CBD has become quite a booming industry. But it’s also a new industry. Sometimes even people with good intentions might not fully understand what they’re making and what they’re selling. Other times, the business side of things takes over and consequently, quality takes a back seat.
A 2017 study published in Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), a peer-reviewed medical journal published by the American Medical Association, examined the actual CBD found in products (they tested 84 products from 31 companies). The results were a bit shocking: 43% of products were under-labeled, 26% were over-labeled, and 31% were accurately labeled. Only 31% of these products were actually giving you what they purported to give you!
Furthermore, in some cases, products have been found to be contaminated with intoxicating doses of THC, heavy metals, and pesticides, as well as toxic solvents from the CBD extraction process. Law enforcement agencies found 128 samples out of more than 350 tested by government labs in nine states had synthetic marijuana in products being labeled and sold as CBD.
It's quite clear that not all CBD products are created equal. And you need to be able to trust your CBD producer. So how can you tell if you’re getting a high quality, trustworthy CBD product?
Look for a full spectrum product
This is the most important step. To learn more about full spectrum, check out our blog post about full spectrum and the entourage effect. To identify full spectrum products, you'll want to look at label and see if it says CBD isolate or CBD distillate. Unfortunately, many don’t include their extraction on the label, and because full spectrum is so widely known to be the highest quality, it’s not uncommon to see companies label a product full spectrum when it’s not actually full spectrum.
So make sure you read up a little on the company you’re buying from so you can better understand their values. Terms like “full spectrum” aren’t regulated so they can be used differently and mean different things to different people. One way to think of your CBD vendor is the same way you’d think about a vendor at a farmers’ market. Learn more about the producer (more on this below).
Choosing a full spectrum product will ensure you keep the maximum integrity of the plant’s healing potential intact. There are other considerations too. For example, a full spectrum product should not include additives. Specifically, it shouldn’t include isolate additives from cannabinoids. This can become a safety issue.
A single molecule product is more heavily concentrated than your body is used to. When your neurological receptor sites are bombarded with such high concentrations, you can get down regulation of that receptor. An analogy would be eating a piece of chocolate each day for dessert. That’s no problem. But if you eat an entire chocolate cake for dessert every day, over time your body dulls to the sweetness and you need more and more intense sweetness to have an effective response. That’s not good.
That’s a pretty low-consequence example. Let’s consider something a bit more serious. Say you have 100 receptors for serotonin, and that your serotonin is working at 100%. If you take a concentrated dose of something that boosts serotonin in that receptor over a long period of time, the body may remove those receptor sites. Your body is always trying to get into homeostasis.
A consequence of that is that your body becomes adapted to high concentrated doses of a substance. So when the body is bombarded with a substance, it can throw off its neutral point and have unintended consequences that impact your body’s neutral state. The brain is complicated, so we need to treat it carefully and thoughtfully.
Further to that point, compounds in the hemp plant have a natural balancing effect. The natural complexity of the plant and its impact in the body has a wisdom in it. For example, it’s possible CBD is an agonist and THC could be an antagonist for certain effects in the body. This means they counterbalance one another to ensure your body isn’t exposed to extreme volumes of a substance that could have unintended consequences.
That complex sense of balance prevents things from getting out of hand. So full spectrum products are less likely to throw biological systems out of homeostasis, which then will need to be corrected. Diversity of plant components is like a safety switch in body integration.
Avoid very high doses
A good general guideline is that if there are over about 2,000 mg/ounce of product, you should consider a deep dive to understand all the components of extraction of that product. Is it isolate, distillate, multiple extraction methods? If the concentration reaches over 3,000 mg/ounce, then it’s unlikely a full spectrum product and it’s probably spiked with isolate because such doses don’t occur in natural strains.
Check the lab reports
The most important thing to check in the lab reports is that there aren’t any traces of unwanted compounds like pesticides or metals and that the cannabinoid ratios fall within a proper bandwidth. Pay particularly close attention to the ratio between CBD and THC.
Hemp genetics for CBD-dominant strains, when extracted, generally produce an extract with a CBD:THC ratio between 20:1 to 30:1, and the majority will be between 23:1 - 27:1. If you see ratios slightly above or below, that’s not cause to be suspicious. But when you see something like 50:1, then the product is likely distillate.
If you see a product without any THC, or a product without other major cannabinoids such as CBC or CBG, that is also likely a distillate. Many CBD companies rely on distillate if they’re not involved with the farms they work with in any way.
Learn as much as you can about the source
This includes the farmers and all the ingredients. At Flora Sophia we have very close relationships with all our growers. We also farm ourselves. In fact, we have direct access to every part of our process. We also use the highest quality organic MCT oil that took us years to settle upon.
You can find labels that say "organic" or "responsibly farmed" and even then there are a laundry list of substances and pesticides and disposal methods that can still be used in those products' creation processes. The only way to know for sure is to go beyond the label and get to know the company and its values from seed to sale.