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How to Navigate the 'Wild West' of CBD

We get it – choosing a CBD brand can be tough. CBD is all around us now. As we learn more and more about the health benefits CBD can provide, coupled with its ease of access (you can now buy CBD just about everywhere in the US), people, including grandpa, want to know how they can get in on the scientific research-backed benefits of CBD [1] while feeling confident in the safety and quality of the brand. 

The Challenge of Choice

It’s no wonder people struggle. The market is full of CBD brands—many of them out to make a quick buck. The Farm Bill of 2018 legalized the production and sale of CBD, which opened the floodgates for businesses trying to capitalize on the ‘Green Rush, but regulations on CBD are just beginning to be developed, with enforcement gradually following. The FDA has yet to establish standard chemical testing requirements, dosage guidelines, or enact broad enforcement policies.  With this “Wild West” regulatory environment, the door is left open for CBD bandits. 

In a report from the Journal of The American Medical Association [2], 69% of CBD products tested on the market have ingredients misrepresented on the label, with 25% of those containing less CBD than advertised. Even more alarmingly, 21% of labels understated the amount of THC in the product, which led to users accidentally failing drug tests – yikes. 

What to look for: The Good, Bad and Ugly

So how do you navigate this seemingly shady and dangerous world? Well, the good news is that for every bandit sneaking around there’s an ever-increasing number of trustworthy brands taking the right steps to ensure the safety and quality of their products. You just need to know what to look for.

Lab Testing

The most important step you can take to make sure the quality of your CBD product is to know what’s inside. Luckily in this modern age of science, that’s super easy to do! Top brands should always provide a Certificate of Analysis (COA), which is proof that they sent their products to a laboratory to be thoroughly tested and shows you exactly what’s in each individual batch of CBD. To be extra safe, make sure that these COA’s are provided by third-party laboratories so you know that no one has tampered with the results.

Extraction Process

Another way to ensure the quality of a CBD brand is to look at its extraction process. Getting CBD oil out of a hemp plant is a lot more complicated than sticking in a syringe and pulling out the oil. *Puts on lab coat and glasses* CBD extraction requires separating the oil from plant matter. One way is to use a solvent, similar to how we use soap to remove dirt. The big problem here is that people tend to use petroleum-based solvents (increases cancer risk) or ethanol (hard to remove from CBD oil at the end). A much safer and cleaner method is called ‘Supercritical CO2 Extraction’, which allows one to pinpoint exactly what compounds to remove and leads to a pure, safe, and high-quality oil.

Locally Grown

One of the things that makes hemp such an amazing plant is its ability to grow in harsh environments and actually clean the soil around it. This has incredible benefits for soil health and regenerative agriculture, but an unfortunate downside is that the plant will absorb toxic compounds while growing. Although hemp sourced from places like Asia or Europe tend to be cheaper, they also have higher levels of heavy metals and pesticides. But you can avoid these risks simply by knowing where the hemp plants used to make your CBD come from. States like Colorado and Kentucky have set up legitimate license and certification programs to ensure safe farming practices and many other states are following suit. So make sure that your products are locally sourced from US hemp farmers.

Broad Spectrum

While exploring the ever-growing shelves of CBD brands on the market, you might come across terms like ‘CBD Isolate’, ‘Full Spectrum’, or ‘Broad Spectrum’. Even though each contains CBD, there are major differences in how they work. Hemp plants are filled with hundreds of beneficial compounds aside from CBD. Synergy isn’t just a buzz word you might hear thrown around in business meetings, it also plays an important role in the health benefits of hemp. There are indications that show cannabinoids and terpenes work together to influence each other [3]. This synergy is called the ‘Entourage Effect’ and leads to increased benefits compared to CBD by itself. Full Spectrum CBD can include THC, but Broad Spectrum CBD removes THC while still containing other hemp plant compounds and the entourage effect. If you do not want to consume any THC, the brand must explicitly state that it has zero THC on its labeling. 

What Lies Ahead?

Similar to how the American Wild West was tamed, the heavy hand of law and order is on the horizon for the CBD industry. Just recently, the FDA issued warning letters to 15 companies for making false medical claims about their products. They also published a revised Consumer Update outlining more generally its safety concerns about CBD products. While this is still essentially just a slap on the wrist for only a few wild west bandits, it’s a step in the right direction, signaling larger changes looming in the future.

So how do you know which brands will stick around and prosper in a civilized CBD society? Aside from the things mentioned above, take a deeper look at your CBD brand. Are they transparent in providing all of that information or are they purposely withholding? The bandits looking to make a quick buck usually just do the bare minimum to bring a product to the market and care only for profit. What else does your brand stand for? Those brands actively dedicated to a mission will have long term goals and plan to be around long enough to achieve them.

How Asha Walks the Walk

That’s where we come in. At Asha, we are passionate about our product, and the impact we have in the world. Integrity is key. 

  • Our products are organically sourced from US grown hemp, grown by certified farmers in Colorado
  • We use Supercritical CO2 extraction to guarantee pure and safe oils
  • We back our promise of premium quality by labeling all our products with custom QR codes that can be scanned to view third-party lab results for each batch
  • Our products have ZERO THC (so you won’t fail your drug test)
  • We offer broad-spectrum CBD to maximize the health benefits you receive

But our passion and drive for quality extend well past what we offer in our store. Our founders are actively involved in developing the framework for scientific research programs between the University of Southern California, the Venter Institute, and the Children’s Hospital to better understand the effects of CBD and other hemp compounds. We support regenerative agriculture and sustainability programs across a variety of nonprofit and academic organizations. 

At Asha, we don’t want to just survive the Wild West, we want to move the needle in creating a world where everyone, even CBD brands, can make a positive difference for those around them. And in the meantime, we want to arm you with the information and education to feel good about your purchase. We got you covered.

 

References:

  1. Maroon, J., Jeff Bost, P. A. C., Mathyssek, C., & Steelers, N. P. (2015). Nutritional & Medical Applications for Cannabidiol: Hemp Health Benefits without THC. Anti-Aging Therapeutics Volume XVII, 17.
  2. Bonn-Miller, M. O., Loflin, M. J., Thomas, B. F., Marcu, J. P., Hyke, T., & Vandrey, R. (2017). Labeling accuracy of cannabidiol extracts sold online. Jama, 318(17), 1708-1709.
  3. Russo, E. B. (2011). Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid‐terpenoid entourage effects. British journal of pharmacology, 163(7), 1344-1364.

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