The CBD market is a relatively new and underdeveloped one, and the safety standards and quality control systems required to ensure trust and transparency across the industry are still being put into place. For this reason, it can be difficult to determine which products are safe and which brands you can trust. The reality is we need transparency, consistent formulations, professional manufacturing, compliant labeling and comprehensive safety testing. Until then, here are six easy steps to buying CBD safely.
1. Always request third-party test results (of the CBD and finished product)
Our number one piece of advice is to always look for or request product test results from a third-party independent lab (meaning the laboratory isn’t owned or operated by the company itself, to ensure unbiased results.) Why? Consumers should be able to access the company’s test results pertaining to cannabinoid and terpene potency, pesticides (including glyphosate, the harmful by-product of the herbicide, Roundup,) residual solvents, heavy metals, and bacteria in both the active ingredient (CBD or hemp extract) and the finished product.
Most high-integrity brands feature test results on their website, but if not, you can typically email the company and request them. If a company is reluctant to share these results with you, it's a red flag. If the company willingly shares the results with you or includes them on their website, you can assume they are taking extra steps to ensure safe, consistent products.
Third-party test results are critical at this time. Because the industry is so new, proper manufacturing protocols and safety standards have not yet been put in place. As a result, many products are not being produced in adequate facilities and some products are being flagged by laboratories for dangerous levels of pesticides and heavy metals, such as lead. Just as concerning, some products on the market do not contain any CBD or cannabinoids. Until testing is a requirement, it’s important to only buy from brands that willingly test their products at an independent lab and share results.
2. Read the label for the amount of active CBD (per serving and in total)
Pay particular attention to the product labeling and look for the total cannabinoid or CBD content in the product. Is the suggested amount (in milligrams) of the CBD listed on the bottle? Make sure the suggested amount listed is of total cannabinoids or CBD, not hemp oil. There are many misleading products on the market that consist of hemp seed oil, not hemp extract, which does not contain any major cannabinoids.
3. Understand the carrier ingredients and how they impact bioavailability
CBD products are only effective if they are formulated with other ingredients that enable absorption into our bodies. Many CBD tinctures on the market are made with carrier oils like MCT oil (fractionated coconut oil) or olive oil, which do not allow the CBD and other cannabinoids to be properly processed once they are ingested. In a typical CBD oil tincture, we digest the product like a food and are only able to absorb a small percentage of the active ingredients. In order to absorb the most CBD and cannabinoids, look for sublingual products (oral products like alcohol-based tinctures or sprays applied under the tongue) or alcohol-based tinctures instead of oil to optimize for bioavailability.
4. Choose broad-spectrum or whole plant CBD extract over CBD isolate
While there is a lot of hype around CBD, evidence suggests that for optimal results, you should choose a whole plant extract that contains high levels of CBD, as well as minor cannabinoids and terpenes that make the CBD more effective.* There are hundreds of known cannabinoids and active compounds in hemp and even more that have yet to be discovered. Research shows that cannabinoids work best together, meaning the benefits of CBD are amplified when combined with other cannabinoids and active compounds in the plant (this is called The Entourage Effect).* There are many products on the market that are activated by CBD isolate, which is pure CBD without the presence of other cannabinoids. Though you may still feel the benefits of a CBD-only product, we recommend using a broad-spectrum hemp extract with CBD and other minor cannabinoids.
5. Start slowly and systematically with a consistent daily amount
Everyone experiences CBD and cannabinoids differently, so there isn’t a “standard suggested amount” that works for all. If you’re interested in trying a CBD product, use the steps above to find the right product for you and start with a small amount (like 5 to 10 milligrams) twice daily. CBD and cannabinoids are cumulative, meaning it takes time for your body to adjust. We recommend trying a small amount in the morning and at night, accompanied by a large glass of water. Effects are individualized and you may feel drowsy so make sure you are in a safe environment.
6. Monitor your results and check in with yourself daily
Does your body feel different? Are you sleeping better? Do you have more energy during the day? Do you have less negative thoughts? Everyone is different, so you may find that CBD makes you feel sleepy, or perhaps it wakes you up.* Honor your individual experience and ask others for advice on best practices. Use products consistently, supported by a healthy diet and lifestyle that includes lots of water, exercise, organic food, quality sleep, limited stress and lots of support. For some people, it may be helpful to monitor what you don’t feel, in addition to what you do feel. For example, you may notice that your body feels less tense*, that you're experiencing less frustration*, or maybe you’re feeling subtle changes that become more obvious over time.* Be patient and listen to your body as you figure out what works best for you. If possible, use a journal to record how you feel and track your progress over time.