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What To Look For In CBD Oil Sourcing, According To Experts
Dr. Bindiya Gandhi is an integrative medicine physician with expertise in functional and holistic medicine based in Atlanta, Georgia.
Commissions we earn from partner links on this page do not affect our opinions or evaluations. Our editorial content is based on thorough research and guidance from the Forbes Health Advisory Board.
Table of Contents
- CBD Oil Sourcing: Why It Matters
- What to Look for When Shopping for CBD Oil
- How to Find a High-Quality CBD Brand
With so many CBD shops popping up, it’s easy to step into the nearest store and grab whatever product you see first. But CBD, or cannabidiol, is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and quality can vary dramatically between brands and products.
Here’s what you need to know about CBD oil quality and sourcing and vetting CBD brands to find the best one for you.
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CBD Oil Sourcing: Why It Matters
“Knowing the source of the hemp used in making a CBD product is important because it gives you insight into [a variety of components],” says Vanessa Niles, M.D., a medical cannabis expert at Heally, a telehealth platform for alternative medicine based in New York. Source information can indicate whether the hemp is sustainably farmed; organic; contains pesticides, heavy metals or other fertilizer chemicals; and has been tested by a third-party laboratory.
“Harmful additives can undermine the quality and safety of CBD oil,” says Dr. Niles. For instance, hemp plants treated with nonorganic chemicals can create a bitter taste. Even worse, you may end up ingesting those chemicals in the final product in harmful amounts, which can result in serious health conditions, such as kidney damage and cancer.
Variability in quality and lack of regulation in the CBD market ultimately affect how consumers feel about the cannabinoid. In fact, 21% of U.S. adults think CBD should still be deemed illegal and 19% remain on the fence with this issue, according to a recent Forbes Health survey of 2,000 U.S. adults conducted by OnePoll.
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What to Look for When Shopping for CBD Oil
Here are a few important factors to look into when buying CBD oil.
A Certificate of Analysis (COA)
A COA detail compounds found in a CBD product. Sometimes, you can easily find a product’s COA on the company’s website. If not, the company may send you a copy if you request one.
If a company doesn’t have a COA or won’t send you one, consider it a red flag. At best, it indicates a lack of transparency. Worst case scenario, the company isn’t testing the safety or validity of its products, or it received problematic results that it doesn’t want to publish.
According to Steven Phan, founder of Come Back Daily, a CBD dispensary in New York City, trustworthy COAs should feature at least three panels:
- The cannabinoid analysis, which indicates the weight and concentration of the cannabinoids found in the product.
- The heavy metals analysis, which indicates the levels of heavy metals like cadmium, lead, arsenic and mercury found in the product. High or extended exposure to heavy metals can result in severe health issues, including kidney damage. Anything more than 0.001 mg/mL of cadmium, 0.003 mg/mL of lead and 0.0001 mg/mL of mercury would be considered problematic.
- The pesticides analysis, which measures traces of the substances used to protect plants during the farming process. Exposure to pesticides can result in weakened immunity, hormone disruption and liver toxicity. In children, parental exposure to pesticides may also cause cancer and birth defects. There are dozens of pesticide chemicals used in agriculture, but some examples of chemical levels to avoid are 40 parts per million (ppm) of cypermethrin and 7ppm of ethylene oxide.
“The easiest red flag is when companies just have a cannabinoid panel, because they’re choosing to not spend the extra money to be transparent with their customers,” says Phan.
A COA may also include contents like terpenes (organic compounds associated with cannabis aromas), mycotoxins (mold toxins) and residual solvents (organic volatile chemicals).
The use of a third-party laboratory for product testing is another important aspect of a COA and a company’s trustworthiness. Results are more likely to be accurate and unbiased with third-party testing. You may also want to research the third-party lab itself to ensure it’s also a trustworthy and qualified entity.
A Short, U.S.-Grown Ingredient List
Unless you’re buying pure CBD oil (called CBD isolate), you’re likely ingesting other cannabinoids and compounds called terpenes in products labeled “broad spectrum CBD” and “full spectrum CBD,” the latter of which includes small traces of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). When several cannabinoids are present together, they can produce a mutual enhancement called the “entourage effect,” which can increase the product’s overall wellness benefits.
Common cannabinoids—in addition to CBD and THC—include cannabigerol (CBG), cannabichromene (CBC), cannabidivarin (CBDV) and cannabinol (CBN).
Common terpenes include limonene (known for its citrusy, sweet and tart flavor), pinene (known for its piney flavor) and sabinene (known for its woody, citrusy and spicy flavor).
Generally, CBD oil is mixed with an inert carrier oil. The most popular carrier oil is medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil, which is often found in coconuts. MCT oil is easily digestible and has anti-inflammatory properties that boost its overall wellness benefits. You can also find CBD oil mixed with almond oil, sunflower oil, olive oil or vegetable oil, giving you more options to find what works best for you.
Organic, Non-GMO, Vegan and Gluten-Free
Organic CBD oil is free of synthetic chemicals like certain pesticides. In order to claim a product is organic, a company or part of its operations must be Certified Organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Not all CBD companies provide USDA Certified Organic products, and some may claim select ingredients are organic when a product as a whole isn’t certified. You can see which CBD oil companies are Certified Organic on the USDA website.
Non-GMO CBD oil comes from hemp plants that aren’t genetically altered through external intervention. The non-GMO (genetically modified organism) designation is verified by the Non-GMO Project, a nonprofit organization. Many CBD brands claim to provide non-GMO products without official verification. Ask for more information regarding where their hemp plants come from to be sure.
Vegan CBD oil is easy to find since CBD comes from the hemp plant and animal products aren’t used to extract the oils or create tinctures. It gets tricky, however, when CBD oil is incorporated into products like edibles, which may contain gelatin or dairy.
Gluten-free CBD oil is also common but not guaranteed, as some hemp plants are grown around other crops that contain gluten. Tinctures, capsules and topical products are usually gluten-free while CBD edibles like gummies are more likely to contain gluten. If you have a gluten allergy, check the ingredients list and sourcing information of any CBD product you buy.
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US Hemp Roundtable
As you are well aware, the primary policy challenging facing the hemp-derived CBD industry is guidance issued by FDA, opining that it is illegal for CBD to be introduced into interstate commerce as a food additive or dietary supplement. While the FDA has announced that it will unveil its timetable for action this fall, it could be many months before they issue a formal regulation.
Two of our hemp champions in Congress, Reps. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and James Comer (R-KY) have joined forces to do something about it. And they need your help to rally other Congressmen to join the fight.
Yesterday, Reps. Pingree and Comer sent all members of the US House of Representatives a “Dear Colleague” letter, asking them to co-sign a letter that urges the FDA to issue formal “enforcement discretion” on the sale of hemp CBD products. This would mean that the FDA would formally stand down on any enforcement of its troublesome anti-CBD guidance. Such a policy would remove significant risk from the sale of CBD products.
Please email your Congressman TODAY, urging him or her to co-sign the Pingree/Comer FDA letter.
As always, we have made it super easy for you to contact your Representative. Simply click onto our online portal, with your email and zip code, and a message will automatically populate to be sent to your Congressman. Please feel free to personalize the message to explain why hemp CBD is important to you, your family, your company, or your farm.
This morning, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell – after consulting closely with the US Hemp Roundtable — has introduced legislation that would require the FDA to issue formal “enforcement discretion” on the sale of hemp CBD products.
This is a Big Frickin’ Deal. And we need your help to get this passed.
As discussed more fully last week, a primary policy challenge facing the hemp CBD industry has been FDA’s guidance that it is illegal for CBD to be introduced into interstate commerce as a food additive or dietary supplement. While the FDA has announced that it will unveil its timetable to take action toward full legalization this fall, it could be many months before they issue a formal regulation.
Today, the US Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture will “mark up” language submitted by Senator McConnell that would require the FDA to formally stand down on any enforcement of its troublesome anti-CBD guidance. Specifically, the language (linked here) would require FDA to:
-Within 90 days, provide Congress a report outlining its efforts to develop an enforcement discretion policy on hemp CBD;
-Within 120 days, issue its formal enforcement discretion policy on hemp CBD;
-Keep the enforcement discretion policy in effect until the agency has implemented its final regulatory process; and
-Ensure that going forward, CBD manufacturers would be able share safety data through existing FDA notification procedures to be fully compliant with federal law and policy.
In the short run, the McConnell language would help lift the current regulatory cloud that’s been discouraging financial institutions to work with CBD companies, and that’s encouraged some local government officials to suggest that CBD is illegal in their state. In the long run, it would set forward a fair and expeditious path for hemp CBD products to be formally recognized as safe and legal as a matter of federal law.
The bill will be marked up by the full Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday, and could go to the full Senate soon.
That’s why we need you TODAY to email your US Senators to encourage them to support McConnell’s language requiring FDA to stand down on hemp CBD.
Please use our online portal to email your Senator today to support the McConnell plan. And while you are there, please encourage your Representative to sign onto the Pingree/Comer letter to the FDA discussed here last week.
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