Cannabidiol (CBD) is often touted as a miracle cure for many ailments, but how do you separate truth from fiction? Although CBD is becoming more widely available, many consumers are still unsure what type of CBD to buy, who to trust, where to get it, or how much to take.

As one of the fastest growing health supplements in the country, it’s important for consumers to stay up-to-date with all of the regulatory and scientific developments in the cannabis industry. Misconceptions have kept cannabis and hemp in the shadows, but recent legislation has opened access for CBD to many Americans.

So, how does a first-time user trek through the abundant, and often unreliable, information that floods cannabis-centric websites? When it comes to buying the right kind of CBD product, consumers should consider the brand, product type, concentration, among other factors.

What Is CBD?

CBD is quickly overstepping its more popular cannabinoid counterpart, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Because THC and CBD are chemical compounds that come from cannabis plants, consumers may think that CBD gets them “high” just like THC does. In reality, CBD does not produce any hallucinatory effects.

CBD is just one of the hundreds of cannabinoids found primarily in cannabis flower buds. Unlike THC’s intoxicating effects, CBD has been known to mitigate some of the negative effects of THC, depending on how much a person takes. CBD features many of the same medical applications as THC making it an attractive choice for health-conscious consumers that don’t want to get “stoned.”

Hemp vs Cannabis-Derived CBD

When looking for CBD products, consumers will likely run across CBD made from two different sources: cannabis and hemp. Hemp is a type of cannabis cultivar. Due to their close relation, hemp and cannabis have been lumped together as dangerous substances, even though hemp contains far less THC than a cannabis plant does.

Industrial hemp’s stalks, seeds, and leaves are versatile enough to make clothing, beauty products, biofuels, construction materials, and even CBD oil, tinctures, capsules, topicals, transdermal patches, isolates, and more.

Understanding CBD:THC Ratios

CBD and THC have shown to have therapeutic benefits, but more research needs to be done to produce personalized medications made from cannabinoids. Every person will react differently to CBD and THC. For example, some people may become paranoid and anxious when consuming heavy doses of THC.

States with medical cannabis laws may sell cannabis-derived CBD products with varying ratios of CBD:THC. Generally, the higher the CBD:THC ratio, the fewer intoxicating effects a person will feel. Consumers that don’t want to feel THC’s effects can turn to hemp-derived CBD, which can legally contain no more than 0.3% THC.

American vs. Overseas CBD

After the U.S.’s 2018 Farm Bill lifted restrictions on hemp cultivation, pilot research programs in multiple states have been growing legal industrial hemp. Many of these states have developed even stricter regulations on hemp production than some foreign countries. Foreign-sourced hemp-derived CBD is not required to go through the same state or federal testing.

Hemp is a powerful bioaccumulator meaning it does a good job of absorbing good and bad substances found in the soil including heavy metals and toxic pesticides. Buying sustainably grown hemp from licensed sources ensures patients reduce the risk of harm.

Laboratory Test Results

Consumers should do their due diligence in looking for or asking for test results/a certificate of analysis from a third-party accredited laboratory. Lab tests often check for cannabinoid content, mold, pesticides, and other contaminants. Some states don’t require testing of the final product. Companies that do the testing on their own accord are seen as more trustworthy.

CBD Concentration

Although CBD products may feature similar packaging, companies use varying concentrations of CBD to elicit different effects. Products should clearly display the CBD content in milligrams. A product with a large volume doesn’t necessarily mean higher CBD levels. Products can range from normal to strong CBD concentrations, depending on a person’s needs.

CBD Extraction Methods

CBD can be extracted from the plant and be made into edibles, drinks, or concentrates. Some extraction methods use hydrocarbons like propane or butane can run the risk of leaving residual solvents in the final CBD product. Other extraction methods like supercritical CO2 extraction or organic ethanol washes strip away all the plant’s lipids and waxes leaving behind the cannabinoids and terpenes from the plant.

Safety and Dosing of CBD

There’s not enough research to determine the appropriate dosage for certain medical conditions. Although overconsuming CBD won’t cause someone to feel intoxicating effects or fail a drug test, some mild side effects reported are fatigue, diarrhea, dry mouth, dizziness, and low blood pressure. Furthermore, some research suggests that CBD may interact with common prescription drugs by reducing the body’s ability to metabolize them. Always consult a physician first before starting to take CBD.

What To Look For When Buying CBD Products

CBD products can also contain additional ingredients including artificial flavors, corn syrup, GMOs, and transfats. CBD vapes, for example, can contain vegetable glycerin, propylene glycol, or polyethylene glycol as a thinning agent. Unfortunately, these thinning agents can be harmful if vaped and consumed. Finally, don’t use CBD products that have been derived from hemp seed or stalks because these are not rich sources of CBD.

High-quality CBD products are hard to come by, but with diligent research, consumers can score products that are trustworthy and safe. Consumers should always avoid companies that make unsubstantiated health claims about their CBD products. Reputable CBD companies have transparent policies and accessible lab testing reports that customers can trust.

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