Specific hemp cultivars are harvested seasonally and put through an extraction process (and sometimes more than one type of extraction) to yield CBD for use in oils and other products. These CBD extractions should be tested for quality, safety, and cannabinoid content, and if they are imported they should be checked again for damage and degradation. CBD comes in many forms and in a wide range of potencies. Because the industry is as yet unregulated, and the legal saga around cannabis/marijuana/hemp continues, we cannot stress enough that you need to know what’s in your CBD oil. Do your research. Complaints and warnings have been issued recently against companies that have made false claims as to the potency and CBD content of their products. As the law changes, so, too, will CBD testing and regulation, but right now, customers who don’t do their due diligence can fast become victims. Here are some ideas about what to look for.
The most important thing when buying CBD is making sure that you’re getting the highest-quality, most effective, safest CBD product you can buy. Some products might be more expensive than others, but a few extra dollars is generally worth it when it comes to your health. You might spend a few dollars less on an inferior product, but that would be a waste if it doesn’t do what you want it to do! Even though CBD is a relatively new health phenomenon, there are indeed reputable and established brands to buy from. Unfortunately, there are also those lacking transparency and seeking to cash in on the CBD phenomenon. Carlos Frias of the Texas Wellness Center, who has been involved in the cannabis industry for 15+ years, says: “Barely in its infancy, the CBD medical market is still largely unregulated; quality control is meager at best, and consumers are largely unaware [of] what to look for when shopping.” Look for companies with a reliable track record. Look for clear, comprehensive labeling. Good companies usually publish lab test results on their websites and include them in their marketing materials. Ask questions if you’re not sure about a product.
Review our piece on how CBD oil is made to become familiar with the most common methods of extraction. Some companies use cheap methods employing toxic solvents to pull CBD from the cannabis plant. Watch out for hydrocarbons such as hexane and butane, as these can leave behind toxic residues and compromise CBD’s effects. Beware of companies touting claims that hydrocarbon methods are most true to the plants—this is simply not the case. As medicinal plant expert “Medicine Hunter” Chris Kilham states, “Inhalation of butane residue can cause cardiac and respiratory problems.”
Some say that extraction with organic, pharmaceutical-grade ethanol is optimal, while others argue that the alcohol destroys the plant waxes, thereby creating a less potent CBD product. The industry seems to agree that CO2 extraction, though more costly, ensures high quality, along with a cleaner-tasting oil. The oil method is also favorable, though it tends to lead to a less potent and more fragile (perishable) product.
There’s a lot of conflict over whether or not all CBD is the same, and whether or not CBD from hemp varieties of cannabis is as good as CBD derived from marijuana types. The not-so-simple answer is that the quality of CBD depends on its source, and that good-quality CBD can indeed be derived from hemp plants, especially if they are CBD-rich strains grown in the right conditions.
An important factor here is the fact that cannabis is known as a “hyperaccumulator”—it absorbs soil contaminants as it grows. This has actually been of great benefit in that growing hemp is a cost-effective, completely natural approach to purifying soil of toxic heavy metals and organic pollutants (this practice is known as phytoremediation). But this also presents a challenge for CBD consumers: Hemp grown in pollutant-laden soil is going to absorb those toxins and, yes, will likely lead to an inferior CBD product in the end. Look for companies that grow organic hemp in food-grade conditions. The reputable manufacturers tend to have lab results available for review as well. Some European hemp is well regulated and respected as a source of cannabinoids. But even more interesting is the hemp that is being cultivated in the United States under the 2014 Farm Bill. These strains are “legally” bound to universities and state departments of agriculture, so they are closely monitored. Colorado’s CBD-rich hemp cultivars are a good source, for example.
Even with a potent, high-quality CBD product, the amount that actually enters the body and interacts with your endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a bit murky. Research still needs to be done on this issue, as the study of CBD and cannabinoids is still relatively new. But CBD, like other supplements and medicines, is subject to degradation when it enters the body, and is especially subject to what’s called the first-pass effect, whereby the concentration of a drug is reduced before it reaches systemic circulation. This most often happens as CBD is processed in the liver. Generally speaking, the least amount of degradation/greatest bioavailability will occur when CBD is administered sublingually or rectally, so it can enter the bloodstream directly. Capsules and edibles, which must pass through the digestive system, tend to have lower absorption levels. If taking capsules, having a bit of fat with them will help, as cannabinoids are fat-loving molecules.
The future of CBD will likely see manufacturers working to enhance bioavailability in a variety of ways, but right now it’s especially important to look out for misleading product labeling when it comes to CBD dosages. Many companies label the entire milligram dosage of their CBD products but do not publish the dosage of actual active CBD. For example: A company’s CBD oil shows that it has 100 mg of CBD. What they don’t show you is that their oil is only 25% CBD by weight. This means that the product actually has only 25 mg of active CBD in it. A transparent company that shows 100 mg of CBD means that that’s how much active CBD is in the product. Watch for these differences.
Some CBD products entice consumers with added superfoods and trending supplements, touting their benefits in conjunction with those of the CBD itself. The problem here is that a lot of the time the levels of these add-ons in a small bottle of CBD oil or in an edible are negligible and unlikely to have any real benefit. They’re simply part of the marketing tactics that are meant to lure people in, and drive prices higher. You’re better off getting your maca or moringa elsewhere and going with a CBD product that’s cleaner.
The bottom line: When you’re first taking in all the information out there about CBD and looking to buy a high-quality CBD oil, it’s important to do your research. The supplement industry is largely unregulated, which means that people can make unsubstantiated claims and try to shill less-than-top-notch products with false information. That’s why CBD Movement exists—to help people learn about the world of CBD and its many benefits, and make the most informed choices about the types of CBD products they choose to invest their money in.