Unraveling Lab Reports for CBD Products
You’ll hear us say time and again that you should only purchase lab tested CBD products. In a 2017 study, The Journal of the American Medical Association found that as much as 70% of the CBD labels they tested were inaccurate. One way to protect yourself as a consumer is through lab results. But what does that mean? We’re here to help with this article on unraveling lab reports for CBD products.
What is a Lab Report?
Hemp is an industry that is sadly lacking in regulation. Manufacturers do not follow one set of standards for product packaging, labeling, or even serving sizes. Because of the lack of production standards, some hemp based products can be confusing to buy and consume. One way to make sure that you’re purchasing a safe, quality, product is to verify that there are lab reports made available to you.
Are There Differences?
Just as you’ll see differences in hemp products from manufacturer to manufacturer, you’ll see differences in lab reports. Some manufacturers make multi page documents available to you while others provide a quick summary. These will vary both by lab and by product.
Why Do I Care?
Hemp is a porous plant. If it’s planted in unhealthy soil, it will soak up those contaminants and possibly end up in your box or bottle. Additionally, you want to make sure that the active ingredients (CBD or other cannabinoids) that are in the package match the label. If they don’t, you could be taking a much different serving than you think you are. Essentially, the goal is to make sure that everything you want in your hemp product is there – and everything you don’t want (like those contaminants or even THC) are not present.
Lab Reports versus Certificates of Analysis
The phrase “lab report” or “lab test” may be used interchangeable with “certificate of analysis” (COA). In reality, though, the lab report is the full document and the COA is the shorter document that certifies those results (essentially the cliff notes version.) Often the COA is all that is made available to the public.
Why are Lab Reports Important for CBD Products?
There are more than 100 compounds, or cannabinoids, found in hemp plants. Those compounds make up the cannabinoid content. If you’re taking a tincture with 300mg of CBD and 0 THC on the label, the cannabinoid content is what you’re looking at to make sure that you’re getting what you paid for and also that you’re not taking more THC than you bargained for. A high THC hemp product is referred to as “hot” and they are definitely out there.
When we’re talking about hemp, contaminants fall into the categories of pesticides, heavy metals, solvents and microbials. Pesticides used to grow the hemp, or microbials (bugs) that made it into the hemp stalks can leach into the soil and your bottle. Heavy metals from bad soil can also make it through, as can solvents if the hemp oil is not extracted safely. Each state has different allowable limits.
How Do I Read a Report?
Let’s start with definitions of all of the jargon that you’ll see on your report.
- Batch / Lot – A batch refers to the lot of product in your bottle or box. Products can have two batches – one would indicate the extracted hemp lot and the second would be the final oil in your box or bottle. You can find it printed on your packaging label or the bottom. You’ll want to match that number to the lab report or COA you’re looking at.
- Analytes / Cannabinoids – cannabinoids are compounds found in cannabis plants (marijuana or hemp) that interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS.) At the time of this writing, more than 110 have been identified. CBD and THC are the most well-known of these. Analytes are a broader category that can refer to anything being studies or measured. It’s often used on lab test documents.
- Heavy Metals – naturally occurring metallic elements in soil that can be dangerous in high concentrations.
- LOD/ ND – these are interchangeable. LOD means less than the “limit of detection”. ND means “non detected.” In both cases, the phrase indicates that the compound was not detected in testing.
- LOQ – “limit of quantitation.” You’ll see this phrase regularly – it means the lowest level at which the concentration of something can be detected. So, the compound is present, but it a quantity too low to define an exact amount.
- Microbials – yeast and mold that can be present if moisture content in hemp is not optimal. Again, these limits and the actual microbials required to be tested vary between states. Colorado only requires that only three microbial tests are run on cannabis, but California requires 15.
- Pesticides – any substances that prevent, destroy or repel insects, rodents or fungus are pesticides. A pesticide may also be any substance used to regulate plant growth, like a drying agent. Residual pesticides can be harmful to both human skin and internal organs.
- Residual Solvents – extraction by-products found in processed cannabis and hemp that can present varied levels of human health risks.
- Terpenes – aromatic compounds found in many plants. They are often used in essential oils and can provide specific benefits – as an example, limonene is what gives citrus fruit its’ bright smell and color. It’s used in flavoring and essential oils.
Just for the Math of It
The first thing that you’ll see on the lab report is usually that cannabinoid profile – how much of each compound was present in the sample tested. Do keep in mind that a test is just that – a sample. Using our gummy example able, the sample size was 5 gummies. Enough that they feel it to be a good representative of the whole. Any good lab will require at least double the amount that they need to test in case they see inconsistencies and want to re-test.
Some labs will quote in milligrams and others will quote in percentages. In this example, this is a 50mg strength soft gel capsule. The results column tells you that the test results came to 60.18 mg and how those broke down. There were 52.62mg of CBD and trace amounts of CBN, CBG, CBDV, CBC and THCV.
This COA quotes in terms of percentages as well as ml, and it gives a quick chart on the other items tested, such as those pesticides and heavy metals. This is a lab test for a lotion, so they cannot provides results per serving. That’s where our math comes in. The CBD potency will reflect mg/g – concentration of cannabinoids per gram of product. You may also see mg/ml if measuring a liquid in milliliters. One gram and one milliliter are equal. They’re quoting 543.2 milligrams of cannabinoids in 30 ml (1 ounce.) We multiply that by 2 because this is a two ounce jar for a total of 1086.4 cannabinoids in this lot. The label states 1000mg.
Here’s another lab example that does the math for you and tells you the stated label quantity.
If the product label states 0 THC, that’s something to check as well. While it’s not likely to fail a drug test from taking a full spectrum CBD product, it can happen. If your career is at risk or you want to avoid THC for other reasons, make sure to check the COA.
Solvents, Pesticides and Microbials – Oh My
When looking at Lab Report for these dirty possibilities, it’s a simpler task. This is where we want to see those LOQ, LOD and ND notations to tell us that they are not present. Lab reports will often tell you what that quantitative limit is, as well.
Where Do I Go From Here?
Here at Green Wellness, we are all about consumer education. You can always find lab results for the more than 20 different CBD and hemp brands that we carry here. Consider this to be another tool in your toolbox to assist you in finding a hemp product that can help you achieve the wellness that you’re looking for.
We are always happy to talk hemp! We try to publish relevant information on a regular basis – here’s a link to all of our recent articles. If you’d rather chat with a real live human to further your hemp education, we can do that, too! You can find us at 616-275-1039 locally or 888-772-7875 toll free and by email at firstname.lastname@example.org