The UK has seen a surge in cannabinoid-based healthcare solutions where demand has seen CBD products grow exponentially due to their many medicinal and therapeutic applications. However not all CBD tinctures and oils are created equal, unfortunately for every high grade product out there, there is a dozen or so low quality offerings.
With so many looking to boost their body's endocannabinoid system, or gain some relief from an ailment the market has become a sea of tinctures, oils, capsules and pastes. But there are a few steps you can take before making a purchase to help reduce the risk of wasting your money.
There are currently two main methods of extracting cannabinoids from hemp flowers, those being liquid solvent or CO2 extraction.
One of the most common methods of extraction is using liquid solvents such as butane, isopropyl alcohol, hexane, or ethanol. This lower cost extraction method sees the hemp flower 'washed' with solvent, stripping the plant material of its cannabinoids before being evaporated off and leaving behind oil concentrate. There is a risk of solvents leaving impurities in the finished product and a lack of experience with this method can lead to low quality oil that's green in colour and has a more bitter taste.
Widely used by industrial hemp producers the CO2 extraction method is one of the more expensive techniques of oil extraction, but gives the cleanest product with little to no risk of contamination. This tech savvy extraction method uses a ‘closed-loop extractor’ which features three containers. The first containing CO2, the middle plant material and the last container collects the final product.
Whilst experienced producers can manufacturer good quality CBD products using a liquid solvent method, CO2 extraction remains the superior method of extraction at this time.
The quality of any product is the sum of its source. How the hemp is grown is just as important as where, and which species (sativa, ruderalis, or indica). For example industrial hemp has been growing around the world for decades, but this non-food grade hemp is not really suitable for CBD oil. Unfortunately with the increase in demand a lot of industrial hemp is finding it's way into CBD products, so it's important to check the source.
The hemp plant can be grown almost anywhere, thriving in a variety of different climates around the globe. However the quality of the hemp plant itself can vary wildly depending on the type of soil, general care, use of pesticides and light source. It's generally less of a headache to purchase CBD oil that has been made in a country with regulations specifically set in place for hemp.
The UK, USA, Canada, & Europe offer regulated hemp farming, however Europe and the UK have the strictest policies. Organic hemp grown in Europe must also adhere to the EU’s strict organic standards which are more stringent than the USA or Canada, and is regularly audited.
Whole Plant/Full Spectrum
It sounds like marketing spiel, but it can be another important indicator of quality.
Full spectrum or whole plant extract are terms that are often used interchangeably, yet they are not synonymous and are used to describe CBD products that have been extracted from the hemp plant.
Whole Plant Extract - As the name suggests whole plant extract has been made using everything the hemp plant has to offer including fan leaves, stems and seeds. The main cannabinoid and terpene rich parts of the plant are the flowers or buds, anything else generally offers little to no cannabinoid content.
Full Spectrum - Has not had any of its naturally occurring cannabinoids such as CBD, CBN and CBL, or terpenes like mycerin and pinene removed or isolated. As full spectrum oil has not been refined it will also contain trace amounts of THC. The natural state and potent combination of cannabinoids and terpenes work together to create the 'entourage effect' which can prove more effective, depending on what you're looking for.
Third Party Lab Results
All reputable CBD healthcare manufacturers and retailers will offer to show you or have readily accessible third party lab results to confirm in detail the contents, ratio and strength of their products.
CBD third party lab reports are essentially a means of providing an unbiased and independent validation of what’s actually in the product that you're considering. At first glance lab reports can look quite overwhelming, but if you know what to look out for they can become pretty easy to decipher.
The Good - What you want to see.
Alongside CBD you should also see cannabinoid good guys like CBC, THCA, CBG, CBDA, CBN and trace levels of THC if looking at full spectrum. Standard lab reports will not detail every cannabinoid present, so don't be worried if you don't see all of the above compounds listed.
The Bad - What you don't want to see.
Steer clear of any lab report that lists pesticides, herbicides, growth hormones, fertilizers or chemical solvents. Though if you're purchasing a CBD healthcare product that has been grown in the EU officially this sort of nightmare lab report is rare.
Lastly double check the lab report you are viewing is for the same product you are considering purchasing.
Beware False Promises
CBD products can offer a great deal in the way of health benefits but they should not be sold as a cure all. Unless regulated by the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) no medical claims can be made or promoted, and to do so would be illegal.
Finding the right CBD product for you can be trial and error, and often what will work for one won't necessarily work for another. Luckily due to CBD's increased popularity a number of independent guidance groups and information sites have been created whereby people can discuss their usage and personal experiences.
One closing piece of advice, when trialing any CBD product start on a low dose and work your way up. This will help you find the right product and balance for you.