How do you read third-party CBD lab tests?
Below is a run down on how to read CBD Product Third-party Lab Tests.
I purposely have tried not to go into too much detail, so this can be easily understood by ANYONE looking to purchase CBD - if it's the first time you're looking to buy CBD or even if it's for the hundredth time you're looking to buy CBD, this advice applies to you!
There is a summary at the bottom for those who find this article too long, but there is some vitally important info in the below combined with my ramblings, that if read in its entirety may help, so I'd strongly suggest reading the whole article.
First and foremost, most people know not to buy CBD Products if third party lab tests are unavailable.
If you didn't know to make sure that you look at lab tests before you buy CBD, this is the best piece of advice I can give anyone if they're looking to purchase CBD Oils, CBD Balms, CBD E-Liquid, CBD Capsules or any other CBD Products - this is the only proof you have that the products actually are, what they say they are.
The CBD Industry (for now) isn't regulated. This means that some companies often make wild, ridiculous and misleading claims about what their CBD Oil and other products contain. The only way of checking these claims is by analysing the third party lab test certificates or sometime called COA (Certificate of Analysis).
One of the first things always check before I even request or read lab tests if if a product says the mg content in CBD and not mg of hemp extract. Personally I would never buy a product labelled 1200mg of hemp extract. This is usually because the CBD content of the product will likely be unknown and in all cases it will certainly be less than 1200mg CBD.
Now that we've covered the first two extremely important pieces of advice, lets move onto the third-party lab tests.
Items to check when looking at Third Party Lab Tests
1. I know this seems like pointing out the obvious, but please check these are actually from a third party laboratory. I have seen tests and studies performed in house and dressed up to look like third party. You can check the laboratory name, this is usually shown at the top of the page. In the case of the below the laboratory is ADACT. From a very quick look on google you can see this labs credentials and that they are genuine https://adactmedical.com/about-adact-medical/
2. The second thing I look for on company website (or if not there, ask them for) is a COA (certificate of analysis) for contamination (or more to the point lack of contamination). This point as well as being extremely important to humans, is absolutely vital for animals. If the cannabinoids and terpenes found in cannabis oil have been extracted in a way that reduces contaminants (Supercritical CO2 Extraction is the gold standard), then no contaminants should be present in the extracts. Cheaper extraction methods can leave trace contaminants, picked up from a range of sources, and nobody wants to be ingesting these, especially those with dangerous affects, that the body cannot process and rid itself of quickly.
This is an example above, the only thing you can check here is that the amounts of contaminants are below a pre-determined level. If the company is using a trusted lab (see point 1) these levels should be determined by industry standards. Sometimes these are included on product tests as an all in one, sometimes these are separate.
3. Check the Product NAME matches the product you want to check. This is an easily made mistake, one that I've made myself too many times, this will usually be found in the first section of the test report and easily identifiable, if the product name isn't shown, the lab test means nothing. It could be test result of anything.
4. Check the CBD Content - this is the first thing I check when looking at the levels of cannabinoids - afterall - you're paying your hard earned money primarily for CBD or cannabidiol. If the test doesn't show the amount they've claimed it to contain, then I feel the consumer is not getting what they paid for. People say allow for a +/- 10% but realistically I want to get what I'm paying for, especially with products that can be so expensive.
Something to note is that CBD amount shown on a bottle of CBD Oil can take into account the amount of, yet to be decarboxylated, CBD. This is shown in the test results as CBDA. However, depending on what you would need this for, I would generally look for a low percentage of CBDA contained within CBD Oil. If you wanted CBDA you'd be looking to buy a high concentrate CBDA oil to begin with.
We'll take this Lab test result as an example:
I'm hoping I can improve the quality of the picture, if this isn't clear the link to the certificate can be found here 500mg Full Spectrum CBD Oil - this is a lab test certificate for 500mg Full Spectrum CBD Oil in a 10ml bottle - the size if extremely important, because when we work out the percentages of what is shown in the results, this would be a different CBD milligram (mg) amount depending on the total size of the product. But more on the small bit of maths following this point. Some lab tests do show mg for a certain product size, but i find percentages tend to be more accurate.
This is a good example (blowing my own trumpet slightly perhaps) because the most easily identifiable cannabinoid is CBD, the test clearly shows that this product contains over 5% CBD, even without taking into account the small amount of CBDA. This is generally what you will find with top of the range products. However, that isn't to say there are other very good products with a combination of CBD and CBDA that reach (in the case of 500mg CBD Oil) 5%.
If a test analysis of CBD is shown as a percentage, you need to work this out based on the total size of the product. The is a bit of maths in this part is required, so I will go slowly - this is also an easy example to use, as the total product size is 10ml.
As a conversion there is 1,000mg (1 thousand milligrams) in 1ml.
Therefore, in a 10ml product there is 10,000mg (ten thousand milligrams) total. I hope you're still with me...
Then we work out the amount of CBD taking into account the percentage shown on the test result IE o this test result the total CBD content is shown as 5.638% of 10,000mg. Do do the we multiply 10,000mg by 5% (or 0.0536 in decimals).
10,000 x 0.0536 = 563.6mg
This then confirms there is over 500mg of CBD contained in the product, and it is an honest reflection of the claims the company has made.
You're actually, in this case, getting more than what you have agreed to pay for. Something all companies should strive to do - if you're a person that has anything to do with sales in a company, there's a great book called "Give 'Em The Pickle" by Bob Farrell that you should consider reading and adopting some principles from. I digress, my apologies. Back to the lab test understanding....
If the product is 30ml, another common size for CBD Products- one that Bio Med CBD doesn't produce in an oil (if you want know why, there is a good reason, just ask).
This would be 30,000mg total, if a product stated it was still 500mg, then you would only require a minimum percentage of total CBD shown on the test results of 1.67%.
30,000mg x 0.0167 (1.67%) = 500mg
This can obviously be adjusted for whatever size of product, using the above formula.
5. Check the range of "Other Cannabinoid" Content
There is a few different parts to this point, as it does depend on whether you're looking at a CBD Isolate product, a Full Spectrum Product, or a Broad Spectrum Product. The difference between these, for anyone who doesn't know, the definitions are as follows;
CBD Isolate : Exactly that, 99% Pure CBD Isolated (as far as practicable) from other cannabinoids.
Full Spectrum CBD: This is a product that contains the full spectrum of cannabinoids and terpenes extracted from the hemp plant including THC (the legal limit for this sold publicly is 1mg per product currently, this is not the case for products available on prescription).
Broad Spectrum CBD: This is a product that contains the full spectrum of cannabinoids and terpenes from the hemp plant, except for THC, this is removed in an additional process following whole plant extraction.
CBD Isolate products shouldn;t show anything above the limit of testing for other cannabinoids, its an expensive and therefore impractical to isolate 100% CBD, I would however look for something that contains 99.9% CBD on its test and comes with a contaminant COA.
Full spectrum, as well as the amount of CBD claimed by the product description, the product should contain cannabinoids at percentages that you would expect to find from whole hemp plant CO2 extraction. What I would expect to see would be at least detectable levels of THC, CBG, THCV, CNDV and CBC (and possibly CBN depending on how long the plant has been raised and processed) I’d also expect to see very small percentages of the yet to be decarboxylated cannabinoids like CBDA, THCA.
I would usually not accept products to be labelled or described as “full spectrum” if a range of these cannabinoids, especially THC, is shown below detectable levels. There may be reasons for this and perhaps companies have additional tests showing these but i would strongly advise anyone to question this IE if something is labelled full spectrum but has no THC shown in the Lab test - I would ask why this product is not labelled as Broad Spectrum instead.
Broad spectrum, as well as the amount of CBD claimed by the product description, bro spectrum should contain cannabinoids at percentages that you would expect to find from whole hemp plant CO2 extraction except THC, THCA,THCV (both delta 8 and 9). What I would expect to see would be at least detectable levels of CBG, CNDV and CBC (and possibly CBN depending on how long the plant has been raised and processed) I’d also expect to see very small percentages of the yet to be decarboxylated cannabinoids like CBDA. Just to reiterate there should be a below detectable level of THC shown on Borad Spectrum, and I would expect this limit of testing to be at most 0.001%
I would not accept products to be labelled or described as “Broad spectrum” if a range of these cannabinoids, (Except THC, as there should be 0.00%) is shown below detectable levels. If a broad spectrum product contains any detectable levels of THC, In my opinion, this should not be labelled as Board Spectrum.
Another interesting point is some companies, who obviously have heard the cannabinoid product terminology "Full Spectrum" and "Zero THC", and understand that both these phrases are commonly used to market products.
They like to market products using the term "Full spectrum" because this is usually seen as the best product to help most people and "Zero THC" is usually marketed to people who still (wrongly in my opinion) associate THC with a drug culture or gateway drug despite the extremely low levels found in CBD Oils found for sale on websites that would be impossible to create pyscoactve effects. Although admittedly Isolate can be better for a small number of users. Some companies believe lumping these terminologies together would lead to better sales as a marketing ploy, unfortunately for the better educated among us - INCLUDING YOU having read the above, you now know that you cannot have a full spectrum product that is Zero THC/THC Free. By the universally accepted terminology, this is a contradiction in terms or better put, impossible. It shows a lack of simple understanding about the products that some companies are selling and it also shows they don't care enough to find out. It should leave consumers (again the better educated among us including YOU) asking, "if they don't care about this, what else don't they care about?"
6. The last thing I always check is the date and signature of the test certificate. I would usually advise 18 months as the maximum amount of time a company should be re-testing its products via third party lab testing. However, laboratories have been almost unavailable for testing during 2021, so there should be a bit of leeway with this for the next few months. Also, I'd look for a signature, make sure that this has been confirmed and accepted. This makes the cerification a legal document. I wouldn't trust a legal document that could affect my health and wellbeing without a recent date and signature.
So for a quick summary on how you should read a third party test certificate and check it matches the claims of a company:
1. Check the test results and certificate are from an accredited lab.
2. Check the COA for Contamination
3. Check the product name/description on the test certificate matches the name of the product you want to check the results of
4. Check the CBD quantity using the percentages and product quantities that I;ve explained in this point above, make sure you get what you pay for.
5. Check the range of cannabinoids are suitable for the product type,
- Full Spectrum - lots of cannabinoids shown as detectable amounts
- Broad Spectrum - lots of cannabinoids shown as detectable amounts except THC there should be 0.00%
- CBD Isolate - no other cannabinoids shown in detectable amounts except CBD.
6. Check the test results are certified with a signature.
Thank you for your time in reading the above, hopefully in this article I've managed to help a few people analyse lab test results themselves.
If anyone would like to ask me anything about any of the points above I would be happy to discuss them. Just flick me a message from the website and I'll contact you. If you need any help in looking at a test result, please let me know - I'm always happy to help people get the best products possible to suite their needs, even in the event that Bio Med CBD cannot provide them directly, I'm happy to suggest others.
If you'd like to have a read of guide of how much CBD you would need for your personal situation - I'd have a look at the attached article, which may be able to help further.
Thanks again, I sincerely hope this article helps more people buy better quality products from the wider CBD Industry, which in turn will have the result of increasing the quality of CBD Products across the UK and just maybe, other parts of the world too.
The Bio Med CBD Team