How Can You Tell If CBD is Real
There are a few different questions packed into this one.
The bigger question is...how do you that CBD actually does something?
We looked at this in-depth at our Is CBD Just a Placebo Effect.
The more typical meaning is this…
How do you know that a particular CBD product really has CBD?
There are clear effects and even specific pathways (see CBD and serotonin or CBD and GABA as examples) with real CBD.
Real CBD being the key there.
There are plenty of bogus brands out there with little if any CBD.
Plenty more are just bad product with all sorts of nasty stuff in the aim of making a quick buck of the headlines surrounding CBD.
We see it every day with people asking us to research specific brands.
So...let's share the tips on how figure out if CBD is real with the following steps:
- First, what is CBD?
- Is there real CBD in the product
- Is there enough CBD to make a difference
- Are there other things that can cause problems
- The CBD isolate versus full spectrum question
Let's get started.
First, what is CBD?
We went deeper into this at our What Exactly is CBD article but a quick refresher.
CBD is short for cannabidiol.
It's a member of the cannabinoid family.
- Our body has a naturally occurring cannabinoid system (called the endocannabinoid system).
- Endo just means "inside" as in inside our body.
Most of the cannabinoids outside of the body come from the cannabis plant (see the naming connection??).
The two big ones (out of dozens) in the plant are THC and CBD.
We've covered the difference between THC and CBD here. Totally different animals...even opposite in most pathways.
CBD is the one we focus on since it's not addictive and doesn't build tolerance.
Research has shown that CBD acts like a feedback mechanism is very important pathways such as:
- Serotonin - your master regulatory neurotransmitter (see CBD and serotonin)
- GABA - your brain's "brake" pedal - key to anxiety and a host of issues
- Opioid system - not just pain but a slew of behaviorial effects
- Immune system - inflammatory processes that are key to pain, cancer, and all facets of health (and mental health!)
There are other stragglers we touch on in the CBD versus placebo article but those are some big players.
Again, it doesn't just push one pathway up or down. That doesn't work with such powerful neurotransmitters.
A perfect example of this is with cancerous cells:
- Healthy cell with low inflammation - CBD will have no effect
- Healthy cell with high inflammation - CBD will reduce inflammation
- Cancerous or virally infected cell - CBD will INCREASE inflammation
Read that back over...it's key to how CBD works in the body.
The third instance makes sense once you realize that this is the body's (immune system actually) natural process to remove wayward cells.
The endocannabinoid system in our body is tasked with balancing other key systems:
- Nervous system
- Endocrine system
- Immune system
We have 100's of very detailed reviews on CBD and various issues and pathways at our blog.
CBD definitely has effects in the body at certain doses (we'll speak to that later...it's a big deal).
That's the research...what about what's on the market?
Is there real CBD in the product
This is the first question. Unfortunately, you're not going to like the answer for lots of brands out there.
There are 100's of CBD brands on the market.
Most of it bogus.
How can we tell if CBD is real in a product?
3rd party testing!
It's the only way since you can't really smell or taste pure CBD isolate. Even the so-called full spectrum CBD can just be hemp oil with very little CBD.
We'll talk about that at the end.
3rd party testing is the only way to really be sure and it should be readily available on every page of a website.
If it's not...run don't walk.
The big lab is ProVerde. We actually test our product twice even though it's from an FDA registered farm.
ProVerde and then 360Anayltics for IndigoNaturals.
We don't blindly trust the first test since our whole family takes it!
On the 3rd party testing, we should have the following:
- Levels of CBD (and cannabinoids) per ml of liquid
- No THC (some brands have up to .3% THC but there are issues with THC - see here)
- No pesticides
- No solvents
- No heavy metals
- No bacteria
- No mold
The first one is the level of CBD. Basically, for a 30ml bottle (the standard), you multiply the number shown by 30.
For example, a 1000mg bottle better have about 33mg on the 3rd party test.
33mg x 30 ml = 999 total mg for the bottle.
There's always a variance but here's the deal.
There have been numerous reports of products with much less than what's on the label.
That's assuming they even specify how much CBD.
Many companies are deceptive and will say things like 500mg of "phytocannibinoids" or "diols" or some other bogus listing.
Many "CBD" brands are selling nothing more than glorified hemp oil.
For very expensive prices!
The key is cost per mg of CBD. Our 6000mg bottle is priced at 2-3 cents per mg of CBD (before discounts up to 30%).
You'll find really big brands at 10-20 times that amount!
There's a CBD cost comparison here.
Those are actual, legitimate brands with real CBD.
Beyond them, there are 100's of brands with similar pricing.
A side note...you can't buy CBD on Amazon (they don't allow it as of this writing).
That doesn't stop many brands for trying to sell unsuspecting people.
It's essentially hemp oil.
Check out our hemp oil versus CBD for clarification but this is a rip off.
There's a giant brand (one of the biggest) which sells hemp oil. It's probably really good hemp oil but it's not CBD.
We enquired with them directly on how much real CBD was in a bottle. They couldn't (or wouldn't) specify.
Research is pointing to about 6-8 mg of CBD in hemp oil per ml. So that puts a standard bottle at about 250 mg of CBD.
The cost per mg of that particular bottle is 24 cents per mg of CBD!
That's 10 times what we charge!
Millions of bottles a year!
Hemp oil, in terms of cost, is not that difference than buying olive or some equivalent oil.
Imagine if that bottle olive oil was a few hundred dollars?
That's what people are paying.
Why does the level of CBD matter to have a real effect?
Is there enough CBD to make a difference
The research is pointing to 300 mg as peak levels for neurogenesis which is key to almost all mental health issues (See CBD and brain repair).
Good luck getting there with 250mg total in the bottle.
This is our big bone to pick (after not having real CBD in the product).
See...our whole focus is research.
Millions of words. 100's of NIH studies. 100's of in-depth reviews.
See CBD and depression or CBD and addiction as an example.
The research is pointing to 160 mg of sleep. 300 mg for neurogenesis.
More serious issues are actually tested at 600-800 mg (see schizophrenia, social anxiety, PTSD, etc).
The average level of CBD on the market is probably 250 mg in a bottle. That means you would have to take the full bottle to get to the 300 mg for neurogenesis.
That's why we have a 6000 mg bottle to begin with...to match the research.
Otherwise, brands are just taking advantage of people and charging way to much to do it.
Check out our review on how many mg of CBD or search by issue to see what research is actually showing.
Then there's the question of whether we're getting more than just real CBD.
Are there other things that can cause problems
First, there's no need for flavors, colors, or other additives with real CBD.
That's just introducing chemicals known to cause issues for the gut (see CBD and gut) which is critical for our health.
Beyond that, you'll notice that our 3rd party testing looks at a host of other issues.
It's not just determining if we have real CBD in our bottle but that we don't have anything else.
We don't want:
- Heavy metals (hemp absorbs things from the ground very well)
- Solvents (from the processing of CBD oil - we actually use CO2 processing which is cleaner)
We have an article called "Can CBD make anxiety worse" and we actually get a lot of replies from it.
Without fail, it's usually the result of a bad product with issues such as above or it's full spectrum.
Let's go there now.
The CBD isolate versus full spectrum question
Every now and then, we'll get an irate comment on one of our pages about how we don't know #%*@!
It's almost always about us being negative towards THC.
We're not anti-pot or anti-THC. THC has issues. We go through them here at our Why CBD is a must if you use cannabis or THC.
This isn't religion and we're not trying to tell people what to put in their bodies.
That being said, the whole "full spectrum" sales job is just that till we see research.
There's a collective wisdom quote of "You need THC to activate CBD" that passes from one novice to another with CBD.
This figures into the "entourage effect" that's used to sell full spectrum as superior.
Based on what research? The 100's of NIH studies we've looked at are on CBD by itself (isolate) or THC by itself.
There are studies on cannabis with ratios but what they generally find for a given pathway is that the higher the CBD ratio, the better.
That's just supports real CBD.
More importantly, the "entourage effect" slogan that's bandied about so freely (and assuredly) actually speaks to the opposite of what people think.
The Godfather of CBD research in Isreal used to reflect that CBD would offset the negatives of THC (psychosis, paranoia, GI issues, anxiety, panic attacks, slowness of cognition, etc).
Entourage effect really meant that CBD was protective and opposite in almost every pathway that you can look at from THC.
Look at the research:
- Why CBD is a must if you use cannabis
- Sellers of high THC products - Lawyer Up!
In fact, CBD has been used to counter the side effects when a person has too much (see CBD and greening out).
What about the other terpenes, cannabinoids, and other substances in hemp?
They're in such small amounts (THC and CBD are the dominant cannabinoids) that's you're better off just eating vegetables and shotgunning olive oil.
It sure would be a lot cheapers!
When we see research on full spectrum, we'll consider it.
Otherwise, we base our decisions on volumes of research on real CBD isolate.
That's why only have two ingredients:
- Real CBD isolate at specified levels
- MCT oil (as a base) from organic coconut oil
Anything else is a sales job and we have too much of that in the CBD marketplace already.
Always work with a doctor or naturopath with any supplement!
The information provided here is not intended to treat an illness or substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified healthcare provider.