The cannabidiol (CBD) industry is new and exciting. Many believe we are on the doorstep of a widespread, natural solution to a multitude of human conditions and problems using CBD extracts and hemp buds. However, a new and exciting industry comes with its own challenges. Low levels of product regulation (rules and checks enforced by a governing body) have created an opportunity for deceptive suppliers to produce and sell poor quality cbd oil products. This guide shows you how to identify trustworthy suppliers who produce high quality CBD oil.
Why low quality products exist
- New industry & product
- Uneducated buyers
- Bias information sources
- Unregulated products
- Product testing unenforced
- Vulnerable buyers
- Incentive to reduce costs
- Difficult to determine quality cheaply
Finding high quality CBD oils starts with being able to spot legitimate suppliers. Unfortunately, it’s not easy. Deceptive suppliers invest into appearing legitimate; a nice looking website, user reviews, beautiful labels or even a premium price doesn’t mean a company is producing high quality CBD oil. While there are no hard and fast rules for determining legitimacy, here are some factors and potential warning signs you can consider when researching suppliers:
Transparency around who owns and runs a company can be an indication of legitimacy, particularly if owners publish their identity. If only an email is listed, it could be a potential warning sign compared to companies publishing names, physical addresses and phone numbers.
How long they’ve been around
There’s nothing to say that a company who has been around for years is more legitimate than newly established business. However, the longer an illegitimate company has been around, the higher the chance it will be exposed.
Questionable marketing and sales tactics
Some CBD oil suppliers sell their products through multi level marketing or pyramid schemes. This works by companies recruiting sellers on mass who profit from those who they in turn recruit. This kind of operation is a huge red flag when it comes to identifying deceptive suppliers who profit from their selling model rather than a high quality product.
Quality guarantee and returns
Information on product returns and refunds can indicate that suppliers are willing to exercise a degree of customer care and service.
Price comparison of popular CBD brands, breaking down the cost per dose and number of doses in different CBD oil products.
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Hemp seed oil and CBD oil
Hemp oil, or hemp seed oil is not the same as CBD oil from hemp. Hemp oil is made from pressing hemp seeds, while it’s a beneficial food and health product with high nutritional value and many useful applications, it’s not a substitute for, or comparable to CBD oil.
Some illegitimate suppliers take advantage of the confusion between hemp seed oil and CBD oil and pass off the much cheaper to extract hemp seed oil which contains only minuscule amounts of CBD. Some high quality CBD oils are mixed with hemp seed oil, be sure to check the concentration of CBD oil in milligrams (mg) to ensure you’re purchasing the correct product.
Labelling – CBD oil concentrations and additives
One of the most important factors to consider when purchasing CBD oil is how much CBD measured in milligrams (mg) is actually in the product. The number of mg of CBD in the product should be labeled in addition to the total ml of liquid in the product. Avoid suppliers which don’t clearly state how much CBD is in their products.
When comparing different products in terms of price, its essential that you either compare products with the same amount of CBD or alternatively calculate how much each mg of CBD costs (divide the cost of the product by how many mgs of CBD it contains) and compare price per mg of CBD.
Price per mg = Total cost / total mg of CBD
Cannabis crops and growing conditions
High quality CBD oil comes from high quality cannabis crops. Consider the following factors when judging a suppliers crops and growing conditions
Do they grown their own?
Look for CBD oil companies which are involved in the whole production process, from growing the crop, processing the oil to selling the final product. Suppliers which control the whole process have much greater understanding, control and guarantee over the process compared to suppliers who either buy cannabis for processing or buy the oil, brand it and sell it.
Organically grown cannabis
Opt for cannabis grown organically without pesticides or chemical fertilisers. This is important as the cannabis plant is a bioaccumulator, meaning that it accumulates substances such as pesticides or heavy metals in the soil which can in turn end up in the final CBD oil product.
Different types / strains of cannabis plants have different chemical makeups.
It’s possible to extract CBD oil from all different sorts of cannabis, including industrial hemp which has a low concentration of both THC (allowing it to be grown and used legally) and CBD. The lower the CBD concentration, the more cannabis material is required to extract a certain amount of CBD oil, the more cannabis material used, the higher the risk of heavy metal and soil contaminants ending up in the final product, making third party testing even more essential.
Specially grown CBD-rich strain cannabis
Some strains of cannabis are specifically bred to contain high concentrations of CBD for the purpose of extracting CBD oil. While the CBD molecule from different cannabis plants (including industrial hemp) are identical, other cannabinoids and their concentrations differ from strain to strain. Its strongly believed that these other cannabinoids also have therapeutic benefit and increase the effectiveness of CBD when present, this is referred to as the entourage effect, coined by The organic chemist Raphael Mechoulam – who is responsible for discovering how THC interacts with the human body. Also, If a crop has a higher concentration of CBD, less of it is required to extract a fixed amount of CBD oil, this reduces the risk of contamination and reduces the ecological impact of the cannabis plantation.
CBD-rich strains of cannabis are an exciting product of the CBD and medicinal cannabis movement. Hemp buds offer an alternative to CBD oil as a source of CBD that can be smoked, vaped or used to make edibles and ingested.
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An important factor in determining CBD oil quality is the method used to extract if from the plant. The method we recommend looking out for is CO2 extraction which is both the safest and most efficient way to extract CBD. Unlike other methods, it doesn’t damage delicate cannabinoids present and there is no risk of dangerous residual chemicals finding their way into the final product.
The second most common extraction method is using grain alcohol / ethanol, it’s affective but can damage delicate cannabinoids. Be cautious of suppliers who use liquid solvents (like butane, isopropyl or hexane) to extract CBD, while it’s a legitimate method, it can result in impurities in the final product.
CBD isolate versus full spectrum or whole plant CBD oil
CBD isolate is a pure Single-molecule product in isolation from other cannabinoids. While a ‘pure’ product has positive connotation, its not necessarily better than the full spectrum or ‘whole plant’ alternative. As mentioned above, the other cannabinoids when consumed with CBD improve its effectiveness. Scientific studies have found CBD used in isolation from other cannabinoids has a more narrow therapeutic window, this means dosages need to be more precise for effect compared to products which contain a full spectrum of cannabinoids.
Choosing a supplier which have their products tested is highly important to ensure purity, safety and CBD concentration.
Are you getting what you’re paying for?
Concentration test results prove that the product contains the amount of CBD and other cannabinoids which are advertised. A study by the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in 2017 found: “Only 30 percent of CBD products purchased contained an actual CBD content that was within 10% of the amount listed on the product label”.
Is the product safe?
Testing for residual solvents, pesticides and heavy metal contamination ensures you’re buying a safe product. Some test results list the amount of solvent, pesticide and heavy metal residue contamination in parts per million, others just state if the test has passed or not.
Varying degrees of CBD oil testing
The extent of testing and what information is provided varies greatly from supplier to supplier, there is no standard procedure or enforced testing.
- Some suppliers test and publish every batch for contaminants and concentration and print batch numbers on each product sold
- Some test intermittently and publish results on their website
- Many only publish cannabinoid concentrations and don’t test for contamination
- Many companies claim they test their products but only provide test results when requested
- Some companies test their own product rather than using an independent, third party testing company
FDA warning letters for CBD products
The US Food and Drug Association keeps a record of the warning letters it sends to suppliers whose products don’t contain the amount of CBD as they claim. Check these records here before choosing a supplier:
Unlike other products where user reviews can be a telling way to determine quality, we don’t recommend user reviews as a consistent way to judge CBD oil product quality for the following reasons:
- CBD oil affects everybody differently, what product and dose works for one person, may affect another differently
- It’s difficult for consumers to determine quality of CBD oil on face value
- It’s hard to determine legitimacy of reviews, there’s a whole industry based on purchasing fabricated reviews
On the other hand, consistent negative reviews of certain products or suppliers are a warning sign just as large numbers of positive reviews on independent review sites can potentially be an indication that a provider is supplying a high quality CBD product.