How to Shop for CBD: The Ultimate CBD Buyer's Guide
CBD (cannabidiol) is the most abundant of more than 113 cannabinoids in hemp extract. While there was a time skeptics assumed the "CBD craze" would diminish over time, the demand is so strong that industry experts predict 35% of US adults will be CBD users by 2024 (Julia, 2023), many for the very first time.
Whether you're contemplating your first purchase after weeks of diligent research or recommendations from a friend or family member, you've likely realized that prices, potency, and quality control standards can vary by brand. In this buyer's guide, you'll find everything you need to know about shopping for CBD.
Narrowing Your Options by CBD Type
The first step in the process requires a basic understanding of the three main types of CBD. Most first-time shoppers can use any hemp-derived CBD product, but not everyone. When the government lifted federal restrictions on hemp cultivation, determinations of legality were left to state legislators.
Although hemp-derived CBD is legal in most states, provided the THC content remains below 0.3% (by weight), some only allow products with 0% THC. A few prohibit cannabis use of any kind. After reviewing the laws in your area, use the following descriptions to begin narrowing your options.
Full Spectrum CBD
Full spectrum hemp extracts give you all the additional cannabinoids, terpenes, and other phytonutrients in the same ratio's nature intended, including a small amount of THC (Jenkins, 2018). The CBD to THC ratio prevents intoxication. The combined impact of the cannabinoids and terpenes contributes to the potency-maximizing "entourage" effect cannabis is known for (Nahler et al., 2019).
Broad Spectrum CBD
Broad Spectrum hemp extracts give you many of the same additional cannabinoids and terpenes as full spectrum, but the THC is reduced to non-detectable levels. Although broad spectrum CBD gives you the cannabinoids and terpenes needed for an entourage effect, some CBD users believe removing the THC diminishes its impact (Wilkins, 2022).
CBD isolate is highly refined. All that remains after isolation is a flavorless, odorless, 0% THC powder. Although CBD isolate doesn't have the additional cannabinoids and terpenes needed for an entourage effect, investigators publishing a 2020 report specified that most of their data reflected the positive effects of the "pure form" of CBD (Larsen & Shahinas, 2020).
Refining Your Search by Product Type
Of nearly 2,000 respondents in a 2019 CBDistillery® customer survey, most report positive results using a variety of CBD products for relaxation, better sleep, mild or temporary anxiety, and discomfort after physical activity. Once you've determined which CBD type you prefer, the selection process gets much easier.Consider using thefollowing product descriptions to refine your search parameters.
CBD Oil Tinctures
CBD tinctures are made with hemp extract and carrier oils. They're often favored by first-time CBD users because the bulbed pipette makes it easy to adjust serving sizes as needed. Tinctures can be blended with snacks and beverages or held beneath your tongue for 45-60 seconds before swallowing.
CBD Softgels & Gummies
Softgels and gummies give you precise, consistent quantities of CBD with every serving, an amount that works well for most CBD users. Convenient and portable, softgels and gummies are great for home use and travel. Gummies have a delicious fruit flavor, softgels are flavorless and sugar-free.
Applied topically, CBD penetrates your skin for fast-acting, targeted relief. Some CBD topicals are made with plant extracts and other botanicals selected for skin health and appearance; others are formulated with warming and cooling agents to help ease pain and inflammation after physical activity. Topicals can be used on their own or alongside any other CBD product.
Factors to Consider While You're Shopping
The price of CBD can vary by brand. But you won't find the best value by dividing the price by the number of ounces in any bottle or jar. CBD prices are determined by the amount of cannabidiol they contain, a number specified in milligrams (mg). You could pay anywhere from several cents to several dollars per mg. Since some of the sketchiest products are sold by companies inflating the price of low-quality ingredients, take a few minutes to consider the following factors while you're shopping.
Most hemp-derived CBD tinctures are sold in 30 ml bottles with total CBD concentrations ranging from a few hundred to several thousand milligrams. CBD gummies, softgels, and capsules can contain anywhere from two to 30mg (or more) per piece. The lower the CBD concentrations, the more you'll need per serving.
There are multiple ways to liberate hemp's cannabinoid-rich oil from its aerial plant parts. CO2 extraction is the gold standard for full spectrum (and broad spectrum) products, (Valizadehderakhshan et al., 2021). Food-safe ethanol extraction provides the best results for obtaining high-quality CBD isolate.
CBD to THC Ratios
The CBD to THC ratio (15-20:1) in full spectrum CBD eliminates the risk of intoxication. But not all hemp-derived products are non-intoxicating. Some of today's most reputable CBD brands offer products made with enhanced concentrations of hemp-derived THC. Some are made with naturally occurring delta 9 THC, others with delta 8, a synthetic cannabinoid (Long, 2021). Although Delta-8 is technically a hemp-derived cannabinoid, hemp extract typically contains non-detectable levels (Long, 2021). To ensure an adequate supply, most (if not all) Delta-8 products are made with a synthetic cannabinoid obtained through the chemical conversion of CBD. The harsh chemicals and organic solvents used to convert CBD to Delta-8 THC create unidentified byproducts, elements not found anywhere in nature (FDA, 2022). Those unidentified byproducts render third-party test results unreliable, and researchers still don't have a clear understanding of how chemically converted cannabinoids are metabolized or stored in the body (Hudalla, 2021).
Third-Party Batch Testing
Hemp is known for its ability to absorb heavy metals, pesticides, and other toxins from the soil. Third-party batch testing ensures product purity and potency (Hazekamp, 2018), and labs with ISO 17025 accreditation are the gold standard. But don't rely on manufacturer claims alone. Look for a certificate of analysis (COA). Reputable CBD brands typically provide this essential documentation on their product pages.
How to Determine You've Found the Right CBD Seller
As CBD grows in popularity, so does the number of companies selling hemp-derived products. Although the number of vendors attempting to sell misrepresented "hemp oil" on eCommerce sites appears to be declining, far too many first-time buyers are still being taken advantage of by profit-seeking sellers who don't know (or care) enough about CBD or their customer's wellbeing to ensure they're selling high-quality products. Your best defense? Take a few minutes to consider how various sellers compare in the following areas.
Reviews & Testimonials
You can learn a lot about a company and their products by reading the reviews and testimonials published on their website. To ensure you're reading comments from actual customers, stick with brands that team up with a review verification service. Unverified submissions can come from anywhere, including the site owners themselves.
The best CBD products are made with non-GMO, naturally farmed hemp. The best CBD brands are highly transparent. When you visit a seller's website, Look for information about their farming practices and extraction methods, batch test results, answers to frequently asked questions, and educational content.
Refund & Return Policies
Many CBD sellers accept returns on unopened products for a limited time. Others accept returns on opened products from dissatisfied customers, but for just a few weeks. Since it can take up to 14 days (or more) to know how your system responds to CBD, the details of seller return policies and satisfaction guarantees matter.
Loyalty Programs & Subscription Plans
Loyalty programs and subscription pricing can have a huge impact on the cost of daily use. Most CBD sellers offering loyalty programs award points for every order that can be redeemed for discounts on future purchases. Sellers offering subscription pricing reward CBD users with sizable discounts for automated orders.
Product Storage, Usage, & Safety Information
CBD is generally well tolerated and safe for most people. Although hemp-derived cannabinoids can cause dry mouth, fatigue, or digestive upset (Bergamaschi et al., 2011), most (93%) of our survey respondents report no adverse effects. However, cannabinoids can interact with prescription and OTC medications and may not be advisable for people with certain medical conditions. Consult a healthcare professional if you have questions or concerns.
When using any CBD product for the first time, we suggest starting with a partial serving. Increase the amount of CBD you're using in small increments over time until achieving the results you're hoping for. While taking more CBD than you might need is not harmful, there's no additional benefit. Going "low and slow" helps you find the smallest amount of CBD you need for optimal results. Store your CBD in a cool, dry location. Heat and sunlight can accelerate cannabinoid degradation.
Tips for First-time Shoppers
CBD works by interacting with multiple molecular targets. The list includes the receptors of the largest regulatory system in your body, your endocannabinoid system (ECS). Cannabis researchers explain its impressive range of possible benefits on the cannabinoid's reported ability to support ECS function in a way that promotes homeostasis (Sallaberry & Astern, 2018). Every CBD user has a unique biochemistry.
That explains why a serving size that works well for one CBD user could be significantly more or considerably less than the amount that's ideal for another. Once you've narrowed your options to a high-quality product (or two) from a reputable, transparent brand, you may also find it helpful to browse the following tips many other first-time CBD users have found helpful over the years.
You May Need to Be Patient
You're sure to find numerous comments from CBD users claiming impressive results within hours of their first serving. But everyone is different. Genetics, age, weight, metabolism, and body composition all factor into the equation (Johnson, 2020). However, most of our survey participants report achieving their best results within 7-14 days of consistent use.
Avoid Sharing Your CBD with Your Dog or Cat
There are many reasons to consider giving hemp-derived CBD to your pet. But it's best not to share your personal supply. Despite the number of companies claiming their CBD oil tinctures are pet-safe, carrier oils intended for human consumption can be difficult for pets to digest. Instead, look for CBD pet tinctures made with hemp seed oil.
Consider CBD's Many Potential Skin Benefits
When you apply CBD to your skin, the cannabinoid interacts with the ECS receptors found on nearly every type of skin cell, including the receptors involved in barrier function, collagen synthesis, oil production, and skin cell turnover rates (Ferreira et al., 2023). The best CBD skincare products are enhanced with a range of botanicals selected to address specific concerns.
Cheap CBD is Seldom a Bargain
Most hemp-derived CBD oil tinctures contain between 500 and 2500 mg of CBD per bottle. Gummies have between 2 and 30mg (or more) per piece. If you're finding below-average prices on products that contain an unusually high number of non-specific "hemp" milligrams per bottle or jar, the vendor is probably selling hemp seed products. Hemp seed oil contains no CBD (Mead, 2016).
Discover Why So Many CBD Users Choose CBDistillery® Hemp-Derive Products
When you browse the CBDistillery® website, you'll find an impressive assortment of full spectrum, broad spectrum, and pure CBD isolate products. You'll also find third-party test results, answers to frequently asked questions, industry studies, and multiple ways to reduce the overall cost of adding our hemp-derived products to your daily routine. If you're intrigued by the many potential benefits of CBD but still not sure where to start, consider scheduling a personal consultation or taking our 3-minute CBD Quiz.
Julia N. (2023) CBD Statistics: Usage Data & Demographics (2023 Update). CFAH
Bergamaschi M, Mateus R, et al. (2011) Safety and Side Effect of Cannabidiol, a Cannabis Sativa Constituent. 6(4) Curr Drug Saf 237-49. https://doi.org/10.2174/157488611798280924
Ferreira B, Costa G, et al. (2023) Skin Applications of Cannabidiol: Sources, Effects, Delivery Systems, Marketed Formulations and Safety. (2923) Phytochem Rev. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11101-023-09860-5
Hazekamp A. (2018) The Trouble with CBD Oil. 1, Med Cannabis Cannabinoid 64-72. https://doi.org/10.1159/000489287
Johnson M.(2020) CBD Not Working for You? Here Are 5 Possible Reasons Why. Healthline.
Larsen C, Shahinas S. (2020) Dosage, Efficacy and Safety of Cannabidiol Administration in Adults: A Systematic Review of Human Trials. 12(3) J Clin Med Res 129-41.
Long J. (2021) Experts Concerned Over Unstudied Compounds in Delta-8 THC Products. Natural Products Insider.
Mead A. (2016) The Legal Status of Cannabis (Marijuana) and Cannabinoid (CBD) Under US Law. 70(B) Epilepsy Behav 288-91. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28169144/
Nahler G, Jones T, et al. (2019) Cannabidiol and Contribution of Major Hemp Phytocompounds to the "Entourage" Effect: Possible Mechanisms. 5, J Altern Complement Integr Med 70. PDF
Sallaberry C, Astern L. (2018) The Endocannabinoid System, Our Universal Regulator. 34(6) JYI 48-55. https://www.jyi.org/2018-june/2018/6/1/the-endocannabinoid-system-our-universal-regulator
Valizadehderakhshan M, Shahbazi A, et al. (2021) Extraction of Cannabinoids from Cannabis sativa L. (Hemp)—Review. 11(5) Agriculture 384. ttps://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture11050384
Wilkins T. (2022) What Is the Entourage Effect? How This Enhances CBD Effects. Marijuana Takers.