Since the Farm Bill legalized industrial hemp in 2018, CBD (cannabidiol) oil has become tremendously popular throughout the U.S. It isn't surprising so many people want a piece of the pie. On the one hand, this is a good thing. It means consumers have more choices and reputable brands have even more incentive to step up their game and produce products that stand out from competitors.
But on the other hand, it's not so great. Some manufacturers who care more for profits than people are unscrupulous and peddle snake oil or very low-quality products. This just means it pays to be informed. Here are a few guidelines to follow to make sure you're getting your money's worth.
Guide to Getting High-Quality CBD
CBD oil can contain one of three types of bases: full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and CBD isolate.
Full-spectrum CBD oil contains all of the available cannabinoids, flavonoids, terpenes, and other compounds available in the hemp plant. This can include THC. However, if the oil comes from the hemp plant (instead of marijuana) the THC content will be 0.3% or less. CBD does not need THC to work. But in some cases, the two perform better as a team.
Broad-spectrum CBD contains all of the naturally-occurring compounds in the hemp plant except for THC. Broad-spectrum and full-spectrum CBD oils are generally preferred to isolates because of a phenomenon known as the entourage effect. Essentially, CBD works better when surrounded by its squad, i.e., all of the other beneficial compounds found in hemp.
Isolates, on the other hand, contain single-molecule CBD content. This means CBD is flying solo, isolated from all of the other compounds. Because isolates contain no THC, you'll find this type of product in states where marijuana cultivation and sale is illegal.
Because CBD, like other health supplements, is not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, manufacturers can extract CBD oil by whatever means they please. Some companies, typically those that sell their products at ridiculously low prices, use cheap ingredients and unsavory extraction methods involving toxic solvents like propane, hexane, pentane, and butane.
High-quality CBD oils are extracted with safe solvents, such as pharmaceutical-grade ethanol (grain alcohol) which removes toxins and residues. In addition to a lack of residual contaminants, ethanol extraction is also best at retaining cannabinoids.
Another safe extraction method uses supercritical CO2, which involves putting carbon dioxide under high pressure in freezing temperatures. Like ethanol, CO2 extraction preserves the oil's purity and does not produce any harmful chemical traces.
Lipid extraction is another safe, though far less common, method.
Where the Hemp Comes From
Hemp is a "hyperaccumulator." Hyperaccumulators are a bit like the natural world's hoarders, collecting everything from the soil in which they grow. When they absorb nutrients like vitamins and minerals, that's a good thing. But if they're absorbing lead, petroleum, and other toxic elements, it's not so much.
The safest and best CBD oils come from areas (like the U.S.) where soil quality is regulated. This means the government requires farmers to test their soil for toxins frequently. Reputable CBD companies send their oil to an ISO/IEC 17025:2017 accredited lab for third-party testing to ensure it does not contain pesticides, bacteria, heavy metals, fungus, or other contaminants.
CBD oil is sometimes referred to as hemp oil or hemp extract. This is most common in places where marijuana is illegal as it sidesteps the association of CBD with THC and marijuana. However, hemp oil can also refer to hemp seed oil, which contains no CBD. If a product's ingredients only include hemp seeds, hempseed oil, or Cannabis sativa seed oil, it does not contain CBD.
Also, make sure you are not allergic to any of the ingredients. Oils are usually mixed with a carrier oil, such as olive, coconut, or hemp seed oil to balance potency and enhance absorption in the body. Products may also contain additives, such as sweeteners and flavors, as well as terpenes.
Certificate of Analysis
All reputable CBD brands should provide a certificate of analysis (COA) as well. This document indicates a third-party lab tested the oil to verify its contents and quality. The lab will ensure the CBD oil is what it says it is, with a high level of CBD and no harmful impurities. Some brands' COAs simply show the CBD content and other cannabinoids. But others detail the levels of terpenes and confirm a lack of harmful chemicals, pesticides, and fungus. Most companies display the COA in their shop or on their website. But if they don't, just ask. A trustworthy company should be happy to share it. If they're reluctant or refuse, consider shopping elsewhere.
If you're ready to start shopping, check out Bespoke Extracts' line of high-quality, third-party tested, vegan and plant-based CBD products, including full-spectrum and isolates made from U.S.A. hemp.