CBD, or cannabidiol, is taking the country by storm. Even pets are taking CBD for what ails them. Beyond the legal cannabis shops that are popping up in many states, CBD products are also being sold in grocery stores, pet stores, corner markets, and online. But how do you know what’s really in those products? In this article we’ll explore what information you’ll find on CBD labels and what it means.
CBD Labeling Requirements
This part can be tricky because label requirements will vary by state. States that have licensed programs and medicinal cannabis also feature the strictest label requirements, such as those that are featured below. Since there is no federal regulation on CBD, manufacturers are left to create whatever kind of informational labelling they find fitting for their product. Most, however, choose to imitate labels that are already used for dietary products, in an attempt to make it less confusing and intimidating for consumers.
What You’ll See
Just like with nutritional or food products, the CBD label will often begin with a serving size and dosage. In general, the dosage will tell you the total milligrams (mg) of CBD in the package, the mgs per serving, and the total number of servings. States with licensing or medical cannabis systems will usually set one dose of CBD to 10 mg, however there is no actual standard dose for CBD. You will need to do your own research or talk with your doctor about what dosage would work best for you. Keep in mind dosage will vary depending on your general health, weight, type of product, and a number of other factors.
Now, let’s dig in a little further into dosage labelling:
- Milligrams of CBD – Meaning one-thousandth of a gram, this measurement will tell you how many milligrams are found within the entire package of CBD. While this is very different from the serving size or what the actual dosage you will take is, it is an important factor in determining those numbers.
- Serving size – The serving size will tell you what the common dosage for the product is. For instance, in a bottle of CBD capsules, the serving size might be 1 capsule. While this might not be the actual dosage you require, it is a starting point and also an important number in figuring out what dosage you actually need. This number indicates how many mgs of CBD are included in each serving, or capsule in the case of the example above. With this information you can determine how many capsules would be needed to meet your goals.
- Servings per container – This is a quick and easy way to determine how many servings are in the package of CBD you’ve purchased. It’s also an excellent way to gauge how long one particular package of product will last you. If you know a bottle of CBD contains 60 capsules, and that you require 2 capsules each day, you can quickly calculate that one bottle will last you about a month. This makes it easier to pick up a sufficient amount for whatever desired length of time you want to stock your cabinets for.
Knowing where the CBD came from is extremely important, especially right now as the market is opening up and becoming inundated with products, some from unreliable sources. Your CBD product should come from a cannabis plant, be it a marijuana plant or a hemp plant. You will probably find that most CBD comes from hemp, as it is grown specifically to have reduced THC levels (the compound that makes users feel intoxicated) and much higher levels of CBD than marijuana plants. In fact, in order to grow hemp in the United States, it must contain less than 0.3% THC. At such low levels, users will not feel any psychoactive effects, making it a safe option for everyone.
Because the hemp is specifically cultivated to have only trace levels of THC and extremely high levels of CBD, it is much easier for manufacturers to extract CBD from hemp plants for use in their products. Why would they waste the energy, time, and money extracting and removing THC from their marijuana oil when they can extract exactly what they need from their hemp plants?
When purchasing a CBD product, it’s also important to check the label to see which type of product you’re looking at. When it comes to CBD there are three main types of products, but keep in mind that since there are no federal regulations on the use of these terms, they may vary slightly or totally from product to product. Most CBD manufacturers will use these terms to help ease consumer confusion, but just be aware that you might come across some with varied wording. The most commonly used terms are:
- Full spectrum – This is the most pure type of cannabis oil and one that contains other compounds besides just CBD. In full spectrum CBD you’ll also find trace levels of cannabinoids like CBG, CBC, and even THC. It also contains essential oils and terpenes, which many believe have their own beneficial effects . Combining all these compounds leads to what some researchers call the Entourage Effect, a beneficial process that is especially powerful for therapeutic purposes when all of the cannabis compounds are consumed together .
- Broad spectrum – While broad spectrum includes all of the essential oils and terpenes as full spectrum, it does not include the THC cannabinoid. It does, however, include all the other cannabinoids besides THC.
- CBD isolate – This is the purest form of CBD, with all other cannabinoid compounds and terpenes removed, leaving almost totally pure CBD crystals.
Other Important Labeling Information
The above information is what is commonly seen on CBD labels, even without federal regulation. However many products will also include the following in order for their customers to get even more information at a glance:
- Batch and lot number – If you’re purchasing in a state that licenses cannabis or uses it medicinally, you’ll often see this information on the label. These batch numbers serve as a way to verify accountability and make it easier to manage a recall if one were to be called. Simply put, the batch and lot numbers tell where and when the product was made.
- Manufacturing date – Like most products, CBD does degrade over time. If the packaging of your product shows a manufacturing date, it’s an excellent way to make sure you’re taking CBD that is still within its freshest timeline. Consuming old CBD is not beneficial and should be avoided.
- License numbers – Again, if the cannabis product is being sold in a state that issues licenses for use, product manufacturers must print their license number on their labeling. This is mostly to distinguish themselves from unlicensed producers. When looking at the packaging, the license will usually just be a name and a series of numbers. You can actually use these numbers to look up the license for the manufacturer if you are so inclined.
- Third-party certification – The most common type of certification is the Certificate of Analysis, or COA. This certification comes from an accredited cannabis testing lab and includes information about cannabinoid and terpene levels found in the product. Lab quality can vary, however, so make sure to pay attention to the date on the COA and avoid products that use old or recycled certificates.
- Other ingredients – Most CBD products have other ingredients, like glycerin, colors, and flavors. While it is common to see these other ingredients, you should always review them to make sure they seem high quality and won’t cause potential allergic reactions.
- QR codes – Some CBD manufacturers use QR codes as an easy way to link to more information about their product, be it more descriptive ingredient information or a link to view the certificate information for the item.
- Warning labels – CBD can have drug interactions, so it’s always important to discuss options with your doctor before adding it to your treatment plan. Manufacturers know this and want to make sure consumers are making wise choices.
- Contact information – One fast way to learn more about the CBD product you’ve picked out is to look for the basic contact information on the label. This will often include a business name, address, and website. Knowing exactly where your product came from and where to find the website for more information about the product or the company is essential.
All of the above information includes label items that prove a product is high quality and responsible in its manufacturing. If you see any of the above on a label, you can feel more confident about the product they represent. On the other hand, there are some warning signs that should make you look a little deeper into the product if you see them on the label.
If the label does not look like a state-licensed label, or like one you’d see on food products, it’s best to avoid whatever product it’s stuck on. There are plenty of other options out there, you don’t need to risk it on one especially suspicious one.
Another common sign of a bad product is if it claims to be CBD, but the label and ingredients make no mention of CBD or very vague CBD sourcing information. If this is the case, be wary. Some products that advertise themselves as “hemp extract” or “hemp oil” are simply that: oil made from hemp seeds. These products contain no CBD and unless you’re just looking for an oil to moisturize your skin, these products are not the therapeutic hemp-derived CBD products most people are in search of.
When purchasing CBD for vape pens, you should avoid products that use additives like thinners, thickening agents, flavors, vitamins, “natural ingredients”, or other essential oils. These ingredients can be dangerous and states are slowly working towards banning them from vape products.
Until the U.S. Food and Drug Administration takes control of CBD regulation, labels will continue to be a delicate subject to master. Right now, it is up to the manufacturers to be honest about what’s in their product, and consumers to do their due diligence to ensure the product they are using meets their safety standards. Learning what should and should not be on labels is a very important first step in that process.