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You may have seen CBD companies talking about third-party lab testing. What does this mean? How does it work? Why is it important? CBD Lab Results: How To Read CBD Oil Third Party Lab Test Reports When it comes to finding the best CBD goods, lab reports are crucial to determine the quality of the product. Aside from As the popularity of CBD products escalates, third party lab testing has become more vital than ever.

How CBD Third-Party Testing Works & Why It’s Important

Third-party testing for CBD products exists to prove that what the company is advertising is true.

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The CBD industry is highly unregulated — resulting in unethical CBD manufacturers artificially inflating or lying about the CBD content in their products. Other companies are even selling products that may have been contaminated with heavy metals, pesticides, or other harmful ingredients.

Finding quality CBD products is a bit of a challenge for even the most informed customers.

This is where third-party testing comes in.

A reputable CBD manufacturer will send a sample of their product to a separate testing company. This company will run its own tests and provide the results.

This practice increases the trust of a CBD manufacturer because it’s less likely that a third-party company would lie on their lab tests. Many of these companies are highly regarded in the industry and have a reputation to uphold by providing consistent, accurate testing.

In this article, we’ll discuss how third-party testing works, what it typically tests for, and discuss some of the advantages and disadvantages of the practice.

Table of Contents

The Importance of Independent (Third-Party) Lab Testing

The entire purpose of third-party or independent lab testing is to provide an unbiased analysis of CBD products. These tests are used to indicate the quality, purity, and potency of a CBD sample.

Third-party testing is critical in today’s market.

The entire CBD space remains highly unregulated these days — which makes it easy for companies to lie about the quality or potency of their products. Some companies are doing it to shave dollars off their bottom line by sourcing low-quality (even contaminated) hemp. Other companies are exaggerating their cannabinoid profiles to increase sales.

It can be difficult to tell the difference between companies with strong integrity and good product from snake oils.

Any good manufacturer knows that an industry full of scammers and false advertising is not going to help them in the long term. If allowed to persist, governments may decide to step in and make processes substantially harder for them down the road.

This is why many manufacturers pay out of their own pockets to have their products tested fairly by an independent lab. These companies will display the lab results for each batch to publicly show that what they advertise on the bottle is what you’re really getting.

This is a strong indicator of integrity. Companies that don’t keep up with getting their products tested won’t get into any trouble with regulators, but it isn’t a good indicator of strong corporate integrity.

This leaves us wondering — “what do they have to hide?”

The bottom line is that if you can’t find third-party lab tests public on a company website — move on to another company.

What do Third-Party Testing Companies Test For?

There are a number of different things a third-party lab can test for. Each test needs to be run individually and will have different costs.

Here are the most common tests run by third-party laboratories on CBD products:

1. Cannabinoid Profiles

The most common test run by a third-party lab is to test for the cannabinoid profiles.

Using specialized testing techniques like high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), the concentration of cannabinoids, including CBD, THC, CBC, CBG, CBN, CBL, CBDV, and others can be quantified. This is used to confirm that the amount of CBD listed on the bottle is accurate.

The cannabinoid profiles are also important to verify the THC content is as advertised. If THC levels are too high, the product can become psychoactive.

This is undesirable and can be dangerous if the buyer doesn’t expect to get high from their CBD products. This can result in a large fine, or jail time if the user is caught driving or operating machinery while under the psychoactive influence of THC — even if it was unintentional.

2. Terpene Profiles

Terpenes are small, volatile compounds abundant in the plant world. These compounds are responsible for the characteristic smell of the cannabis plant, as well as plenty of other plants including lemons, oranges, roses, tea tree, and pine trees.

Many therapeutic benefits of the cannabis plant rely on the terpenes in the plant. Some improve the absorption of other cannabinoids like CBD, while others offer their own therapeutic benefits towards the muscle relaxant, sedative, stimulating, or anti-nausea effects of CBD products.

Terpenes will generally only show up in CBD products made from full-spectrum extracts since they need to be removed during the manufacturing process for CBD isolates.

Therefore, only companies selling CBD products made from full-spectrum extracts will get the terpene content tested by third-party labs. Even among these companies, it’s rare to test for terpenes.

List of common terpenes in the cannabis plant

3. Heavy Metals

Cannabis is a bioaccumulator — meaning that it has the ability to pull nutrients out of the soil and concentrate them in its stems and leaves.

Unfortunately, this means it also concentrates harmful compounds from the soil such as heavy metals. If consumed, these compounds can cause inflammation and destruction to cell structures in the body and should be avoided at all costs.

As soil contamination becomes more common, it’s very important to be wary of heavy metal contamination in plant-based nutritional supplements — especially from bio-accumulators such as cannabis.

Most testing facilities will look for the presence of the following heavy metals:

4. Organic Solvents

Organic solvent testing is becoming less popular these days because most CBD manufacturers are no longer using solvents to extract the cannabinoids from the hemp plant.

Newer technologies like supercritical CO2 is much safer than solvent-based extractions because it doesn’t require the use of toxic solvents to achieve an efficient extraction.

Nevertheless, many third-party labs will test for the presence of organic solvents just to make sure the products are free from these harmful compounds.

(Note that this test shows no solvents were contained in this sample)

5. Biological Contaminants

The last item third-party labs will test for is biological contaminants.

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This includes molds, fungi, parasites, and bacteria that may have infected the plant material. If contaminated hemp goes through the extraction process it will contaminate the final product.

Biological contaminants can trigger allergic reactions, or cause direct harm to the end-user. It’s very important that all CBD products you consume are free from these contaminants.

How Does Third-Party Testing Work?

Testing CBD products can be done in several different ways and there are no official regulations defining how companies need to test these products.

With that said, the industry standard is HPLC (high-performance liquid chromatography) due to its cost-effectiveness and high accuracy.

1. HPLC Testing (High-Performance Liquid Chromatography)

HPLC is the standard method used to test the concentration of cannabinoids in the cannabis plant.

Here’s how it works;

A small sample is dissolved in a solvent (typically, ethanol).

Once dissolved, it’s put into a long, thin tube, and the pressure is increased. This causes all the individual compounds to separate according to their weight. Heavier molecules sink, while lighter compounds float.

At the end of the tube is a small exit hole for the compounds to exit and a UV light detector.

The density of the compounds leaving the tube is measured according to their density as measured by their ability to absorb UV light. THC and CBD have different densities, and will, therefore, leave the end of the tube at different times.

As different compounds leave the tube one by one, the quantities are measured.

By matching up the amount of each density leaving the tube with known densities of the different cannabinoids, we can get accurate concentrations of each.

2. PCR Testing (Polymerase Chain Reactions)

PCRs are a fast and inexpensive testing option primarily used to test for biological contamination.

This type of testing analyzes strands of DNA in a sample and matches it up with known DNA patterns of bacterial, fungal, and protozoal bacteria.

Depending on what species show up, and in what amounts, third-party labs can provide information on how contaminated a sample may be.

3. MS Testing (Mass Spectrometry)

Mass spectrometry is done by first ionizing a test sample. Once ionization is complete, the sample is passed through electromagnetic fields. This separates individual components and plots them on a graph. By comparing where each compound falls on a graph with the known masses, we can identify the individual compounds in the test sample.

MS testing is primarily used to identify the presence of heavy metal contaminants, but can also be used to identify cannabinoid profiles.

4. NMR Testing (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy)

Samples are placed in a magnetic field and then bombarded with radio waves. Changes in the magnetic fields can be used to determine different compounds in each sample.

These tests are much faster than HPLC and require fewer solvents to work — making these tests significantly cheaper as well. Unfortunately, NMR isn’t nearly as accurate as HPLC.

How Much Does Third-Party Testing Cost?

Cannabis testing can vary significantly depending on the lab, the type of tests being applied, and how many tests are performed.

Most companies will charge around $50 per individual test on a sample.

For more comprehensive testing, involving multiple different types of tests, price bundles can range from $100 – $300.

The low cost of third-party testing is fairly reasonable for companies to use independent lab testing on each batch of product their selling.

Despite the cost-effectiveness of cannabis testing, a shocking number of companies choose to forgo this step.

Why You Should Only Purchase CBD From Companies That Provide Third-Party Test Results Publically

Third-party testing isn’t required from a company to sell its products. Yet, most of the best CBD manufacturers are having it done anyway. This is a great sign of the integrity of the company.

Anybody can buy cheap hemp oils and slap an attractive label on them. They can advertise whatever cannabinoid profiles they want. Nobody is going to follow up with these claims.

Unfortunately, this means there are a lot of trash CBD oils on the market. Companies are selling oils with minuscule CBD levels as “high potency”, or oils contaminated with molds, bacteria, pesticides, or heavy metals — which can actually be harmful to your health.

If a manufacturer does everything it can to create top-notch products, the only way to really prove this and separate themselves from unethical manufacturers is through independent lab testing.

These companies test for pesticides, solvents, cannabinoid profiles, terpene profiles, and heavy metal contamination.

In an industry where CBD remains so unregulated — we highly recommend you only buy from companies that are actively testing their products by unaffiliated labs.

CBD Lab Results: How To Read CBD Oil Third Party Lab Test Reports

When it comes to finding the best CBD goods, lab reports are crucial to determine the quality of the product. Aside from providing transparency, lab reports allow us to find out whether or not a particular product is free of chemicals, toxins, and other possible harmful or synthetic substances.

The only way to know what’s inside your cannabidiol-infused product is to read CBD oil third-party lab reports. As you begin to explore the abundance of CBD products available on the market, you’ll soon notice that some manufacturers provide 3rd party lab reports, which are crucial to know if you’re buying top-notch CBD oil.

Why Should You Read CBD Lab Reports?

First of all: what are 3rd party lab reports? These are generated by an independent company, which makes them more trustworthy, as the lab is fully responsible for the results.

As the CBD market is growing, there are no content or quality controls on CBD products sold these days. Considering that the cannabidiol industry is growing extremely fast, there are dozens of new manufacturers and products popping up on the market every month.

Unfortunately, there is a range of poor quality, unlabeled CBD products sold, some of which even contain harmful synthetics. Thus, when buying CBD oil, you need to be extra careful.

Not only do Lab reports tell us about the content of the product, but they also provide us with information on the level of CBD, or does the product contain additional cannabinoids, terpenes, potency, or toxins you’re trying to avoid – lab reports reflect the content of the product.

What Active Compounds to Look for in a CBD Lab Report?

Now that you know why it’s important to buy products with third-party lab reports, let’s go over some of the most important compounds of a lab report to find out what to look for in such a document.

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Potency

One of the most important things to look for is the test for potency to find out the exact amount of cannabinoids in a particular product. Although CBD is the main ingredient of cannabidiol-infused goods, it’s not the only compound present in cannabis. Thus, lab tests are crucial to determine the level of cannabinoids and the potency of the product. Many manufacturers test their products for CBD, CBDA, CBC, THC, THCA, and more.

CBD Content

One of the most important things to look for in a CBD oil third-party lab report is the potency and strength of CBD as well as the content. This is usually listed as an mg/g or shown in percents. Now, the more CBD, the stronger the oil. In other words, one drop of a more potent CBD oil will contain more cannabidiol than an equal size serving of a product with less CBD.

Is more concentrated CBD oil better? For some people yes, as they may need more cannabinoids, and they can only absorb that much fluid. Thus, in terms of treating medical conditions with high concentrations of cannabidiol, it’s recommended to use a more potent CBD oil [1].

Other Cannabinoids (full spectrum vs. isolate)

As for other cannabinoids, the product may contain a various range of different active compounds. Now, we can divide three types of CBD-infused products:

  • Full spectrum product, which contains a wide range of cannabinoids, including THC. These goodies come with a mix of cannabinoids and terpenes.
  • Broad spectrum product, containing a range of cannabinoids, but no THC.
  • An isolate-based product, which comes only with CBD and no other compounds such as terpenes or other cannabinoids. These products are also known as pure CBD, or 100% CBD.

As for the THC, make sure you’re getting enough for your condition, but not enough to get high, especially if you’re looking for a job. If you need to pass a drug test, consider buying a CBD isolate or a full/broad-spectrum extract with only trace amounts of THC.

Although CBD and THC are the most well-known cannabinoids, there are a lot more active compounds in the cannabis plant. These may be found in smaller amounts, but they still induce a positive reaction in the body when combined with CBD, which is often referred to by cannabis breeders and geneticists as the entourage effect [2].

Terpene Profile

Terpenes are the compounds responsible for the distinctive flavors and the color of the final product. Moreover, these come with a range of beneficial effects, too. Manufacturers test their goods for terpenes to make sure they come with the desired consistency.

These aromatic oils found in cannabis are incorporated into full-spectrum CBD extracts and are usually measured as parts per million (PPM).

Terpenes like linalool and myrcene have sedative properties, which is why certain cannabis strains are more calming than others – CBD oil goes by the same token. As for other known terpenes, pinene, for example, is known to aid memory.

Keep in mind that not all labs conduct tests for terpene profiles, but it doesn’t mean the product doesn’t contain these compounds. Thus, if you want to know more about the product, consider contacting the manufacturer directly to learn more about terpenes and other compounds.

Microbes

There is an abundance of various species of microbial organisms out there; some of them are good, but others are bad. Generally, it’s good to avoid any microbes in your cannabidiol-infused products. Thus, if any living organisms show up in the third-party lab report, it’s best to change your provider.

To be more precise, the tests verify the presence of such microbes as molds, yeast, salmonella, and E-coli. The result should say “none detected”.

Pesticides

Obviously, it’s important to know whether or not the product contains harmful pesticides, fertilizers, growth hormones, or herbicides that could induce negative side effects. If the lab report shows any levels of these substances, you should give the product a “fail” status right away. However, once the report confirms that your CBD oil is pesticide-free, you can be sure it comes from pesticide-free grown hemp. Always buy CBD oil that is 100% free of potentially harmful ingredients [3].

Heavy Metals

Labs usually test CBD products for the following:

  • arsenic, which comes with an acceptable limit of 1.5 ppm
  • cadmium, 25 ppm
  • mercury, 15 ppm
  • lead, 5 ppm per unit of volume.

These elements are known to pose threat to human health, which is why it’s good to know if they appear in your testing sample.

Chemical Solvents

Top-notch products should be entirely solvent-free, so whenever you read a CBD oil test, look for a full analysis of residual solvents. These can be used to extract CBD from the plant and turn it into oil. Keep in mind that high concentrations of chemical solvents may lead to serious health issues.

Always make sure the lab report confirms there are no forms of glycols in the product – especially propylene glycol (PG) or polyethylene glycol (PEG). These solvents can break down into cancer-causing acetaldehyde and formaldehyde, so stay far away from such ingredients [4].

Conclusion

On the whole, reading CBD oil third-party lab reports is pretty simple, as long as you have a full understanding of the compounds that you should be looking for in a top-notch product. Plus, lab reports prove invaluable if you want to find out whether or not a particular product comes with potentially harmful substances you wouldn’t like to find in the raw material.

In addition to extremely valuable CBD, you can also expect to find other cannabinoids in your cannabidiol-infused goods. Also, lab tests verify that the sample is free from any contamination, pesticides, microbes, and heavy metals, ensuring you’re getting the best product possible.

Do you read 3rd-party lab reports before buying CBD oil?

  1. Welty T. E., Luebke A., Gidal B. E. Cannabidiol: Promise and Pitfalls. Epilepsy Currents: Reviews and Critical Analysis (2014); 14(5): 250-252. Published in October 2014.
  2. Russo E. B. Taming THC: Potential Cannabis Synergy and Phytocannabinoid-Terpenoid Entourage Effects. British Journal of Pharmacology (2011); 163(7): 1344-1364. Published in August 2011.
  3. Sullivan N., Elzinga S., Raber J. C. Determination of Pesticide Residues in Cannabis Smoke. Journal of Toxicology (2013): 378168. Published online in May 2013.
  4. Lau K., Swiney B. S., Reeves N., Noguchi K. K., Farber N. B. Propylene Glycol Produces Excessive Apoptosis in the Developing Mouse Brain, Alone and in Combination With Phenobarbital. Pediatric Research (2012); 71(1): 54-62. Published online in 2012.
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Livvy Ashton

Livvy is a registered nurse (RN) and board-certified nurse midwife (CNM) in the state of New Jersey. After giving birth to her newborn daughter, Livvy stepped down from her full-time position at the Children’s Hospital of New Jersey. This gave her the opportunity to spend more time writing articles on all topics related to pregnancy and prenatal care.

The Importance of Third Party CBD Lab Testing

For most products, customer trust is vital — and this goes doubly for any health product. Trust is elusive, and with black markets popping up almost instantly alongside the businesses they exploit, the public is understandably sceptical of many products’ purported claims.

Much of the trust in the CBD industry is built on word of mouth. The testimonials of influencers, athletes, and enthusiasts are the bedrock that the CBD industry is built on. This is further reinforced by the gradual shift in the perception of the cannabis plant, which, in less than a decade, has gone from taboo topic to a normalised political talking point.

While these factors are certainly valuable, they can only go so far. Hard, established regulations are a much more reliable way to ensure that an industry sticks to its promises. Every product you encounter has some level of regulation surrounding it. And, whether you’re conscious of it or not, this affects the way you subsequently consume these products.

(A Lack of) Regulation in the CBD Industry

The CBD industry is relatively new and it is growing fast. This presents a problem to traditional regulatory bodies. CBD has grown so fast, diversified so much, and spread so rapidly, few of these bodies have been able to keep up, and this has led to problems for business owners, the consuming public, and the industry itself:

Risks to Businesses

The CBD industry can be a tricky landscape for businesses trying to grow. In some cases — such as in the United States — this is putting CBD entrepreneurs in a precarious position. Last year, CBD cafes across New York had to endure police crack-downs thanks to the fact that the FDA had yet to approve CDB as a food additive. This essentially made CBD coffee — one of the first products to bring CBD to the mainstream — illegal.

Risks to Consumers

Of course, lack of regulation can pose risks to customers too. The growing profits of the CBD industry can be tantalizing to unethical companies who are more than willing to hawk inferior products for a quick buck. In some jurisdictions, this has become such a prevalent problem that the FDA had to issue a statement warning consumers about false claims.

Take, for example, Amazon, one of the world’s biggest online retailers. However, it has been the centre of a CBD controversy. According to their terms of service, Amazon prohibits the sale of CBD products. However, a quick search will yield dozens of results. These products were found to have little to no CBD. Thanks to the lack of regulation protecting customers, these products are more or less free to claim what they want.

Risks to the CBD Industry

Finally, this rampant lack of regulation poses a risk to the CBD industry itself. As we said above, trust is vital for any product, but it is a hard-won value. Inferior products, false claims, and besieged establishments are black stains on CBD’s reputation. If this is not addressed. Then it is simply a matter of time until customers start abandoning the industry, disillusioned and distrustful. If this were to happen, it could set the CBD industry back years.

How to Make Sure That CBD Products are Safe

The CBD industry has reacted by setting up their own regulatory alliances and mutually agreed-upon seals of approval. These are valid steps towards a more responsible industry. However, remember what we keep saying about trust? It’s safe to assume that anyone sceptical of the industry will also be somewhat sceptical of these measures.

Again, this is understandable, a seal of approval can be mocked-up by anyone. What gives it its weight, however, is the body it is attributed to. That is why some CBD companies are going the extra mile and reaching outside of their industry for an impartial eye.

Third Party Lab Testing on CBD Products

Third-party testing labs are operated by agents with no affiliation with the CBD industry. The idea is that you can trust them because they have no skin in the game, their function is to simply communicate the facts as they come across them. Thanks to the independent nature of these laboratories, it should be virtually impossible for CBD manufacturers to tamper with the results, adding yet another layer of credibility.

An independent laboratory isolates and tests the compounds found in CBD oil or any other CBD product. This allows them to put a quantifiable number onto the levels of THC and CBD in the product. This is particularly important for customers who wish to be careful about their dosages.

Labs can do much more than this, however. They also test for the levels of heavy metals, pesticides, and other toxins that may be present in a product. Hemp is notoriously good at absorbing anything it comes into contact with as it grows. These tests can ensure that a CBD manufacturer is cultivating their product in a safe and clean environment.

What Does A Lab Test Look Like?

Laboratory tests are extremely rigorous. Every aspect of the product is broken down and analysed.

Potency testing measures the active cannabinoids in a product, allowing users to predict the strength and efficacy of it.

Terpene level testing measures the presence of the part of the hemp plant that produces its distinctive taste and smell

Solvent contamination testing is of particular importance. Many CBD oil products are created through an extraction process that uses solvents, and this test indicates how carefully controlled that process is.

Pesticide and Heavy Metal Testing as we mentioned above, hemp is notorious for its ability to absorb the qualities of the soil it is cultivated in. While this has many, many beneficial uses, it can also lead to dangerous contamination if it isn’t grown in safe conditions.

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