As a former budtender, now a journalist and writer in the cannabis industry, friends, family, and followers frequently ask about how to choose the right CBD products. Unfortunately, there’s not really a straight answer I can provide them. Cannabis and hemp products have as many variants as we humans do. With little regulation established, several factors impact the quality, safety, and efficacy of products available on the market today.
Choosing CBD: What Things to Consider
Because of this, as well as the differences in our body chemistry, metabolism, and even DNA structure, cannabinoids can’t be prescribed like aspirin — there’s no standard dosing regimen. Similar to how one might try other herbs, such as turmeric or curcumin, for health and wellness, hemp and cannabis-based supplementation takes a little experimentation to achieve the desired effects.
Plus, the CBD industry is booming, despite having little regulation. So this landscape attracts the vultures, the fly-by-night snake oil salesmen, and the greedy, do-anything-for-an-extra-buck con-artists. Buyers beware, in the early days of this new market — you need to look for the warning signs and be vigilant about doing your homework.
Know the Terminology
First of all, know the terminology of various products. Similar to taking your car to the mechanic, if you’re not at least somewhat educated, a shady salesman may try to sell you something you don’t want or charge you for changing the air in your tires. Arming yourself with information is never a bad idea:
- Full-Spectrum — these products contain a full representation of the cannabinoids found in the original plant material, so the final product will contain some level of THC.
- Broad-Spectrum — these products contain all the cannabinoids, except for THC. Many times they’ll be labeled “THC-Free.”
- Isolates — this is only CBD — no other cannabinoids, no other terpenes, just CBD.
The biggest thing to note between products is that cannabinoids and other compounds in the plant tend to work together to enhance the effects of the CBD; this is called the “Entourage Effect.” CBD isolates can’t take advantage of the other cannabinoids because they’ve all been removed. My personal experience is that CBD isolates don’t work as well as other broad or full-spectrum products.
Choosing CBD: Legal Considerations
Legality is still a consideration. First and foremost, depending on where you live, you need to look at your lifestyle and determine whether or not it’s worth the risk. While CBD products, derived from hemp, are considered legal in most states, there are some caveats to consider.
One of the top headlines we see year after year involves how the CBD industry is failing with inaccurate testing and labeling. In the latest reports from the FDA, only 45% of the sampled products fell within 20% +- of what their label said — and that’s a pretty big gap for inaccuracies. This revelation means, although the label states the product is THC-free, it may not be. While this may not be a problem for many people, it may create unwanted side effects, or cause the consumer to test positive for THC. Unfortunately, in many states, THC can lead to a plethora of problems, like job loss, denial of housing, even losing custody of children.
For example, let’s say you live in Iowa, and you’ve been using a full-spectrum CBD tincture to help you fall asleep at night. You’re confident the product is legal because the label says it has less than .3% THC. But, on your way home from work, you’re involved in a fender-bender, and the officer determines they want to do a blood test on both parties to determine intoxication. The other driver comes back right at the legal limit with a .08 BAC, and your test comes back positive for THC because of your CBD tincture. Who do you think is going to get blamed for that accident in a conservative state like Iowa?
Choosing CBD: Personal Considerations
Once you know you’re not in any legal danger from using a mislabeled CBD product, next, you need to ask yourself a few questions about your current health and lifestyle.
Are you taking any life-saving prescriptions? CBD is considered a “competitive inhibitor,” which means it can actually prevent or reduce the efficacy of certain pharmaceutical medications. Similar to how grapefruit juice can interfere with some drugs, CBD can do the same. If this is the case, you absolutely want to discuss your plan with your physician before you start experimenting.
For what purpose do you want to try CBD? Your goals for adding CBD should be taken into consideration as well. Are you trying to improve your sleep? Maybe to reduce anxiety? What are your intended outcomes? Different products and formulations may impact your end goals, so being aware of what you’re attempting to achieve will help narrow down where to start. For example:
- Sleep formulations may include melatonin or CBN
- Anxiety formulations may include terpenes like limonene or linalool
- Other products may include a combination of herbal constituents
How do you want to consume CBD? Although smokeable hemp products are gaining popularity, many people these days do not want to spark a joint to ‘medicate.’ Fortunately, thanks to the legalization of cannabis and hemp, the various products have evolved. Today, consumers can choose from tinctures, capsules, or vape pens, as well as a wide range of edibles and beverages. Now, before you answer too quickly, let’s take a look at the science of bioavailability. Different products absorb differently in the body:
Choosing CBD: Safety Considerations
I know, I know — I can’t have this conversation without someone saying, “Just smoke it, yo!” But, since I’ve been involved in the cannabis industry, I’ve learned there’s good reason to be particular about what you’re consuming. Cannabis and hemp absorb the toxins in their environment, so if the cultivators don’t take great care, the end products could contain toxins, as well.
Look at it like this; the pharmaceutical, agricultural, and tobacco industries have already proven that, when given the opportunity, greedy men will do whatever it takes to increase their bottom line. Likewise, without regulation and oversight, shady cultivators and producers will do whatever is necessary to increase their profits as well, including using dangerous pesticides, fertilizers, and additives, which can be deadly to the consumer.
Need more proof? Last year, the industry was plagued with illicit vape cartridges loaded with Vitamin E acetate. Even in the early days of the legal industry, commercial cannabis growers were testing positive for Eagle20. Regulations protect the consumer from inconsiderate manufacturers.
So, how can you tell a good CBD producer from a bad one? Look for these red flags:
Origin: Unfortunately, newly legal hemp states haven’t figured out all the rules yet. Try to stick with products that are made in Colorado, Oregon, California, and Kentucky. These states have well-established laboratories for testing, and they have more state-enforced regulations than most other states. If they are secretive about their production location, run. Counterfeit CBD can be purchased out of labs in China and Hong Kong and has been known to make people sick.
Third-Party Lab-Testing: Look for the potency of both CBD and THC, as well as any toxin reports. All CBD products should be tested for heavy metal contamination. If they don’t list this test, ask for it. If they can’t provide it, I wouldn’t buy it.
NO MLMs!: Multi-level marketing companies are the shadiest of them all. Do not fall into this trap.
My Personal Recommendations
So, before I make a list of CBD companies, know that I won’t recommend a product I haven’t personally tried, and I make nothing from recommending these companies. I am not an affiliate, and I haven’t received any kick-backs for mentioning them:
1) Mary’s Nutritionals/Mary’s Medicinals — this is a Colorado-based company, and their products played a significant role in ending my husband’s opiate addiction. Their cannabis-derived products are sold under the Medicinals brand in several legal states, while hemp-derived products are sold online under the Nutritionals line. Marys has a wide range of product forms, including gel pens, capsules, tinctures, and even transdermal patches.
2) Bluebird Botanicals — another Colorado-based hemp company, Bluebird has been recognized for how well they manage their batch testing and provide complete, accurate test results with every product.
3) Wyld CBD — a newcomer to the market, this is an Oregon-based company. They have a unique and delicious product line. I just had the opportunity to try their THC gummies last week for the first time out of a dispensary in Pueblo.
4) Mountain High Selects — Mountain High Suckers was a pioneer in the Colorado cannabis industry. Now, they have a full line of delicious suckers and candies made from hemp-derived CBD, with no THC, so that everyone can enjoy them!
No single person is created the same. Likewise, CBD products can vary from brand to brand and even batch to batch. If you don’t achieve the results you want from one product, try a different one. Almost everyone who’s found success with cannabis or hemp did so through experimentation. Always start with a low dose and stick with that dose for a few days before you increase your dose. I encourage you to keep a journal to help you determine which products work well for you and which ones don’t.
Remember, learning how CBD affects you is a personal learning process, so while our friends can make recommendations, and tell us what works really well for them, bear in mind, you might not have the same results. Keep reading, keep learning, and keep trying.
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