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Reading a CBD Label: How to Find a Quality Product

Maybe you’ve been considering taking cannabidiol (CBD), to see if it eases symptoms of chronic pain, anxiety, or another condition. But reading and understanding CBD product labels can be overwhelming, especially if you’re new to CBD.

Understanding CBD labels is made even more complicated by the fact that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn’t approved any nonprescription CBD products.

Instead, it’s up to you, the consumer, to do your research or rely on third-party testing to determine if a CBD product is legit and what’s in it.

So, here’s a 101 guide to CBD labeling to help you understand what you’re getting.

First, you need a rundown on cannabis vocabulary.

CBD vs. THC

CBD is a cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. The more well-known cannabinoid, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is also found in the cannabis plant.

These two cannabinoids — CBD and THC — are very different. THC is psychoactive and is associated with the “high” from marijuana use, but CBD doesn’t cause that sensation.

Hemp vs. marijuana

Both hemp and marijuana are cannabis plants. The difference is that hemp plants have no more than 0.3 percent THC, and marijuana plants have higher levels of THC.

CBD is either hemp-derived or marijuana-derived.

Depending on where you live and the laws in your state or country, you may be able to buy both marijuana-derived and hemp-derived CBD products. Or you may have access to hemp-derived CBD products only — or no access to CBD products at all.

Knowing the difference between marijuana and hemp is important because marijuana-derived CBD products may cause some psychoactive effects, and the THC included in these products will show up on a drug test.

Hemp-derived CBD contains only trace amounts of THC — generally not enough to cause a high or register on a drug test, though it’s possible.

It’s important to keep in mind that CBD and THC are known to work better together than they do alone. This is known as the entourage effect.

Your choice of CBD isolate, full-spectrum CBD, or broad-spectrum CBD will determine what you get in your product along with the actual CBD.

  • Full-spectrum CBD contains all of the naturally available compounds of the cannabis plant, including THC. However, in hemp-derived full-spectrum CBD, the THC will be no more than 0.3 percent.
  • Broad-spectrum CBD has all of the naturally occurring compounds, except THC.
  • CBD isolate is the purest form of CBD, isolated from the other compounds of the cannabis plant. CBD isolate should have no THC.

So, which should you choose? Some people prefer full-spectrum because they want the whole kit-and-caboodle of the cannabis plant’s benefits — with all the cannabinoids and other compounds working in synergy.

Others choose broad-spectrum because they want all the terpenes and flavonoids but no THC. Some people prefer CBD isolate because it’s tasteless and odorless, and they don’t want any other compounds included.

Cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids

Now, about those compounds. What are they exactly? In addition to CBD and THC, the cannabis plant contains more than 100 cannabinoids, plus a whole bunch of other compounds called terpenes and flavonoids.

Cannabinoids go to work on your body’s endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system helps keep the nervous system and immune function on an even keel.

Like cannabinoids, terpenes are another plant compound reported to have therapeutic and health-boosting benefits. And flavonoids, compounds also found in green tea and certain fruits, have been shown to protect against disease.

Want to try CBD, but not sure how to tell a real product from a fake? We break down terminology, labeling, and how to vet a product’s legitimacy and quality before you buy.