The market has been flooded with a multitude of CBD products from so many different companies and manufacturers that you have to wonder if they’re all safe and effective. If you’re looking to buy CBD oil, here are 10 questions to ask to make sure that you’ll choose the right product.
What is CBD oil?
CBD is short for cannabidiol, a phytocannabinoid found in Cannabis sativa. CBD oil is just one of the many CBD products available in the market; it is so named because it uses oil as the base/carrier liquid.
There are many benefits attributed to CBD, although these have yet to be scientifically proven. The effects of phytocannabinoids on the body were first looked into when scientists studied THC, the major component of marijuana which produces the plant’s characteristic high. Both THC and CBD are present in marijuana, but CBD is present in very low amounts.
CBD and THC have the same molecular formula, but their structures are arranged differently. This is why while both compounds may deliver the same positive health effects — as described mostly by anecdotal evidence — CBD does not cause a high.
CBD is found in much higher amounts in the hemp plant, a variety of Cannabis sativa. This means that hemp also contains THC, but only less than 0.3%. For this reason, hemp-derived CBD does not produce euphoric effects.
Can you really benefit from CBD oil?
There have been a number of studies on the potential benefits of CBD oil in humans. One benefit that has already been proven is the ability of CBD to treat epileptic seizures, especially in individuals who do not respond to antiepileptic drugs. In fact, the FDA approved a CBD seizure medication, EPIDIOLEX®, in 2018.
Another highly promising benefit of CBD is as an analgesic, or a painkiller. Clinical trials have found that CBD has great potential for pain treatment, with acceptable side effects. In fact, the drug Sativex®, which contains equal proportions of THC and CBD, has been approved in Canada last for use in treating pain associated with multiple sclerosis and cancer. Numerous trials using Sativex have also found that the drug is safe and effective for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and cancer pain. Using CBD for mild aches, such as headaches and muscle soreness, may also prove helpful.
Some studies have also found that CBD has strong potential as treatment for anxiety disorders and insomnia. While still needing further trials, CBD may also help with other cancer symptoms, acne, neurologic function, and heart health.
Is CBD oil from marijuana the same as CBD oil from the hemp plant?
As mentioned above, CBD oil from marijuana contains enough amounts of THC to cause a high; CBD oil from hemp may contain zero or only 0.3% THC, which is not enough to cause euphoria. Take note that marijuana and the hemp plant are the same species — Cannabis sativa — but are of different varieties, with their main difference being their individual THC content.
What are the different kinds of CBD oil?
Full-spectrum CBD oil
This oil is a whole-plant formula that includes terpenes and all other cannabinoids present in the hemp plant, in addition to CBD. Full-spectrum CBD oil delivers what is known as the “entourage effect,” which is basically the combined effects of all the beneficial compounds in the plant. Keep in mind that this means THC is also present in the oil, but only less than 0.3% of it.
Broad-spectrum CBD oil
This is similar to full-spectrum CBD oil, except that there’s no THC. Broad-spectrum CBD oil is the best option for individuals who want to avoid THC altogether.
This oil contains nothing else but the CBD extract and the carrier oil.
What are the different ways to use CBD oil?
This is the most common way to take CBD oil. You place the appropriate number of drops directly under your tongue, where the oil will quickly enter the bloodstream. Some individuals may be uncomfortable taking their CBD drops in public or around other people, however. And the taste and texture of CBD oil is not to everyone’s liking.
You can take CBD oil through inhalation by using a vaporizer or vape pen or mod. Inhaling CBD vapor produces the fastest result, as the CBD goes directly to the bloodstream. Vaping, however, presents its own risks, mostly associated with the mechanism of heating up the CBD and some of the ingredients usually used in vape cartridges and juices.
These may be CBD-infused balms, creams, gels, lotions, and transdermal patches. Topicals are a great option for targeted pain relief, i.e., they can be directly applied to the problem area. Absorption through skin, however, is not as efficient as sublingual absorption so you may need a higher concentration to get the desired results. CBD topicals that contain other analgesic ingredients, such as camphor or menthol have been shown to provide greater relief.
These may be CBD-infused gummies, mints, chocolates, or cake pops, among many others. Edibles do a great job of masking the grassy or earthy taste of CBD oil, and eliminating the oily texture. They come in many delicious flavors, can be easily packed, and discreetly consumed. Edibles have low concentrations of CBD, however, so they’re most suitable for mild conditions. They also usually contain a lot of sugar and some preservatives. As an alternative, you can make your own CBD edibles using CBD tincture.
How is the CBD oil extracted?
There are three standardized ways that CBD can be extracted from the hemp plant.
This is a precise, environment-friendly, and advanced extraction method that uses carbon dioxide to extract CBD and other beneficial compounds from the hemp plant. A special equipment is used to first turn CO2 gas into liquid, which is then reheated until it reaches a “supercritical point” wherein the CO2 achieves the properties of a gas and the density of a liquid. This supercritical CO2 is then introduced to the harvested hemp material and it works to separate the CBD and other compounds from the plant, after which the CO2 is simply allowed to evaporate — leaving behind the pure extract.
CO2 extraction produces the purest and, therefore, most potent CBD extract among all other extraction methods.
This is a straightforward process that involves steaming the plant material, turning CBD and the other compounds in the plant into vapor. The vapor is then cooled to turn it into liquid — the oil. The drawback to this process is that it is inefficient, producing inconsistent CBD concentrations and less oil. The heat required to steam the plant may also degrade some of the plant compounds, including CBD.
This process uses a solvent — usually food-grade ethanol, but glycerin or vinegar may also be used — to soak the plant material and draw out CBD and other compounds. The resulting liquid is then distilled to separate the oil from the solvent. This is an efficient and inexpensive extraction method, but requires meticulous execution especially when ethanol is used, which is flammable. If not properly distilled, trace amounts of solvent may be left behind. Solvent-extracted CBD oil may also end up tasting bitter if the ethanol also draws out chlorophyll from the plant.
How do you test for the quality of the CBD oil?
Specialized testing techniques performed by third-party laboratories will verify the CBD profile of a product, as well as identify the other compounds present, if any, and their respective amounts; if there are contaminants in the product, the testing will also show this. A reputable company should have their products tested this way to guarantee quality. A CBD product that has undergone third-party lab testing will have a certificate of analysis (COA) as proof.
What are the possible risks of using CBD oil?
While studies supporting the health benefits of CBD oil are still limited, they have shown that CBD oil is generally well-tolerated. Additionally, according to the World Health Organization, CBD oil is generally safe.
However, some people may still experience some side effects due to improper dosing, use of poor-quality/impure CBD oil, use alongside other medications, or the presence of certain ingredients.
Common side effects of CBD intake may include diarrhea, dry mouth, drowsiness, fatigue, and reduced appetite.
Where was the hemp source farmed?
It’s important to find out where the hemp source was farmed, as this will also verify the quality of the CBD product. Ideally, the hemp plant material used should have been cultivated by licensed growers within the USA, as these growers are legally required to follow guidelines for farming hemp.
The 2018 Farm Bill which legalized the cultivation of hemp also placed hemp cultivation under the supervision of the USDA. The USDA’s Domestic Hemp Production Program provides guidelines and regulations for land requirements and information where the hemp is grown; testing of THC levels in the plant and plant derivatives (such as CBD products); disposal of plants that do not meet established standards; and farm licensing requirements.
Additionally, organic hemp is always the best option and organic farms in the US also require USDA certification.
Hemp sourced outside the US is also certified by the USDA, but the quality is not as guaranteed as that of locally-cultivated hemp.
What other ingredients are present in the product?
CBD oil from a reputable company should contain only CBD and other beneficial compounds from the hemp plant (terpenes and other cannabinoids), if the oil is full-spectrum or broad-spectrum, plus the carrier oil. This information should be clearly indicated on the product label, and verified by the company’s COA.
Some CBD oil products may have flavoring, and these additional ingredients should also be listed; likewise, other ingredients that are added to boost the effect of the product, such as natural analgesics like camphor and menthol, should be specifically indicated.
Most importantly, the product must indicate the amount of THC present — whether it’s zero or only up to 0.3%.