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High-quality vs low-quality CBD: What to look out for

High-quality gets thrown around quite a lot. Many CBD companies out there use this term loosely without even a modicum of self-reflection, which is why a lot of new (and seasoned) CBD users out there have been conned out of their hard-earned money.

This sucks, particularly when the CBD industry has come under a lot of pressure from governmental regulatory bodies to clean up its act and work towards a better future. 

There’s been a lot of issues with the cannabis industry over the past couple of years, especially now when cannabis and cannabis-derived products have been catapulted into the mainstream.

Low-quality CBD vs high-quality CBD: at a glance

High-quality Low-quality 
Third-party tested with publicly-available Certificates of Analysis No third-party tests or publicly-available Certificates of Analysis
The hemp is grown organically in the USA (not imported)The hemp is imported internationally or bought from a white-label supplier (little control over hemp quality)
CO2 extraction method usedExtract diluted in a carrier oil with unnatural or synthetic ingredients 
The company is transparent and open with its mission statement, product information, and general business practicesThe company isn’t transparent and open with its mission statement, product information, or general business practices

Why knowing what high-quality CBD looks like is important

The CBD industry is a mixed bag. 

You have some really, really awesome companies out there producing some equally awesome products with high-quality CBD. These companies take pride in what they create and make sure you as the consumer are getting exactly what you pay for.

Unfortunately, there are other awful companies out there lurking in the shadows waiting to pounce on their unsuspecting customers. 

These awful companies exist only to capitalize on the CBD and cannabis trend. 

It’s therefore so, so important to know exactly what you’re looking at when purchasing CBD products. You never know when you’ll meet these shitty companies doing shitty things. 

How to know you’re purchasing (or have purchased) high-quality CBD:

Third-party testing

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, third-party testing and publicly available Certificates of Analysis (COAs) are the biggest indicators of whether your product is both high-quality and above-board. No company worth its salt will ever overlook these two vital components. 

Unsure of what these two components actually are?

Let me give you a brief rundown.

What is third-party testing?

Third-party testing refers to companies (CBD or otherwise) sending their product(s) to independent accredited laboratories for testing. These laboratories cannot be in any way linked to the company, nor should they be affiliated with it. 

Third-party testing is there for one purpose and one purpose only: to perform a comprehensive, unbiased analysis of what’s inside each product.

What is a Certificate of Analysis (COA)?

Once the independent third-party laboratory has conducted its analysis of the product(s), it’ll then issue a COA as evidence that the analysis took place.

A COA includes:

  • Cannabinoid Profile 
  • Terpene Profile
  • Mycotoxin analysis
  • Heavy Metals analysis
  • Residual Solvents analysis 

These test results not only show the quality of the extract and the overall product but also its safety and legality. 

Why third-party testing and COAs are vital

Third-party testing and COAs offer you as the customer a detailed insight into the products you’re purchasing — I like to refer to it as a magnifying glass that can see all the things you can’t see just by looking at the product itself. 

The Cannabinoid Profile, for example, shows you how many cannabinoids are in the extract and how much of each cannabinoid is present (typically shown as a percentage). 

If the company you’re purchasing from explicitly states the product is made using a full-spectrum hemp extract, the COA should show a high number of cannabinoids present. These cannabinoids should include CBD, cannabinol (CBN), cannabichromene (CBC), cannabigerol (CBG), and, of course, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)

Note: You’ll also find other cannabinoids not listed above. Those are just the main ones commonly found. 

If the Cannabinoid Profile shows just CBD or has all the cannabinoids minus THC, the company has mislabelled its product. A full-spectrum cannabidiol  extract must have a full range of cannabinoids (plus THC).

If the Cannabinoid Profile shows just cannabidiol and no other cannabinoids, it’s a CBD hemp isolate extract. If it shows a full range of cannabinoids with no THC, it’s a broad-spectrum CBD hemp extract.

If there are no cannabinoids, you’ll never know about it anyway because it’s probably some dreadful Amazon product manufactured in China and won’t be posted publicly anyway. 

What should you do if a company’s COA isn’t publicly available?

If you can’t find a COA on your chosen company’s website, don’t immediately assume the company hasn’t bothered to have its products tested. There are some companies that don’t put them up for public viewing (for reasons unbeknownst to me). 

If this is the case, simply request it from a customer service representative via email or phone call (email is better, to be honest). Legitimate CBD companies will almost always honor your request to see the COA, simply because they won’t have anything to hide. 

If they refuse or don’t reply back in a reasonable amount of time, move on to another company — they probably haven’t tested the products. 

If you want more information on third-party testing and COAs, click the link here

Hemp source

The second-biggest indicator your CBD product is high-quality is the hemp source. Why? Because the growing conditions, soil health, and regulations surrounding hemp growth and cultivation ultimately determines how to hemp will turn out. 

You see, hemp plants are bioaccumulators. They’re like vacuum cleaners picking up all the good and bad things from the soil it grows in. This means any toxins, heavy metals, or other contaminants alongside vital nutrients and minerals can be soaked up into the plant’s stems and leaves.

If the soil is poor-quality, the resulting CBD hemp extract will most likely be poor quality as well. 

And what happens when you consume poor-quality, contaminant-ridden hemp? The chances of you becoming sick increase — and no-one wants that to happen.

However, if the soil is fresh and maintained at a healthy level using organic, non-GMO practices, the hemp and resulting extract will be equally as healthy. 

Therefore, it’s crucial for you to know where exactly your hemp comes from and how the hemp farm operates. 

The white-label hemp supplier trap

Many CBD companies out there are vague about their hemp source — some will state their hemp is sourced from the USA, Europe, or Canada without giving an exact city or state, while others won’t say anything about it at all. 

This can be a red flag to look out for. 

Why?

Because generalized hemp source information (or no hemp source information at all) can be a sign the company obtains its hemp from a white-label supplier and has no idea where it actually comes from. 

When a company has very little knowledge over where its hemp is sourced, there’s an obvious lack of control over its quality from soil to sale. So, when you’re purchasing your next CBD product, make sure the company is forthcoming with its hemp source information. 

If the company isn’t forthcoming with this information and doesn’t post it publicly, you have every right to contact a customer service representative either via email or phone call.

Best and worst US states for hemp growing and cultivation

If a CBD company claims its hemp is sourced from South Dakota, Idaho, or Mississippi, be careful. These states are known as the worst states to grow and cultivate hemp.  

South Dakota, for example, has made all forms of hemp totally illegal under state law — even the transportation of hemp across state borders is prohibited. This means hemp growing, cultivation, and production is practically non-existent. No reputable company will ever source hemp from this state (probably because it’s damn-near impossible). 

Idaho, on the other hand, is perfectly fine with hemp provided it contains absolutely no THC whatsoever — not even <0.3%. Completely absurd. No CBD company with two brain cells will ever source its hemp from Idaho based on this rule. So, again, if a company claims it obtains hemp from this state, it’s probably bullshit. 

Instead, keep an eye out for hemp grown and cultivated in Colorado, Oregon, or California — these three states are often touted as the best for hemp growth and cultivation.  

Extraction method

The method companies and manufacturers use to extract CBD (and other cannabinoids) from varieties of cannabis determines your product’s overall quality. Some extraction methods yield better, more effective results, whilst others are less effective.  

CO2 Extraction (produces high-quality hemp extracts)

Carbon dioxide (CO2) extraction is often touted as the “gold standard” extraction method. It’s seen as one of, if not the cleanest and safest way to extract cannabidiol  and other cannabinoids from varieties of cannabis. CO2 practically guarantees high-quality CBD hemp extracts and high-quality CBD products.

How CO2 extraction works

Put simply, a CO2 extraction method utilizes highly pressurized carbon dioxide to pull the specific chemical compounds out of varieties of cannabis. It’s the most expensive method of extraction but also the most common amongst reputable CBD companies. 

There are two main types of CO2 extraction:

1. Supercritical CO2 extraction

At standard temperatures (low room temperature for example), CO2 is a gas. When it’s exposed to higher temperatures and pressures it becomes both a gas and a liquid all at the same time — this is what’s meant by “supercritical”.

Once the CO2 morphs into its supercritical form (a bit like an evolving Pokemon), it gets passed through a chamber full of cannabis (in our case hemp), where it dissolves the membrane of the trichomes and catches all the cannabinoid compound goodness. 

Once that’s over and done with, the solvent (which is now filled with beneficial cannabis compounds) enters into a pressurized chamber. The temperatures in this chamber change and fluctuate, which results in the beneficial compounds being chipped away from the solvent liquid. 

2. Subcritical CO2 extraction

Subcritical CO2 extraction isn’t all that different from supercritical extraction aside from lower temperature and pressure, which results in a slower but more refined process. 

When cannabis extracts go through a subcritical CO2 extraction, the process isn’t as harsh as supercritical extraction and typically helps the extract retain much of the essential oils and terpenes. This is particularly useful for whole plant full-spectrum extracts. 

For a more detailed look into each extraction method, follow the link here. 

Ingredients used in the formula

Ingredients (or lack thereof) are a good indicator of whether your product is high-quality or not. 

Most credible and reputable CBD companies will take pride in what they put in their products — other shitty companies don’t care. 

The ones that don’t care hardly ever tell you what’s in the product — or they lie about it. If you take one look at a scammy CBD company’s website and its product pages are filled with exaggeration and hyperbole but no substance whatsoever. No ingredients list at all. 

Reputable companies will put a lot of emphasis on the product list and what each ingredient means for you and your body. 

Website information & customer guarantees

One of the tell-tale signs of a shitty company and its equally shitty products is the website and website literature (or lack thereof) — more specifically its communication, transparency, and customer guarantees. 

The problem I’ve found with some CBD company websites is they don’t always adhere to the unspoken rules of communicating with their customers in a transparent way though. 

Vital and important information is left out, vague and unconvincing commitments to producing “the best, high-quality CBD products” without any credentials to back them up is rife, and customer guarantees are as rare as pigs in the sky. 

These are only some of the red flags you should be looking out for when you step foot on a CBD company’s website. There are so many others, which includes:

  • No customer service information or contact details
  • No company address
  • No COAs (or references to third-party testing)
  • No hemp source information
  • Very little product information
  • Using over-the-top statements (health benefits, “100% absorption rate!”, “the best extraction method in the world EVER!”)
  • The website information is poorly-worded, has lots of spelling mistakes, and looks like it was written using Google Translate
  • No social media links or presence
  • Weird checkout page (most legitimate CBD companies won’t use a different web address or company name for payments)

If most of these are ticked, stay the hell away from the company and don’t purchase any of its products. It’s most likely a scam. The products will be terrible quality and may even be harmful. 

Always go with a company you trust to be open, honest, and transparent with you. 

At SoulSome, for example, we make sure everything on the list above is ticked off. We use naturally-sourced, organic, non-GMO hemp and other beneficial ingredients in all our formulas. Each product is also third-party tested by accredited laboratories to ensure safety, legality and purity.

If you’d like to learn more about what to look out for when purchasing CBD products, follow the link here. 
*Statements not evaluated by the FDA. Information is based on credible, but inconclusive scientific studies, and should never be taken as advice or recommendation to treat, cure or diagnose any condition. Always consult a physician.

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