living in places where cannabis is still illegal, knowing exactly how much THC a product contains is a matter of survival. A struggling job seeker or DOT drug tested truck driver must know exactly how much THC is in a product before taking it. CBD extracts that come from cannabis all contains some small fraction of a percent THC – even if it’s just a few parts per million (PPM). A lot of unscrupulous brands say their full-spectrum CBD oil is “THC Free” when its actually close to 0.3% – which is not insignificant. High-CBD flowers look and smell exactly like ganja and getting an ounce of buds in the mail could get you arrested in the wrong state – so testing and written evidence in the package that it’s not “recreational drugs” is crucial. The best companies disclose product-specific THC test results on every product page, on the product labeling, and they include the test results when mailing them across state lines.
#7. Legal: Strictly Conforms to Federal & Local Regulations
If you live in an illegal state, the most “ultra legal” non-prescription CBD supplement would be to use a non-cannabis-derived CBD product such as CBD oil made from the humulus plant. Another semi-law-abiding option would be to look for CBD products sourced from 2014 Farm Bill-approved agricultural pilot programs.
Some very high quality CBD products are made from high-quality indoor cannabis plants that have above federally legal levels of THC. Those are fine if you live in Colorado or Alaska. But shipping these marijuana-derived products to illegal states is a grey area within a grey area. The more scrupulously a company sources their hemp & tests their hemp and makes effort to comply with the law, the better, in my opinion.
#8. Reputation: Reviews and Feedback
How many reviews are there on the web for this particular product or company? Are there private blogs and YouTube videos reviewing it? A lot of CBD e-commerce sites get hundreds of reviews because they ask customers for them directly. These “on site” reviews are also pretty easy to fake but if you can find an abundance of reviews across different sites, blogs or forums… especially blogs that are recognizable or appear reputable, this is harder to fake and better evidence of quality. Some examples of companies that I perceive as having a widespread, good reputation are: Dutch Natural Healing, Nuleaf Naturals, and Lazarus Naturals.
Sometimes very good quality, brand new products are released and they have no reviews yet. Should you give them a chance? Maybe!
Post on a popular hemp CBD forum and ask for user feedback on a product before taking the plunge. Ask the owners of hemp shops or vitamin stores. Call the hemp company themselves and ask for free samples. Hemp is an extremely competitive industry and many companies in the space are cool and friendly if you approach them!
The More Signals of Quality, the Better
Don’t expect perfection. I don’t know of a single product or company that perfectly matches 8 out of 8 of the criteria on my list. There are some great products that don’t match several of these criteria. But as the number of hemp companies increases, so does the level of customer sophistication and discernment, and companies will be forced to try harder to prove themselves to buyers. The more of these quality signals a product can credibly claim, the more confident you should feel about taking a chance on trying it out.