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What To Look For In CBD Oil Sourcing, According To Experts

Dr. Bindiya Gandhi is an integrative medicine physician with expertise in functional and holistic medicine based in Atlanta, Georgia.

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Table of Contents

  • CBD Oil Sourcing: Why It Matters
  • What to Look for When Shopping for CBD Oil
  • How to Find a High-Quality CBD Brand

With so many CBD shops popping up, it’s easy to step into the nearest store and grab whatever product you see first. But CBD, or cannabidiol, is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and quality can vary dramatically between brands and products.

Here’s what you need to know about CBD oil quality and sourcing and vetting CBD brands to find the best one for you.

CBD Oil Sourcing: Why It Matters

“Knowing the source of the hemp used in making a CBD product is important because it gives you insight into [a variety of components],” says Vanessa Niles, M.D., a medical cannabis expert at Heally, a telehealth platform for alternative medicine based in New York. Source information can indicate whether the hemp is sustainably farmed; organic; contains pesticides, heavy metals or other fertilizer chemicals; and has been tested by a third-party laboratory.

“Harmful additives can undermine the quality and safety of CBD oil,” says Dr. Niles. For instance, hemp plants treated with nonorganic chemicals can create a bitter taste. Even worse, you may end up ingesting those chemicals in the final product in harmful amounts, which can result in serious health conditions, such as kidney damage and cancer.

Variability in quality and lack of regulation in the CBD market ultimately affect how consumers feel about the cannabinoid. In fact, 21% of U.S. adults think CBD should still be deemed illegal and 19% remain on the fence with this issue, according to a recent Forbes Health survey of 2,000 U.S. adults conducted by OnePoll.

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What to Look for When Shopping for CBD Oil

Here are a few important factors to look into when buying CBD oil.

A Certificate of Analysis (COA)

A COA detail compounds found in a CBD product. Sometimes, you can easily find a product’s COA on the company’s website. If not, the company may send you a copy if you request one.

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If a company doesn’t have a COA or won’t send you one, consider it a red flag. At best, it indicates a lack of transparency. Worst case scenario, the company isn’t testing the safety or validity of its products, or it received problematic results that it doesn’t want to publish.

According to Steven Phan, founder of Come Back Daily, a CBD dispensary in New York City, trustworthy COAs should feature at least three panels:

  • The cannabinoid analysis, which indicates the weight and concentration of the cannabinoids found in the product.
  • The heavy metals analysis, which indicates the levels of heavy metals like cadmium, lead, arsenic and mercury found in the product. High or extended exposure to heavy metals can result in severe health issues, including kidney damage. Anything more than 0.001 mg/mL of cadmium, 0.003 mg/mL of lead and 0.0001 mg/mL of mercury would be considered problematic.
  • The pesticides analysis, which measures traces of the substances used to protect plants during the farming process. Exposure to pesticides can result in weakened immunity, hormone disruption and liver toxicity. In children, parental exposure to pesticides may also cause cancer and birth defects. There are dozens of pesticide chemicals used in agriculture, but some examples of chemical levels to avoid are 40 parts per million (ppm) of cypermethrin and 7ppm of ethylene oxide.

“The easiest red flag is when companies just have a cannabinoid panel, because they’re choosing to not spend the extra money to be transparent with their customers,” says Phan.

A COA may also include contents like terpenes (organic compounds associated with cannabis aromas), mycotoxins (mold toxins) and residual solvents (organic volatile chemicals).

Third-Party Testing

The use of a third-party laboratory for product testing is another important aspect of a COA and a company’s trustworthiness. Results are more likely to be accurate and unbiased with third-party testing. You may also want to research the third-party lab itself to ensure it’s also a trustworthy and qualified entity.

A Short, U.S.-Grown Ingredient List

Unless you’re buying pure CBD oil (called CBD isolate), you’re likely ingesting other cannabinoids and compounds called terpenes in products labeled “broad spectrum CBD” and “full spectrum CBD,” the latter of which includes small traces of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). When several cannabinoids are present together, they can produce a mutual enhancement called the “entourage effect,” which can increase the product’s overall wellness benefits.

Common cannabinoids—in addition to CBD and THC—include cannabigerol (CBG), cannabichromene (CBC), cannabidivarin (CBDV) and cannabinol (CBN).

Common terpenes include limonene (known for its citrusy, sweet and tart flavor), pinene (known for its piney flavor) and sabinene (known for its woody, citrusy and spicy flavor).

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Generally, CBD oil is mixed with an inert carrier oil. The most popular carrier oil is medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil, which is often found in coconuts. MCT oil is easily digestible and has anti-inflammatory properties that boost its overall wellness benefits. You can also find CBD oil mixed with almond oil, sunflower oil, olive oil or vegetable oil, giving you more options to find what works best for you.

Organic, Non-GMO, Vegan and Gluten-Free

Organic CBD oil is free of synthetic chemicals like certain pesticides. In order to claim a product is organic, a company or part of its operations must be Certified Organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Not all CBD companies provide USDA Certified Organic products, and some may claim select ingredients are organic when a product as a whole isn’t certified. You can see which CBD oil companies are Certified Organic on the USDA website.

Non-GMO CBD oil comes from hemp plants that aren’t genetically altered through external intervention. The non-GMO (genetically modified organism) designation is verified by the Non-GMO Project, a nonprofit organization. Many CBD brands claim to provide non-GMO products without official verification. Ask for more information regarding where their hemp plants come from to be sure.

Vegan CBD oil is easy to find since CBD comes from the hemp plant and animal products aren’t used to extract the oils or create tinctures. It gets tricky, however, when CBD oil is incorporated into products like edibles, which may contain gelatin or dairy.

Gluten-free CBD oil is also common but not guaranteed, as some hemp plants are grown around other crops that contain gluten. Tinctures, capsules and topical products are usually gluten-free while CBD edibles like gummies are more likely to contain gluten. If you have a gluten allergy, check the ingredients list and sourcing information of any CBD product you buy.

Pure, Premium, Powerful CBD

FAB CBD’s products are made from organically grown, lab tested, Colorado hemp. Their range of products include CBD oils, gummies, topical CBD cream, dog treats and more.

Cbd oil made from cannabis for sale

As of 2022, CBD that comes from hemp (a type of cannabis sativa plant) that produces no more than 0.3% THC by dry weight is considered legal at the federal level. State laws vary, so it’s best to confirm any rules and regulations that apply to your area with your local and state legislation.

Is CBD oil safe?

The FDA reports it’s only seen limited data regarding the safety of CBD. Anyone interested in consuming CBD in any form should first consult with their healthcare provider and be aware of potential risks associated with using CBD products, including liver injury, drug interactions and male reproductive toxicity.

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Who should use CBD oil?

A growing body of research suggests CBD oil can benefit people with:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • PTSD
  • Epilepsy syndromes
  • Opioid addiction
  • Neurodegenerative disorders and diseases
  • Unmanageable chronic pain
  • Diabetic complications
  • Arthritis

Talk to your healthcare provider to learn more about whether CBD oil could be beneficial for you.

Can CBD oil impact the results of a drug test?

Standard drug tests don’t screen for CBD because it’s not an intoxicating substance, nor is it an illegal controlled substance. However, some CBD products contain trace amounts of THC, which can affect the results of a drug test.

Sources

Footnotes

  • Battista N, Di Tommaso M, Bari M, Maccarrone M. The endocannabinoid system: an overview. Front Behav Neurosci. 2012;6:9.

References

  • VanDolah HJ, Bauer BA, Mauck KF. Clinicians’ Guide to Cannabidiol and Hemp Oils. Mayo Clin Proc. 2019;94(9):1840-1851.
  • Lu H-C, Mackie K. An introduction to the endogenous cannabinoid system. Biol Psychiatry. 2016;79(7):516–525.
  • Cather JC, Cather JC. Cannabidiol primer for healthcare professionals. Proc (Bayl Univ Med Cent). 2020;33(3):376–379.
  • FDA and Cannabis: Research and Drug Approval Process. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Accessed 8/10/2021.
  • FDA Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products, Including Cannabidiol (CBD). U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Accessed 8/10/2021.
  • What is third party certification?. National Science Foundation. Accessed 8/10/2021.
  • How to read a COA and why it’s so important. ACS Laboratory. Accessed 8/10/2021.
  • What You Need to Know (And What We’re Working to Find Out) About Products Containing Cannabis or Cannabis-derived Compounds, Including CBD. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Accessed 8/10/2021.
  • Can You Take CBD and Pass a Drug Test?. Consumer Reports. Accessed 8/10/2021.

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Alena is a professional writer, editor and manager with a lifelong passion for helping others live well. She is also a registered yoga teacher (RYT-200) and a functional medicine certified health coach. She brings more than a decade of media experience to Forbes Health, with a keen focus on building content strategy, ensuring top content quality and empowering readers to make the best health and wellness decisions for themselves.