how to spot real vs fake cbd (the complete checklist)
fake cbd oil is for real, fam. the cbd industry is unregulated and there are a lot of companies out there preying on unknowing companies. high quality cbd can truly have an impact on the world and can be accessible and affordable to all. but bad products could also cause just as much harm, if not more, and we care too much to not give you as much info on spotting real-versus-fake cbd as we possibly can, at the very least.
you deserve the best cbd at the best price and there is a way you can be sure that product ends up in your hands. if you make sure any cbd product you buy passes every item on our checklist below, you can be confident that your next (or first) bottle of cbd is legit.
does your cbd come from hemp?
just because the cbd industry is unregulated does not mean the same goes for the ingredients inside each and every available cbd product. cbd is a naturally occurring chemical found within the cannabis plant. cannabis can be further classified as either “marijuana” or “hemp”, and your cbd should always be hemp-derived.
if a cannabis plant has more than 0.3% thc, it is considered “marijuana” and is federally illegal. however, cannabis with less than that figure is categorized as hemp, which is legal in all 50 states as of 2018. beyond legality, “marijuana” has been consistently bred for increasingly high levels of thc, as it is the mind-altering component within cannabis that gets users high.
thc and cbd are the two primary cannabinoids found inside cannabis. besides high thc levels, “marijuana” also tends to display very low levels of cbd. interestingly, the contrary is true about hemp: cbd is the primary cannabinoid in hemp, and higher levels of cbd can be bred within hemp just like thc can be within its other cannabis cousin.
making sure your cbd comes from hemp is a good way to ensure high levels of cbd and zero-to-trace levels of thc, not vice versa. while thc-rich “marijuana” has been proven to have medicinal values of its own, hemp-based cbd should be one of the first things you see when looking for real cbd.
is your hemp organically grown in the usa?
the 2018 us farm bill made american-grown hemp legal in all 50 states. with that comes regulations regarding the growing and cultivating of hemp that can help ensure the hemp that is being extracted for your cbd product is clean and safe for consumption.
it is also best to buy organically grown hemp, which adheres to the same standards as all other organic produce. buying organic guarantees your hemp was not grown with any pesticides, fertilizers, or fungicides, and the like. just because it’s not in your local produce department, hemp is arguably more important to buy organic than other products since it is a hyperaccumulator, meaning it absorbs everything from the soil in which it grows.
in fact, hemp is so resilient to toxic environments that it was grown in chernobyl to pull radiation out of its soil. certified organic soils are free of potential toxins to your body, proving again why it is imperative to buy cbd that comes from organically grown hemp.
many eastern european and asian countries do not have strict regulations (or any at all) on growing hemp. this means that purchasing cbd from foreign-grown hemp comes with tremendous potential risk of being contaminated with harmful substances that could cause even worse problems in your body. it is also illegal, which is kind of a thing on its own.
a reputable cbd product should make it easy to tell if their product is made in the usa from start to finish. if are unable to find such information on a company’s product and/or website, you should look into a new company.
are the other ingredients in your cbd organic too?
on top of having organic hemp-derived cbd, it is also necessary to ensure the carrier oil and any other ingredients are also organic and of the highest quality. cbd is a fat-soluble molecule, meaning it needs to bind to an agent (or carrier oil) such as mct oil or olive oil. always check to see that every product in your cbd oil is organic, not just the hemp extract.
beware of products that do not list their ingredients on the bottle or packaging. this is an immediate red flag that a company may be adding other chemicals for taste or appearance that really have no business in your cbd. also, if you are consuming an mct oil-based cbd tincture, you want to make sure it is coconut-derived mct oil. lots of companies will source palm-derived mct oil because it is cheaper, but it is also lower quality and bad for the environment.
vaping cbd poses another added risk as some products may be cut with vitamin e acetate. this substance can increase the thickness of vape liquids and is a cheap way of diluting more expensive substances such as cbd. it is commonly used among black market products, and has been linked to killing users with regularity. of course, we don’t say this to scare you, but to make sure you are aware so that you can avoid ingesting something that could potentially have fatal consequences.
the last thing to note on this topic might sound silly and obvious, but make sure your cbd product actually contains cbd! (…and an accurately-stated amount) a study from the university of Pennsylvania found only 30% of 84 tested products contained an accurate amount of cbd, with 42% being under-labeled.
remember, cbd is an unregulated market. a company technically could sell olive oil (or hemp seed oil, etc) with no cbd content whatsoever and claim it to be a cbd product. lucky for you, there is still a way to tell, as you’ll see in the next section.
is your cbd lab tested by an independent third party?
proof of independent third party lab testing for cbd is absolutely critical towards making sure your cbd is real. anybody can make a claim of a given cbd content inside a product, but a truly reputable cbd company will be able to attest to both its potency and purity.
one reason you should always buy cbd online is the ability to fully vet the company you are looking to purchase from. having high quality, organic ingredients is not enough when buying cbd: if you are not receiving any cbd along with it, then what are you paying for? even when cbd is reasonably priced, its presence automatically makes a product more expensive. fake cbd can rear its ugly head in many ways, and one of those ways is when it is nonexistent in the product entirely!
you should be able to find lab results pretty easily on any company’s website that is worth patronizing, and such mention should also be found on the actual cbd bottle itself! additionally, you want to make sure the results are current. samples should ideally be within the last year (or newer), and any lab results that are over a year old should be at least taken with a grain of salt. but even if lab tests seem outdated, there are still ways to further explore whether the company is creditable.
one of those ways is to see if the company is active and engaging on social media. the cbd community is an active one. it is ever-evolving, and a company that hasn’t shown its face in months or years is likely not committed to staying on top of providing high-quality cbd.
an active company on social media is also one that you can reach out to yourself! if you have questions regarding current lab tests or anything else in your cbd journey, a sign of a good company is one that is willing to help you! and with that being said, we will absolutely drop in a shameless plug here and invite you to reach out to us (contact page) much the same with any questions! we value transparency and honesty within our community, and are happy to talk cbd with you at any time! (and we didn’t call it a community by accident.)
lab tests are pretty easy to read, as you’ll see in our example here. in addition to cbd content, you also want to make sure pay attention to levels of thc as well as other accessory cannabinoids such as cbc, cbg, and cbn, and you can learn more about those in the following category.
does your cbd come from broad spectrum hemp extract?
there is more to hemp than just cbd. over 100 other accessory phytocannabinoids and other compounds such as terpenes and flavonoids also contribute to hemp’s overall beneficial properties. a whole plant, broad spectrum hemp extract can enable you to maximize cbd’s overall effects.
broad spectrum extracts work best due to their ability to engage the entourage effect. this effect is the result of all compounds within the cannabis plant displaying synergistic effects that enhance cbd’s potential. this is similar to full spectrum extracts, which also come from the intact hemp flower and thus also bring about the entourage effect, but still retain the trace levels of thc that exist naturally in hemp.
there is some potential that these trace levels of thc could make a difference in specific cases, but thc is not needed for the entourage effect to occur. because of this, broad spectrum gives you all of the same benefits without the concerns that come from thc such as a product containing more than advertised and having mind-altering effects. it also means you are legally complicit, and it reduces the chances of a false positive on a drug test to basically zero.
“full spectrum” is also a catchy term that companies are dishonestly using and mislabeling for their products. if a company exclaims they have ZERO thc in their full spectrum product, then they are lying since trace amounts of thc are present in true full spectrum extracts. should you come across this, it is a sure sign that you are dealing with a fake product.
one last type of cbd product you may see is called an isolate. isolates are exactly what they sound like – the cbd molecule is isolated from everything else that exists within the hemp plant, which is then discarded to leave nothing but a pure cbd molecule. while cbd isolate has still been shown to be effective, it is nowhere near as powerful as its whole-plant counterparts.
you may see cbd isolate products advertised as 100% cbd or as the purest form of cbd on the market; and while that may technically be true, it does not mean they are better. broad spectrum extracts are superior to isolates.
is your cbd extracted via a supercritical co2 method?
for cbd oil to be readily consumable, it must be extracted from its natural state within hemp. there are a wide range of extraction methods including alcohol and other solvents, and they are all inferior to carbon dioxide extraction. beyond that, supercritical co2 extraction is considered the gold standard.
if you cannot find information regarding how your cbd was extracted, it is a telltale sign that it was done with substandard methods. such vital information should be found both on your product and/or packaging as well as on the company’s website – it’s that important.
solvents such as propane, butane, pentane, and hexane are among the worst means used to extract cbd. they are cheap to obtain, not meant for human consumption, and can be harmful to your health, if not toxic. if not fully dissolved, contaminants may be left behind that cause far more damage than the cbd oil could do good. plus, companies using questionable methods such as these are not likely to put any cbd, or quality cbd into their products anyways.
alcohols such as ethanol are other commonly-employed means of extraction. pharmaceutical or food grade ethanol can be used in a much safer and more effective manner than the other solvents we just discussed, though co2 extraction is still the most effective and efficient way to achieve the purest possible cbd oil.
there is no substitute for co2 extraction. it is the safest method of extraction and creates minimal waste as a byproduct of the process. unlike the other solvents mentioned in this section, co2 ensures no harmful chemicals or contaminants will end up in your cbd. fortunately, co2 extraction is also the most widely used method among reputable cbd companies and should be regarded as industry standard.
there are three sub-classifications within co2 extraction: subcritical, mid-critical, and supercritical. of the three, cbd that is extracted via a supercritical co2 method will produce the highest quality finished product, which is why you should make sure any cbd oil you buy is extracted using this method.
how much cbd is actually present? (cbd oil vs hemp oil)
when buying cbd oil, one of the first things to look for on the front of the label is the amount of cbd present. this will be displayed in milligrams (mg), and should not be confused with the volume of liquid carrier oil contained in the bottle, which should be measured in milliliters (ml).
even though cbd comes from hemp, the two are not interchangeable. take note of terms such as “phytocannabinoid rich” (pcr) or “broad spectrum hemp extract” and be sure to look for actual cbd content when looking to purchase cbd oil. as mentioned, cbd is most highly concentrated in its budding flowers, but other parts of the plant such as the seeds that can also be extracted into an oil of their own, known as hemp seed oil.
hemp seed oil may be sold as many other misleading terms to imply cbd content, including hemp oil, cannabis seed oil, or cannabis sativa oil. while hemp seed oil and cbd oil both contain many of the same benefits for your body, especially when it comes to your skin and hair, the main difference is that hemp seed oil contains no cbd.
the seeds of the hemp plant naturally contain little to no amounts of cbd, so it makes sense that no significant levels of cbd would be present when the seeds are extracted into an oil, either. we can’t stress enough that cbd’s lack of regulation makes it possible to sell “cbd products” that don’t actually contain any cbd. so make sure you know the difference - a bottle of hemp seed oil is much cheaper than a bottle of cbd oil, and you work way too hard for your money to fall prey to false advertising.
one last thing about hemp seed oil: it does mix well with cbd and be a great carrier oil. in fact, we use it in our topical collection due to that reason plus the fact that it is so good for your skin. ☺
is your cbd fairly priced?
it’s easy to get sticker shock from cbd products, especially knowing cbd is a long-term solution. it is an investment into your health, and the good news is that you can find high quality organic broad spectrum cbd at an affordable price as long as you do your homework and become an educated buyer.
many premium cbd companies sell their products at premium prices, but once you’re aware of the amount of cbd in a bottle (in mg), you can divide the price of the bottle by its contents of cbd in order to figure out how much the cbd is actually costing you per milligram. you will probably notice that the overall concentration of the product based on bottle size also plays a role, so let’s touch on that for a second.
the most common size bottle of cbd oil is 30ml (1 fluid ounce) and should list an advertised amount of cbd. a third party lab test can confirm the amount of cbd present in a bottle of cbd oil, but you also want to pay attention to how concentrated the product is. most bottles of this size will usually contain anywhere from 200-1,000mg worth of cbd, and that difference alone is worth noting.
a 30ml bottle that contains 1,000mg cbd is five times more concentrated than a 30ml bottle with only 200mg cbd. that means the same amount of carrier oil will deliver 20% the dosage, or that you’d need to take 5x the amount in order to obtain the same dosage of cbd.
generally speaking, a more concentrated bottle of cbd is going to yield you a better overall price point per milligram of cbd. with that being said, use common sense when coming across highly concentrated products. if you see a hyperbolic amount of cbd advertised in a bottle such as 100,000mg, it is 100% guaranteed to be fake. these products will also usually come at a very appealing price, and the adage absolutely applies here: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is!
are any synthetic cannabinoids present?
when researching cbd products, you should also know to stay away from synthetic cannabinoids at all costs. cbd that is synthesized in a lab is done so using carcinogenic chemicals such as fluoride or bromide. also, your body does not process synthetic cbd as effectively as it does the real thing.
in 2018, the fda confirmed that synthetic cannabinoids posed significant health risks such as increased heart rate, vomiting, reduced blood supply to the heart, and seizures. several deaths were also attributed to synthetic cannabinoid consumption. it appears these data were focused on products like “spice” or “k2” which were meant to be synthetic thc replacements, but the same concerns absolutely apply for other cannabinoids like cbd.
the chemical composition of synthetic cannabinoids such as “spice” or “k2” allows them to bind to receptors in the brain just like thc. unlike naturally occuring thc, however, these synthetic cannabinoids are sprayed onto plant material and can have much stronger, unnatural effects on the body that lead to the unwanted side effects mentioned in the previous paragraph.
regarding synthetic cbd’s efficacy, a 22-week study was conducted between groups taking natural and synthetic cbd. those who took the synthetic version were seen to display “dangerous levels of” two different enzymes that their bodies had created as a means of unsuccessfully trying to break down the synthetic cbd. in other words, your body is simply not able to process synthetic cbd; be sure to consume only natural, organic cbd oil.
are you staying away from amazon for cbd?
amazon’s policy forbids the sale of cbd on its website, though that doesn’t stop sellers from taking full advantage of the gray area around the terminology regarding hemp oil, hemp extracts, etc. the easiest way to avoid buying the wrong cbd on amazon is to abstain from purchasing there altogether.
the whole amazon hemp/cbd landscape is just plain confusing, and any legitimate cbd company is not going to try to get caught up in gaming amazon’s policy for a few sales. think about it, why would you want to purchase from somebody who is knowingly trying to skirt the rules for profit? but by now, you’ve probably looked into those companies a little more anyways and have already seen that they don’t hold up to the items on this checklist.
nonetheless, you could technically have amazon sales going in two directions:
- sellers who are writing misleading copy around hemp seed oil to imply that it is a cbd product. of course, they will be selling it at cbd prices, not hemp seed oil prices. (fake cbd)
- sellers who are trying to use amazon as a marketplace for their cbd products despite it being explicitly against the rules. they will use less direct terms around their “hemp extracts” and such so that they can pass under the guise of hemp seed oil.
confused yet? of course, the first of those two is also a blatant ripoff. while the second product may actually be cbd that has made it past amazon (for now), you are still buying from a dishonest buyer. we’re willing to bet that the product itself is also dishonest if you put it to the test.
long story short, buy cbd online, but not from amazon. respectable cbd companies stay away from amazon for their products, and you should too.
do you see any medical claims about your cbd?
cbd is federally unregulated and any medical claims tied to its efficacy are not only unsubstantiated, but are also being made illegally. if you are looking into any cbd product that makes claims to cure any type of health condition, pass a drug test, etc., you are looking at a fake cbd product.
there is also no such thing as medical grade cbd due to it being unregulated, so any company who is selling “medical grade cbd” is selling a fake product too. the science behind cbd is continuing to evolve and we continue to learn more about its potential benefits with each passing advancement. but there is a difference between cbd being beneficial and a company claiming that it will cure your ailments. the latter has not been proven, and a good cbd company will never make such a claim.
the only real claim that can be made regarding cbd is that in a clean and wholesome state, it is safe, nontoxic, and generally well-tolerated. being able to distinguish between cbd’s potential benefits and its false claims is a great way to cue in on whether your cbd is real or fake.
the type of cbd product is not immune to being fake or real cbd either. isolates, broad spectrum, and full spectrum extracts all have real and fake products on the market, and the real products are safe to consume while those fake ones will either not give you results, put harmful toxins into your body, or both. if you’re still with us here, you will probably understand why the importance of third party lab testing is so vital now too.
one final note: knowing you have real cbd may not be as simple as being able to tell whether or not you “feel it.” cbd oil is non-psychoactive, and it works by activating your endocannabinoid system (ecs). when this happens, your body creates its own endocannabinoids that circulate through your bloodstream and bind to receptors wherever needed.
these receptors exist all across your body, and they work with the ecs to accomplish its primary function of achieving homeostasis. when your body is fully in tune, you are going to feel good; but you also might feel “normal” or might not feel different in any way. if you are interested in reading more about this topic, our entire blog takes many deeper dives into all things in the world of cbd. we are sure you will find plenty of interesting articles to further advance your understanding of cannabis and cbd.