CBD is everywhere these days, and it’s quickly developed a reputation as a miraculous cure-all for a wide range of conditions from chronic pain to depression. It’s safe and well-tolerated, featuring many of the benefits of medical marijuana without the intoxicating effects of THC, and it’s legal everywhere. Given all these factors, CBD can seem like a sensible addition to any wellness regimen.
However, there are downsides. While CBD itself is very safe, the industry is still unregulated, as is true of most supplements. The market is already flooded with cheap CBD products from sketchy sources, often in Eastern Europe and China, and manufactured with no oversight. Some products might contain no CBD at all, or, even worse, may be contaminated with pesticides, heavy metals, dangerous microbes, and other toxins. And even CBD of reasonable quality sometimes comes via a delivery method that won’t do much for you.
Fortunately, when deciding how to choose the best CBD products, you can keep a few things in mind to ensure that you’re staying safe, and getting your money’s worth.
The “green rush” that followed widespread decriminalization/legalization of hemp and cannabis has resulted in dozens, if not hundreds, of new companies hustling products into stores as fast as they can make them. The sheer number of CBD pills, potions, vapes, oils, and topicals can be bewildering, and seeking out reputable manufacturers is a great way to narrow down your choices.
A responsible producer will be able to provide an accounting of where and how their hemp is grown. Ideally, they should be partnering with farms that use clean, sustainable agricultural practices – or employing those practices in their own farming operations. This isn’t just good for the earth. Responsibility and transparency in hemp cultivation ensures that pesticides and toxins stay out of the soil, the water, the product, and your body. When in doubt, ask: the company should be proud to share their sources and practices with you, and if they’re not, look elsewhere.
Even with a clean hemp plant, the CBD must still be extracted in a way that ensures a clean product – and the gold standard for purity is the CO2 extraction method. Other methods may use toxic solvents and petrochemicals that pollute the environment before, during, and after the process — and they can leave residues that you definitely don’t want to be consuming. These solvents range from mild (alcohol) to nasty (petrochemicals with carcinogenic effects).
Lastly, the manufacturer should be able to produce a Certificate of Analysis (COA). This document, provided by an independent laboratory, will show whether the product contains any dangerous substances, such as microbes, pesticides, solvents, THC, or other contaminants, and it should also verify the product’s potency, so you know it contains real CBD, and how much.
Again, when in doubt, ask. Most companies have a customer service contact on their website, and typically post links to their COA from the product page or FAQ.
CBD isolate sounds like a great idea…
CBD isolate sounds like a great idea – the chemical in its purest form. It’s highly affordable and easily accessible, and it’s simple to add to anything, from gummies to lotions.
The problem is that it just doesn’t work very well. Studies have shown that whole-plant hemp extracts are much more effective than CBD alone, because its natural cohort of terpenes, fatty acids, and other cannabinoids work together with your body’s systems, a phenomenon known as the “entourage effect”. Choosing whole-plant hemp products is like eating your spinach, while adding CBD isolate to your routine is more like popping a multivitamin – better than nothing, but not ideal.
The terminology associated with whole-plant hemp products is a little confusing, as you might expect from a new and still mostly unstandardized industry. Roughly, “broad-spectrum CBD” will contain CBD and the rest of its beneficial entourage, with no mind-altering THC. For daily wellness use, customers who aren’t interested in catching a buzz will probably want to look for products labeled as broad-spectrum.
“Full-spectrum CBD” should also contain some amount of THC. In some instances this is beneficial, since THC is very effective for nausea and pain relief, among other popular applications. However, THC will also get you high, which you might not want. It’s still illegal in most places, and can only be sold in legal states by licensed dispensaries. If you’re looking at a product labeled “full-spectrum”, and you’re not in a dispensary in a legal state, that label isn’t strictly accurate.
Maybe, but it’s hard to tell. Products will always contain other things, though – like flavorings, carrier oils, and other ingredients – that can and should be certified organic, and a reputable company will make this clear on the packaging.
Generally speaking, CBD comes in a few broad categories: CBD oil, edibles (including pills or capsules), vaporizers, topicals, and suppositories.
Of these, CBD oil is probably the most popular. It can be applied topically or swallowed – or, ideally, swished in the mouth. This works best because the mucous membranes in the mouth are very absorptive, and swishing bypasses the digestive process, which delays the onset of effects and may reduce potency. For this reason, edibles in general – though often delicious – aren’t as efficient as the best CBD oil held in the mouth for a little while before swallowing.
For the fastest results, without the negative health effects of smoking, try a vaporizer. Or for lower back pain, menstrual cramps, or other pelvic discomfort, consider a CBD suppository — the tissues of the vagina and rectum are very permeable, and CBD applied directly to these areas can be very effective.
And remember that until full legalization is a reality, it’s still the Wild West out there. Regulations are limited and terminology isn’t standardized, and your good health may depend on good information. No matter what method you use to take your CBD, always make sure you can verify how it was made and where it came from — for you, the plants and the planet.