By Melanie Kossan
Are you happy with your experiences using CBD?
Millions of Americans use CBD daily and love it! Personally, I enjoy the way it helps me relax and how it soothes my occasional rheumatoid arthritis (RA) flare ups. You likely have your own personal motivations for your choice of CBD product.
However, depending on how it was produced and the actual amount of cannabidiol (CBD) in the product – as many consumer products disclaimers state – “your results may vary”.
“Why is that?”, you may wonder. The fact is, not all CBD is created equal.
As you probably have seen in hundreds of news stories over the past few years, random testing has exposed questionable ingredients and an absence of sufficient Cannabidiols in many products. Even worse, a frightening percentage of CBD products simply do not have the dosage of active cannabinoids in the product as indicated on the label. Often there are unnecessary and potentially unhealthy additives such as artificial flavoring and coloring, binders, fillers, and mystery chemicals you wouldn’t consider ingesting on purpose.
Little surprise then that many consumers who have tried CBD found it ineffective in delivering the benefits they expected. So, who’s to blame for the “hit and miss” nature of CBD products?”
In part, the problem stems from the ongoing failure of the FDA to take an active role in regulating CBD. To date, the only FDA-approved use of CBD is Epidiolex, a prescription drug used to treat a rare form of epilepsy in children. When tested by the FDA, Epidiolex was found to be potentially harmful to the liver, which created confusion among consumers. Epidiolex is synthetically produced and does not contain natural phytocannabinoids; therefore these tests have no bearing on the use of naturally produced CBD oil.
Further blame rests with the CBD industry itself and lack of self-regulation. While several trade associations exist in the Cannabis and Hemp markets, they mostly focus on representing the rights of their members and educating the public.
Where does that leave consumers interested in the healthful benefits of CBD?
The fact is, due to a variety of physical ailments a high percentage of regular users count on CBD to enable them to enjoy the best possible quality of life. Studies have shown that the majority of CBD users are seeking to address specific conditions, making it much more than a faddish supplement. Over the past several years clinical studies by reputable researchers have found CBD can be effective in treating chronic pain, anxiety, inflammation, migraine, insomnia, PTSD, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis (MS), muscular dystrophy, and a variety of other complaints.
Unfortunately, the old adage ‘buyer beware’ applies to every purchase you make as a cannabidiol consumer. As the founder of a family-owned CBD business in Montana, I knew from the get-go that quality and purity of my offerings would be key to winning the loyalty of customers. Equally important in my view was to provide peace of mind through total transparency of where I source the hemp, how it is processed, and by stating the precise dosage of Cannabinoid on my labeling to ensure responsible use and maximum efficacy.
You can read more about Stillwater Hemp and our 100% locally grown, batch-produced CBD tinctures, topicals, pre-rolls, and pet products here. But, let me be clear, despite the CBD industry’s shortcomings, there are many fine companies marketing high quality, safe, and effective products, just as we do here in Columbus, Montana.
However, before spending your hard earned money, I suggest using these pointers to be sure what you buy measures up to the standards you expect and deserve:
7 Things You Should Check Before Buying Another CBD Product
- Is it “whole plant”?
The best CBD oil is extracted from the leaves, flowers, and stalks of the hemp plant, not just one portion of the plant. Be sure that the product you are buying comes from a “whole plant” extract. There is simply no getting around that the best way to get all the most useful cannabinoids out of a hemp plant is to distill the entire plant.
- Avoid Hemp Seed Oil products
Read the label. If it says hemp seed oil it will be extremely low in cannabinoids. CBD is one of over 100 cannabinoids in the hemp plant. Again, real CBD oil is extracted from the hemp plant. In contrast, hemp oil is made by cold-pressing the seeds only. Therefore, it has almost no properties which affect the human cannabinoid system. Hemp seed oil is rich in linoleic acid and can be used as cooking oil. Linoleic acid has been shown to reduce total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein, or “bad” cholesterol. It may also be useful as a treatment of acne. A quality CBD product will say on the label how many milligrams of CBD is in the product.
- Is a laboratory Certificate of Analysis (COA) available?
Make sure that the product you are buying provides a hyperlink or printed Certificate of Analysis. This means that it has been tested by a third party laboratory to confirm the level of cannabinoids (also referred to as potency) in the product. It will also tell you if there are impurities such as heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals or compounds which may not be desirable.
- Is the CBD from oil or isolate?
Be sure there are multiple cannabinoids in the product you’re using. A topical product may contain only CBD, or CBD Isolate and still be effective. However, any product you are taking internally such as a tincture or an edible should have multiple cannabinoids in it to be beneficial. You will see this referred to as the “entourage effect”. When a wide spectrum of cannabinoids work together they create what is called “homeostasis”, or the physiological process used to maintain a healthy equilibrium in the endocannabinoid system and is key to the healthy functioning of our bodies.
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) found in all mammals and invertebrates is a cell-signaling system responsible for regulating a wide spectrum of physiological functions, including sleep, pain, digestion, immune response, etc. Two of the three components of the ECS are cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2), mostly located in the central nervous system and immune system. The other element of ECS relevant to the use of CBD are Endocannabinoids which are cannabinoids naturally produced within the human body. If you are using an ingestible CBD product that has a poor quality CBD not sourced from the whole plant, you will not benefit from the entourage effect.
- How was it processed?
Make sure you are buying CBD from a vertically integrated manufacturer. For example, Stillwater Hemp products are all made in-house. We source our distillates from a Montana hemp farm which meets the FDA’s guidelines as an organic grower. The most common ways to distill CBD oil from the hemp plant are:
- Carbon Dioxide (CO2) extraction pumps CO2 into pressurized chambers, creating high pressure and low temperatures to produce hemp oil high in CBD. Safe and effective, this method also leaves no toxic residue whatsoever.
- Steam Distillation uses a distillation tank filled with heated water, pushing steam to another tank containing the plant, which results in oil vapors containing CBD.
- Solvent Extraction works much like steam distillation but uses a solvent instead of water. Due to the use of flammable compounds such as butane, alcohol, propane or ethanol, this method can be hazardous and has the potential to leave toxins in the final product. All Stillwater Hemp products are processed using CO2 or steam methods.
- Is the hemp organic, non-GMO?
As with anything you put into your body, natural and pure choices are best. The best quality CBD products are whole plant, grown without the use of pesticides, insecticides, herbicides or genetically-modified seeds, and naturally processed without chemicals. As part of our commitment to oversight of our supply chain, we meet frequently with the owner of the FDA-certified organic farm where all of our hemp is grown. Many CBD products use isolates or CBD oil sourced from another distributor and are simply slapping their own label on it. Knowing how your CBD products of choice are produced is the best way to ensure quality and efficacy.
- Does the label include the legally required information?
Read the label carefully. The label should contain at least three things: Name of the producer, detailed list of ingredients, and how many milligrams of CBD is in the product. These are the basic three facts that you need to know to be assured that you are getting good value and the potency you expect. Labeling laws differ from state to state, so there may be additional information offered by the manufacturer and required to meet those laws. In many states a telephone number and street address of the producer is mandatory.
I hope this checklist is helpful to you as a user of CBD in its many forms. Despite the problems inherent in the consumer products sector of the hemp industry, I am a firm believer that CBD is here to stay. In just the past few years, especially since the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, the CBD industry has come a long way. Formal recognition of the value of the naturally occurring compounds in the Cannabis Sativa plant by virtually all states paves the way for further research and continued innovation by producers.
There’s still a long way to go, however. Although roughly a third of Americans say they are using or have used CBD in a 2020 survey, only 20% over 50 have even tried it. And despite the continued uptick in sales and expected compound annual growth of 20% to 27% over the next several years, manufacturers marketing CBD products directly to consumers admit that usage must broaden beyond the 18-to-29 demographic for it to shake off the stigma of being a niche nutraceutical.
In my opinion, the key to winning over consumers and ensuring they keep coming back rests on delivering high quality and strong efficacy so users know CBD is helping them. That’s my personal commitment and the mission of Stillwater Hemp.