How to Choose CBD: Be Careful Buying CBD Oil! [UPDATED]

There’s a lot of crappy CBD oil products out there so we wanted to help consumers learn how to choose the best CBD products. After you read this, you’ll be better equipped when buying CBD.

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The sad part is, there’s no easy way for consumers to know what CBD brands to trust. Barely in its infancy, the CBD market is still unregulated. Quality control is meager at best, and consumers are largely unaware what to look for when shopping for CBD products.

Unfortunately, that means there’s a lot of fake and misleading products out there. In another article, we looked at why you should never buy CBD on Amazon because that popular website is full of fake CBD products.

Learn more about CBD through ‘The Complete CBD Guide

Ministry of Hemp only works with CBD brands that meet our exacting standards of quality and transparency. We always examine lab reports showing the actual contents of the products we recommend. You can trust we’ll always do our best to keep you from buying snake oil.

However, there’s hundreds of CBD brands on the market right now and we can only review so many! In this article, we give you a little bit more information about the state of the CBD market, then share some of our favorite tips for buying CBD.

A brief history of the CBD industry

People began using hemp as natural medicine in ancient China.

In the mid 1800s, the hemp plant became a key part of Western medicine and numerous research and articles were written about the topic over the course of the century. However, the surge of recreational usage and our confused political leaders led to the prohibition of all cannabis plants in the 20th century. This included all industrial hemp and CBD oil applications. Unfortunately, these restrictions caused much of the findings and progress behind CBD to be quietly forgotten during the rest of the 20th century.

Despite prohibition, research continued and scientists actually first isolated CBD in the 1940s. However, the War on Drugs and the stigma surrounding all forms of cannabis prevented the widespread use of hemp or CBD to treat ailments.

Most studies into CBD oil show few side effects, mostly minor ones like sleepiness or mild sedation. Photo: Hemp leaves near two beakers of green liquid, depicting hemp and CBD research.
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Most people consider CBD oil a modern discovery, but CBD history stretches back to the 1940s.

That began to change in the early 2000s. Some states began experimenting with medicinal or recreational forms of psychoactive cannabis. Interest in industrial hemp returned as well during the time period and, after legal changes beginning in 2014, hemp extract and CBD products began to return to the market as nutritional supplements.

The reintroduction created a big risk. Since CBD has been suppressed in our society for so long, there’s very limited understanding and transparency around the products. Greedy businesses can take advantage of customers who are looking to pay big money for a remedy that could potentially help heal their sick loved ones.

That makes it harder than it should be to know how to choose CBD, as the rest of the article explains.

The return of CBD to the US

CBD oil products started proliferating again in the U.S. after an amendment to the 2014 Farm Bill. This big agricultural omnibus bill allowed research into hemp for the first time in decades, and some brands began experimenting with market research by selling CBD tinctures. Then, another amendment, this time to the 2018 version of the farm bill, officially made hemp a legal crop in the U.S. again. It also prohibited the Drug Enforcement Administration from continuing to treat CBD like an illegal drug.

Buying CBD oil can be confusing. Use this guide to learn how to choose better CBD oil. Photo: A woman in a dark fluffy sweater takes a dropper of CBD tincture.
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Buying CBD oil can be confusing. Use this guide to learn how to choose better CBD oil.

As a result, the CBD market is booming. Experts predict that CBD sales will reach $1 billion in 2019. CBD is now known for numerous benefits, from its ability to reduce anxiety and promote restful sleep to easing chronic pain. Some people even take CBD to help with severe epilepsy, and a prescription-only form of CBD is available to treat epileptic seizures. At the same time, over-the-counter CBD supplements are available in every state both online and in brick and mortar stores.

However, because the FDA is not yet regulating CBD, there’s little control over these products. As a result, there’s misleading products all around. In a recent investigation by Inside Edition, one product that was supposed to contain 500mg of CBD only contained 64mg. The cannabis site Leafly found three CBD brands with hidden added ingredients, some of which could be harmful. Our own tests of diverse brands revealed some that mislead customers about the strength of their tinctures too. Anecdotally, poor quality CBD seems to cause more side effects.

Why There’s So Much Confusion Around CBD

Let’s first try to understand why it has come to this. From the research we’ve done, we can essentially break it down to three reasons the CBD oil industry is out of control.

1. CBD buyers are vulnerable people

Think about the demographic that CBD companies are targeting. They’re mainly ones who are suffering from some type of illness, or struggling with sleeplessness, anxiety, chronic pain, and so on. Or, their loved ones might be buying CBD for them in the hopes it can help their struggles.

53% of Americans falsely believe the FDA regulates CBD.

October 2019 Grocery Manufacturers Association study

Whatever the symptoms, these patients are suffering. Some may be struggling to get satisfactory treatment through pharmaceutical medicine. Thus, many who turn to CBD oil are desperate to find a treatment that works. Unfortunately, many buyers don’t have the time or energy to learn how to choose CBD oil. A perfect demographic for greedy businesses to target.

2. The CBD market is unregulated

In 2013, an industry insider turned into a whistleblower as she blasted her company and the entire CBD industry for its deceptive practices. Tamar Wise, a former Dixie Botanicals employee, posted on her Facebook that

“These formulations start with a crude and dirty hemp paste contaminated with microbial life … The paste perhaps even contains residual solvents and other toxins as the extraction is done in China made using a process that actually renders it unfit for human consumption.

Fortunately, most reputable CBD companies now use hemp that’s grown in the U.S. Standards have improve dramatically in the last 6 years. Even so, this market is unregulated. Essentially, the industry has been left on its own to monitor their supply chains and develop best practices of CBD manufacture.

3. CBD labels can be misleading

The biggest problem regarding labeling is that companies mislead their customers when it comes to the CBD dosage on their bottles. Some products (particularly those sold on Amazon!) are simply lying about their contents. But even among transparent CBD brands, dosage can still be confusing.

For example, one brand of CBD tincture might list the total amount of CBD in the bottle, while some list the amount of in each dropper (often per 1 milliliter of tincture). This can get more confusing when you add in other product types, like CBD capsules or edibles like CBD gummies or even CBD-infused chocolate bars and coffee.

Photo: Hemp leaves silhoutted in the sunlight. Text: How to Choose Hemp CBD Products
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Tips on how to choose CBD: Guide for buying CBD

We’ve been studying this industry for years now, and we’ve distilled our advice down to a few simple tips. While buying CBD can be complicated, we think you’ll choose the right brand if you follow these steps.

1. Take your time buying CBD

By taking the time to read this article, you’ve already learned more about how to choose CBD oil. While CBD products seem to be popping up everywhere, we don’t think CBD should be an “impulse buy.”

Not only are you probably buying poor-quality CBD if you buy it at a gas station, you’re also not taking the time to properly research that product. In general, we don’t think you should buy CBD from any business where you wouldn’t normally purchase wellness products.

Quality CBD brands are transparent about their products, from where their hemp grows to the extraction methods they use to make their supplements. Their customer service should be able to knowledgeably answer questions in a timely, friendly manner.

2. Always request third-party lab results

You should always make sure that a brand offers third-party lab results. These are often called a Certificate of Analysis, or COA. This means that they’ve sent their products to an independent lab to verify the contents of their CBD. Some companies also offer additional tests showing their CBD to be free of toxins like pesticide residues.

Over the last year, the Ministry of Hemp began running our own lab tests with a trusted third-party lab before we review CBD products. You can look for these results in our recent reviews and compare them with the COAs offered by the brand.

If a CBD company doesn’t offer third-party lab results, or they’re reluctant to share these results with you, it should automatically be a red flag and indicate that they have something to hide.

At the same time, we know it can be hard for consumers to interpret these lab tests. That brings us to our third tip.

3. Ask for advice

Don’t be shy to ask for expert advice when you’re buying CBD oil products. The CBD oil market is young and immature, and the regulations and quality control practices are still often subpar. Don’t just trust a product because it’s a “known brand” or because you see an influencer posing with the product. We’ve found even bigger CBD brands can have dubious quality control.

Make sure to check online reviews to see if you can read about other customers’ experiences. You can even reach out to us reach out to us if you have any questions or concerns while shopping for CBD oil. We’ll do our best to guide you in the right direction.

Final thoughts on buying CBD

The CBD industry is a booming market. Many well-intentioned entrepreneurs are entering this space to provide an alternative solution for patients who are suffering from chronic pain or other ailments. But with any growing market, we are also seeing a growth in greedy businesses who are taking advantage of vulnerable customers.

Within the next couple of years, we expect the FDA to step in and offer clear guidelines for CBD products. But until then, customers have to be cautious of what brands they trust and buy from. We hope that we’ve been able to offer some insights and transparency into this industry and hope you’ll be able to find higher quality products through our advice.

Kit O’Connell contributed to this guide.

Buying CBD oil can be confusing. Use this guide to learn how to choose better CBD oil. Photo: A woman with long brown hair in a fluffy dark sweater take CBD from a dropper top.
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Ministry of Hemp

Ministry of Hemp is America's leading hemp advocate.

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Latest Comments

  • Avatar Jim Lantz says:

    Very dissatisfied with Ultra Origins CBD I am usually very careful about trial offers, and auto refills I must have missed the fine print on this one, and there was no phone number, or price, on the packing slip I was eventually able to track down a phone number and cancel the “subscription.” This product did not create any benefits for me–not even a placebo effect.

  • Avatar Dan Collins says:

    These tips are very helpful, especially for beginners or newbies. A lot of my friends are really curious about this. I will surely share this with them. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  • Avatar Bill Kummer says:

    I like the presentation of cbdMD from NC. However, there is a similar bad company that may infringe the oirder. Do you have the correct address and email for cbdMD? Thanks you! Bill ([email protected])

  • Avatar betty says:

    does anybody know anything about ultra origins CBD oil?

  • Avatar Stephen Pearson says:

    I just ordered a bottle of CBD oil from Chalotte’s Web. I didn’t see your site till now. What can you tell me about Chalotte’s Webs products. It says it is 60mg pure dose and a dose is one eye dropper. I heard they are a good site but are not cheap. I paid over a 160.00 for my 30ml bottle and that was with a Disabled Veterans discount of 15%. Thanks for any info. I just don’t know where and who to buy from.

    Stephen Pearson

    CBD Oil: 60mg CBD/mL
    Extract Size

  • Avatar Janette says:

    Anyone know anything about plant of life cbd oil or George botanicals cbd drops please?

  • Avatar Jamie says:

    Jades of Green Hemp oil from Kentucky was a complete dissapointment. My first brand worked wonderfully and I had no problems! Jades of Green was my second after the place in Nicholasville ran out of their usual brand. Even though I went from 1000 MG to 3000MG strength I couldnt tell it was doing anything what so ever??!! The Jades of Green oil tastes horrible like its rotten….gives you a sore throat and reminds one of motor oil. I dont think it’s real Hemp Oil. I went with the BHG brand of extra strength and it worked even better than my first brand….Jades of green…complete waste of money! Bluegrass Hemp oil works fantastic! It’s light and has a light taste..and you get fast results~!

  • Avatar Nevin Bull says:

    Stay away from Whole Greens! They will send you a trial sample and then uses your on file credit card you give them for shipping costs and then start billing you into a membership with product sent out right away! The government needs to step in and really look into this corrupt process they are exploiting they people’s emails etc I had to destroy my card immediately when receiving a email from them that they were using my “card” on file and product was “ on the way”…. Stay away from Whole Green!! Scam n I would not trust they’re product if this is the way they do business

    • Avatar Randy says:

      I was scammed by Wholegreens free trial just pay shipping next thing i see 69.00 dollars taken out of my bank

    • Avatar Ron Price says:

      Thank you for your information Mr. Nevin Bull. I will not use any company that takes credit card information and then abuses the credit card information that is given them. I have had this happen with other companies Like “Purity” but they at least stopped the shipment when I immediately contacted them to stop automatically shipping me product without me requesting it. I will not order products from Green Whole CBD because of your feedback: Thank You!

  • Avatar Margret Schrock says:

    I would like to know what you know about CFTO CBD oil?

  • Avatar Madison says:

    I have been diagnosed with bipolar type 2 since 2010 after my son was born. I ordered Organic Hemp Oil by 2Healthy Company for anxiety and to help me sleep. I work on a naval base for 2 years; hypothetically, if I get randomly drug tested and im using a few drops maybe 4 times out of a week, do you think it’ll show as positive.

  • Avatar Rachel Barnes says:

    Can this help with menopause systems?
    Thanks for the article, it’s sad some companies do this.

  • Avatar Jennifer Syers says:

    What about Primemybody CBD hemp oil? They advertise that they have a unique technology Nano liposomal absorption that carries more of the CBD faster into the body. I asked for third party lab results and clarification on ” nano liposomal absorption” and was just given more information from the main company. Made me weary with no third party labs.
    Have you heard about this company?

  • Avatar Jan Buczak says:

    What you think of the company clean remedies CBD tincture

  • Avatar Jami Golden says:

    So I placed an order with Pure Kana on 3-28-18 well its now 4-2-18 and I’ve yet to recieve my order. I’ve reached out to the company numerous times and have yet heard anything back. They were real quick to take my money but obviously don’t care to follow through with sending me what I paid for. Very disappointed.

    • Avatar Thom D says:

      They take 5-7 days to process and then they send it USPS from New Jersey, so depending on where you live it will take another 3-5 days. Their product is good, but their customer service is crap. I am looking for alternatives, but if you can get used to the 10-14 day wait for your CBD, then you will probably be happy.

      • Avatar Michael says:

        We sell various brands in our clinic and I’ve found that Charlotte’s Web has the best results overall but we sell others like Lazarus and Green Roads and have had good results with those companies as well.

    • Avatar Garth D Newman says:

      I ordered from them and did get my order, it just took a while.

  • Avatar penny mcauley says:

    I have Meige Syndrome, a neurological disorder that affects my eyes and mouth – constant involuntary spasms. I bought cbd oil locally which states that it is 300mg strength – 40 mgs per dose of active cannibinoids. The brand name is Pure, however I have found no reviews( or even images ) online for this brand. . they do have there own website, although it is at an early stage of creation. If anyone knows anything of this brand I would be grateful for advice. I researched and found that with movement disorders the dosage should be 10mgs per kg of active cannibinoids. I am not suere what this means other than that it is refering to my weight, which would mean I should take 470mgs per day. Any advice would be helpful. many thanks for reading. penny

  • Avatar sheila u fedaczynsky says:

    first time pain free in yrs.

  • Avatar Martin Jones says:

    I want to share my experience about the chronic pain. About six to eight months ago, I was suffering from chronic pain and no medicines were working on me. One of my friends suggested me to take CBD Oil for my chronic pain. Then I started some researches on CBD on the internet, read some articles and blogs about CBD products, CBD Laws etc. I found this company named All Natural Way which sells CBD infused products with 0% THC and tested in third party lab. I purchased CBD oil from there and start taking it. After a few weeks, my pain was all gone and there were no side effects at all. I really liked the quality of the product. I recommend this everyone who needs it.

  • Avatar Heather HeatherHeather says:

    I read this and the guide/review of the products but, what about all the products st the local head shops? I have fibromyalgia and other related chronic disorders. I can’t afford the ones from those kinds of companies. I can afford the ones at the head shops. How do I check into those? Each store carries different brands and a lot of them!

  • Avatar Jeannine Franco says:

    I have Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis and wonder if Cannabis oil would be helpful to me. Not sure where to find advice. My doctor is no help in this regard.

  • Avatar Molly says:

    Looking for a good topical cream for peripheral neuropathy. Any recommendations?

  • Avatar isolated cbd says:

    Good article, a lot of companies selling low quality low dose cbd for extremely high prices. Make sure you do your research.

  • Avatar julie says:

    Do you have an opinion on Elixinol drops or Pluscbd oil brands?
    I’m just starting to look into this product. I will be trying the Pluscbd oil capsules soon, and am thinking about the Elixinol tincture drops, the higher potency ones.
    Now, after reading this, I don’t know what to trust. I believe Elixinol does have links to third party testing. Not sure about Pluscbd oil though.
    I have Crohn’s disease, with chronic pain and anxiety.

  • Avatar Shirley says:

    Im looking for advice on which oil do i buy to help with chronic Crohns pain I’m currently taking morphine liquid i was told this oil is good for pain control the only trouble is I wouldn’t have a clue what to look for. Any advice please?

    • Avatar Neil says:

      Your Crohns is caused by a gut microbial community in dysbiosis. Look into healing your gut microbiome by cutting out ALL industrial chemicals from your foods, personal care products, and household products. Eat as much raw fruits and veggies as you can. Eliminate most meat, processed food, and restaurant food. Consume fermented foods. Take capsule probiotics with strains that have been proven to survive to the large intestine.

    • Avatar Jane says:

      Low Dose Naltrexone is great for Crohn’s. Join Got Endorphens FB group for more info

    • Avatar Barb says:

      Does the morphine liquid help with your pain? If so, where do you presently get it or do you have to have a prescription?
      Thank you

      • Avatar Arnie Joseph Edwin Carr says:

        any opioids have to be by prescription or the illegal underground market but there you do not know what you are getting

    • Avatar KD says:

      I too have Crohn’s and have seen many C patients saying CBD works miracles for them… I can’t answer your question but I thought I’d chime in and let you know you aren’t alone. This disease is awful…

    • Avatar Carlos says:

      I would recommend a strong tincture , capsules , or raw oil. You need a very high mg dosage

  • Avatar Jose Antonio Berrios says:

    We have a good quality product Doctor Green’s Hemp Tonic 1oz bottle with 300mg
    And we have third party labs for our products.
    The only situation right now is in our website we been band from companies like Paypal, Stripe cause the confucion with hemp and medical marijuana.
    We are looking for a merchant account to precess our transaction.
    But you can call Us 787-224-9917

  • Avatar Patrick says:

    Definately helped me with anxiety ,id definately recomend it

  • Gunhee Park Gunhee Park says:

    Thanks for sharing this resource!

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