If you’re reading this, chances are good you’re a little CBD (Cannabidiol) curious. Maybe you heard about CBD from a friend, or saw some gummies eyeing you at a dispensary. Regardless of what brought you here, you’re ultimately hankering for some knowledge about CBD. And we’re here to give it to you. Here’s our beginner’s guide to shopping for CBD.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-intoxicating compound derived from hemp plants. It’s gained the interest of the public eye in the last few years thanks to emerging research pointing to its analgesic, anti-inflammatory and anxiolytic properties. This is also the reason why the CBD market is completely saturated right now, which can make shopping for CBD challenging.
New to CBD? Here’s all the information you need to make the most informed purchasing decision possible.
Glossary of Terms
You’re likely to encounter some specialized language and phrases on products that may throw you. We’ve laid out a few of the most common terms you’ll find below:
Hemp = Hemp is a type of cannabis plant that contains little to no THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol). It is often CBD-rich.
Cannabidiol (CBD) = A non-intoxicating compound found in hemp and cannabis plants. CBD does not get you “high”.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) = A psychoactive compound found in cannabis plants known for producing a “high”.
‘Full spectrum’= Cannabis and hemp plants contain more than 400 unique compounds. These include cannabinoids like CBD and THC as well as aromatic molecules called terpenes. A full spectrum product retains all of the plant’s various compounds, which may provide a synergistic effect. Full spectrum products often contain THC.
‘Broad spectrum’ = Is the same as a full spectrum extract except for the fact that it does not contain any THC
‘Isolate’ = Like the name implies, an isolate compound is chemically extracted and isolated to be on its own. CBD isolate does not contain any other cannabinoid or terpene.
The Beginner’s Guide to Shopping for CBD: How To Decode A Product Label
You might be thinking, well damn that’s a lot of terminology. And you’d be right. It’s a lot to parse through, which is why we’re going to break it down for you.
The first thing to look for on a product label is the word ‘CBD’ (Cannabidiol). You want to be sure the product you buy says this instead of other ingredients such as ‘hemp seed oil’. Hemp seed oil is not the same thing as CBD, but some manufacturers will put this on the label to trick consumers. Hemp oil is made by infusing the flowering part of the plant, not the seed.
The second thing to note is the potency of the product. This is usually expressed in milligrams (mg). Topical products such as skin creams and lotions typically advertise the amount of CBD in the whole container on the label. This can make dosing topicals pretty tricky.
Edibles, or food and drink products infused with CBD oil, are generally more straightforward. Labels advertise the total amount of CBD per package in mg. Some brands may even sell edibles that contain more than one serving. In these instances the label might even include an additional visual like a pie chart so you know how many mg of CBD you’re getting per dose.
CBD oils (also known as tinctures) are often the most difficult to decode. You’ll often see the total mg of CBD per container on the label, but this rarely provides accurate information about mg per dose.
To figure out how much CBD is in each dose begin by identifying the dose size recommended on the label. This is usually 1 ml of liquid (1 dropper). Some brands may even suggest using ½ a dropper (0.5 ml) or ¾ of a dropper (0.75 ml).
Take the overall amount of CBD in the unit and divide by the number of servings per container. Let’s say your CBD oil contains 500 mg of CBD per bottle. It also says on the supplement facts label that the number of servings per container is 60. Dividing 500 by 60 yields milligrams of CBD per milliliter of liquid, i.e. the amount of CBD in each dropper. In this case that would work out to 8.3 mg of CBD per ml (1 dropper).
Some brands may provide lab results, also known as Certificates of Analyses, on their product labels. These can be accessed by scanning a QR code with a phone. Doing so will take the user to a webpage with lab results they can view.
You should always ensure any product you buy has lab results from a third party available. Hemp can be a bioaccumulator, and you really don’t want to be gambling your health on products that haven’t been tested.
The Beginner’s Guide to Shopping for CBD: Your Method of Consumption Matters
Many people new to CBD are often eager to try it in edible form. And while that’s appealing it may not be the best option for you.
CBD is metabolized differently depending on the way you consume it. The absorption rate for orally consumed CBD (edibles) is a paltry 13-19%. That’s because orally consumed CBD goes through additional breakdown via first pass metabolism.
Sublingually absorbed CBD, however, has much higher absorption rates. This is the process by which you hold CBD oil under your tongue and let it absorb. Doing so averts first pass CBD breakdown, maximizing its bioavailability. This principle of cannabinoid absorption through mucosal membranes can also be seen in oromucosal sprays such as the FDA-approved Sativex.
Be sure to hold CBD oil under your tongue for at least 30 seconds for best results.
Product Review: Bluebird Botanicals CBD Gummies
The Beginner’s Guide to Shopping for CBD: Full vs. broad vs. isolate
The final thing to consider when shopping for CBD is function. Are you looking for the maximum therapeutic effects associated with CBD? You may want to opt for a full spectrum extract. Research tells us full spectrum extracts don’t stop providing therapeutic benefits after a certain dosage, which is unfortunately what happens with CBD isolate. This can also be why you may not feel a pronounced effect even after taking very high doses of CBD isolate. Be sure to check what type of CBD is used in your product.
Not everyone can or wants to mess around with THC, however. And that’s why broad spectrum or isolate extracts can be good choices. Anyone worried about drug testing, for instance, can always use an isolate without fear.
Janelle Lassalle is a writer and content creator that specializes in cannabis. She’s also an insanely passionate advocate and expert in all things CBD. You can find her work featured in a variety of publications such as Healthline, The Huffington Post, Leafly, Forbes, and High Times. Check out her portfolio, or follow her on Instagram @jenkhari.