If you’ve ever purchased or attempted to buy a CBD product online, you’ve probably encountered a lot of terms that were difficult to understand for the average consumer. The cultivation and extraction of CBD require a lot of scientific elements that don’t make much sense unless you’re a part of the hemp industry.
High-quality hemp companies typically test their products using a third-party lab to make sure they’re only of the highest purity and potency, and free of chemicals like pesticides or herbicides. When companies test their products through these labs, they typically receive something called a Certificate of Analysis or a COA.
These COA’s detail every element found in the product tested and are a company’s form of proof that their items are consistent with what they promise their customers. Unfortunately, these certificates are very hard to read unless you understand them and can be quickly glossed over by customers who don’t take the time to comprehend them.
Why Are COA’s Necessary?
New hemp companies are popping up every day, but not all of them have the best of intentions. Hemp products can easily be mislabeled or misinterpreted when consumers don’t know what to look for, and sometimes business owners have a primary goal of making money and not helping their customers feel healthier. In a labeling study done in 2017, researchers found that nearly ¾’s of CBD products are not labeled correctly online, a number that equates to almost 70% of all hemp products sold.
This mislabeling can mean that a hemp-based product contains significantly more or significantly less CBD than advertised, which can leave users either utterly unaffected by a product or overly supplemented.
Without a COA, you have no way of knowing whether or not a company is telling the truth about their product’s chemical makeup. Any contaminants or chemicals could be present in the formula, and you’re putting yourself at risk for ingesting potentially toxic materials.
How Can I Read a COA Effectively?
Before you read about any of the chemical makeup in a COA, you’ll first want to look at the company that performed the lab testing. If it’s a different company than the one you’re buying the product from, you’re in the clear. If it’s the same company, you have a problem. It’s called a third-party lab test for a reason, and if it’s an internal test, then that qualifies as a conflict of interest.
The cannabinoid profile is located in the lower half of the first page of the certificate and outlines the cannabinoids contained in the product. This list includes things like CBD, THC, and CBG. The list also shows how concentrated the cannabinoids are, so you know precisely how much CBD or THC is in the product you’re buying. The column labeled “ID” lists which cannabinoids were detected in the product, and the column labeled “Concentration” tells you exactly how many milligrams of the cannabinoid is in the formula. If the concentration is listed as “ND,” it means the cannabinoid was not detected and isn’t present in the chemical makeup. The cannabinoid profile is arguably the most critical part of a COA, as it tells you the therapeutic compounds you’ll be ingesting.
The heavy metal analysis chart shows consumers the level of heavy metals that have been detected in the formula if any. The table contains several numbers, but an essential column to look at is the last one, which shows if the level of metals is above or below the allowed limit. If the column reads all “pass,” then it means that the levels detected are safely consumable.
The pesticide analysis chart determines whether or not there are pesticides present in the hemp used to create the product, and whether or not these chemicals are at a safe level of consumption. Similar to the heavy metal analysis, the most crucial column to read is the last one, which shows if the level of pesticides is passing or failing. If the column reads “pass” all the way down, it means no significant pesticides were detected in the test. Also, the column labeled “result” will likely read “ND” or not detected all the way down.
Finally, a terpene profile will determine which terpenes are in the formula and at what concentrations. Terpenes can work synergistically with CBD to provide specific therapeutic effects, and you should do independent research to see if any particular terpenes would benefit you.