At Leafreport, we’re completely transparent about our review process. We put together this page to help you understand how we choose the brands and products we recommend on our “best CBD” lists.
We start by finding the top CBD brands based on multiple criteria, including third-party testing, hemp quality, value, transparency, reputation, and customer service.
Next, we consider factors such as CBD extract type, potency, and additional ingredients to pick the ideal products for a specific category.
For example, our list of the best CBD for pain avoids low-potency products and suggests several options with additional ingredients that may help with pain, such as menthol.
Read on for a closer look at how we choose CBD brands and products that are safe and effective.
Here’s a detailed explanation of the criteria we use to judge CBD brands and products to provide the best possible recommendations.
The first and most important factor we look at is third-party testing.
Done by an independent lab, these tests are ordered by companies to make sure their products contain the correct amount of CBD. The tests can also check the levels of other cannabinoids and look for contaminants.
Third-party testing is the best way to ensure that you’re getting a safe and effective product in an unregulated industry. That’s why we only recommend third-party tested brands.
More importantly, we’ve built a database of third-party test results published by the brands, to see if they match what the companies claim. For example, we compare the CBD levels, THC levels, and verify that a product is made with broad-spectrum or full-spectrum hemp extract when relevant.
We also check that the product passed tests for pesticides, heavy metals, residual solvents, and other contaminants.
As one final step, we even do our own independent testing by sending the products we purchase to Canalysis, a cannabis testing lab in Las Vegas. The results of these tests are published in our comprehensive industry reports.
Another key factor we consider is how CBD products are made. First and foremost, CBD should be sourced from high-quality, organic hemp plants.
That usually means hemp sourced from Colorado, Oregon, or Kentucky, as these states have the most developed hemp farming industries in the United States. Europe is another excellent source of quality hemp.
We also look for third-party accreditations, such as USDA organic-certified hemp or U.S. Hemp Authority certification.
Then, we look at the rest of the manufacturing process — particularly, how the CBD is extracted and which other ingredients are added. Currently, the two best methods of CBD extraction use ethanol and carbon dioxide (CO2).
CBD products are not cheap, which is why we also account for their cost. Here, we divide the price by the total amount of CBD in a product to get the cost per one milligram of CBD. This makes it easy to compare brands and know if you’re getting a good deal.
We’ve previously done two detailed CBD price reports by looking at the cost of over 3,500 products from more than 53 brands, giving us a good idea of what’s considered low, average, and high.
Having said that, in the CBD industry higher price doesn’t necessarily mean higher quality. In fact, there are many affordable brands with exceptional products.
That’s why we look for CBD companies that offer the greatest value — the best products at the most reasonable prices.
CBD comes in many different product forms, including oils, capsules, gummies, topicals, drinks, and vape products.
As such, we also consider the variety of products offered by a company as well as the optimal way of taking CBD (inhalation, sublingual, oral, topical) for a particular context.
Due to a lack of regulation, it’s important to find a CBD company you can trust. To achieve that, we look for brands that are transparent about their business practices.
That includes easily accessible, up-to-date third-party test results, information about the manufacturing process and hemp source, and other helpful details like the company’s return policy and history.
A company’s reputation is another important factor. Here, we take a look at customer reviews and in some cases interview companies and visit their headquarters.
We also consider the company’s ethical and charitable initiatives. For example, many CBD brands offer sizable discounts to veterans, low-income households, and people with disabilities, while others donate to charitable causes.
Customer service is important as well. That’s why we buy products to see how difficult it is to navigate the company’s website and make a purchase, as well as how long the shipping takes.
We also contact companies to get a sense of how quickly and how well they respond to customer inquiries.
Expressed in milligrams, potency refers to the concentration of CBD in a product. Since potency has a big impact on whether you’ll see benefits from CBD, we look for brands that offer multiple potency options, including high-strength product choices.
We also consider product potency in the context of specific uses and categories. For example, using CBD for a serious condition would require significantly higher doses than supporting your overall health, so that would influence the kinds of products we recommend.
We also consider the type of CBD used in a product as it has a major impact on its effects. There are three main types of CBD:
Generally speaking, full-spectrum CBD products provide the strongest benefits because they benefit from the “entourage effect” synergy between phytocannabinoids, terpenes, and other natural compounds in hemp.
For this reason, we tend to recommend full-spectrum CBD products. However, we also suggest broad-spectrum and isolate options for people who prefer to avoid THC.
In some cases, it can help to have other active ingredients besides CBD. For example, turmeric can be a great addition to a CBD product if you’re taking it for inflammation-related issues.
As a result, we recommend some CBD products with additional, research-backed ingredients for relevant categories.
Except for products that we purchased and sent for third-party testing, all of our recommendations are based on public information provided by each company.
We are also continually working to improve our product and brand review process, which is why our product suggestions and the way we evaluate them may change over time.
Keep in mind that due to the size of the CBD market, we can’t talk about every reputable brand. If a product you like isn’t mentioned, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s of low quality.
There are dozens of high-quality CBD brands and we’re always updating our rankings to make the best possible recommendations.