The 2014 legalization of high-grade CBD hemp oil (as long as it contains less than 0.3% THC), means the market has exploded in the last couple of years and will continue to grow at an astounding rate. A few years ago, the CBD oil industry was effectively worthless. However, in 2015 it earned $202 million, and in 2016 the market grew to $688 million! By 2021, some financial estimations say that it could be worth $3 billion!
While this is unquestionably exciting news, it is still worth recognizing that the cannabis industry is a relatively unregulated market. Admittedly it is not quite like the ‘Wild West’ of 2014 and 2015; when a host of ‘hustlers’ tried to make a quick buck by selling low-quality rubbish and passing it off as high-grade CBD hemp oil. Nonetheless, it is still wise to do your research and find the best products, because CBD oil isn’t cheap! In this article, we provide you with five excellent ways to spot top-notch CBD oil and differentiate it from garbage; and believe us, there’s A LOT of garbage out there.
1 – Check the Color of CBD Hemp Oil
A surprising number of people are blissfully unaware that CBD hemp oil comes in varying degrees of strength and quality. It goes without saying that the oil must be extracted via the supercritical and/or subcritical CO2 extraction method, but that still doesn’t necessarily mean the oil will be pure.
Generally speaking, there are three types of CBD oil:
- Raw: This type of oil is almost black in appearance (or dark green) because once it has been extracted from the raw hemp material; no further purification processes have been implemented. Therefore, your oil will contain terpenes and chlorophyll along with other parts of the plant (which is a good thing).
- Decarboxylated: Decarboxylated CBD oils are similar to Raw CBD oil except for the fact that the active compounds have undergone the ‘decarboxylation’ process. In the raw plant material, both THC and CBD exist as acidic molecules (THC-A and CBD-A, respectively), but the chemical process of decarboxylation “drops” the acid, which (some claim) improves bioavailability. Appearance-wise these are also unfiltered oils and have a dark green or black color similar to the raw tinctures.
- Filtered: This is the CBD oil that most manufacturers make and that most people consume. It comes in a lovely light golden color and has undergone both decarboxylation and filtering processes. This removes the parts of the plant that were leftover from the initial extraction process. If you want to look at things in a more ‘translatable’ way, high-grade CBD hemp oil is like a fine brandy or vodka, insofar as it has been triple distilled for purity!
2 – Where Is the CBD Hemp Oil Sourced from?
You will notice that the majority of high-grade CBD hemp oil comes from Colorado or Denmark, although there are other locations that grow extremely high quality hemp (including Kentucky, Germany, the Netherlands, and other Scandinavian countries). The most important factors include where the plant was grown, how it was grown, and the species of cannabis (whether it’s a Cannabis indica, Cannabis sativa, or Cannabis ruderalis variety). The soil, climate and even the plants growing in the farm “next door” all affect the quality of the product.
Alos, it is crucial to remember that cannabis is a ‘hyperaccumulator.’ This means it absorbs contaminants from the soil (and the air) that it grows in with ease. If you choose CBD sourced from hemp that was grown under “non-food” conditions, you could be consuming toxic substances.
European hemp farms (and in particular German-certified farms) are notorious for having some of the strictest agricultural regulations in the world. You might say that they represent the “gold standard” in terms of the purest, highest quality raw CBD material. Also, remember that all organic hemp grown in Europe adheres to European Union standards, which are far stricter than in the United States.
3 – Is the CBD Hemp Oil Tested by an Independent Third Party?
Since cannabis is not an FDA-approved food or drug, independent third-party testing is NOT a mandatory requirement in the CBD oil industry. As such, would-be hustlers have no incentive to pay for it (which would ultimately reveal their scam). On the other hand, reputable companies routinely pay thousands of dollars to use independent third-party labs. These verify the contents of their products in terms of both purity and potency.
For some of the larger CBD companies out there, the overall cost of third-party testing easily runs into the six-figure area. Clearly, only a company with high-grade CBD hemp oil will pay such a large sum to prove the validity of their marketing pitch. Most organizations that pay for the tests proudly post their Certificate of Verification on their website, so be on the lookout for this when you’re shopping around (or if you don’t see one, feel free to call the company directly to ask them where you can view their lab reports).
Obviously, do your research however and make sure that the third-party lab is real, and not some fictitious operation made up to fool customers. A simple online search for the analytics lab should take you directly to their website.
Finally, it’s important to understand that third-party labs test the cannabinoid profile of the oil, along with any potential contamination. Quality certificates will tell you the percentage of CBD, terpenes, and other phytocannabinoids found in the oil, as well as if there are any pesticides, heavy metals or other microbiological contaminants. In simple terms, independent third-party lab testing means there is nowhere to hide for low-quality CBD oil producers.
4 – Beware of the THC Content
CBD hemp oil must contain less than 0.3% THC for it to be legal to sell and ship across the United States as a food supplement. THC is the psychoactive component of marijuana, but industrial hemp naturally contains very low levels of it. CBD, on the other hand, is non-intoxicating and helps relieve pain and deal with a host of other medical issues, without getting you ‘high.’
The trouble is, some manufacturers are less than open about the full ingredients of their CBD hemp oil. As a rule of thumb, it is best not to risk purchasing any oil which doesn’t provide you with the full list of ingredients; especially the THC and CBD content. CBD can counteract the negative effects of THC in any case, especially if the ratio is 4:1 or greater. However, the bigger issue is drug testing.
Even at 0.3% THC, there is a possibility of failing a company drug test if you consume a large amount of CBD oil. As such, you should be looking for products with a THC content as close to zero as possible. There are a handful of brands that sell CBD oils with practically no THC whatsoever. If nothing else, though, shoot for a brand that claims a THC content of less than 0.05%.
5 – The Whole Plant Extract & Nothing but
Just to make things more confusing, there are oils made from Whole Plant Hemp, and oils made from Isolated Hemp! Whole plant hemp is associated with high-grade CBD oil and is extracted from the seeds, stems, and stalks. Not only does the oil contain CBD, but it also has a full range of other natural cannabis compounds such as terpenes, flavonoids, and “secondary” cannabinoids like CBG, CBC, and CBG-A.
Research shows that CBD oil containing the full cannabis spectrum is more effective than its Isolated Hemp counterpart. Isolated hemp relates to products containing the stock of the hemp plant only. The creators of these products remove all the fatty acids, terpenes, and other cannabinoids found in the hemp plant’s Trichomes.
The CBD ‘crystals’ are the only remaining component, and the end product resembles a white powder; CBD in its purest form. Most experts agree that these products tend to degrade the synergistic properties of the hemp plant. CBD isolate contains fewer cannabinoids than whole plant extracts. Therefore, a far larger amount of hemp is required to extract a relatively small level of the isolate. For all practical purposes, a high-quality full-spectrum oil is much preferred to a CBD isolate.
Final Thoughts on How to Identify High-Grade CBD Hemp Oil
There is research that shows the efficacy of CBD in the treatment of a wide range of medical conditions. This versatile marijuana compound is a potential game-changer in the medical field as it produces no high. But in order to receive its true therapeutic potential, you will need to sort out the high-grade CBD oils from the host of low-quality garbage that’s out there.
Although the FDA is cracking down on companies that sell low-quality oil, never assume that a company with a professional-looking website and a valid marketing campaign is the real deal. Instead, play detective and make sure it is golden filtered oil that’s grown in the right location, tested by an independent third party (with an exceptionally low level of THC), and that it is made from the whole plant. Nothing else is worth your money.
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