The cannabis seed is taken through quite a maze of processes in its journey from field to bottle. It’s difficult, as a consumer in the CBD market, to know what happens at each of these stages and where your product is coming from in the first place. While some brands may take advantage of the unregulated market by spinning out cheap, unreliable products, many others are attempting to self-regulate.
It’s this factor that can distinguish the market leaders from those trying to make a quick buck. Which is why the most reputable brands have gone out of their way to create quality standards through third party lab testing. These brands have their products tested by an independent lab for cannabinoids, terpenes, and other chemicals. This is essential information for consumers. But how often should a brand test? And how can you, as a consumer, navigate the results and decide if you’re getting a quality product? Well, those are exactly the kinds of questions we’re here to answer.
The FDA has not approved CBD as a dietary supplement, but the business is booming, and the lack of regulation makes it hard to know what’s worth your money. While the FDA does not place any rules or restrictions on the market, it can step in and test any dubious products if safety concerns arise. Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen with enough consistency to be a major driver of accountability in the market.
The brands who want to build a sustainable business have an incentive to self-regulate. And while testing is expensive, it’s worth it to make your company stand out against competitors. In an unregulated market, this can send important trust signals to consumers who may want to try CBD but are unsure about what’s safe and what isn’t. We review products and invest in third party testing to support consumers and hold brands accountable. You can check out our independent reviews here.
Some brands may choose to test only their CBD extract rather than their finished products, while other brands perform batch-specific testing. Testing by batch means that every product has its own Certificate of Analysis (COA) that can verify its purity and potency. These test results are essential when it comes to creating a high quality hemp extract, because they test for the presence of any harmful chemicals or solvents.
While batch specific testing isn’t required, we like seeing robust operations when it comes to a brand’s testing protocols. It’s good to look for brands that have recent lab test results available from within the last 6 months. Many brands share their Certificates of Analysis online, but others may have to be requested. The brands you want to buy from are the ones who value testing and make it a priority.
If you take a look at a third party lab test, it often has three sections: cannabinoids, terpenes, and other chemicals. These other chemicals include things like pesticides, chemical solvents, and heavy metals. Inspecting a product’s certificate of analysis can help you determine if it’s isolate or full-spectrum. This is an essential piece of information if you’re someone looking for a product without THC, or one that will deliver a whole-plant effect. Look for a section of the test marked “cannabinoids,” and if it only tests positive for CBD, then it’s an isolate product. If it tests positive for other cannabinoids as well, it’s probably full-spectrum.
You might also want to consult test results if you’re curious about the product’s potency, or concentration of CBD. This will be measured in milligrams and is the amount of CBD in the product, which can be used to determine serving size. Full-spectrum products may also have terpenes in addition to other cannabinoids. These organic compounds are found in the essential oils of many plants, and are credited with producing the aromatic scent associated with cannabis. CBD products may test positive for chemical solvents left over from the extraction process as well as pesticides and heavy metals that the plant absorbed from the soil. The best brands use clean extraction methods and eliminate the presence of these chemicals in their products.
Although it can be a useful indication of product quality, lab testing is certainly not without its own faults and irregularities. Some third party labs will test for all the chemicals mentioned in the previous section, or some might only test for cannabinoids. It partially depends on state laws and regulations that may require brands to test for a wider or narrower range of chemicals.
Brands may also seek out labs that perform less rigorous testing, or they’ll test their products themselves. The gold standard is an unbiased third party lab that performs thorough and meticulous testing for a wide range of substances. Even if you see that a product has been lab tested, it’s not a bad idea to research the lab and the results they ended up with. Take control over your customer experience, and buy from the brands who’ve proven you can trust them.