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.
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.
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.
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 the CBD oil market is risky
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.
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.
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.
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.
How to choose CBD: Help 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.
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.
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.
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.