CBD Buyer’s Guide - How to Shop for CBD
Most first-time buyers, investing in a CBD product can easily become overwhelmed because of the sheer volume of CBD product lines and brands - each of which coming with their own set of pros and cons.
To help newer CBD users navigate the CBD market, we put together this quick-reference CBD Buyer’s Guide and broken down the different factors to keep in mind when choosing a CBD product.
5 rules to buying CBD products
1. SELECT THE RIGHT CBD PRODUCT FOR YOU
It might seem obvious, but the first thing you need to think about when before buying a CBD product is what you want to use it for. This will not only determine the type of CBD product that will be best suited to you, but also things like CBD concentration (more on that later), and the type of CBD extract.
Type of CBD Product
The most CBD products are by far CBD oils and tinctures, but CBD capsules, edibles, topicals, and vape products are also becoming popular - each of which have their own benefits and drawbacks that can help you choose the right type of CBD product for you. For instance, if you need quick relief from say, something like spasms or muscle cramps, choosing a product that allows you to inhale CBD may be most effective. If you’re wanting to use it for more long-term support from things like anxiety, depression and chronic pain, or supporting your immune system and general health, CBD oils, capsules or edibles would work well. And topical lotions and ointments that are rubbed into the skin can offer fast, localized relief from things like arthritis or eczema. You can read more about the pros and cons of each form here.
The CBD concentration of a product refers to the overall strength of the CBD, or the amount of CBD by product weight. This is different to CBD dosage, which refers to the recommended amount of CBD that should be taken at a given time within a certain time frame, often a 24-hour period. There are many factors that determine the right CBD concentration for you, and include things like the desired effects, the condition it’s used for as well as weight, body composition and metabolism to name but a few. To read more about the right CBD concentration for you, you can read our article “How to Choose the Right CBD Oil Strength for You”.
Type of CBD Extract
CBD extracts come in three basic forms - full spectrum, broad spectrum and CBD isolate. More recently, nano-technology from the pharmaceutical industry has also been applied to CBD isolates and used to produce nano-amplified, nano-encapsulated and water soluble CBD forms. As with CBD product types, the different types of CBD extracts also have their own set of properties, pros and cons. Read more about these in our article “Full Spectrum vs Broad Spectrum vs CBD Isolate - What’s the Difference?”
2. SELECT A HIGH-QUALITY PRODUCT
Once you’ve decided on the type of CBD product, that’s best for you, it’s tempting to run off to the nearest shop and buy the first thing that kind of fits the bill. But, if you want something that’s going to be effective, it’s important to find the best quality product you can afford.
Every (legal) CBD product starts with hemp. Hemp is a bioaccumulator, meaning it has a habit of absorbing substances such as pesticides or other chemicals at a rate faster than that at which the substances are lost. This, coupled with the risk of molds, and other contaminants make how and where the raw hemp is sourced from, makes it probably one of the most important factors when choosing a high-quality product. Choose a CBD product where the company disclose information about:
Grow Location: Typically locally grown hemp from the USA and EU is best.
Growing Practices: Choose CBD products made from organically grown, GMO-free, pesticide-free hemp.
The following are the most common extraction methods you’re likely to come across, each coming with their own advantages and disadvantages:
Ethanol / Alcohol Extraction: The oldest known extraction process for separating CBD oils by soaking the flower in either ethanol or 80% proof or higher alcohol. Can leave harmful residues behind.
CO2 Extraction: Uses liquid CO2 to remove CBD from the hemp flower using either supercritical, subcritical, or mid-critical processing. One of the cleanest and most efficient extraction methods.
Carrier Oil Extraction: An oil, most commonly olive, coconut oil/MCT or hempseed oil is added to decarboxylated hemp and heated again for several hours, drawing the cannabinoids out of the plant and into the carrier oil. Clean, but not very effective at removing all the cannabinoids.
3. SELECT A REPUTABLE BRAND
In the CBD industry, trusting your product and the brand you are buying it from is vital. And although not always true, it’s still a good bet that a reputable brand became that way for a reason - they produce effective, honest and high-quality products. Things you should look for in a CBD company when you're considering purchasing from them is to look at the following aspects of their company:
Being transparent about who they are, where they are, and how they do what they do is how a CBD brand shows that they and their products are worthy of your trust. A company should be open about things like:
Location: A company should provide the location that they operate from, including a physical address.
Contact Methods: A company should make it easy for you to get hold of them. This means that they should have different contact methods like a phone number and email address where they can answer your questions or ease your concerns. They should also provide you with timely response and not take weeks or months to respond.
Visibility & Presence: At first glance a CBD company may look great, but if you look closer, a different picture may emerge. Reputable companies are active on social media, post photos of their staff, products and events they attended, and be visible and present in the CBD industry.
Labeling, Lab Testing & Reporting
Another way CBD brands can build trust through transparency is with clear labeling, lab testing, and reporting. These documents provide you with a glimpse into the product and will help you confirm its purity, potency and quality.
Labeling: At the very least a label should provide you with information about the product size, ingredients, serving size / dosage, a batch number, a barcode / QR code and the name and address of the manufacturer, packer or distributor. For more information on CBD labeling and how to read them, we’ve put together this quick-read CBD Oil Labels guide.
Lab Testing: Ideally using a third party laboratory, any reputable CBD company will want an objective, scientific report of what is in the product, both for their own quality control but also for you. That way they, and you, can gauge the quality, potency and purity of that CBD product. Also, make sure that the lab results they are providing is for your actual product. Reputable companies will sometimes provide batch level reports so you can match up your product to a specific lab.
Reporting: Another thing to look for is what is reported on the lab results. There are a variety of different tests (screenings) that can be performed on a CBD product sample. Different screenings test for the presence or absence of different compounds. Good quality products should report the screening results for cannabinoid content, terpene content and contaminants including pesticide, heavy metal, mycotoxin screenings. Check out our article “How to Read CBD Third Party Lab Test Results” if you need help on deciphering lab reports.
4. SELECT THE RIGHT VALUE/PRICE POINT
The lack of regulation and the tumultuous beginnings of the CBD industry has caused a lack of consistency in price and quality. Although things are getting better, there are still CBD products that seem too good to be true while others seem like a plain rip off.
In the end you want the best quality product for what you can afford. And the best way to do this is to decide what your price range is and then picking your top 10 products from your top 10 reputable companies. Then calculate the price per milligram of CBD content in a product using the following equation:
Product Price / CBD Content in MG = Price Per Milligram of CBD Content
br> Although the price per milligram can vary between product types, it will give you some objective measure that lets you compare how much you are really going to spend on a product once all the bells and whistles are removed.
5. RED FLAGS
Knowing what to avoid can sometimes be just as helpful as knowing what to look for. So if you see any of the following warning signs when shopping for CBD, we recommend moving on: No lab reports: Although mentioned earlier, it's worth mentioning lab reports again. They are standard today and there are too many good CBD brands that do provide lab reports to buy from one that doesn’t.
Synthetic products: There’s been a surge of companies that have been caught selling synthetic cannabinoids that can be toxic and hazardous to your health. Auditing a CBD brand using our above guidelines it will help you avoid these scammers.
Aggressive medical benefit claims: Companies making cure-all promises or making disease specific claims are not only violating FDA and EU regulations, but claims like these are also often a sign of a low quality product and/or disreputable CBD company.
Free sample scams: This is unfortunately increasing, and it’s damaging the reputation of good brands as well as the industry. Free sample scams are when companies use free samples to grab customer payment information and then re-bill. Before signing up for a free sample, search around the internet for specific reports and reviews.
MLM programs: The bane of the supplement industry, multi-level marketing companies are now also entering into the CBD space. While these companies may offer excellent products and tick all the boxes, by their very nature, MLM’s don’t necessarily have your best interest at heart.