As CBD gained popularity in the past few years, a flood of CBD products—of widely varying qualities—has appeared on the market. So when you pick a box off a shelf, or add a bottle to your online cart, how do you know the product you’re buying is authentic, safe and reliable?
In fact, how do you know it’s even real CBD?
There are many credible CBD products (let’s call them “real CBD products”) that you can trust to lend a sense of calm, and even help with wellness concerns such as muscle relief, restless sleep, and everyday stress. These products are up-front in their marketing, traceable to their sources, properly labelled, and backed by an objective certificate of analysis (COA).
However, there are other products (let’s call them “fake CBD”) that are not reliably sourced or responsibly manufactured, don’t contain the active ingredients found in real CBD products, and can’t be trusted to provide consistent results (or any results, really).
How do you tell the difference? Unsurprisingly, it starts with the label.
It’s important to note that, as of this writing, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not formally approved any non-prescription CBD products. As a result, there are currently no standards for the labelling of these products, so it’s up to you to determine the quality of your CBD purchases.
A close look at the label will help. Check for:
This may seem obvious, but real CBD products contain CBD, and their labels will clearly indicate the amount of CBD they offer per serving (for example, 10 mg, 50 mg, 100 mg) and the total amount of CBD per container. (This will help you find your ideal intake of CBD.)
Fake CBD products are often made from hemp (the plant from which CBD is derived), but will contain little to no actual CBD or benefits. They may also be marketed in a way that’s misleading, confusing, or tries to equate hemp with CBD.
You should be able to easily the site on the label. There, you can check for deeper information on the product, read user reviews and testimonials, and get a feel for the manufacturer, their commitment to quality and transparency, and their general level of trustworthiness.
All reputable CBD products will have a COA that has been issued by a neutral third party. Check the product label for a QR code links to the COA or look for it on the manufacturer’s website.
If you can’t find a COA in either place, consider it a warning sign.
A COA is an unbiased and verifiable report issued by a third-party laboratory. It contains a lot of specific information, but ultimately, it answers two simple questions:
The COA provides a detailed analytical summary of what’s in the product, and in what amounts. This includes naturally occurring cannabinoids (most commonly CBD and THC), as well as unwanted compounds such as pesticides, solvents, and heavy metals.
Make sure that the CBD and THC content listed in the COA matches that on the product label; be wary of any inconsistencies between the COA and the label.
Together with the quantity of each compound in the product, the COA will show the compound’s legal limit, making for a simple side-by-side comparison. Keep in mind that the THC content of legal CBD products cannot exceed the federal limit of 0.3%.
The COA will also include the name and address of the laboratory that performed the analysis, along with the product’s name, its lot (or batch) number, and its expiration date. In addition, some COAs provide information regarding the product’s appearance and texture, so you can confirm that it looks as it should.
CBD comes in many forms these days. You’ll find CBD vapes, oil, gummies and other edibles, drinks, tinctures, topical creams and lotions, capsules and softgels—even CBD for pets. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the options.
Beyond reading the label and checking the COA, here are a few other tips to help you find the right, real CBD product:
You may also want to look for products that are vegan, cruelty-free, or non-GMO.
Finally, you can always reach out to a company’s customer support team if you have additional questions; any reputable brand should be happy to provide the information you need to make your decision.