What to Avoid When Buying CBD

By Harris Wheless
Crystalweed Cannabis, Unsplash

Although CBD is now a booming industry and products are widely available online, federal regulators have been slow to respond to the trend. The Food and Drug Administration has not approved CBD as a dietary supplement, and health claims concerning its use have neither been confirmed nor studied in any comprehensive manner. To further muddy the waters, hemp laws vary by state, making it difficult for consumers and online retailers to know what they can buy or ship.

The lack of regulation has led many to call the CBD market a “Wild West,” with some legitimate brands who have a devotion to quality and safety, as well as others who mislabel and use marketing tactics that obscure their products’ true nature. As a consumer, you have to be constantly on your toes, and pay close attention to any warning signs that might appear. Here are some tips you can use to understand the CBD market and become a smarter shopper.

Hemp Oil vs. CBD Oil

Since most CBD available in the U.S. is hemp-derived, you might assume hemp oil and CBD oil are terms that can be used interchangeably. However, these are two entirely different kinds of products, although many online retailers are careful not to make this distinction explicit. Generally, hemp oil is short for hemp seed oil, which is extracted from hemp seeds, is rich in fatty acids, and is commonly used to aid skin health. However, it does not contain significant amounts of CBD or any of the other compounds that give CBD products the potential to alleviate other symptoms like pain, inflammation, anxiety, and sleep issues.

Third party sellers who use online marketplaces like Amazon may take advantage of the lack of consumer knowledge surrounding the difference between these two kinds of products. Although products labeled hemp oil are widely available on Amazon, the website prohibits the sale of any product containing CBD. If you’re looking for trustworthy CBD products, it’s better to seek out CBD-specific brands rather than large online marketplaces that may have their own rules that sellers have to abide by.

Dated or Unusual Test Results

Because there is a lack of federal regulation in the CBD market, some brands are attempting to self-regulate so they can distinguish themselves from competitors and keep buyers coming back. This is done through third party lab testing, where the brand’s products are tested by an independent lab to ensure they contain what it says on the label. Some brands include certificates of analysis (COAs) in a product’s description online, while others are available upon request.

Because of the myriad steps that go into producing CBD products, brands should be testing their products at least every 6 months to make sure nothing is falling through the cracks. Be wary of products with dated test results or certificates of analysis that are printed on company letterhead. It’s also not a bad idea to do a little research on whatever lab the brand has used and to look closely at what they tested for. The best brands pride themselves on transparency and the measures they take to guarantee customer safety.

Research the Brand

It can be beneficial to do some research on a brand before you use their products. Your first step should be to perform a general internet search on the brand to see if there’s anything in the news that might give you concerns about their business practices. It might also be worth looking into who the owners are or who has a stake in the company.

You can also read through customer reviews on the brand’s website, or product reviews from a third party site. Testimonies from other consumers might be able to give you a general idea of the efficacy of the product in relieving certain symptoms. However, not everyone’s experience with a product will be the same, so it helps to do your homework, go into it with an open mind, and adjust your dosage or chosen product according to your needs.

Cheap Products

If you see a deal that looks too good to be true, it probably is. In the CBD space, a lot of cheaper products are made by companies who aren’t taking the precautions that are needed to produce safe products. If a product is extremely low cost, the brand may have cut costs somewhere. And while this isn’t always the case, you should certainly be wary of low-priced products and do your research before buying.

When in Doubt, Call Them Up

Most CBD companies are relatively small and fairly responsive if you decide to give them a ring or shoot them an email. If a brand doesn’t respond and vouch for their product, it’s better to go somewhere else. The most reputable brands know that CBD is a confusing space, and they make an extra effort to help consumers navigate through it and find a product that works for them. Don’t settle for a brand that doesn’t care about your health and safety—that should be every CBD company’s top priority.

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