The hemp industry has grown exponentially since CBD hemp products were federally legalized with the passage of the US Farm Bill in 2018. Today, there is a vast selection of not only CBD products, but hemp products that contain any number of major cannabinoids, such as CBG, CBN, delta-8, and HHC, for customers to choose from. However, finding a trustworthy and safe CBD brand to purchase from isn’t always as simple as you might hope. 

Just because hemp is legal on the federal level doesn’t necessarily mean that there is federal oversight. The FDA has not approved CBD as a dietary supplement, so they aren’t regulating hemp products. This means that hemp companies don’t technically answer to any government agency when it comes to the claims they make about their products, unless it comes to delta-9 THC content (legal hemp products can only contain up to 0.3% THC). So how do you determine which CBD products you can trust?

What is a Certificate of Analysis?

Every hemp product that has been lab tested should be accompanied by a Certificate of Analysis, or COA. This will show you the product’s lab test results, as well as signatures and lab information to confirm where and when the product was tested. Here’s an example from Butler Hemp Co.’s Daily Blend Full-Spectrum CBD Oil.

How to Figure Out What Cannabinoids are in a Hemp Product

  1. Make sure the COA is legitimate. 

When looking at a product’s COA, the first thing you’ll want to look for is the name of the lab where it was tested. In our example, KCA Labs (where the product was tested) is at the top left with their contact information. At the bottom of the page, you’ll see the signatures and dates of the scientists who conducted the test. 

These are good signs that the lab report you are looking at is legitimate.

  1. Check to make sure the product has the advertised amount of cannabinoids

After you’ve established the COA is legitimate, the next step is to look at what cannabinoids the product contains, and in what amounts. 

Check out the “Analyte” column (marked with a red star). This is where the various cannabinoids which are being tested for are listed. 

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For instance, you’ll see “CBD” marked with a red “A.” Follow the “CBD” row all the way over to the “Result” column (marked with a red “#”). 

This number (marked with a red arrow) is the exact mg of CBD present in the entire package. 

In this case, one bottle Butler Hemp Co. Daily Blend oil contains 1540 mg of CBD. That’s 40 mg above the label claim of 1500 mg, which means customers are getting just a little more bang for their buck when they buy that product. 

  1. Bonus: Let’s see how much Delta-9 a product has

Next, find “Delta-9” in the “Analyte” column: it’s marked with a red “B.” Now follow that row over to the “Result” column to the number marked by a red arrow. You’ll see 20.6, which is the amount of delta-9 THC in this product. 

Divide that number by the total cannabinoid content of this package (underlined in red towards the bottom of the page) and you’ll find the total percentage of delta-9 THC. 

In this case: 0.01% so this product is federally legal.

How to Determine if a Hemp Product is Safe

Now that you know what cannabinoids this product contains, it’s time to figure out if it is safe to use. For this section, let’s look at the second and third pages of the COA for Butler Hemp Co.’s Daily Blend Full-Spectrum CBD Oil.

Similar to the first page, you’ll see the “Analyte” and “Result” columns, marked with a red star and a red “#,” respectively. On page two, the names of pesticides that were tested for are listed in the “Analyte” columns. In the “Result” columns, you’ll see “ND” listed in each of the corresponding rows. This is shorthand for “Not Detected.” 

A safe CBD product shouldn’t contain any traces of pesticides, so you should be cautious if you see any numbers in this column.

The third page of this COA is very similar to the second, except it lists residual solvents (potentially harmful chemicals) that were tested for. 

All of these should have an “ND” listed in the “Results” column as well, indicating that this product is free of any potentially harmful chemicals.

Where You Can Find COAs for Your Favorite CBD Products

CBD brands may provide their own lab results for customers to look at if they want. For example, CBDMD and Pure Craft both share their COA on their website.

But CBD companies don’t always make their COAs as accessible to customers. Real Tested CBD is dedicated to providing the hemp industry with transparency. We test hemp productsdelta-8 products, and true full-spectrum CBD products, then compare the results to their label claims. 

On our website, we have compiled unbiased reviews and third-party lab test results for dozens of CBD and other hemp products. 

Dr. Igor Bussel, M.D., M.S., M.H.A
Dr. Igor Bussel, M.D., M.S., M.H.A Dr. Igor Bussel, M.D., M.S., M.H.A is a clinician-scientist and ophthalmic surgeon. Before attending Chicago Medical School, he worked as a Research Scientist in a Healthspan Pharmacology Laboratory at University of California, Irvine focused on investigating the impact of botanical extracts and dietary supplements that can slow the aging process and add healthy years to human life.

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