By op-ed Blogger Quinton Charles
When we go grocery shopping, it is fairly easy to figure out what is in the food that we buy. That is because the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires manufacturers to list various things on food labels, such as calories, fat, and carbohydrates. This standardized system helps us determine whether we should buy something or not.
Unlike food, however, CBD isn’t regulated by the FDA. If you’re like the millions of Americans who are interested in CBD for its health and wellness benefits, you may be overwhelmed by trying to figure out what to buy. There isn’t a standard label for CBD products, so as you shop, you might find yourself scratching your head, wondering what exactly an aerial plant part is, or what the total CBD amount is per serving.
These labels can be confusing, but by breaking down the most common terms found on CBD products, you can shop like a pro. Below, we outline what you need to know about CBD so that you can learn how to read CBD labels.
Step One: CBD Basics
CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of more than 100 naturally occurring compounds found in the cannabis plant. These compounds, known as cannabinoids, are believed to interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system, or ECS. Another well-known cannabinoid is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the psychoactive component of marijuana that makes you feel high or stoned.
When purchasing CBD, it is important to understand the difference between CBD and THC. Both hemp (from which CBD is extracted) and marijuana are cannabis plants. The main distinction between the two is the level of THC. Under U.S. law, hemp plants can contain no more than 0.3% THC, while marijuana plants (where legal) may contain up to 30% THC.
This distinction is important, both for understanding what CBD is, and for choosing the product that is right for you. As long as the CBD product is made from industrial hemp grown in the United States, it will contain no more than trace amounts of CBD. If you purchase CBD that is made from marijuana (which is legal in some U.S. states), it may contain higher levels of THC.
Step Two: Isolates, Full Spectrum, and Broad Spectrum
When you are shopping for a CBD product, you will have three basic options: CBD isolates, full spectrum CBD and broad spectrum CBD. Understanding what each of these terms means is critical to purchasing the product that you want.
Full spectrum CBD contains all of the cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, including both CBD and THC, as well as the beneficial terpenes and flavonoids contained in the plant. Choosing full spectrum CBD allows you to take advantage of the entourage effect, which is a boost in the beneficial properties of CBD that comes from the combination of all of these components. While full spectrum CBD contains THC, it will be at trace amounts — 0.3% or less — as long as it is made from industrial hemp.
Broad spectrum CBD is similar to full spectrum CBD, except that the THC has been removed. In this way, you can get all of the benefits of the entourage effect, without any THC. This is a good choice for anyone who is worried about the (unlikely) possibility that CBD may trigger a false positive for marijuana on a drug test.
Finally, CBD isolate is the purest form of CBD. It only contains CBD – not any other cannabinoids. It may also be referred to as 0% THC. It is tasteless and odorless and may be preferred if you want to ensure that you don’t get any THC with your CBD.
If you’d like to learn more, we have a great article here comparing full-spectrum and isolated CBD.
Step Three: CBD Concentration
One of the most confusing aspects of CBD labeling is figuring out exactly how much CBD you are getting per serving. There are two numbers that you will typically see on a bottle of CBD oil: the amount of oil in the bottle (milliliter, or mL) and the amount of CBD in the container (expressed as milligrams, or mg).
Most often, the amount of CBD is described as the total mg of CBD for the entire bottle or package. For CBD oils, you can look at the number of mg per mL to determine CBD concentration. If the mg/mL is not listed on the package, you can do the math yourself to figure it out.
For example, a 15mL bottle of Mary’s Nutritionals The Remedy CBD Oil Tincture contains 500 mg of CBD per bottle. This works out to 33.33 mg/mL of CBD (500 mg divided by 15 mL). A standard-sized dropper produces approximately 20 drops per mL, which works out to approximately 2 mg of CBD per drop.
Some products don’t list the total amount of CBD per bottle or package and instead list the serving size. Charlotte’s Web Hemp CBD Extract has 7 mg of CBD per serving for a 30 mL/ 1 fluid ounce bottle. Two droppers full of this product equals 1 mL of CBD oil, and 7 mg of CBD. Multiplying 7 times 30 brings you to 200 mg of CBD per bottle, or approximately 7 mg/mL.
In this way, you can figure out the concentration of CBD in a particular product. This can help ensure that you don’t waste your money on an expensive CBD product that actually has fairly low levels of CBD.
Step Four: The Ingredients List
CBD products often have other ingredients so that they are easier to consume. For example, a CBD edible or oil may contain a natural or artificial flavoring. While CBD doesn’t taste bad, its earthy or grassy flavor isn’t everyone’s favorite, which is why flavoring is important to a lot of people.
CBD oils typically contain a carrier oil, such as cold pressed hemp seed oil, MCT oil, grapeseed oil, or olive oil. These oils help your body absorb the CBD and also work to stabilize and preserve the CBD. You can check the ingredients list to see what type of carrier oil is used in a particular product and choose one that you prefer.
You may also see terms like “aerial plant parts” or hemp extract. These terms have to do with how the CBD is extracted from the hemp plant, as well as ever-changing laws and regulations on hemp in the United States.
The CBD that is legal under federal law is extracted from the hemp plant. The only parts of the hemp plant that contain CBD are the stem, stalks, leaves, and flowers — not the seeds. “Aerial plant parts” are the parts of the hemp plant that grow above the ground, and the parts of the plant that contain CBD.
Importantly, if a product is listed as being made from hemp seeds, hemp seed oil, or Cannabis sativa seeds, it probably doesn’t contain CBD. While hemp seed oil may be used as a carrier oil, it doesn’t have CBD. Be wary of any products that don’t mention cannabidiol, hemp extract, or the hemp plant parts.
Step Five: Independent Testing
As noted above, the FDA does not regulate CBD in the United States. This can make it incredibly difficult to know what you are getting. One way to ensure that you are buying a safe, high-quality product is by only purchasing CBD that has been independently tested.
Reputable CBD products will come with a Certificate of Analysis or COA. This COA means that it has been tested by a third-party laboratory. You can access the COA by visiting the manufacturer’s website and entering the code found on the product, or by scanning the QR code with your smartphone.
These lab results contain three important categories of information. First, it will disclose the CBD and THC concentrations of a particular product. You can check to make sure that you are actually getting what you are paying for, in terms of CBD concentration, and that you aren’t getting THC that you don’t want.
Second, the COA will show you the cannabinoid profile of the product if you are purchasing full or broad-spectrum CBD. This list will include other cannabinoids that are in the product, such as cannabigerol (CBG), cannabidiolic acid (CBDA), cannabichromene (CBC), and cannabinol (CBN).
Third, the results will show the presence of other substances in the product, including heavy metals and pesticides. By reviewing this information, you will be able to tell if there are any contaminants in the product, and if so, if it is within safe levels.
Still Confused? We Can Help.
There is a lot of promising research on the wellness benefits of CBD. While the science of CBD is still in its early stages, many people are ready to give it a try and see how it can help boost their health. If you find yourself interested in trying CBD but unsure of how to read a CBD label or even where to start, we are here to help.
At Green Wellness Life, we aren’t doctors, and we cannot diagnose or treat any condition. What we can offer is our experience and insight on CBD, along with the latest research on what CBD may be able to do for you. If you have questions about CBD or simply need assistance shopping, contact us today by pressing the live chat button, calling 866-244-4223 toll-free or filling out our online contact form.