With So Many CBD Options on the Market, How Do Know If You're Buying a Quality Product?

As the CBD market continues to grow, knowing where to find quality cannabinoid products is increasingly difficult. It’s important to educate yourself on three key factors you should be aware of when making a buying decision for cannabinoid containing products: the form of the cannabinoid product, how the cannabinoids are extracted, and which cannabinoids are present and at what potency.

Three Primary Forms of Cannabinoid Containing Products: Isolate, Broad Spectrum, and Full Spectrum

There are so many CBD focused products available today that it can be overwhelming to not only find the product that works for you but to also know what you’re buying. The first thing to understand is the makeup of the product. There are three primary forms that CBD focused products are delivered in: isolate, broad spectrum, and full spectrum. An understanding of each form is the basis for making a decision about which CBD focused product is best for you.

Isolate - as the name implies, this isolates a single cannabinoid, like CBD, from all other compounds. Isolate does not contain any other cannabinoids, terpenes, and essential oils. This is the most processed form of a hemp extract.

Broad Spectrum - this form includes all compounds from the whole plant except the THC-delta 9 cannabinoid. This form is less processed versus isolate and includes the benefits of other cannabinoids, terpenes, and essential oils present in the whole plant.

Full Spectrum - this is the least processed form which contains all cannabinoids, terpenes, and essential oils, including THC-delta 9 in legal amounts (per the 2018 Farm Bill). This form maximizes the “entourage effect” where all extracted compounds work together to magnify the benefits of each cannabinoid.

Extraction Methods

To create CBD focused products, the Cannabis plant is harvested and the cannabinoids are extracted to produce one of the three forms: isolate, broad spectrum, or full spectrum. All extraction methods require a solvent to separate the cannabinoids from the plant material. Most quality cannabinoid products today use CO2 as the solvent. CO2 extraction is popular because it’s efficient, safe, and produces a product relatively free of residual solvent. Other biomass extraction processes include methanol and ethanol extraction which use those components as chemical solvents to distill the biomass. It could also be argued that CO2 is a chemical solvent based extraction method. Another type of extraction process is lipid based extraction. This process uses a lipid like coconut oil to aggregate the whole plant compounds and uses water to remove all contaminants that biomass may possess. Because natural compounds are used, this is by far the cleanest, safest, highest quality extraction process available to preserve the whole plant’s compounds. This process removes all possibility of residual chemicals versus the other solvent based extraction methods.

The Entourage Effect and Potency

When multiple cannabis compounds are integrated, their medicinal effects may be altered or enhanced. The flavors and psychoactive capacities may also be affected, creating distinct products with varying characteristics. 

The dynamics of the entourage effect can create properties that would otherwise not be present in an isolated cannabinoid, such as CBG or CBD isolate. Many who work closely with cannabis believe the entourage effect can dramatically increase the medicinal utility of cannabinoids, either by magnifying their known effects or by expanding their menu of therapeutic applications.

The therapeutic effects of cannabis compounds arise from their capacity to bind with naturally occurring endocannabinoid receptors in the brain and throughout the central nervous system. The human endocannabinoid system is designed to link with endogenous cannabinoids produced by the body, but compounds found in cannabis plants can bind with these receptors just as efficiently.

The entourage effect is believed to emerge from the interactions between cannabinoids and between terpenes and cannabinoids. Terpenes are essential oils with distinctive aromas and flavors, and the characteristics of individual cannabis products are often determined by their relative concentrations of specific terpenes - this influences the naming of strains of cannabis. 

It is critical that any cannabinoid containing product is lab tested by an accredited laboratory. Cannabinoid testing is a relatively new development. Because there are over 100 cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, precision testing for the presence of specific cannabinoids, like CBD, CBG, CBC, and THC, requires a certain level of proficiency not all laboratories possess. When evaluating Certificates of Analysis, the result of lab testing, consumers should understand which cannabinoids are present and what potency.