CBD Lab Results: Why They're Important and How to Read Them
What Are CBD Lab Reports
With the CBD market remaining unregulated these days and brands making claims left and right, it’s critical to know how you can confirm the quality and legitimacy of the CBD products your brand offers/purchases.
The best—and only surefire—way to do this is through a Certificate of Analysis or lab report.
Every CBD product available on the market contains a hemp extract as the base ingredient. It is this hemp extract that lab reports will focus on.
Third-party lab testings are performed to verify that an end product contains the desired cannabinoid and terpene content. They also verify the product is free of harmful contaminants like heavy metals, mold, pesticides, and more.
CBD manufacturers will often send their CBD products to independent third-party labs to seek an unbiased analysis of their products. This process includes the testing of the quality, purity, and potency of a CBD sample, as well as screening for harmful contaminants such as heavy metals, mold, pesticides, and more.
In return, the CBD manufacturer receives a trustworthy and reliable Certificate of Analysis that showcases their findings. These results can often be found on websites or provided to customers upon request.
Why Do CBD Lab Reports Matter?
A study conducted in 2017 found that almost 70% of online CBD products were mislabeled, containing either substantially more or less CBD than advertised.
While commercial hemp cultivation was legalized throughout the U.S. with the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, as mentioned above, the industry remains highly unregulated. This leaves a lot of grey area for unethical CBD manufacturers to artificially inflate or lie about the quality and content of their CBD products.
Even more disturbing is that some CBD companies are selling products that are sourced from hemp of questionable quality and may even have harmful contaminants.
Until the proper guidelines and regulations are set into place, legitimate CBD brands and manufacturers can stand out from the unscrupulous brands spamming the market through the practice of transparency. In this case, by making their independent third-party lab testing results available to the public, and educating them as to how to interpret them.
Basically, if a CBD manufacturer cannot supply you with lab reports, it is wise to seek your products elsewhere.
Get more tips on how to easily become a CBD seller.
What Is Included In a CBD Lab Report?
First thing, it is important to understand that not all products are created equal. And this can sometimes be true for products made by the same manufacturer. For this reason, it is vital that you seek out a lab report for each product that you are considering.
There are a few key things that third-party labs will be testing for and may be included in the results. We’ve covered them below.
CBD Content. Recently, many independent studies have outed insincere companies for having false claims as to the strength and content of CBD in their products. While the label on your CBD product will make a claim as to the certain amount of CBD MGs in your product, these numbers can easily be inflated. A third-party lab test is the best way to back up the claims of your product.
THC Content. Where ensuring the correct CBD content is important for the strength and quality of a product, verifying the THC content carries far more weight and potential repercussions. According to current regulations, the legal limit of THC in a hemp product is 0.3 percent or less. Any company producing or selling products above this legal limit will face serious fines and or penalties. In addition, products containing higher amounts of THC are more likely to induce the “high” feeling in consumers, and may even cause positive results in drug tests.
CBD Profile. CBD products come in three main profiles: full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and CBD isolate. Lab results will verify that the CBD formula a product contains matches what’s written on the label. So, if you're purchasing a product that is full-spectrum, you’ll find a cannabinoid profile that shows CBD, CBDa, CBG, THC, and terpenes. Whereas if you're purchasing an isolate product, CBD should be the only cannabinoid within this profile. We’ll break down the three main CBD profiles below.
Terpenes Profile. The small, understated compounds typically take a back seat to hemp's popular cannabinoids THC and CBD yet they play a very important role. Found naturally throughout the plant world, terpenes are responsible for the characteristic fragrance and flavor of the cannabis plant, as well as plenty of other plants including lemons, oranges, roses, tea trees, and pine trees. We’ll dive deeper into terpenes and their benefits below.
Contaminants. There a few key methods for CBD extraction, among the most common are CO2 Extraction, Dry Ice Extraction, and Solvent Extraction. Between the hemp farming, cultivation, and the extraction processes, there is a possibility that contaminants such as solvents, pesticides, and more can be introduced — and left behind — in your hemp extract.
Metals. As a bioaccumulator, hemp has the ability to pull nutrients from the soil and concentrate them in its stems and leaves. While this has its benefits, it also has drawbacks. Mainly, the fact that this ability means it also concentrates harmful compounds such as heavy metals from the soil. These compounds should be strictly avoided, as they can cause adverse effects in the body if consumed.
Microbiology/Mycotoxins. This testing verifies that a sample is free of microbes like yeast, molds, E-coli, and salmonella, as well as mycotoxins which are toxic substances produced by a fungus.
Full Spectrum. The most complete CBD formulation, full-spectrum offers a wide range of cannabinoids and terpenes, including THC, the compound associated with the psychoactive effects of marijuana, in trace amounts of less than 0.3 percent THC.
Broad Spectrum. This neutral formulation lives in the middle ground just between isolate and full-spectrum, offering a specialized range of cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes without any traces of THC.
CBD Isolate. The purest and most potent form of CBD on the market, CBD isolate is extracted from the hemp plant without any of the other natural compounds such as other cannabinoids (including THC), flavonoids, or terpenes. Because of its purity, isolate is free of taste and odor.
As mentioned above, terpenes are small, hydrocarbon molecules that are found naturally in all plants.
These small molecules play a very big role in the plant world. Aside from attracting pollinators and deterring herbivores, terpenes are responsible for some of our most favorite and recognizable fragrances and flavors.
Plants with strong scents like citrus, rosemary, eucalyptus, and lavender have high levels of specific terpenes which give them their fragrance and flavor, we're familiar with today.
In the cannabis plant, terpenes are among many biologically active phytochemicals cannabinoids such as CBD and THC. There are over 100 terpenes identified in cannabis alone.
While they may not be touted as strongly as CBD or THP, these tiny molecules are responsible for the pronounced differences among the many cannabis strains.
Additional Verifications / Certificates
Obtaining a Certificate of Analysis from your CBD manufacturer is a critical step in ensuring that your business is providing a high-quality CBD product.
However, you don't have to stop there.
High-integrity CBD manufacturers will also back up their practices and products with additional certifications. For example, CBD brands can seek out the following:
Certificate of Quality Assurance (CoQA). This offers additional screenings and verifications to provide a second layer of assurance that the product contains what is being claimed.
Good Manufacturing Practice Certificate. A critical indicator of quality in the U.S. is the recognition of following Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). These practices are required to conform to guidelines recommended by agencies that control the authorization and licensing of most consumer product manufacturing.
Since the CBD industry remains under dubious jurisdiction, it is easy for companies to misrepresent the GMP certification.
When you ask to see a potential partner’s certification, be sure that what you are seeing is not a building’s previously earned GMP certification (which can happen when one business takes over another’s manufacturing facility) or a GMP audit ( a GMP audit only identifies corrective actions that must be taken to achieve eventual GMP certification).
Be meticulous in your review of any GMP documentation, ensuring that they include the actual name of the company you’re considering, and up to date information.
ISO. A seal of approval from a third party body that a company runs to one of the international standards developed and published by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).
The ISO is an independent, non-governmental international organization that brings together experts to share knowledge and develop international standards that support innovation and provide solutions to global challenges.
USDA Organic. Organic certification requires that farmers and handlers document their processes and get inspected every year. Organic on-site inspections account for every component of the operation, including, but not limited to, seed sources, soil conditions, crop health, weed and pest management, water systems, inputs, contamination and commingling risks and prevention, and record-keeping. Tracing organic products from start to finish is part of the USDA organic promise.