How to choose which CBD product to buy

How to choose which CBD product to buy

If you’re thinking about trying CBD, it can be overwhelming figuring out where to start. This guide is designed to help you make a more informed decision. 

Looking to buy CBD? Before you spend your money, I’m breaking down some of the important terms to know so you can make a more informed decision that’s best for your individual needs. 

However, as with any supplement, if you’re concerned about the safety of taking CBD due to current medications or medical condition, make sure to speak with your healthcare provider first. 

Hemp vs. Marijuana-Derived CBD 

When choosing a CBD product, hemp vs marijuana-derived  is one of the first decisions you’ll have to make. 

However, depending on where you live, you may not even have a choice as marijuana-derived CBD is still federally illegal, yet legal in certain states. 

If you’re curious about the difference, you can read more in a previous post

Briefly, hemp-derived CBD comes from hemp plants, which legally can only contain 0.3% THC or less in the United States. Whereas marijuana-derived CBD may have greater amounts of THC, which could be beneficial for certain conditions

Important terms to know when it comes to CBD

Similar to protein powders, there are different options of CBD products based on what all you want to be included in the product. 

But before we get to those, there are a few other terms you need to be familiar with first: 

  • Cannabinoids: THC and CBD are just two of more than 100 cannabinoids found in cannabis plants. While they each have different effects, cannabinoids affect your endocannabinoid system, which is responsible for keeping your nervous system and immune function stable.
  • Terpenes: these are another class of plant compounds that are found in pretty much any plant with a strong smell (lavender and chamomile for example also contain terpenes).

    In fact, they’re the main reason that herbs smell the way the do, and why different cannibis plants each smell slightly differently.

    In plants, these compounds help to protect against predators, but in humans they can have several benefits including helping to calm and reduce anxiety, prevent memory loss, help clear the mind, and possibly even reduce acne.
  • Flavonoids: also found in chocolate, red wine, blueberries, and other plant-based foods, these compounds have been shown to have antioxidant properties and help protect against chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. Over 20 varieties have been found in cannabis plants. 

While there are many other compounds found in cannabis plants, those three are the ones you’re likely to hear about the most. 

How to decide between broad-spectrum, full-spectrum, and isolate CBD

Okay, now back to the categories of CBD. Here are terms you’re likely to come across: 

  • Full-Spectrum CBD: these products contain CBD as well as all the other compounds in the plant, including other cannabinoids, terpenes, essential oils and flavonoids. The only difference with hemp-derived full-spectrum CBD is that the oil contains less than 0.3% TCH by weight.
  • Broad-Spectrum CBD: similar to full-spectrum, broad-spectrum CBD products contain all of the naturally occurring compounds in the cannabis plant except it’s been processed to remove THC.
  • CBD Isolate: this is the purest form of CBD in the sense that all other compounds are removed. Most CBD isolates are derived from hemp. 

So which should you choose? Here are some pros and cons to consider: 

Full-Spectrum

Pros:

  • Contains all beneficial parts of the plant, including cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, vitamins, and minerals.
  • Research suggests that CBD may be more effective when combined with these other compounds.
  • Generally less processed.

Cons:

  • May have a distinct earthy taste and smell.
  • Potential for psychoactive effects depending on the amount of THC present (more of an issue with marijuana-derived, as hemp-derived should have <0.3% THC in the US).
  • May not be legal in all 50 states.

Broad-Spectrum

Pros:

  • Also contains all the naturally occurring plant compounds like full-spectrum. However, THC has been removed.

Cons:

  • May still have a distinct flavor and taste.
  • Most research tends to be on full-spectrum or isolate.

Isolate

Pros:

  • THC-free.
  • Usually tasteless and odorless.
  • Likely the safest option for those who get drug-screened.

Cons:

  • Does not offer the individual and combined benefits of other compounds found in cannabis plants.

As you can see, there’s no “best” form. It really depends on what benefits you’re hoping to get, the laws in your state, and concern over THC levels. 

Buying CBD: what to look for on the label 

Once you’ve decided on what type of CBD oil to buy, the next decision is which brand to go with.

With the 2018 Farm Bill in effect and more and more states starting to legalize marijuana-derived products, CBD companies seem to be popping up every day. 

Whether you’re shopping online or in person, it’s important to take a look at the label. Here are the main things to look for: 

  • Type. This includes everything we discussed above: hemp vs marijuana and full, broad, or isolate.
  • Dosage. When first trying CBD, I recommend starting with a low concentrated oil to start and then increase if needed. This is also a good topic to discuss with your healthcare provider.

    While edibles make it easy to know how much you’re getting, oils can sometimes be more confusing. If you’re curious how much CBD you’re actually getting per drop be sure to check out my guide on how to calculate it. 
  • 3rd party testing. As CBD is considered a supplement, it’s currently not regulated by the FDA. However, some companies opt to have 3rd party testing done on their products. Check out my post on how to read testing reports. 

CBD Concentration

CBD Isolate Oil

Another important factor to consider is how much CBD is in the product you’re purchasing. 

There are three levels of CBD concentration: 

  1. Low Concentration: 250 – 500 mg per bottle (not per serving).

    This can be a good option if you’re new to CBD so that you can safely see how your body reacts to it. Then, once you get used to using it, you may find that you have to use a lot of the product in order to feel an effect. This is when it might be time to consider bumping up to a medium or high concentration product. 
  1. Medium Concentration: 1000 – 2000 mg per bottle

    If you use CBD on a regular basis, this may end up being the best option both in terms of saving money and not having to consume a large amount of oil (or other product type) each time. 
  1. High Concentration: 2500 – 5000 mg per bottle

    For individuals who need large or frequent amounts of CBD, high concentration may be the best option. However, I strongly discourage new CBD users from going straight to a high concentration product as it’s better to start with small amounts and then gradually work your way up.

What dose of CBD should you use? Unfortunately there’s no research right now that can answer what the best dose is.

After all, everyone’s bodies react differently to CBD and different conditions may be affected by different amounts. Additionally, the route in which you take CBD can also play a role in its effectiveness. 

What to look for on 3rd party CBD testing reports

As hemp-derived CBD is considered a supplement, it’s not regulated by the FDA

This means that companies are not required to have testing done on their products — in other words, just because a bottle says it contains CBD, there hasn’t been any actual testing to prove that it does. 

So how can you feel confident that what you’re consuming is the same thing that’s on the label?

Third-party testing. While I go in-depth in another article, the big things to look for include the amount of THC, CBD accuracy (does it match what the bottle claims), and levels of potential heavy metals. 

Where can you buy CBD products? 

Depending on where you live, you may be surprised at how many places sell CBD products. 

Many grocery stores and specialty health food stores now carry them, as do some CVS stores, TJ MAXX, and even some gas stations. 

However, just because you’re familiar with the store doesn’t mean that the products they carry are top quality. Always do your research on CBD brands before buying! 

Of course, you can also buy CBD products online directly from the brand of your choice.

Personally, I prefer this option as then I can also research the brand and pull up lab reports on the specific product that I’m thinking of buying. 

Unsure which product to get?

While there are a bunch to choose from (and more popping up every week), I’ll soon be sharing a post where I’ll talk about my go-to brand.

But regardless of my opinion, make sure to do your own research to make sure you’re picking the right product for you. 

Pin for later!

how to choose which CBD product to buy

Additional Sources: 

Clinicians’ Guide to Cannabidiol and Hemp Oils. VanDolah, Harrison J. et al. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, Volume 94, Issue 9, 1840 – 1851 https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(19)30007-2/fulltext

Corroon J, Kight R. Regulatory Status of Cannabidiol in the United States: A Perspective. Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2018;3(1):190–194. Published 2018 Sep 27. doi:10.1089/can.2018.0030 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6154432/

The information contained in this website is not intended to recommend the self-management of health problems or wellness. It is not intended to endorse or recommend any particular type of medical treatment. Should any reader have any healthcare-related questions, promptly call or consult your physician or healthcare provider. No information contained in this website should be used by any reader to disregard medical and/or health-related advice or provide a basis to delay a consultation with a physician or a qualified healthcare provider. The statements on this website have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products discussed are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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About

I’m Kelli MS, RD. As a foodie with a background in nutrition research, I’m a firm believer that what we eat affects nearly every aspect of our wellbeing, and that food should taste freaking delicious.

Welcome to New Mind Nutrition!

My name is Kelli McGrane, and I’m a Denver-based registered dietitian with a Master’s degree in nutrition.

As a foodie with a background in nutrition research, I’m a firm believer that what we eat affects nearly every aspect of our wellbeing, and that food should taste freaking delicious.

My goal with New Mind is to help you find balance in both your mind and body through nutrition research and whole foods-based recipes.