When looking for CBD products you will notice ralot of websites mention ‘certificates of analysis’ or ‘third party lab reports’. Now you may think that these are just unimportant details about CBD and isn't something you have to think about.
Certificates of analysis (COA's for short) are actually one of the most important pieces of information available for CBD users. The industry is still relatively new and with it being largely unregulated, there are companies and individuals that take advantage of this by selling low-quality or falsely advertised products.
As you would be aware of, it is important to know what you are buying. Before making a purchase you have to think “is it what it claims to be?”. Here at Natural Hemp Co., we believe it is important to be clear and honest in everything we do. This means providing customers with complete access to all the information you could want about our CBD.
Lab testing is a key part of this. They give an independent (third party) analysis of what is contained in each batch of a product. This allows us to demonstrate that the products we stock are genuine, free of contaminants and contain legal levels of controlled substances such as THC and CBN.
Why are certificates of analysis needed?
The value of a COA is that they are completed by an independent lab and can give an accurate picture of what is contained in each and every product. We should be able to take labels at face value, but recent product tests have found that even the labels of popular brands may contain inaccuracies (Gibbs, 2019).
Third-party certificates give a reliable, independent confirmation that the advertised cannabinoids are present in the amounts claimed. Phrases like full-spectrum, broad-spectrum and isolate can also be confirmed from a quick inspection of the certificates.
They also allow you, as a consumer, to be fully aware that the product does not contain any dangerous substances. Hemp is a bio-accumulator, which means that it takes in compounds from the environment faster than it gives them out, resulting in the potential build-up of unsafe levels of heavy metals and pesticides (Mead, 2016). Effective extraction methods should lower these levels and lab tests can confirm that the product is safe for human consumption.
What do lab reports content contain?
While certificates of analysis are incredibly useful and necessary, they can vary in content, quality and presentation. Some will only include information about the cannabinoids present in the sample. Others include additional information such as the results of a visual inspection in pictures, a profile of the substances in the product and their quantities, Other certificates include screening for contaminants like pesticides and heavy metals.
1. Visual inspection
This is the first test conducted by the lab and it is the simplest. They look at the oil and record what they see. They will state if it’s clear, what colour it is, how thick it is and if they see anything floating in it. Sometimes this is done by eye and other times it can be inspected under a microscope.
2. Cannabinoid Profile
To find the key information, start by looking at the cannabinoid profile. You will see a list of cannabinoids such as CBD (cannabidiol), CBG (cannabigerol), CBC (cannabichromene), CBN (cannabinol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). Next to them will be the amount of each one found by the analysis.
1. The amount of CBD should match the amount on the product label.
2. Any trace of THC should not be greater than 1mg per container (Home Office). If there are different types of THC listed such as Δ9-THC or THCA, combined they should total less than 1mg.
3. The amount of CBN should also be less than 1mg per container.
4. This list may also display other substances like terpenes. Small amounts of these will improve the overall effect of the product. You may see terpenes such as linalool, myrcene, pinene and β-caryophyllene (Gallily, 2018).
4. Check for contaminants
This is a record of the amount of any chemicals found haven’t been listed as ingredients. If anything is found, the amount will be listed. Some labs will indicate if it exceeds a safe level. If you find a contaminant listed and you are unsure if it is safe, it is always worth researching to find out.
Do they back up products that are full-spectrum, broad-spectrum or isolate?
These are words that are often included on the packaging to describe the number of beneficial parts contained in the CBD.
Full-spectrum: Products labelled as full-spectrum should contain all the cannabinoids that were present in the hemp plant including THC. When you look at the COA the largest amount should be CBD and you should see 5 or 6 other cannabinoids recorded and having small or trace amounts.
Broad-spectrum: These products should also contain a range of cannabinoids, except for THC. When you see a phrase like ‘broad-spectrum’ it is always worth checking the COA to see that the lab tests back it up.
CBD Isolate: Lab tests on isolated products should show that CBD is the only cannabinoid present.
If products that claim to be broad or full spectrum don’t have a range of cannabinoids on the certificates of analysis, it could be for several reasons:
- The extract used to make the product was full-spectrum but during the process some of the other elements were removed. If the full range of cannabinoids isn’t specified on the bottle it isn’t a true full-spectrum product.
- The trace amounts of other substances are so small they haven’t registered in the analysis. This can happen and even tiny amounts make the product full-spectrum so if you suspect this is the case talk to the supplier and see what they have to say.
- The claims are made in error, intentionally or not, this is a sign to leave this product on the shelf and go look elsewhere.