A Quick Guide to CBD Lab Results
Ensure you’re getting the CBD you think you’re getting by learning how to read the lab results, or the Certificate of Analysis (COA). We’ll cover lab reports for potency, terpenes, heavy metals, solvest and microbial contamination.
While it may not necessarily be your thing to review the lab results for your CBD products, it’s a smart move because quality varies widely and you want to make sure what you are buying is legit and more importantly safe and effective. While important for all CBD products, this is especially true for any products taken orally.
Because the CBD consumer market is currently unregulated by the FDA, it’s kind of a wild west as far as what’s for sale. Though it’s not required, many companies are modeling their testing practices after the state medical marijuana testing requirements until the FDA comes out with specific regulations for CBD products.
What is Being Tested?
CBD products contain a hemp-sourced extract as the base ingredient. This extract can be a full spectrum, broad spectrum or isolate. The lab reports focus on this hemp extract. When this extract is created, there is a possibility that it can contain contaminants. This may be due to poor growing practices and/or sub-par extraction. Additionally, the quality and parts of the hemp plant used will be revealed in the resulting cannabinoid and terpene content of the extract. This is really important because the cannabinoids and terpenes are the therapeutic compounds that make CBD products valuable.
Most often products combine the hemp extract with other ingredients to make the final product that you buy. Lab reports verify that an end product contains the cannabinoid and terpene content you’re expecting. They also verify the product is free of harmful contaminants like heavy metals, mold, pesticides and more, which we will get into.
First Step: Are There Lab Reports?
Of course, the first thing is to make sure that lab reports are available. Transparency is key so we believe in providing each access for every product, by batch. If they are not publicly available on a company’s website, they should be easy to get upon request. Note, you can find Mama’s Farmacy lab reports here.
Second Step: Review the Reports
The available reports should include the following:
- Potency. Potency will tell you if the amount of CBD you think you’re buying is actually in the product.
- The first thing to look for is the amount of CBD as “mg/g” as reported by the lab. We’ll run through an example using our Premium Hemp Foot Relief Cream. Our lab report shows our product has 11.8 mg of CBD per g (11.8mg/g). Our 50 ml bottle has 50 grams of product so the potency of the full bottle would be 11.8mg x 50g = 590 mg. This is actually more than the 500 mg we claim to have in the bottle. Note: It’s normal to have some variation but that variation should not be more than 10-20% over or under the stated amount.
- The amount of THC (Delta 9-THC). If you are buying a full-spectrum product, there will be some THC in the product. In a broad-spectrum product, the THC is removed, so you will see 0% THC. Note that a potency test on the final product for full or broad spectrum products may not show the presence of other terpenes. That’s ok. This can happen when the lab report is done on the final product vs. the hemp extract used in the final product. In these cases, make sure the company is offering a terpene test that specifically looks for these, which we will cover next.
- Terpenes. Terpenes are the aromatic oils found in plants. If you’ve ever walked through a forest and smelled pine, that’s the terpene. We’re familiar with these - and enjoy them - in the natural world - most of us just don’t know the official term. Terpenes will vary depending on the profile of the product. Again, using our Premium Hemp Foot Relief Cream (with Lemongrass) as an example, we see there is Geraniol because we use citronella in the formula. But we also see other terpenes, such as Eucalyptol, which is natural to cannabis. Note that CBD isolate products will NOT contain the terpenes as the process to create isolates purposely strips out these oils. Mama’s Farmacy products retain the terpenes in our broad spectrum formulas due to the entourage effect or benefits that researchers believe using the whole plant (versus parts of the plant) provides.
- Heavy Metals. This is an easy one. There shouldn’t be heavy metals in your products. These are arsenic, lead, mercury and cadmium.
- Residual Solvents. Extracting hemp oil requires the use of chemical solvents. This lab report displays any residuals left over from the process.
- Microbial Contamination. Another easy one. Yeast, mold, e Coli and salmonella don’t belong in your CBD products.
That’s how to read lab reports in a nutshell. We would also encourage you to get familiar with the brand and the story behind the brand in addition to reviewing the reports. If something still doesn’t seem right, trust your intuition to make the right call.