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A Buyer’s Guide to Quality CBD Products

A Buyer’s Guide to Quality CBD Products

How can you be certain that you’re buying quality CBD from a reputable company? It’s a valid question that needs some unpacking on a number of levels. For instance, are tinctures and elixirs the same thing? What’s the difference between full-spectrum and broad-spectrum hemp? How important is a Certificate of Analysis? And what is CBD versus hemp, really? Read on for information that will help you navigate the wide world of CBD and make you a confident consumer.

What is CBD?

The abbreviation CBD stands for cannabidiol. It is one of 113+ phytocannabinoids found in the hemp plant Cannabis sativa L., a cultivar of Cannabis sativa, the plant also known as marijuana. CBD is abundant in the hemp plant but is present in much smaller amounts in the marijuana plant. Conversely, the hemp plant contains only trace amounts of THC, and legally must be <.3% THC (dry weight) at harvest to be considered a hemp plant and legally allowed to be formulated into CBD products. When ingested, these phytocannabinoids interact with cannabinoid receptors found in the endocannabinoid system, which is responsible for maintaining homeostasis in humans and animals.

Is it important to know where CBD is grown?

Yes. You want to be sure that the hemp used to make the CBD you buy is 100% U.S. industrial hemp. That means it is grown legally under U.S. regulations that are in compliance with the 2018 Farm Bill that removed hemp from its association with marijuana as a Schedule I Controlled Substance. But it’s not enough to know where the hemp is derived; it’s also important to know the conditions it’s grown under. Reputable CBD sellers will be forthcoming in offering this information, assuring that the hemp plants it uses are non-GMO, U.S. tested, organically-grown where applicable, and come with a Certificate of Analysis. CBD shops should place information on their website about where their hemp is grown and/or manufactured.

Which CBD formulation should I choose?

This depends on what you do and don’t want in a product and is also an important decision in terms of potency and effect. CBD products can be formulated in several different ways. Reputable CBD sellers will identify each product type as being either full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, or isolate. 

Isolate CBD

The only compound included in this product is CBD. That is, there are no other cannabinoids or plant compounds present in the finished product. People who want just the effects of CBD, get a product that is isolated or distilled to just that element. People choose isolate products when they want to be certain the product contains no THC and if they prefer to receive only CBD benefits and none of the plant’s other compounds.

Broad-spectrum CBD

This product also has the THC remediated from the finished product; however, unlike isolate, the rest of the cannabinoids, terpenes, and other natural compounds present in the hemp plant remain. People choose broad-spectrum products when they don’t want any THC in their products, but they do want to feel the synergistic effects of the plant’s other compounds. This is known as the entourage effect (see below). 

Full-spectrum CBD

This product contains the hemp plant’s entire profile of compounds, including no more than the legal amount of THC = <.3% (dry weight), which is not enough to produce a “high.” Full-spectrum products are purchased by people who don’t mind the presence of a small amount of THC in their products and who also want to maximize the entourage effect.

The entourage effect

While not a CBD formulation, the entourage effect is something that accompanies full-spectrum and broad-spectrum products. It is theorized that the entourage effect is the result of the symbiotic relationship between the many naturally occurring compounds in the hemp plant that increases hemp’s overall benefits.

What’s the difference between CBD products?

CBD products range from edibles to creams to canned flower, and more. Besides the obvious difference between type, texture, and taste, the biggest difference between products is their bioavailability. That is, the degree and rate at which CBD is absorbed by the body and distributed into the bloodstream. Explained here are a few of the more popular CBD products.

Tinctures

These products are oil-based and usually come in a dropper bottle, so they’re easy to dispense.  Intended to be administered under the tongue, they are absorbed quickly by the soft tissues of the mouth, making their bioavailability very good. That is, the effects are felt almost immediately. However, adding them to drinks can be problematic, as most drinks are water-based and tinctures are oily. Because oil and water don’t mix, the oil ends up floating on top of the beverage.

Elixirs

These products are very versatile because they’re water-soluble. Unlike tinctures, elixirs mix well into drinks without any liquid/oil separation. Because elixirs are immediately swallowed and must go through the digestive system before they get to the bloodstream, their effects take longer to be felt.  

Gummies

A very popular CBD product, these little tasty chews also go through the digestive tract before entering the bloodstream. So like elixirs, it takes a little longer for them to take effect, but once they do, the benefits can be felt for hours.

Creams and lotions

Available in balms, creams, and lotions, these products are applied directly to the skin where the benefits will be felt locally. CBD creams don’t enter the bloodstream as edible CBD products do. Instead, the skin’s pores absorb the CBD where it meets with CBD receptors that interact with the endocannabinoid system.

Canned flower

This product is the pure hemp plant flower. Usually smoked or vaped, the flower has very high bioavailability because it is absorbed through the thin membranes that line the lungs’ alveoli and is able to enter into the bloodstream very quickly.

Why is potency important?

Not all CBD products are created equal. That is, some will have more CBD in them than others, and it’s important to check the product’s potency before you buy it. The total amount of CBD contained in the product as well as a breakdown of how much CBD is in each serving should be clearly displayed on the packaging. CBD servings are usually measured in milligrams (mg), and the amount of CBD an individual should consume depends on weight, tolerance, metabolism, product type, and product potency. It’s recommended that those just beginning start with lower doses and potencies to understand how doses affects them. From there, doses can be stabilized or increased, depending on these individualized factors.

What is a Certificate of Analysis?

The only way to truly know what your product contains is by obtaining a certificate of analysis (COA), and it is best to check first that the seller offers a COA before you make your purchase. That way, you know from the get-go whether you’re dealing with a reputable CBD shop that places importance on the quality and transparency of their products. The COA document should list what is in the product, such as CBD, THC (if full-spectrum, and then <.3% dry weight), and other cannabinoids present in the batch. However, a credible seller will also tell you what shouldn’t be in the product, like pesticides, heavy metals, or solvents. 

The COA proves that the product you purchase contains what the seller claims it does. To ensure accurate and honest results on the COA, make sure the products are tested by a third-party lab, rather than the seller’s manufacturer. Some CBD sellers will place the batch’s COA right on the website, so you can check it out before you buy the product.

What about other ingredients?

It’s always a good idea to check the product’s ingredients to make sure none of them will cause an allergic reaction. You’ll also want to check that the product is made from pure, all-natural, and organic ingredients. If you see ingredients you’re unsure of, look them up to see what they do. Some ingredients with unfamiliar names may look suspicious but are actually necessary to the consistency of the product, e.g. like glycerin and lecithin, which are derived from plant oils or animal fats and are included as moisturizers and emulsifiers.

Final Thoughts

Definitely stay away from companies whose product labels are vague or misleading and whose products don’t offer a Certificate of Analysis. Remember that the more forthright and transparent a company is about their products, the more likely they’re legit sellers of quality CBD. All G provides a QR code right on the package for transparency. You can check the Certificate of Analysis for the batch and use our proprietary TRAYC app to see your products journey from seed to shelf.