What To Look For When Shopping for CBD Products
CBD oil is a versatile supplement, but now it’s also a growing market, which entails the risk of stumbling upon unscrupulous scam-artists trying to make a quick buck on misinformed customers, too.
Is there any way to tell that you’re looking at high-quality CBD oil?
While it’s not easy for consumers to determine which CBD brands and products they should choose, there are several factors that can tell you right away whether you’re dealing with a reputable vendor or with one of the aforementioned fly-by-night suppliers.
Having been in the industry for years, we’ve set out certain quality standards that we incorporate into our farming, extraction, and lab-testing practices. Before launching Gold Bee, we’ve been working in the organic superfoods space, so we can tell the difference between a good crop and a bad crop, point you to the right extraction methods, and highlight all the important points on your checklist before choosing CBD oil.
In this article, we’ve put together our knowledge in one place so that you can choose your CBD oil based on thorough research rather than marketing buzz.
How to Choose CBD Oil?
There are thousands of cannabis products on the shelves and in online stores — but determining what’s safe and effective is up to you.
The CBD space is unregulated by the FDA, and many brands are taking advantage of that fact churning out poor-quality, sometimes dangerous products.
According to statistics, up to 70% of CBD oil products sold locally are mislabeled and contain significantly less CBD than stated on the bottle. Other products have residual contaminants, but then again, the market is unregulated, so companies aren’t obliged to test their CBD oils in third-party laboratories for potency and purity — although it’s the industry’s standard.
The market has matured since its first years. That being said, due diligence is still required if you don’t want to fall victim to sketchy vendors.
Then there’s also the question of your preferences, dosage needs, different product types, formulas, concentrations, and more — choosing CBD oil for the first time can be a pain.
Okay, enough of the negative vibes.
Problems aren’t negative by nature because there’s always a way to solve them.
Below we cover everything you need to know if you’re about to choose your first bottle of CBD oil.
Know the Difference Between CBD Oil and Hemp Seed Oil
Hemp is used in lots of different product categories, from food to health supplements to skincare products.
When you choose CBD oil for the first time, you need to make sure you’re buying the actual CBD oil — not hemp seed oil.
These two products are confusingly sold as “hemp oils,” which is an umbrella term for all oils derived from hemp.
However, hemp seed oil and CBD oil are two completely different products.
Hemp seed oil is made from the plant’s seeds. And while it has a rich nutritional content — chock-full of omega fatty acids, proteins, vitamins, and trace minerals — it doesn’t contain any CBD or any cannabinoids for that matter. This type of hemp oil is made by cold-pressing the seeds.
CBD oil, on the other hand, is extracted from the plant’s flowers. This is the resinous part of hemp, where all the cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids are secreted. The flowers are harvested and then treated with pressurized CO2 to pull the beneficial compounds from the plant material. The resulting product is a thick, dark liquid that has a botanical smell. Once extracted, the oil is suspended in a food-grade carrier oil such as MCT oil or hemp seed oil.
So, while both products come from the same plant, they use different parts and thus have different properties and applications.
Tip: If you want to make sure you’re choosing the actual CBD oil, read what the label says. If it states “CBD oil” or “full-spectrum hemp extract,” then you’re looking at the right product. On the other hand, if it says “hemp seed oil” or “hemp oil,” you might be looking at a culinary oil.
Set Your Goals with CBD
The first thing to consider when you choose CBD oil is why you want to take it. Though CBD is praised for numerous potential health benefits — backed by scientific research — each person may have different expectations when it comes to the effects.
CBD oil isn’t the only format you can choose; there are CBD capsules, topicals, edibles, and vapes — each of them might be appropriate.
According to experts, the method of consumption determines the onset, type, and duration of the effects.
For immediate relief of stress or physical discomfort, inhaling CBD may be the most effective; if you want to ensure efficient absorption and don’t mind waiting several minutes for the effects to kick in, CBD oil drops will be your best bet. Oral forms of CBD, such as capsules and edibles, are better suited for the means of daily supplementation thanks to the level of convenience they offer. Finally, topical products may lend their hand if you suffer from localized discomfort, such as muscle stiffness and soreness.
Consider the THC Content
The THC content in your CBD oil determines not only its effects but also legal status — something that is important to many people who choose CBD for the first time. Research suggests that in some people, CBD may be more beneficial when taken in tandem with at least a little THC.
The synergistic interaction between CBD, THC, and other cannabinoids, as well as terpenes, is known as the entourage effect. According to this concept, the sum of the two chemicals, plus other related compounds, provide greater efficacy than their individual parts.
Hemp-derived CBD oil contains very little THC — up to 0.3% — which isn’t enough to get you high but maybe enough to leverage the health benefits of CBD. Such products are legal on a federal level and you can find them in dispensaries, vape shops, organic health stores, pharmacies, and online stores.
With marijuana-derived CBD oil, it’s a different story. CBD products extracted from marijuana plants are legal only in the states that have legalized its recreational use. You’ll mostly find them in cannabis dispensaries. Dispensaries sell a wide range of CBD products, from high-CBD marijuana strains to oils, tinctures, topicals, and vape pens. If your state only allows medical marijuana, then you’ll need a prescription or an MMJ card to purchase marijuana-derived CBD.
What to Look for in CBD Oil?
Now that we’ve established the prep work behind choosing CBD oil, it’s time to take a peek at the factors that directly affect its quality. Here are a few important questions to ask yourself before you choose a CBD product and add it to your cart.
Is the Hemp Organic?
The source of hemp is paramount because it is where CBD and other valuable compounds are secreted. Since hemp plants are dynamic bioaccumulators, they easily absorb every substance from the soil they grow in. When cultivated in clean and nutrient-dense soil, the hemp will yield high-CBD flowers that are free of any contaminants. On the other hand, mass-produced hemp will yield poor concentrations of CBD, not to mention the presence of heavy metals and other toxins in the final product.
Most hemp in CBD products sold in the United States comes from Colorado, California, Oregon, and Kentucky, which have long histories with cannabis cultivation. Some companies import hemp from overseas, which may be risky from the customer’s perspective because such hemp isn’t subject to U.S. federal quality testing.
Don’t know which CBD oil to choose? We always recommend purchasing from manufacturers who use locally grown hemp. Not only do you support local farmers this way, but you’re also getting a product that is compliant with the FDA guidelines.
How Was the Product Extracted?
Once grown to full maturity and harvested, the plant is taken to an extraction facility, where the lab workers use different methods to extract the beneficial compounds from the source material. CBD can be extracted in many ways — the most popular being CO2, ethanol, and organic solvents such as butane, propane, or hexane.
CO2 is the industry’s golden standard. Pressurized carbon dioxide efficiently pulls the cannabinoids and terpenes from the plant material without using additional heat or toxic solvents. This technology ensures pure CBD extracts that maintain consistent potency throughout the batches.
Ethanol extraction is an acceptable alternative. In fact, the traditional cannabis tinctures were made using alcohol. However, this method isn’t as efficient as CO2 extraction when it comes to broad-scale manufacturing. The purging process also needs to be run with caution, as alcohol is highly flammable.
The cheapest — and the riskiest — way to extract CBD from hemp is through hydrocarbon extraction. Hydrocarbon solvents include substances like butane, hexane, and propane. They are a low-cost method of making cannabis concentrates. Unfortunately, they’re also difficult to purge from the final product, leaving toxic impurities that can make you sick.
When choosing CBD oil, we encourage you to opt for CO2-extracted products. They are slightly more expensive than alcohol-based extracts, but it’s worth spending a few dollars more on a better-quality product.
Has It Been Third-Party Tested?
Always ask to see a product’s certificate of analysis (COA). The document shows how a product went through tests checking for CBD and THC concentrations, and the presence of contaminants.
The lab-reports should come from a third-party laboratory. “Third-party” means that the facility has no affiliation with the manufacturer and thus can provide unbiased results.
Some companies test their products throughout the entire production process — from the seed to the bottle — while others only test the final product. Regardless of the company’s testing practices, you should check if the lab reports are batch-specific and up-to-date.
If an online manufacturer or a local store doesn’t provide the information or refuses to share it, avoid the product and the vendor.
Are There Any Other Ingredients In It?
CBD oils have a simple formula. They mostly consist of a full-spectrum hemp extract and food-grade carrier oil. The extract itself is too thick to be handled with a dropper, so the oil is added to make dosing easier on top of improving its bioavailability. ‘Bioavailability’ refers to the amount of CBD that ends up in your bloodstream. Cannabinoids dissolve both in alcohol and fats, so the addition of carrier oil enhances the efficacy of CBD extracts.
Aside from the carrier, CBD oils may be infused with other ingredients that are used to boost or complement the health benefits of CBD. You can find CBD oil with guarana for morning use, but there are also CBD oils with melatonin, a sleep-enhancing neurotransmitter. If you dislike the flavor of natural CBD oil, you can choose from many flavored versions; popular flavored variations of CBD oil include mint, vanilla, berry, kiwi, and citrus fruits.
When choosing CBD oil, make sure the flavorings are natural, and that the oil doesn’t contain any suspicious additives.
How to Buy CBD Oil?
Don’t have the time to run through the above checklist? This section will help you choose high-quality CBD oil if you’re in a hurry.
Choose Reputable Brands
This may sound like a dead giveaway, but brands with a well-established reputation are more likely to sell quality CBD products than companies coming out of the blue and providing little to no information on how they make their CBD oils.
How can you tell that you’re buying from a trustworthy vendor?
The company should have a clear mission statement written on its website. Moreover, they should provide a detailed insight into their farming, extraction, and testing practices. Every reputable brand also sends its products to third-party laboratories for content analysis.
Speaking of which…
Look for Certificates of Analysis
As mentioned earlier, the certificate of analysis is a document confirming the potency and purity of a CBD product. The content analysis may cover one or several aspects, from the CBD concentration to the cannabinoid and terpene profiles to potential contaminants.
If any impurities or dangerous additives are found during the analysis, the lab report will show it.
Again, never buy from companies that refuse to provide certificates of analysis for their products.
Read User Reviews
This point is closely connected with the first one. Reputable brands usually have many positive user reviews. However, you should look at the source of these testimonies. There are many companies out there that have lots of positive reviews on their websites, but when you check with third-party CBD rankings or expert blogs, you may find that the reviews are biased.
When choosing between different brands and CBD products, always compare user reviews from at least three different sources. Doing so will provide you with a bigger picture of the company and its reputation in the cannabis community.
When to Shop for CBD Online?
The first thought that may come to your mind once you discover the health benefits of CBD oil is “where can I buy CBD oil near me?” After all, CBD is sold virtually everywhere — even at gas stations.
But before you start making errands to find a trustworthy physical store, it’s a good idea to weigh the pros and cons.
Local shops are convenient and easily available — but that’s where the advantages usually end.
When you shop for CBD locally, you rely solely on the employees’ knowledge about the products. This leaves you with limited research options, not to mention a narrow product selection. Local shops usually stock two types of CBD products — much less than online retailers.
A person running a physical storefront must cover certain operational costs, such as electricity bills, rental space, etc. This, in turn, translates into higher product prices.
That’s where online shopping becomes an appealing alternative.
Buying CBD online means you can easily browse and compare different brands and products in the comfort of your home. You don’t need to drive from one shop to another — everything is available with a few clicks in your browser.
Online stores also offer more product types than local vendors. When shopping for CBD online, you can choose from oils, tinctures, capsules, gummies, honey sticks, bath bombs, creams, vape pens, and more. It would be difficult to find a physical store that would offer so many options.
And since online retailers can cut out the middleman, they can offer better prices for their products. You can take advantage of special discounts, coupon codes, reward programs, holiday sales, and bulk pricing to save money on your favorite products.
Choosing the Right CBD Product Type
You can find CBD in many forms, but in this section, we’ll cover the most often picked product types.
As we said, the form of CBD determines the onset, type, and duration of effects. Here’s a brief comparison:
- CBD Oils – CBD oils are taken under the tongue. You need to measure the desired amount using a glass dropper or atomizer and place it beneath the tongue for up to 60 seconds. From there, the oil absorbs directly into the bloodstream, producing its effects within 15–30 minutes on average.
- CBD Capsules – capsules contain a hemp extract infused with a carrier oil and covered in a soft gel shell. They don’t require any measurements because every capsule contains a fixed amount of CBD. Since capsules need to pass through the digestive system, the effects have a delayed onset, usually by 30–40 minutes, although, for some people, it may take up to 2 hours until they start feeling a difference.
- CBD Edibles – similar to regular cannabis edibles, you can find hemp-infused CBD gummies, honey sticks, protein bars, chocolates, and beverages. They are processed by the body in the same way as capsules, which means the effects may be delayed, but they will also last longer since the CBD is released gradually into the bloodstream.
- CBD Vapes – products like vape pens and cartridges provide the fastest onset of effects, bringing relief within minutes after inhalation. They also offer the highest bioavailability of all consumption methods, ensuring that up to 56% of CBD ends up in your bloodstream.
- CBD Topicals – topicals are formulated to ease localized discomfort. The CBD doesn’t absorb into the bloodstream, so these products have literally zero bioavailability; instead, the CBD interacts with the CB2 receptors located in the skin. From there, they can signal the endocannabinoid system to promote homeostasis.
Full-spectrum vs Isolate: Which One Should You Choose?
There’s an ongoing debate on which type of CBD oil people should choose: full-spectrum or isolate?
Most users choose full-spectrum CBD due to more predictable dosing and higher efficacy.
Full-spectrum CBD is extracted from the whole plant, so it contains not only CBD but also other cannabinoids and terpenes found in hemp. As mentioned in the previous sections, these compounds work together synergistically, enhancing the benefits of the major cannabinoid. This synergy is known as the “entourage effect,” a term coined by Raphael Mechoulam and further expanded by Dr. Ethan Bud Russo. The entourage effect means that the cannabis compounds work better together than each of them alone.
CBD isolate is pure cannabidiol that has been separated from the other molecules. It’s usually sold as powdered crystals and offers the highest dose of CBD per serving — 990 mg in one gram. It’s also flavorless and odorless, which makes it more versatile than full-spectrum extracts.
However, CBD isolate doesn’t produce the entourage effect, which makes it a less desired option. People typically choose to isolate when they are tested for THC at work — high doses of full-spectrum CBD may trigger a false-positive result for THC — or are allergic to other hemp compounds.
How to Choose CBD Concentration?
CBD concentration is the first figure people look at when they choose between different CBD oils.
There is no one-size-fits-all CBD dosage because everybody is different and reacts differently to CBD. For some people, dosages between 5–10 mg may be sufficient, while others will need upwards of 50 mg to experience a noticeable difference in their well-being.
The rule “the more the merrier” doesn’t work in this case because people may also have different goals with CBD.
This brings us to the next choice.
High vs Low Concentration CBD Oil
Low-concentration CBD oils are usually picked for micro-dosing, which means applying very small doses of CBD throughout the day to maintain stable levels of endocannabinoids. People who’ve just dipped their toes in the subject choose low-potency CBD oils to find the right dosage and assess the cost-efficacy of their product.
High-concentration CBD oils are preferred by users who already have some experience with CBD and know their optimal dosage. When you buy a high-strength oil, you need to pay more for a single purchase, but the product may prove more affordable in the long-run than a less potent option. You can calculate the cost of your CBD oil by taking the total concentration of CBD and dividing it by the product’s volume. The less you pay for one milligram of CBD, the longer your product will go.
Lower doses of CBD oil produce different effects than higher doses. Lower amounts are known to produce invigorating effects that promote focus and reduce stress — a good option for daytime use. Higher doses, in turn, tend to have a sedative effect on the user. When you take high doses of CBD in your routine, low-concentration oils may be cost-prohibitive.
How to Choose CBD Oil: Bottom Line?
Choosing CBD oil for the first time can be a hard nut to crack. Since the market is unregulated, there’s a risk of buying a mislabeled product that will be ineffective and even dangerous for your health.
Research is paramount when it comes to choosing CBD products. You should always check the source of hemp, extraction methods, third-party testing, the company’s transparency, and reputation among CBD users.
Your choice will also depend on the type of CBD, consumption method, and potency; these factors should be suited to your lifestyle preferences and expected effects.
We hope our guide will help you maneuver in this booming space and find a true pearl amidst the sea of mediocre vendors.
How do you choose your CBD oils? Let us know your tips in the comments below!