First Time Buying CBD Oil? Everything You Need to Know
The CBD industry came a long way from a niche product to a household name. Now that CBD has exploded in popularity, more vendors continue joining the cannabidiol craze.
While that’s great for an expanding industry, the path to success isn’t always straightforward. Some distributors take shortcuts, carefully omitting or flat-out lying about their products.
With no government regulation or approval in the foreseeable future, there are plenty of bad apples still at large, making a lot of money from unsuspecting customers. Consequently, it’s up to you to shop smart and know what to look for when buying CBD oil.
Why Should You Care What’s in Your CBD?
You should care about what’s in your CBD for the same reason you’d want to know if your sandwich is moldy - it’s a health concern.
Many CBD products may contain fungi such as mold, along with traces of butane and isopropyl alcohol. Microbes, heavy metals, and a slew of other contaminants could mean your oil causes more harm than good. Sadly, all of these have been and continue to be found in many CBD products.
But the most condemning revelation happened when the FDA released its 2017 report, which revealed 70% of the companies evaluated mislabeled their CBD products. Could things have changed since 2017? Yes, many vendors increased quality measures.
Of course, the question now is distinguishing safe, clean CBD oil from its unhealthy (and possibly ineffective) counterparts.
If you keep the following benchmarks in mind, you have a much higher chance of finding the best CBD brands.
Hemp Growing Methods
Pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers are bad for hemp and the environment, so it shouldn’t be surprising that these don’t mix well with us.
Depending on where you look, you’ll notice CBD oil companies advertising their hemp as “organic,” “organically-grown,” or (rarely) “USDA Certified Organic."
Although they sound alike, there are some key differences as outlined by the USDA.
“Organic” refers to anything grown in soil that tests clean for at least three years in a row. However, farms may use government-approved synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and similar products.
“Organically grown” is a label for hemp farmed using the same organic cultivation standards outlined by the USDA.
“Certified Organic” hemp is the highest and most challenging tier to reach. According to the USDA, farmers have to grow crops “according to federal guidelines addressing, among many factors, soil quality...pest and weed control, and use of additives.”
How companies isolate their CBD is just as important as where they get it. There are different extraction options available, but more products seem to be embracing CO2 as opposed to alcohol or hydrocarbon solvents.
Although complicated and expensive, CO2 extraction leaves no solvent traces behind. If your preferred vendor doesn’t use CO2, make sure you check lab reports carefully.
It’s also important to check if the company extracts and retains terpenes naturally, or whether they’re added afterwards. If “terpenes” are on the ingredients list, then the compounds were artificially added.
Third-party lab reports are the most definitive way to prove a product is safe and effective. Any reputable CBD producer offers these results to view or download.
These printouts are usually easy to read, so a glance is all it takes to see what your CBD oil does (and doesn’t) contain.
When looking at lab reports, keep an eye out for beneficial compounds, like terpenes. These oily plant compounds enhance CBD oil’s therapeutic benefits, thanks to a synergistic phenomenon called the “entourage effect.”
In an unregulated market, CBD expertise is a decisive milestone. This doesn’t mean companies with fewer resources aren’t equally skilled, but they need evidence to establish credibility.
For instance, look at CBD vendors who employ experts in relevant fields, like biology, botany, and pharmacology - to name a few.
So far, there are three CBD extracts available, separated based on cannabinoid and terpene content. Some vendors focus on a single option, while others offer more.
There’s no “right” or “wrong” CBD option. Your decision entirely depends on your news. Naturally, choosing the right kind of CBD oil can be confusing, so let’s quickly look at the benefits (and drawbacks) of each.
Full-spectrum (“whole plant”) CBD oil contains all the cannabinoids and terpenes of the source plant, including up to 0.3% THC. This option provides the benefits of the entourage effect, but its THC content can be concerning to some, along with its strong cannabis flavor.
Isolate is the opposite of full-spectrum in almost every respect. It’s up to 99% pure CBD with no other compounds, leaving behind a clear, flavorless extract. While this is the best choice for flavor-focused vendors, its lack of other compounds prevents the entourage effect. Consequently, isolate is limited in its benefits and effectiveness.
You could describe broad-spectrum CBD oil as a hybrid between full-spectrum and isolate. It contains the same terpenes and cannabinoids necessary for the entourage effect, but with no THC. Although broad-spectrum CBD oil appears to offer the best of both worlds, it still suffers from the same strong aroma that may not be palatable to many people.
Peace of mind is crucial when investing in something like CBD. A generous money-back guarantee is a clear sign the vendor stands behind its products. Of course, you get the benefit of trying a product virtually risk-free.
CBD companies that offer restrictive return policies don’t necessarily sell low-quality goods. But there’s no way to know for sure, which means you could lose money on a product that doesn’t fit your needs.
We’ve covered the leading indicators of good CBD oil. However, we mentioned earlier that some companies could lie with impunity. So how do you know whether to make a purchase?
Customer reviews are the best way to see if the product you want is legitimate or just clever marketing. Of course, there will always be some negative reviews. But if the product has a much higher number of positive feedback, chances are you’ve got a winner.
It’s also vital to ask symptom-specific questions. For instance, some people use CBD for arthritis aches and pains. CBD may reduce inflammation and soreness, according to a 2020 study from Frontiers in Pharmacology. Your best resources are places where people with similar needs can discuss products.
Some people skip CBD oil in favor of CBD gummies for pain, which should be just as effective.
Whichever you choose, take advantage of reviews as a resource to further understand CBD.
Reputation and reviews are almost identical since public opinion strongly influences rapport. This time, though, you can consider reviews from dedicated niche sites. Just make sure they’re credible.