How to Choose the Safest CBD Products

By Marilee Nelson |

How to Choose the Safest CBD Products

CBD is all the rage now! CBD (cannabidiol) products like oils, tinctures, topicals, vapes, and edibles have exploded in popularity since the 2018 farm bill which made hemp growing legal. CBD, one of over 100 cannabinoids found in cannabis plants (hemp and marijuana), is considered an adaptogen—meaning it may help your body better respond to all types of stress. It has been scientifically proven to treat two forms of epilepsy, and has been researched for its positive effects on a wide variety of health conditions including, anxiety disorders1, sleep disorders and specific PTSD symptoms2, inflammation, immunity3, pain4, and gut health5 (and that’s just a short list).

It works by interacting with your body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), a stress regulation network that helps restore homeostasis following stressful or traumatic events or injury. This remarkable system was discovered about 30 years ago by Israeli research team led by scientist Raphael Mechoulam, in their search for the active ingredient in cannabis. The ECS has specific receptors sites for CBD and is believed to exist in every animal species except insects6!

Although these discoveries are significant, we don’t have long term studies. CBD, like components in grapefruit, can interfere with the way the liver metabolizes or breaks down certain types of medications and chemicals. So it’s important to check with your doctor or pharmacist if you’re currently taking any type of medication. Also, there is some indication that CBD might even harm the liver. About 10 percent of people taking CBD in studies had increases in liver enzymes. So, if you choose to use CBD we want to recommend that you work with a knowledgeable practitioner that monitors and manages your care and can determine if using CBD is right for you.

Since CBD products have only been recently legalized in most states, there’s very little regulation within the product and growing industry in terms of quality control standards and contaminant testing. Which is why it’s so important to familiarize yourself with how to vet a quality CBD product. Since the vast majority of CBD products in the United States come from hemp (unless marijuna is legal in your state), we’ll focus our efforts on which questions to ask when choosing a hemp-based CBD product.

Are your CBD products full-spectrum?

A full-spectrum CBD product contains a wide variety of those 100+ cannabinoids plus other beneficial nutrients like vitamins, minerals, terpenes, and essential fatty acids, with a very, very low percentage of THC (the component that produces a “high”). Full spectrum products have also been shown to have more health benefits than isolates, which only contain one type of cannabinoid7.

Think of full-spectrum CBD like a whole food, rich in a variety of nutrients like vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, etc. Whereas CBD isolates are more like taking one type of vitamin; yes there can be some benefit but it will be limited in comparison to what you’d get from a whole, natural food.

Bottom line: look for full-spectrum CBD oil (not isolates or “pure” CBD).

What extraction method was used?

A CO2 extraction method is the gold standard for high-quality CBD oil products because its use of high-pressure with low-heat extracts the maximum amount of CBD from the plant.

Other methods include steam distillation, which is relatively safe but not as efficient or predictable in terms of CBD levels, plus heat damage can occur from the steam. Then there’s solvent extraction via chemical or natural means, which may be used to extract oil or to make a tincture. If chemical solvents are used this can leave behind toxic residue, therefore a natural solvent is preferable but it won’t produce as high a concentration of CBD as CO2 extraction.

Bottom line: CO2 extraction yields the highest quality CBD oil, but if you’re looking for a tincture a natural-solvent extraction may be fine.

What are the products’ levels of CBD, terpenes, and THC?

Reputable companies should list the amounts of CBD and THC on their labels, along with some information on terpenes. Since the species of hemp plant determines the type and concentration of terpenes, you’ll probably need to request a third-party lab report to know the exact types of terpenes and their concentration. However, unless you require a specific type of terpene for health reasons, purchasing a full spectrum CBD product from a reputable company will provide a sufficient amount of terpenes.

If you’re ever in doubt, you can call or go online to look for third-party testing reports verifying concentrations. If a company won’t disclose this information, move on! There are plenty that will.

Where was the raw material grown?

Due to concerns about contaminants like pesticides, molds, fungus, heavy metals, etc. it’s best to choose hemp products that are USA-grown and certified organic. Some experts recommend taking it a step further to insist on Colorado-grown hemp since the state has the most safety regulations due to its longer growing history.

Is the product organic and free of contaminants (and can the company prove it)?

Buying CBD products made from USA-grown, organic hemp is very important...but there’s more to the story than that. Since hemp growing only recently became officially “legal” in all states but Idaho and Mississippi, it’s still the wild west out there in terms of regulations. This means the industry is largely self-policing when it comes to quality control and assurance. And considering many farmers are very new at this, we need to be extra vigilant in ensuring we’re consuming a contaminant-free product.

Common contaminants found in CBD include: pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals, molds and mycotoxins, solvent residues, yeasts, E. coli, salmonella, and other microorganism contaminants.

How can you tell if a product has been tested by a third party? Look for Certificates of Analysis on the CBD company’s website. Also known as “C of As,” these come from third-party labs who test for specific contaminants in every batch of product and/or raw material. If a company is doing their job in terms of quality assurance, they’ll make it easy for you to find these, some even have a scannable code on their bottle which sends you to the C of A instantly. If they make it difficult, balk at your request, or cannot produce a C of A do not buy their product.

A couple other things to keep in mind when buying CBD products…I

If you’re using a topical CBD product please make sure it is in a natural base and free from harmful preservatives, fragrances, and other toxic cosmetic ingredients (learn more in: Navigating Personal Care Products: Ingredients to Use & Avoid).

Finally, please don’t use CBD vapes! The act of vaping has been proven unsafe to the point of producing deaths per the CDC8, and many CBD vapes contain very toxic ingredients like propylene glycol and PEG-400 which produces high levels of cancer-causing formaldehyde when heated over 230 degrees9...which negates any potential health benefits of the CBD.

We hope that this information helps you feel more confident when vetting CBD products. Remember, you should always advocate for the products you bring into your home and into your body, so never feel guilty for asking questions and pushing for answers.

Note: This article does not reflect that we endorse the use of marijuana. There is scientific evidence that smoking marijuana causes physical and psychological injury. NO information on this page or website should be used to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any disease or condition.
Marilee Nelson

Marilee Nelson

Marilee Nelson is an Environmental Toxins expert who has spent nearly 30 years advocating for the chemically-sensitive and chronically-ill. She is a Board Certified Nutritionist, Certified Bau-Biologist and Bau-Biology Inspector and specializes in Food As Medicine. She has helped thousands of families and individuals identify, heal and recover from toxic exposures and is on a mission to revolutionize the way American families view their health.