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How To Read CBD/Hemp Product Labels – Part 1

Table of Contents

Before you read a CBD label, what does the product claim to do?

“It’s a miracle drug!” (or, not).  “It’s made from organic CBD” (or, maybe it’s not organic, but it is “natural”, or maybe it’s neither?).  “One thing for sure is that it isn’t cannabis; but, it is cannabidiol . . . but, it comes from the cannabis plant and not that other plant….”  It’s “natural”, “organic”, “non-addictive”, “non-psychoactive”, “pain reliever”, and “good for helping you with so many other health problems”.

First of all, that ‘other’ cannabis-similar plant is not actually called a “CBD plant”, it’s actually a hemp plant, and it looks, smells and grows much like it’s ‘cousin’ (i.e., “subspecies” – aka, sub-species). 

Whoa, boy (or, girl)!  Something growing so fast beyond its $2,000,000,000 projected revenue for 2020, and something that you swallow (or, maybe it’s just something you rub onto some part of your body?).  The point is, well the point is and will likely remain for awhile: confusion.

Whatever CBD is or isn’t should be clearly disclosed on its label; right?  Yes and no.  Most CBD products rely upon customers not understanding the ingredients do and/or do not do, and have enough of the ‘good stuff’ in them to perform as you expect 

  • Prime example:  Amazon officially forbids the selling of any product containing CBD, yet there are 1,000’s of CBD products falsely, fraudulently and forcefully promoting their “amazing benefits” all due to the “Amazing 1,500,000 mg of hemp seed oil” contained in their jar. The problem? Hemp seed oil contains zero CBD and zero other cannabinoids! And “1,500,000 mg”? Milligrams of what? They don’t say, and yet you might assume it’s of the ‘good stuff: CBD’. BTW, do you know how many ounces are in 1,500,000 of the mystery ingredient(s)? It’s 3.3 pounds! Does this product look like it weighs anywhere near multiple pounds? It’s certainly not what you assume you’re buying….So that’s why those companies can sell their products so much cheaper than legitimate CBD products.
  • This happens all the time, all over Amazon, and very many convenience stores, online retailers, and guys (and dolls) in back alleys…..
  • Let’s not dump on hemp seed oil, because while it’s the unwitting victim of being marketed as a hero product (CBD), its an excellent source of omega fatty acids. But, think of hemp seed oil for one good reason only: it’s for nutrition; and not what CBD has proven or purported to do.

All this confusion is caused by a combination of misrepresentation and misunderstood facts. 

And if you haven’t noticed by now, most CBD products’ labels — whether it’s in or on the container and/or on the container’s outside box, display at least one specific claim/benefit; e.g., PAIN; HEALTH; IMMUNITY; SLEEP, etc.   

It’s been just two years since the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill when CBD products became widely available across the country . And with the great variety of products came great confusion, especially because most people throw away the box a product might have come in; ignore any instructions on the product itself, and pretty much assume it’s as easy as just swallowing some amount, or rubbing a topical on some focal pain areas on your body. 

Reading CBD labels can be challenging and complicated, so we compiled some information to make it easier for you to know what you need to know — what might be very good for you!

Basics About CBD

First, let’s review what CBD is and isn’t, so you know what to look for when selecting a product.  CBD (aka, cannabidiol) is just one of nearly 500 individual ingredients in cannabis; and one of about 110 cannabinoids. 

CBD can be derived from cannabis (i.e., high THC percentage) or hemp (no more than 0.3%, which is less than one-third of one percent) plants. But there’s a critical difference between the two because the 2018 Farm bill legalizes only hemp-derived CBD on the federal level; which means that producers of “CBD oil” are forbidden from using any portion of CBD from the hemp plant’s cousin, the cannabis sativa plant (aka, marijuana).

There’s yet another important difference between the two plants: CBD oil might be the name many companies call their oil products, but the truly correct reference should be “hemp oil”.  And, as previously mentioned above, when you see “hemp seed oil” while seeking CBD products which you hope will be good for you: Don’t buy them because they contain no CBD. If you do want the benefits from hemp seed oil you can find it much cheaper when it’s not marketed or sold as CBD.

Unlike THC, CBD does not produce a euphoric effect or a “high.” CBD is predominantly used for its potential soothing, calming, and anti-inflammatory properties. Many people choose to incorporate CBD in their wellness regimes because it is a natural and sustainable alternative to pharmaceuticals and most OTC (Over The Counter) supplements. You should speak with your primary care physician about using CBD as an adjunct with any prescription medicine you may be taking.

Labeling

The legal CBD market is barely two years old, and FDA regulations have not helped consumers genuinely know what is, and is not, true. In fact, the primary reason the CBD industry is so nation-wide confusing is because the FDA has chosen not to provide the regulatory guidelines both consumers and companies ask for.  (But, let’s not dive into what the FDA should or should not do, as we’ll leave that for an upcoming deeper dive.) 

Therefore, with the limited regulations provided by the FDA (with some overlap from the FTC – Federal Trade Commission which regulates hyper aggressive and consumer unfriendly trade practices), the task of regulating healthy and helpful product information falls to the companies themselves. Unfortunately, there are many inconsistencies, shortfalls, and contradictions and even deliberate mislabeling. (Let’s call them what they are:  ‘bad players’; brands which take advantage of the confusion by falsely misrepresenting what their products are legally allowed to do; examples are rampant on Amazon.com) because they allow false product claims to run rampant all over their marketplace.

There are many published reviews about faulty labeling, and an example of one study which examined the accuracy of product labels found that as many as 23 out of 84 products were mislabeled. Some products were over-labeled — meaning the amount of CBD listed on the product was much higher than its actual CBD content. An over-labeled amount of CBD in a product could mean that you would consume more CBD per dosing; which is not an accurate or beneficial method of finding the amount that’s good for you.  Another labeling inconsistency found by the study was under-labeling. Under labeling means the amount of CBD listed on the label is lower than the actual CBD content. Using an under labeled product could result in incorrect dosing, lack of beneficial effects, and possibly unwanted effects, as the product is actually much stronger than is described. Another dangerous aspect of under labeled products is their THC content; which is an ingredient some people need or want to avoid. Hemp CBD oil has different strengths, including the positive results from THC (i.e., less than 0.3%).

When choosing a CBD product, it is important to go with a brand that is diligent in their testing and labeling, so you know that what you read on the label is what you get; that is, what you consume!

Testing

When a company performs independent testing on its products, it means that a sample of that product is sent to an independent lab for testing. The test reveals the exact potency, microbial contaminants, and residual solvents in the product. There should be either zero, or next to zero contaminants or solvents remaining in the product you might purchase. The potency is there to confirm that there is no more than zero point three percent (0.3%); which is less than one-third of one percent; truly a tiny amount.

We already discussed the importance of correct potency labeling. The other two aspects of independent third party testing are equally as important. Microbial contaminants are microscopic particles that are considered harmful to humans. Bacteria, yeast, and mold are all things that can cause serious problems if consumed regularly or especially by immunocompromised consumers! Make certain that any product you buy does not contain any microbial contaminants is essential for your health. Most companies will have information on third-party testing of their products on their website. Here are examples of how a CoA (“Certificate of Analysis”) should look 

Residual solvents are the chemicals left behind after the process used to extract CBD from the plant. Usually, these chemicals will evaporate during the process of extraction, but some may be left behind. Residual solvents are considered harmful to humans, so it is best to make sure the CBD product you are purchasing is chemical-free. 

The Importance of Going Organic

The USDA has very strict rules when it comes to labeling a product organic. To be certified as USDA Organic, a crop must be grown without the use of artificial fertilizers and synthetic pesticides. Additionally, USDA Organic crops must be free of genetically modified organisms or GMOs. 

There is some evidence that synthetic pesticides may cause cancer. A judge awarded a California couple with cancer 86.7 million dollars in a lawsuit against synthetic pesticide Roundup. Synthetic pesticides and artificial fertilizers have also been linked to developmental issues in children.

Studies concerning GMOs are ongoing, but there is evidence that genetically modified organisms could be responsible for creating antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Therefore, it is in your best interest to look for that USDA Organic label on your CBD product. 

No corners should be cut when your health and wellness are concerned. We hope that you now have all the information you need to properly read CBD labels and pick the product that will be good for you! 

Since all GoodFOR products are formulated by doctors, consider GoodFOR your reliable, one-stop resource to get all of your most important questions answered.

How To Read CBD Labels – Part 2 is coming in the next issue of GoodFOR YOU NEWS

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