CBD products have become increasingly popular over the last few years, popping up everywhere from health stores to gas stations. Unlike its sister cannabinoid, THC, the production, sale, and use of CBD is relatively unregulated. Because of this, knowing how to read labels and test results is the best way to arm yourself with as much information as possible. When every product is a little different, you need to know how to determine for yourself whether or not one in particular meets your standards.
Reading CBD Label Information
Unlike nutritional labeling, there is no set standard for labeling CBD products. That means this is left up to the manufacturer. As such, the labels on CBD products can be unreliable, underscoring the need for other methods of analysis until there are mandated improvements to labeling and testing standards. Though CBD product labels aren’t the most reliable, there is some basic information you can find if you look carefully.
While CBD labeling varies across the country and between various companies, there are a few basic CBD labeling standards created by the FDA. CBD product labels should always include the following:
- A statement identifying the type of product
- A net-weight of the entire product
- List of ingredients
- Manufacturer information
Though many CBD product labels include all of this information, the exact data may be unreliable. Some companies selling CBD products use generic labeling for all of their products, performing testing minimally or not at all, relying instead on shoddy estimates and guesses. In these cases, further testing is needed to determine the exact contents of a product. This said, there are some key bits of information you may be able to pull from a basic label.
CBD Milligram Labeling
A milligram is simply one-thousandth of a gram and is used to refer to units of specific ingredients, including CBD. Most CBD products (and THC products) will list the potency of their products in milligrams. Packages should show both the total number of milligrams of CBD present in the product, and the number of milligrams in each serving. For example, a package of CBD edibles might say “100 mg total, 10 mg per piece.” Knowing how many milligrams are present in a serving of a given product will help you to know how potent it is, and therefore how much you should take.
Dosing Serving Size/Servings Per Package
There is no standard CBD dosage or serving size. So determining just how much you should take can require a bit of trial and error. Most CBD product packages will include information regarding the total CBD content of the product, and should also include recommended serving sizes. Exact amounts will vary depending on the manufacturer, so it is important to read the label of every product to ensure you know how much you are taking.
Typically, those new to CBD should take smaller doses, and start in the 5-20 mg range. More experienced CBD users or individuals with complex physical discomfort or chronic pain may be able to start with higher doses, and increase the amount they take over time. Start low, and increase your dosage until you feel comfortable.
A Certificate of Analysis (COA) shows consumers that a given batch of products has been tested for its contents. The batch number on a COA describes which batch of products was tested, and proves that the product met the standards of the COA. Batch numbers also help identify when and where a product was produced.
Companies make CBD products with a variety of ingredients and additives, all of which determine the quality and potency of the product. Depending on the type of product, these ingredients will vary, so be aware of what type of item you are assessing when looking at ingredients to know what you should be looking for.
CBD oils and extracts, for example, will commonly include added carrier oils (like grapeseed or coconut oil). Carrier oils help stabilize cannabinoids, helping them bind to your body. CBD edibles may include additives like pectin or gelatin, flavorings, sweeteners or preservatives. Ingredient labels should also include CBD, so if you don’t spot a mention of this key ingredient, steer clear of the product.
Some ‘fake’ CBD products will show no mention of CBD (aka cannabidiol) or hemp extract, and will instead list “hemp seeds” or “hemp seed oil” as their key active ingredient. Don’t be fooled: these products contain little to no CBD and some are designed specifically to mislead consumers, reports Healthline.
Why Lab Test Results Are So Important
Because CBD products are largely unregulated, it can be hard to trust basic labeling. As a result, consumers have become increasingly reliant on lab testing to give them the answers they need.
Lab testing can reveal what basic labeling doesn’t, like actual potency, proof of CBD content, or information regarding added ingredients.
While you may get a rough idea of what you are taking just from the label of your favorite CBD products, studying their COA can give you further clarity, and possibly help you become better acquainted with your own tolerance for CBD.
Look for brands that have a transparent team and are run by experts in their respective fields. For example, Elevated Wellness has been releasing quality CBD products made by pharmacists that fulfill all of the standards set out above.
What to Look for on Certificate Analysis
When reading a COA, there are several pieces of data that you should look for to determine the quality of the CBD product. Each of these pieces of information can reveal vital information regarding dosage, potency and quality. Consumers can use this information to assess whether they got what they paid for, or purchased a fake CBD product.
CBD products may contain different types of cannabinoids, which the company should list on the product label and ingredient list. Along with CBD, some products may also include THC. A COA will show you how many cannabinoids are present in the product, and can give you a ratio of CBD to THC to help you clearly understand dosing.
The primary types of CBD products fall under two different categories. Full-spectrum CBD products will have CBD plus other cannabinoids, including small traces of THC. Broad spectrum CBD products will also have a range of cannabinoids, minus the THC. It’s important to understand that and the ratio when selecting the right product for you.
CBG, CBN, CBDA, and Other Cannabinoids
In addition to CBD and THC, cannabis contains a variety of other cannabinoids including CBN and CBDA. These occur naturally, and can commonly be found in infused products. But companies do not necessarily need to include them on ingredient lists. A COA will include details regarding the concentration and presence of other cannabinoids, which can also help you to determine overall potency.
Chemical Solvents, Microbes and Pesticides
Like additional cannabinoids, a COA will show you whether a product contains any undesirable ingredients or additives like chemical solvents, microbes, and pesticides. Harmful microbes could cause illness, so the presence of microbes on a COA is a sign that the product you have chosen is not safe.
Pesticides and chemical solvents used in the production process can linger. Many consider them harmful to human health, depending upon the levels of concentration and individual types. The presence of solvents like ethynol are typically safe and do not indicate an issue with the product. This said, not all COAs will include details regarding the specific type of solvent or pesticide detected, so it is always best to proceed with caution if an unknown ingredient is present.