The CBD market is largely unregulated, which means it’s full of poor-quality brands looking to make a quick buck.
CBD oil has grown incredibly popular as a supplement for supporting overall health and wellness. Unfortunately, it’s still difficult to find affordable, effective CBD products. Even when you do manage to find a trustworthy company, choosing the right CBD oil product can seem overwhelming. There are CBD oils, capsules, gummies, topicals, and many other products to choose from, as well as different potencies and formulations.
Read on for our detailed, comprehensive guide to finding high-quality CBD companies and choosing the right CBD product for yourself.
Finding high-quality CBD oil doesn’t have to be difficult.
Here’s a detailed breakdown of the key factors to watch out for when looking for a trustworthy CBD brand: the hemp source, the extraction process, third-party lab testing, price, reviews, and overall transparency.
CBD is typically derived from hemp, a variety of cannabis plants containing 0.3% or less of THC. As such, the way that hemp is grown will have a significant impact on the quality of the final CBD oil product.
This is even more true for hemp because it acts as a bioaccumulator, absorbing heavy metals and other toxic chemicals from the soil.
Hemp grown organically in clean, fertile soil without the use of pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers will result in safe, high-quality CBD products.
Our Advice: Choose CBD companies that use organic hemp and state where and how it’s cultivated on their website. In particular, we recommend brands whose hemp comes from Colorado, Kentucky, and Oregon.
European countries are arguably an even better source because hemp farming has been practiced there for hundreds of years.
It’s even better if you can find a CBD company that:
- Grows its own hemp. Most brands buy their hemp from separate producers. A company that grows its own hemp has far more control over the quality of its CBD oil products and is also likely to have more expertise.
- Uses USDA-certified organic hemp. Although most companies do use organic farming practices, there’s no way to compare or check this. That’s why a brand using USDA-certified organic hemp is superior to those without any certifications. Although USDA Organic certification is still difficult to obtain in the hemp industry, an increasing number of companies are completing the process, signified by the “USDA Organic” label on their products.
- Has U.S. Hemp Authority Certification. The U.S. Hemp Authority Certification Program confirms that a hemp producer adheres to high quality and safety standards. It’s highlighted by the U.S. Hemp Authority Seal on certified products.
Hemp plants have to undergo a special extraction process to isolate CBD and other beneficial compounds. As such, the extraction method will also have a big impact on the quality of the finished product.
These days, the vast majority of CBD companies use the two most efficient and safe methods: supercritical carbon dioxide (CO2) and ethanol (alcohol) extraction.
These two extraction methods have different advantages, although most companies prefer CO2. However, both methods are safe and produce high-quality, whole-plant hemp extracts for use in CBD oil products.
Other potential solvents for extraction include butane, hexane, and propane. However, these methods are rarely used because they’re highly flammable and can leave behind harmful residual solvents.
Our Advice: Check the extraction method used by a CBD company before buying its products. In most cases, you’ll find that CO2 or ethanol extraction is the listed method. If this information is not available, it’s a cause for concern.
Reputable CBD companies always provide third-party test results on their website. A third-party test is performed by an independent laboratory that’s not affiliated with the given company in any way.
Third-party tests are done to make sure that the CBD product is safe and effective. The most common type of a third-party test is called a potency or cannabinoid profile test, which checks whether the product contains as much CBD and other cannabinoids as it should.
Although the CBD industry has come in a long way in the past several years, there are still plenty of brands offering products with CBD levels that are much lower or higher than stated on the label. Our CBD industry accuracy report highlights this fact.
Additionally, third-party tests can also check for the presence of pesticides, heavy metals, residual solvents, and other potential contaminants, giving you an added layer of safety and peace of mind.
This is also a great way to confirm that the hemp used by the company was grown organically in clean soil.
Third-party tests are the number one thing to look for when shopping for CBD because they’re the best way to protect yourself from low-quality and potentially harmful products.
These days, any serious CBD company posts its third-party lab reports — also known as certificates of analysis (CoAs) — directly on its website. For more information about CoAs, check out this article.
Having said that, not all third-party testing is equal. For example, a company with comprehensive third-party lab tests, including contaminant testing, would be a safer choice than one that only uses potency testing.
Furthermore, the same type of test done by different labs may have a different level of accuracy. Consider a test that only shows CBD levels versus one that also reports on THC and other cannabinoids; the latter would be a lot more useful.
Yet another factor to consider is how easy the third-party tests are to access.
A company that posts the tests online and provides QR codes on each product to easily scan and access the CoAs for that particular batch is far more transparent and trustworthy than one that doesn’t.
Similarly, the date of the tests also matters. Ideally, you’d want the results to be fairly recent (done within a few months of when you’re buying the CBD product).
Our Advice: Only buy from CBD brands with comprehensive, up-to-date, and easily accessible third-party CoAs.
At the very least, these tests should clearly show the potency of the product. These days, however, most leading brands offer comprehensive testing that can even include extra information such as the terpene profile.
More importantly, we highly recommend that you read the CoA before purchasing. Even a quick skim to check the cannabinoid levels can be helpful.
This way, you can confirm that the product contains as much CBD as the company claims it does. We give a detailed rundown of how to read a CoA here.
This is even more important if you’re buying a broad-spectrum or full-spectrum CBD product. These types of formulas should contain multiple cannabinoids, so a third-party test can help you confirm that you are indeed getting the right formula.
A high price doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting a high-quality CBD product. In fact, it’s quite common to find reasonably priced CBD brands that outperform costlier competitors.
Having said that, price is still an important concern when it comes to CBD. Ultimately, you want to find a product that’s both affordable and effective, so you have to keep both of these factors in mind.
The easiest way to know whether you’re getting a reasonable deal is to divide the price of the product by its total CBD content. For example, a CBD oil that costs $50 and contains 500 mg of CBD would cost 50/500 = $0.10 per mg of CBD.
Our Advice: Compare the per-mg pricing for similar products (like tinctures) of the brands you’re interested in. If you want to know what prices are considered low, average, and expensive, check out our detailed report on CBD industry prices.
You can use this information to help you make a better decision. For example, if you’re trying to get the best value you might opt for the lowest-priced brand that still maintains the level of quality and trustworthiness you’re looking for.
Or perhaps you’re okay with paying more for a high-quality product, so you might choose the brand that seems to stand out among the rest but also has a higher price tag.
To reiterate, a higher price doesn’t automatically mean better quality, but it’s still an important factor.
Reviews are another excellent way to check the quality of a CBD brand.
In particular, we recommend checking the product reviews on the company’s website and reading both the negative and positive feedback to get a good understanding of the brand’s potential strengths and weaknesses.
Last but not least, another excellent sign of a high-quality CBD brand is transparency.
Trustworthy companies are open about their manufacturing process, third-party testing, ingredients, company history, the people behind the brand.
They also provide detailed information about their products and CBD as a whole on their website and product labels.
This shows that a company has nothing to hide and is not attempting to deceive its customers, which is critical in an industry with little regulation.
Our Advice: Choose CBD brands that offer a wealth of information about themselves and their products. This includes:
- Information about the hemp source, extraction process, and third-party testing
- Detailed product pages and labels that highlight the levels of CBD and THC, batch numbers, and QR codes
- Information about how, where, and when the company was founded, and the people behind it
- Contact info and helpful, well-timed responses to any questions you might have
This information should be available on the product, FAQ, about us, and similar pages on the company’s website.
As one final tip, if you’re also concerned about making an ethical choice, look for companies with sustainable or philanthropic policies and initiatives.
For example, some CBD companies offer large discounts for veterans, low-income families, and people with disabilities, while others may donate to charitable organizations.
Here’s a quick and easy way to spot a low-quality CBD brand:
Finding a high-quality, trustworthy CBD company is only half the battle. You also have to choose the right product from that brand.
There are many factors to keep in mind if you want to choose the optimal product, such as your preferred product type, consumption method, and dosage. Let’s explore these in more detail.
One of the first choices to make when it comes to CBD oil products is the type of CBD extract you want to use. There are three main types of CBD: isolate, full-spectrum, and broad-spectrum CBD.
CBD isolate is pure CBD with all other hemp compounds removed. It can be sold as a white crystalline powder or formulated into CBD oils and other CBD products.
Although isolate products do have their benefits, they’re not as effective as whole-plant preparations containing numerous active ingredients.
Full-spectrum CBD is a whole-plant extract containing CBD and smaller levels of other cannabinoids, including a <0.3% THC, as well as terpenes, flavonoids, and many other beneficial phytochemicals found in hemp.
Full-spectrum hemp extracts are the most effective form of CBD because all of their components work together in synergy, producing greater effects than CBD on its own. This phenomenon has been demonstrated by numerous studies and even has a name: the “entourage effect.”
Broad-spectrum CBD is similar to a full-spectrum extract but has all traces of THC removed. This type of CBD is gaining popularity because it has almost identical effectiveness to full-spectrum extracts but without any THC.
If you want to get the most effectiveness out of CBD, we recommend full-spectrum extracts. Meanwhile, if you need to avoid THC for drug testing or other reasons, your best bet is a broad-spectrum extract. CBD isolate also works as a THC-free option but will be less effective than a broad-spectrum formulation.
The next factor to be aware of is dosage. CBD dosage is a tricky topic because it’s influenced by many factors, including your body weight, individual body chemistry, tolerance to cannabinoids, the reason you’re taking CBD, and the type of product you’re using.
As a result, a dosage that works for one person will not necessarily work for someone else. If you’re completely new to CBD, it’s best to start with the lowest-potency product and slowly work your way up.
Start with the lowest dose (like 2 mg) and then gradually increase it over time until you find the amount that works for you. Next time, you can buy a product with the potency that matches that dose.
Having said that, it’s useful to have some broad guidelines. Generally speaking, CBD doses of 1-10 mg are considered low, 15-30 mg is medium, and 30+ mg is high.
You can use this information to choose the CBD product with the right potency.
For example, if you want to take medium doses of CBD oil, you want to choose a tincture that has a potency of at least 30 mg/ml so you can realistically meet your dose range of 15–30 mg without having to use more than one full dropper at a time.
However, keep in mind these dose ranges are for full-spectrum CBD products.
Products made with CBD isolate will require higher doses to provide the same effect because they lack the entourage effect. Similarly, capsules will require higher doses than CBD tinctures because of their reduced absorption.
These days, the CBD industry offers a wide variety of product types and consumption methods. What started as CBD oil has expanded into an overwhelming variety of capsules, edibles, topicals, vape products, beverages, and more.
Here’s a rundown of the available options and their pros and cons, in addition to tips for choosing a CBD product from each category.
CBD oil remains the most popular method of using CBD and is the overall best option in most cases. It’s versatile, cost-effective, and relatively easy to use.
CBD tinctures use the sublingual (under-the-tongue) administration method which is one of the most efficient ways to absorb CBD. That’s a big deal because CBD is notoriously difficult for our bodies to absorb.
The effects of CBD oil also last a decent amount of time (typically 2-4 hours) and don’t take too long to kick in (typically 10-30 minutes).
Furthermore, it’s easy to control the dosage by changing the number of drops and you can even take CBD oil in other ways, such as applying it to your skin or adding it to foods, coffee, tea, and other drinks.
However, CBD tinctures also have some downsides. They’re not as portable and less discreet than other CBD products. For example, trying to use CBD oil at work or in public is likely to attract unwanted attention.
Many tinctures are also unflavored, so their strong hemp taste might put some people off.
If you’ve decided to use CBD oil and want to find the ideal tincture for yourself, start by looking for a product that matches your dosage and preferred type of CBD. Another factor to consider is whether you want a natural or flavored tincture.
Capsules are a popular alternative to CBD oil. They use the oral route of administration, which means they have to pass through the digestive system and the liver before the CBD can be absorbed into the bloodstream.
As a result, they tend to have the lowest bioavailability of any CBD product: a measure of how much of the substance you take reaches systemic circulation and provides beneficial effects.
In other words, oral CBD products have the lowest effectiveness of any form of CBD. They also take longer to take effect: anywhere from 30 minutes to over an hour, depending on when you last ate.
Having said that, capsules have two key advantages. First off, their effects tend to last a long time (4 hours or more), which is great if you’re looking for a subtle effect throughout the day.
Second, capsules are incredibly convenient. All you have to do is swallow the capsule with some water and they can be taken anywhere, anytime.
And if you’re already taking other supplements, capsules are an easy way to add CBD to your daily routine.
If you’ve decided to use capsules as your go-to CBD product, you should first figure out the type of CBD and dosage you want to use. Furthermore, vegans and vegetarians should look for capsules made out of plant cellulose instead of gelatin.
Lastly, we recommend choosing softgels over regular solid capsules because they contain a carrier oil ingredient (usually coconut MCT oil), which helps the body absorb CBD.
CBD-infused gummies and other edible products such as chocolate are also considered oral products. As such, they have the same strengths and downsides as CBD capsules: they’re very convenient but have poor absorption.
In addition, edibles have the unique advantage of great taste. The sweet flavor of gummies not only makes it enjoyable to take CBD but also motivates you to use it regularly, which may add up to greater benefits over time.
Ultimately, edibles offer a convenient, enjoyable way to get the benefits of CBD, but they are less effective than tried-and-true CBD oil.
If you’ve settled on edibles as your preferred method of using CBD, start by choosing the product that best matches your dosage. The vast majority of CBD gummies are made with pure CBD isolate, so you’re unlikely to find whole-plant formulas.
Another key factor to help you narrow down your choice is the ingredients.
For example, people who prefer vegan-friendly products should choose edibles without gelatin. Some might also prefer sugar-free gummies or those made with all-organic, natural ingredients. Check for this information in the product description and the label.
Vaping CBD is becoming increasingly popular. The key advantage of vaping CBD over other methods is its rapid effects.
Whereas other methods can take upwards of an hour to start working, vaping provides instantaneous relief. This makes it ideal for issues that require immediate effects.
Vaping is also quite enjoyable, thanks to the pleasant flavor as well as the vapor clouds produced, and you can take your vape with you and use it on the go.
Still, vaping CBD is not without its downsides. For one, its effects last the shortest of any method — typically about an hour. It’s also difficult to control your CBD dosage and know how much CBD you’re using when vaping.
More importantly, there’s a lot of concern over the safety of vaping. While it’s certainly safer than smoking, we don’t know much about the long-term health effects of vaping.
For example, some studies have proposed that vaping may increase the risk of a heart attack, while others suggest that propylene glycol, one of the two most popular vaping ingredients, can produce formaldehyde, a dangerous chemical.
Although the research is in no way conclusive, it does highlight that vaping comes with its own set of risks.
If you’ve decided to vape CBD, you should first choose whether you want to use a disposable vape pen or buy separate vape e-liquid.
Disposable pens are ideal for beginners, whereas people who already have a vape device and want to use higher CBD doses would fare better with CBD-infused vape e-liquid, also known as juice.
Next, you should consider your preferred dosage and type of CBD extract. Finally, choose the taste you like — CBD vape products typically come in a wide variety of flavors.
Applying CBD topically in the form of creams, lotions, balms, oils, and cosmetic products is another option.
Topical products are best for dealing with localized, topical issues because you can apply them directly to where they’re needed, such as the hands, shoulders, face, or back.
However, they’re not ideal for whole-body, systemic issues.
Topicals tend to be more specialized than other CBD products. As such, it will be easier to choose a product that matches your needs. Still, you should consider what type of CBD extract you want to use, the dosage, and what kind of ingredients you want to avoid.
For example, many people opt for preparations made with all-natural ingredients.
The CBD industry is maturing and getting better over time. However, it’s still important to be careful and do your due diligence when choosing a CBD brand.
Finding a trustworthy, high-quality company, and then choosing the right product will take some research. You might need to experiment with different brands and products until you settle on the one you like best.
However, if you keep in mind the factors we outlined and follow our tips, we’re sure you’ll find an effective CBD oil product that will satisfy your needs.