There is no doubt that CBD products have swept the globe in recent years. In fact, nearly a quarter of the United States population has tried some form of CBD product according to one Consumer Reports study with one out of seven using CBD on a daily basis. So, what makes this cannabis compound so desirable? And how do you know you’re buying the right product from the right brand?

What is CBD?

First, let’s take a look at CBD itself. CBD, or cannabidiol, is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in the hemp and cannabis plant that is reported to have many potential health benefits including anxiety and pain reduction, seizure treatment and more, without getting the user “high.” Widespread use and manufacture of products containing CBD resulted from the 2018 Farm Bill, a measure that fully legalized cultivation of hemp in the United States and opened the door for full-scale CBD production with countless brands that reach around the world.

So, with all of the CBD companies in the market, the question needs to be asked: who can you trust for a quality CBD product? These products can be found anywhere from health and wellness stores to smoke shops and gas station counters – not to mention hundreds of internet sites. It’s important to know how to differentiate the safe, reputable brands from those who are only interested in profit at the risk of selling an adulterated product. Here are five questions you should ask when seeking your own brand of CBD products.


  • How was the CBD Extracted?


There are several variables by which CBD products can be formulated, all of which starts with how the compound was extracted. Currently, there are three common extraction methods by which CBD is pulled from the hemp plant: hydrocarbon, ethanol and CO2. While all three of these methods are effective in extracting CBD from the plant, there are potential differences in the level of health risks for consumers. 

  • Ethanol: This extraction method utilizes ethanol to extract the compound from the hemp plant. While this is an effective method for producers, there are certain unknowns for customers that may be detrimental to their health. For example, CBD manufacturers using this method are often not using organic food grade ethanol, but are instead using denatured ethanol. These denaturants are chemical additives that could carry potential health issues when consumed on a regular basis.
  • Hydrocarbon: This method uses hydrocarbons like butane, hexane and propane for an extraction solvent. Though most of the solvent is removed from a final CBD product, there are always residual compounds that are left after extraction that are inevitably ingested by consumers. Similar to ethanol extraction, there are many unknowns when it comes to daily intake of residual hydrocarbons in a CBD product. 
  • Supercritical CO2: For consumers, products created through supercritical CO2 extraction are likely the safest for continual consumption. This is a natural solvent without additives and a method that is tried and true without any risk of residual chemicals. Because of this, CBD products extracted with CO2 can be considered organic and environmentally friendly often carrying the label “Clean and Green.” For this reason, customers seeking out a brand would benefit from limiting their search to brands that use CO2 extracted CBD.  


  • Will They Provide Third Party Testing Results?


Because the market of CBD products is relatively young, it is somewhat akin to the wild, wild west. That is to say, there is very little regulation, research and testing conducted that can cover the vast quantity of products on the market. This has resulted in profit focused brands using dangerous materials, such as vitamin E acetate, a material that causes extreme lung illnesses from vaporizer products. There are various other chemicals and materials that could be equally as dangerous that are added to these products simply for the sake of profit. So, what should you do?

Before purchasing any CBD product, it is a good practice to request suppliers for a certification to show that the merchandise was third party analyzed. By doing this, a customer can verify a number of factors that result in the safety of a product including residual solvents, heavy metals, pesticides, and more.

If a brand has issues with providing a third party testing result, or provides a result that shows any residual materials that could pose potential risks like those listed above, it would be wise to steer clear of that brand altogether. If a brand has readily available third party results that show their product to be unadulterated, there is little to show that brand to be risky in terms of health detriments.



  • How do They Package Their Products?


While this may seem like a lesser subject, the way a product is packaged can point to the quality of a product. A reputable brand will hold nothing back from its customers regarding what is in their products. They will often have listed the method by which the product is extracted and formulated, whether or not it is THC-Free, Full Spectrum or Broad Spectrum, percentages of cannabinoids, and other vital pieces of information that consumers should have access to right on the product packaging.

So, if a CBD product is seemingly vague or misleading on the packaging itself, it may be best to avoid that brand altogether. And, if a CBD brand claims that their product can cure, prevent, or treat any diseases or ailments, they should be avoided. Not only are they making an illegal claim, it is a clear indicator that the brand is simply looking to coax customers into purchasing their products without concern for honesty.


  • Do They Provide ‘Broad Spectrum’, ‘Full Spectrum’, and ‘CBD Isolate’ Options?


When researching the current trends in CBD products, a common recurrence of these three product types will likely appear. There are several reasons why these product variations are increasingly popular on the CBD market. For example, CBD Isolate contains only CBD without any additional cannabinoids – including THC. These products are very important for those who would benefit from CBD, but are concerned about cannabinoids in their product due to health or career concerns. 

On the other hand, there are additional benefits from Full-Spectrum and Broad Spectrum products as well. Full spectrum hemp products will contain all the naturally occurring cannabinoids and terpenes – even THC, though it will contain less than .3% due to federal guidelines. The reason for this is a synergistic effect that results from the natural cannabinoids and terpenes working in conjunction with one another. This effect is being studied currently and is commonly referred to as “The Entourage Effect.” While more research is needed, reports show that this study is proving to be beneficial for some consumers.

Broad Spectrum products have the same range of compounds as full spectrum products, but are intentionally processed to remove THC. It is the perfect middle ground for customers who would like to explore the potential benefits of the Entourage Effect, but are concerned about THC in their product. If a brand only offers a single CBD product, it may be an indication that customer wellness is not their priority.



  • How is Their Customer Support? 


Any CBD brand considered to be reputable will do anything they can to educate and compensate their customers whenever needed. For this reason, it should be clear and easy to find a company who has high reviews in regards to customer service. If a product is ineffective, defective or less than what was promised, a brand that cares about its customers will refund or exchange their product without hesitation. If they claim to be incapable of doing this, it should be a red flag for any customer.

It also comes down to more than just the product itself. A respectable brand will provide any information needed to give the customer a full understanding of their company, their products and the general information needed to know how CBD will affect them. Afterall, the CBD market is a young and growing industry and general understanding of CBD is still relatively new. If a company knows what they’re doing, and they care about their customers, they will gladly discuss the benefits of their products and any concerns they may have.


Jon Thompson, PhD, is a separations scientist and CEO of extraktLAB, an accredited engineering company for extraction, distillation and product formulation in the CBD, hemp and cannabis industries. 


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