Decades ago, the main concern of people interested in CBD products was how and where to buy them. CBD wasn’t widely available back then, so there were only a few brands to choose from. But today, the UK CBD market is already worth around £300 million, and there has been a CBD renaissance of sorts, with creative products from new brands popping up everywhere.
The question remains though - how can you determine what’s high-quality from what’s not?
Instead of making purchases based on the latest trends or whichever brand has the flashiest marketing, you can be more confident in the quality of a CBD product if it ticks off the following...
Company Reputation and Responsiveness
One of the most important things to do when considering a CBD product is to check out the brand or company behind it. Even before looking into details such as product ingredients and manufacturing, you can already figure out a lot by looking at the company’s website and doing some research about what people think of them.
First, look up the product and the associated brand on Google. Online forums like Reddit will give you a variety of straightforward reviews from consumers, and posts that detail both the pros and cons of the product on social media platforms like YouTube or CBD blogs are also helpful. You can also ask around with people that you know who might have had direct experience with the brand.
Aside from listening to the customer feedback, make sure to go to the company website too. Is it professional-looking, and is information laid out clearly and transparently? The most trustworthy companies have responsive customer service, so it’s a good sign if you reach out to them via social media or their email and they respond quickly. If you can’t find a phone number anywhere on the site, then that is probably a bad sign. <br>
Third-Party Testing Reports
If the brand looks trustworthy in general, you can dig deeper by checking if the product has gone through third-party testing. Not all CBD businesses set up third-party testing, but it’s pretty much the only reliable way to know if their product is what they say it is. In fact, products might pass or fail third-party testing, with the results laid out in a report.
The best labs for third-party testing have ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation) 17025 accreditation, meaning that they follow rigorous scientific guidelines. You can view the results through the company’s Certificates of Analysis (COA), which verifies that the product has gone through third-party testing. The company’s COA must also be dated less than a year old.
Some CBD businesses will have their COAs already available on their website for downloading. On the other hand, you might only get these once you’ve submitted a formal request. In this case, just send an email to the company. They should be willing to be open about their product, so it’s a red flag if they keep dodging it or don’t bother to reply.
Ethanol or Carbon Dioxide Extraction Method
While it might seem like a behind-the-scenes factor, the extraction method used for a CBD product hugely affects its quality. Look for CBD products that have been extracted using ethanol or carbon dioxide as opposed to toxic solvents like propane or butane. You can learn about a product’s extraction method by heading to the company website, talking to customer service, or reading their COA.
Because CBD isn’t a heavily regulated industry yet in terms of manufacturing, companies resort to different extraction methods. CBD extraction happens by applying pressure to the hemp plant, which will then release oils. Ironically, the cheapest method for extraction leads to the lowest quality. Companies looking to cut costs at the expense of their customers resort to butane, propane, hexane, or pentane, all of these are hazardous.
Ethanol and carbon dioxide are much more high-quality extraction methods, although they do require more refined equipment and higher production costs. Ethanol clears toxins from the hemp plant, while carbon dioxide remains the industry standard, delivering a pure CBD product that’s clean while still containing its original nutrients.
Proper Packaging and Labelling
Aside from how the product was manufactured, take note too of the product packaging. Once a leaf is plucked out from the hemp plant, the CBD in it already starts to dissipate gradually, so manufacturers have to be careful about the packaging, which should help extend the CBD product’s shelf life. CBD typically lasts two years or less, but other ingredients in the CBD product might have a shorter lifespan.
CBD degrades with exposure to light, heat, and oxygen, so a CBD product would ideally be protected from these by its packaging. In particular, CBD oil is best kept in a dark glass container that’s tightly sealed. Plastic containers are also available, but glass shuts out other substances better.
You also have to consider the labelling on the product. The amount of CBD in the product should be clearly stated in milligrams. Labels that only talk about the total amount of cannabinoids are too vague because cannabinoids can refer to other compounds such as THC, which is psychoactive. If you have the COA on hand, check if the CBD concentration listed there is consistent with the labelling. The label must also show all of the product’s ingredients.
Organic Hemp Cultivation
All CBD in the UK is ultimately derived from the hemp plant, which has the interesting property of being a hyperaccumulator. Simply put, it absorbs substances from the soil more easily than usual. A hemp plant that’s grown organically in healthy, fertile soil will thrive with nutrients and beneficial minerals, while one exposed to worse conditions will produce low-quality CBD with heavy metals mixed in.
Companies that grow CBD in their own farms are usually the safest bet for this because they handle the entire production process, from plant to final packaging. A CBD company that’s upfront about its sourcing standards and beliefs is much more reliable. Factors to watch out for include the condition of the soil, where the company bought its hemp seeds, and whether or not pesticides or GMOs were used.
Most CBD companies will mention their plant sourcing, but you can always look through their COA. This will reveal whether any contaminants and pesticides or herbicides are present in the product.
Safe and Accurate Ingredients
To pick a high-quality CBD product, take the time to review the ingredients. These should be visible on the product label. However, for a more detailed breakdown, consult the COA instead and make sure that the ingredients listed there match what’s on the label, both in terms of name and quantity. You can also familiarise yourself with each ingredient, checking if they’re organic so you can make an informed decision as to whether you’re willing to put them in your body.
Many CBD users opt for broad-spectrum CBD rather than CBD isolate, which you can verify again from the COA. CBD isolate is 99% pure CBD that went through several extraction processes to remove other compounds. On the other hand, broad-spectrum CBD has other cannabinoids present, including vitamins, minerals, terpenes, fatty acids, and flavonoids.
CBD isolates are great for mixing it onto other products, but broad-spectrum CBD generally brings stronger therapeutic benefits. This is thought to be because of the “entourage effect,” where multiple cannabinoids work together to maximise each other’s effects. However, companies might label their products as broad-spectrum when they’re not. To check, you have to turn to the COA again, which must indicate at least two significant cannabinoids in the product.
As the CBD industry grows, it pays to do extra research on any CBD products that you’re planning to buy. Not all CBD products have the same quality, and you’ll get the most out of your efforts by choosing the best.
At Doctor Voss, we rigorously check all the CBD products that we stock and we only collaborate with suppliers and manufacturers that follow these standards rigorously.