Last Updated on August 9, 2023
Are you interested in trying CBD oil, but aren’t sure how to choose a quality CBD oil? You aren’t alone! The booming CBD industry has been flooded with products to choose from. It can be overwhelming, confusing, and even make folks shy away completely – which is a shame, since CBD has the potential to help with such a wide array of health issues. It’s great that you’re asking questions though. That means you’re thinking critically and cautiously! As you can imagine, not all CBD oil is created equal. There is some really stellar stuff out there, but a bit of junk to wade through too.
Read along to learn 6 key things to consider when choosing CBD oil (or similar products). We’ll talk about quality, potency, testing, types, and more – all the things we look for when we’re shopping for CBD ourselves. Other frequently asked questions about dosing, legality, drug tests, and CBD for pets will be covered too. I hope this information will help you feel more confident in making informed decisions about trying high-quality CBD. It has become a staple in our natural health care routine!
For those of you brand-new to the world of CBD, we’ll also briefly discuss what CBD oil is and the health benefits it can provide. However, for a more thorough exploration of CBD, including history, research, different forms, and exactly how it works in the body, please see this introductory article: “CBD 101: Uses, Health Benefits, & Precautions of Hemp”. Or, if you’re already fairly familiar with CBD, feel free to skip the primer and jump straight to the list of 6 things to look for in a quality CBD oil.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, and this is not intended to be medical advice. I am simply sharing information that I have gathered through my personal research and experience. Academic studies are linked throughout the article for reference. Also, this is not a sponsored post but may contain affiliate links. Meaning, I may receive a small commission on purchases made through those links – at no additional cost to you. Rather, you can save 10% by using the code “DEANNACAT” on NuVita CBD oil – any time!
CBD oil: relief without the “high”
CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of the dozens of therapeutic botanical compounds naturally found in cannabis plants. Both marijuana and hemp are part of the same cannabis plant family, and each contain varying levels of CBD. However, the vast majority of CBD oils you’ll find today are derived from commercially-grown hemp. With that, hemp-derived CBD products contain little-to-no THC (less than 0.3% by law) and are therefore not psychoactive.
Therefore, folks can use CBD oil with ease in a variety of situations and everyday life. For instance, while working, driving, exercising, or taking care of children. This makes CBD products very comfortable and attractive to use – to ease stress, anxiety, pain, inflammation, and more!
How is CBD oil made?
To create CBD oil, cannabidiol is extracted from resinous hemp plants post-harvest by one of a number of extraction methods. The industry gold standard is C02 extraction, discussed more to follow. The result is a highly-concentrated CBD oil that can later be diluted, such as mixed with a carrier oil for safe consumption as a tincture/drops. Or, it is added to other CBD products like edible gummies or topical balms.
How does CBD oil work?
Did you know that we have an endocannabinoid system, also known as the ECS? The ECS is made up of receptors found throughout our bodies that interact with phytocannabinoids like CBD or THC, along with endocannabinoids (those produced internally).
The ECS plays a key role in moderating dozens of physiological processes, helping us maintain a healthy balance – also known as homeostasis. Experts believe that when the ECS is out of whack, disease and health issues more readily arise. In contrast, nourishing the ECS with cannabinoids (including CBD) can help restore balance, treat and potentially prevent many diseases.
What health issues does CBD oil help with?
Medical research continues to show promising and significant healing properties of cannabinoids, with few known risks! CBD in particular has been reported to help ease a wide array of physical and mental health issues, including but not limited to:
- Depression, anxiety, stress, ADHD, PTSD and other mood or brain disorders.
- Insomnia, restlessness, and related sleep disorders
- Chronic pain, joint pain, and inflammation – such as that which comes with arthritis, fibromyalgia, and inflammatory bowel disease
- Seizures and epilepsy
- Nausea and appetite issues, popular for patients on chemotherapy or similar treatments
- Nerve pain and multiple sclerosis
- Muscle spasms or tightness – including tremors associated with Parkinson’s disease, and discomfort associated with endometriosis, menstrual cramps, and TMJ or teeth-grinding
- Headaches, possible relief from migraines
- Topical use of CBD (e.g. with a balm, salve, or lotion) can soothe localized pain, inflammation and skin issues such as acne, eczema or psoriasis.
- Studies also show promising relationships between CBD and disease prevention, such as preventing of cancer cell growth and neuro-degeneration.
Possible Side Effects of CBD
Overall, studies show that CBD has very low toxicity in humans and other species. Yet like any supplement, medication, or food we consume, CBD may cause undesirable side effects for some. Every body is different! The most common potential side effects of CBD include reduced blood pressure, changes to appetite, tiredness, and diarrhea. Furthermore, it may interact with certain prescription medications (in a similar manner that grapefruit does). If you are currently taking medication or have a serious health issue, please do further research and/or talk with your physician about taking CBD.
If CBD has ever made you feel icky, it is also possible that you’re experiencing a negative reaction to impurities or other additives in the oil, not the CBD itself! That is why it is so important to choose high-quality, organic CBD products. So without further ado, let’s talk about how to carefully choose CBD oil.
6 THINGS TO LOOK FOR IN QUALITY CBD OIL
1) Hemp Cultivation Practices
CBD oil sourced from organically-grown hemp is the most pure and safe. Domestically-grown organic hemp is even better! Choosing organic CBD is even more important than eating organic food. The issue is, cannabis plants are excellent bioaccumulators. Meaning, they readily take up and store whatever is in their soil or applied to their leaves – including any heavy metals, synthetic fertilizers, chemical fungicides, or other pesticides used during cultivation! If present, all of those nasty things become exponentially more concentrated during the oil extraction process.
Finally, is the carrier oil (e.g. MCT coconut oil or olive oil) used in the product also certified organic? That isn’t necessarily a deal breaker, but important to me personally.
2) Extraction Method
A transparent CBD brand will share what extraction method was used to obtain their CBD oil. C02 extraction is the top-of-the-line choice. However, because C02 extraction is also the most expensive option, some producers cut costs by using ethanol, butane, propane, or other solvent extraction instead. Solvent extraction can contaminate CBD with unwanted byproducts such as hexane (a gnarly neurotoxin) or benzene (a known carcinogen)! Therefore, I highly suggest seeking out CBD products that utilize C02 extraction. Cold ethanol is another good and safe choice. ‘Hydrocarbon extraction’ is synonymous with using butane or propane, and is the least desirable.
3) Third Party Lab Results Available
If the last two points made you nervous about what else may be in your CBD, check out the lab results! Quality CBD companies will provide lab test results (aka Certificates of Analysis or COA) for every batch of CBD oil made. These results should be done through a third party accredited laboratory, readily available, and updated often – such as on their website.
The analysis should show results or the presence of pesticides, heavy metals, mold, solvents, bacteria, and other contaminants. If you’re not accustomed to reading lab reports, here are a few tips: Look for the “results” column. N/D or ND stands for not detected – a good thing to see! The exact concentration of CBD, THC, and other cannabinoids or terpenes present will also be listed.
I have seen really shady “lab reports” on some CBD websites – such as listing the total CBD and THC content, but completely lacking any contaminant analysis! Yikes. I’ve come across others that do provide results for select pesticide and solvent residuals, but not nearly as many as a robust report should provide. For instance, one that omitted benzene, toluene, and xylenes from the residual solvent analysis – while this information is readily included by other brands.
4) Full-Spectrum CBD & The Entourage Effect
CBD oil is formulated as either full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, or in isolate form. Full-spectrum CBD retains the raw, rich diversity of compounds found in the mother plant during extraction – including other cannabinoids, terpenes, phenolics, vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids. Broad spectrum CBD oil has been processed to remove the small residual amount of THC, but still contains some of the other botanical goodies found in full-spectrum formulas.
An isolate is stripped down to one select cannabinoid of choice. Isolates may be sold on their own, such as a CBD isolate (not ideal). Or, different cannabinoid isolates (e.g. CBG, CBN) may be incorporated in more robust CBD formulas for distinct added benefits. Check out the chart below.
For the most powerful and broad range of health benefits, opt for full-spectrum CBD oil. Full-spectrum CBD capitalizes on something called “the entourage effect” – the concept that the plethora of plant compounds found in cannabis induce the most effective results when used in conjunction with one another, rather than alone. In other words, teamwork makes the dream work! However, some folks may need CBD oil that is completely THC-free, such as those in a zero-tolerance workplace.
Can I fail a drug test from taking CBD oil?
Drug tests are looking for the presence of THC (amongst other “drugs”), not CBD. It is fairly unlikely for full-spectrum CBD products to cause a THC-positive result on the average urine test. However, it has been known to happen. Especially if the THC content in the product was inaccurately labelled, or the person consumed very large quantities of the CBD product over time. A blood test will be even more likely to show trace amounts of THC. Therefore, if you have concerns about passing a drug test, stick with a THC-free broad spectrum formula.
5) Concentration or Potency
What do the numbers on the CBD bottle mean?
When you look at a bottle of CBD oil, you should see two numbers. One is the amount of CBD that the bottle contains (in milligrams), and the other is the total volume of overall oil within the bottle (likely in milliliters). The same size bottle can have significantly different concentrations of CBD inside. For instance, a 30 mL bottle of oil may contain as much as 3000 mg of active CBD, or as little as 300 mg. This is something to carefully consider, especially if you’re comparing cost!
The CBD oil brands should provide some sort of dosing guidance, such as X mg or X drops per X body weight. Of course, these are general recommendations and may vary based on personal comfort, tolerance, and the severity of your symptoms. Yet you can use the recommended dose to figure out approximately how many servings you’ll get out of each bottle.
Theoretically, the higher the concentration, the fewer drops you need, and thus the longer the bottle will last you. For example, I only take about a quarter dropper of NuVita each day. Other brands recommend a full dropper! So while high-potency formulas are more costly upfront, you’ll need to buy them less often.
For reference, note that the standard conversion is 20 “drops” per 1 mL. Most droppers hold 1 mL. So, one quarter of a dropper (or .25 mL) is approximately 5 drops of oil.
6) Company Values, Transparency, and Reputation
While we are nowhere near perfect, we do try to be conscious consumers – carefully considering exactly what our dollars support. With that, I gravitate towards USA-made products, companies that follow sustainable practices, and small transparent businesses over big conglomerates. Not that large companies can’t also be transparent! Yet I find that smaller companies are especially prone to put quality and customer care over profit.
Also consider where you are buying your CBD oil… To be frank, I would NOT recommend purchasing CBD from a gas station or convenience store. That stuff gives me the heebie jeebies. If possible, choose a CBD oil that comes highly recommended (e.g from a knowledgeable friend, verified customer reviews, by your doctor or naturopath), from a cannabis dispensary, or perhaps you even know a hemp farmer!
When I was on the hunt for my own personal CBD oil to use, I was turned on to NuVita by a friend. I fell in love with everything the company stands for – ticking all my boxes, and then some. NuVita CBD oil is made from organically-grown Colorado hemp and is high-quality, potent, and effective. It also happens to be a small woman-owned business, and donates a portion of proceeds to organizations that help survivors of human trafficking. Since I started using NuVita CBD oil, my joint pains, muscle aches, stress, and anxiety have all significantly reduced. I also sleep so much better! Feel-good, all around…
With that, this concludes the 6 things to consider when while you shop and choose a CBD oil to use. Short of growing your own organic cannabis or hemp at home, carefully assessing these factors will help you obtain the safest, highest-quality CBD possible. Now let’s address some FAQ!
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Does CBD make you drowsy?
No, CBD oil shouldn’t make you feel drowsy. It is a common misconception that CBD is a sedative. Rather, it helps to restore balance to our natural cycles – like an adaptogen. So, while it enables you to fall asleep more quickly and sleep more soundly through the night, it can also help increase alertness and focus during the daytime. It also has a long-lasting and cumulative effect. I typically take my CBD oil mid-morning, it still helps me sleep well that night!
If a really deep sleep is what you’re after, you could also consider a CBD formula that contains higher levels of CBN. CBN (cannabinol) is another lesser-known but increasingly popular cannabinoid. It is sold in isolate form, or added to other CBD products. Because CBN is a sedative, you’ll only want to use it before bed.
How do I take CBD oil?
CBD oil absorbs most readily and quickly when held under the tongue. Drop the called-for dose under your tongue and allow it to sit for one to four minutes before swallowing. Then, follow it up with a drink of water! Be consistent about taking CBD for the best results.
You can also add CBD oil directly to a beverage of choice. Coffee or morning smoothies are popular options! However, keep in mind that ingesting CBD oil as an edible means it must be processed by your digestive system first. This leads to a slower onset, and possibly less potent effects.
CBD and other cannabinoids are fat-soluble and require a lipid precursor to activate their receptors. Hence, CBD products almost always contain a carrier oil (such as coconut oil or olive oil) to help increase the bioavailability of CBD. Consuming CBD with high-fat foods or a meal also aids in adsorption.
What is MCT oil?
MCT stands for medium-chain triglycerides, and is a common type of carrier oil mixed with CBD products. MCT oil most often comes from palm oil or coconut oil. In its full raw form, coconut oil contains both long and medium chain triglycerides, but can be processed down to MCT only – which is what makes it stay liquid at room temperature.
MCT oil is low in cholesterol and less likely to cause weight gain than long-chain triglycerides, making it popular with the keto crowd. It is also highly bioavailable and readily increases the absorption of CBD. However, MCT can cause an upset stomach for some people (especially in large quantities). If you are sensitive to coconut oil or MCT, consider trying Green Gorilla CBD oil. They’re a reputable, well-rated, certified organic CBD brand that uses olive oil instead. (Use code “Deannacat20” to save 20%)
What if I don’t feel anything when I take CBD oil?
I’ve heard this quite a few times, and there could be a number of factors at play! First, consider the potency of the CBD oil you’re taking. Are you following the recommended dosage? Try using a tad more and see if the result is different. Is your formula full-spectrum? You could also try a different brand. Also, keep in mind that CBD oil is mild and natural. Aches, pains, and stress should fade, but it is not a magic bullet!
CBD takes the edge off, but you shouldn’t feel like you’re “on something”.
If you’re new to taking CBD (or haven’t had much exposure to cannabinoids in general), there is a chance you won’t experience as sudden of changes as seasoned users. When the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is under-stimulated, it can lead to a deficiency in ECS receptors – or connection points that bind with CBD and trigger responses. The more the ECS is stimulated, the more receptors develop. (This is the same reason some people don’t “get high” the first time they use cannabis that contains THC). Finally, CBD has a cumulative effect. For the most significant results, be consistent about taking it, and give it several days to weeks to prove what it can do.
Can I use CBD oil on my skin?
Yes, you can totally apply CBD oil topically. Cannabinoids can help with a number of skin issues, as well as provide localized pain and inflammation relief. Since CBG (cannabigerol) has added anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, I love to use our NuVita CBG-infused CBD oil for acne spot-treatment.
However, if you need regular topical relief to a large area of skin or muscles, I suggest seeking out a quality CBD balm, salve, or lotion rather than using your precious CBD oil tincture drops. Use code “DeannaCat20” to save 20% with Green Gorilla certified organic CBD Balms. Or, learn how to make your own cannabis salve here.
Is CBD oil legal?
Yes! Under the 2018 Farm Bill, it is legal to grow, process, and distribute hemp and hemp-derived CBD products within the United States – attempting to normalize hemp as an useful agricultural crop. However, hemp farms and CBD products must adhere to certain restrictions. Namely, the concentration of THC must stay below 0.3% – amongst other testing and labelling requirements. The Farm Bill allows for CBD oil to be legally purchased online and delivered to all states, though few select states still impart more strict regulations on CBD within their state.
Why is CBD oil “not approved by the FDA?”
The FDA does not review the vast majority of CBD, with the exception of a handful of prescription-level products. Consequently, you won’t see “FDA approved” on most CBD items. The FDA treats over-the-counter CBD like other wellness products – including supplements and vitamins. Rather than issuing approvals, the FDA leaves it to these producers to follow Good Manufacturing Practices in regards to purity and honest labelling. That is why it is so important to choose CBD oil brands that have excellent transparency, including third party certification and lab test results available.
Can pets take CBD oil too?
CBD can provide the same benefits for your furry friends as it does for us humans: ease pain, arthritis, anxiety, seizures, as part of a cancer treatment regimen, and more. All mammals have an endocannabinoid system after all! In fact, dogs have even more cannabinoid receptors in their brains than humans do. With that, they’re more sensitive to smaller doses of cannabis per body weight than we are. Furthermore, THC is known to be toxic to pets and can easily lead to serious health issues when consumed in large quantities. CBD on the other hand has low toxicity in all mammals. Despite a lack of pet-specific research, is generally considered safe for pets by most veterinarians.
Please note that it is incredibly important to choose CBD oil that is specifically formulated for pets. Human CBD products are too highly concentrated. Even more, select high-quality and lab tested CBD products for Fido and Figaro… because you want to be 100% sure there is less than 0.3% THC in it. Start with very low doses, and keep an eye out for adverse effects.
Seek out organic, full-spectrum, lab-tested CBD products for the highest quality and therapeutic experience possible. The information you’re looking for should be relatively easy to find, as any company “doing it right” should be proud to share that! Once you find something you feel confident in, the only way to know if it’s right for you is to give it a try. Be patient with the results – though I always feel almost immediate relief!
All in all, I hope you found this discussion on how to choose CBD oil to be both insightful and interesting. It truly does help with my anxiety, aches and pains, and sleep issues – and I can only hope that it may bring similar relief to you. If I left any questions unanswered, please feel free to ask them in the comments below. Cheers, to the power of plant medicine!
Don’t miss these related articles:
- CBD 101: Uses, Health Benefits & Precautions of Hemp
- How to Grow Cannabis Organically: Seeds, Soil, Containers & Care
- How to Make Homemade Cannabis Oil (CBD or THC)
- Homemade Cannabis Salve Recipe