We get this all the time. People hear about CBD, they jump online to learn more, and they immediately get confused. Following are a few tips to help consumers cut through the learning curve and make good purchase decisions.
The Mind of the Maker
This one is easy. If a company doesn't provide basic contact information on their website (phone number and address), then it is probably best to keep moving. After all, you need to trust them with your family's health and wellness. You are relying on them to provide you with clean, legal, and potent products, and you need them to be there if you have a problem. If you don't even know where they are, how can you know what they are?
Watching the Watchdog
There are a number of 3rd-party, supposedly independent organizations on the internet that claim to be the arbiters of what is good in the CBD world. Just ask yourself some basic questions: 1) What are their credentials? Before accepting the opinion of a self-described expert, you should know precisely who it is that is advising you and what specific background they have that would influence their opinions; 2) What are they getting out of it? You may be surprised that many of these watchdog groups are also selling products and services without disclosing their affiliations; 3) If the group exists as an altruistic or academic endeavor, do they apply scientific rigor to their reviews? Are their methods transparent? Does everyone get an objectively fair shake?; and 4) As with the section above, is it obvious who the people are running the organization and is it clear how to contact them?
Value through Strength
Cannabinoid potency is a good measure of value, but not the only measure. As a consumer you obviously want to understand if there is CBD in the product, and you want to know what you are paying for. Getting a current test certificate on the product is the first step to assigning value. All testing certificates are reported in percent cannabinoids by mass (solids) or volume (liquids). For example, if a certificate of analysis (COA) is reporting 3.0% CBD by volume, then there are 30 milligrams of CBD per milliliter. If the report shows 3.0% CBD by mass, then that translates as 30 milligrams of CBD per gram. Once you know how much CBD is in a product, you can do a simple calculation of cost per milligram of CBD. If 500mg of CBD costs $50, then you are at $0.10/mg. Other measures of value are more subjective: the product should of course taste good and work well.
What's in a Name?
Some manufacturers want to move the goalposts around so they don't actually disclose how much CBD is in their products. For example, if you read a label that says "30% CBD Oil" or "250mg CBD Oil" then the manufacturer has told you nothing about the product's potency or value. Consider that a single molecule of cannabidiol in a 30-ton vat of vegetable oil could be called "CBD Oil". You are looking for values specific to CBD and other cannabinoids in the mix.
Mork from Ork would have better luck understanding how much CBD is in this new category of emulisified products. You heard that right: companies are adding emulsifiers to CBD in an effort to make it soluble in water. There are many names that describe this process: liposomal CBD, episomal CBD, nano CBD. On the upside, there may well be metabolic advantages to driving the active compound into the body in a different molecular size and shape. That is a topic of another post (Red Bull Chronicles). The problem to the consumer is that these products do not disclose the amount of CBD, so there is no way to establish value.
Products made from molecular CBD (isolate) tend not to be effective when used orally. This statement is borne out in the disappointing efficacy studies for molecular cannabinoid drug products (marinol, dranabinol, epidiolex, sativex). Softgels and tinctures ideally are made from hemp extract with a full complement of cannabinoids (CBD, CBC, CBN, CBG, CBDV, etc.). They should also contain a fraction of delta-9 THC, provided it is under 0.3% by mass, the accepted legal limit for industrial hemp. The cannabinoids are naturally synergistic.
Beware the Carriers
Manufacturers frequently use curious selections of carriers in their products. When oral tinctures use glycerin, it usually means that their active CBD oil tastes like a compost bin. The glycerin is naturally sweet and helps to cover that mess up. The same goes for coconut oil, sesame oil, grapeseed oil and olive oil: they aren't necessarily bad on their own, but there is a good chance they are used as camouflage for shortcomings in flavor and quality.
Some vaporizer liquid is made with PEG400 or PEG800. These are excellent diluents, but are very harsh on the body. Medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil is becoming more popular for thinnning extract oil in vape cartridges but nothing is known about its safety. Companies (like ours) that use USP Kosher Propylene Glycol (PG) as a minor ingredient in the vape products, do so with the knowledge that 30 million people vape PG every day without complications or side effects from the PG.
A Clean Machine
There is all manner of fake reporting on contaminants in CBD hemp products and unscrupulous manufacturers like to use the threat of contamination as an ignorant bludgeon against their competitors. It is certainly important for consumers to become familiar with accepted testing protocols and detection limits for contaminants, but the clickbait doesn't match up with reality. Consumers should be informed but not paranoid. It is far more common for hemp feedstock material to be simply of poor quality rather than objectively contaminated (pesticides, microbes, metals, solvents, mycotoxins). Yes, there are some high-profile cases of contaminated marijuana in the US. But hemp is not marijuana. That too is a subject for another post.
Addition by Subtraction
Hemp products should not contain additives or adjuvants. They are unnecessary.
If it seems like CBD product testimonials and reviews are just a bit too polished, they were probably written by the company's marketing team. Does "Jenny from Dallas" seem a bit too formal in her enthusiasm for the benefits of cannabidiol as a treatment for her ailment? Does the photograph of the sick child next to the "buy now" button seem a bit tacky or misplaced? Does the canned video of Sanjay Gupta and other "doctors" seem random and out of place relative to the specific product or brand? As a fun exercise, check out some of the Google reviews on CBD companies and see if any of the reviewers pop up on LinkedIn as employees for the same company.
Consumers really need to trust their instincts when transacting business online. There are many trusted methods for leaving feedback, and it's easy to see when the reviews are authentic. Many of our online resellers collect feedback on our products and we are proud of the things people say about us. We encourage you to check it all out on your own. Some day we may put some of the comments on this site...
Know who you are doing business with.
Don't trust the anonymous "expert".
Learn to objectively measure product value.
Understand the true cannabinoid load in the product.
Be careful with the emulsifiers and adjuvants.
Look for full-spectrum solutions on the oral products.
Be aware of contaminant testing.
Trust your instincts when you read product reviews (good or bad).
This is our first blog article. Many more to come.