Hemp 101  |  How to

How to Shop for High Quality CBD

How to Shop for High Quality CBD

CBD, short for cannabidiol, is one of the fastest-growing industries right now, and with good reason! It seems like CBD is being praised for everything, like better sleep or less anxiety, and there are new brands popping up every day to deliver CBD’s excellent benefits.

CBD is derived from the cannabis plant, but don’t worry. As of 2018, it’s 100% legal everywhere, and can be purchased online, as well as in stores. Since it’s still a new industry, however, it continues to have a lot of unknowns and remains largely unregulated. 

Though there are many safe and trustworthy CBD brands on the market seeking to transform the lives of their customers, there are also many shady vendors out there just looking to make a quick buck.  Since you’ve landed here, you must be considering trying CBD, but how do you know how to find a high-quality CBD product and not get scammed?  

There are a few ways to determine if the CBD product you’re considering is high-quality. The product itself should meet a few basic guidelines, but we also can look to the brand producing the item as they should be following these guidelines, too. 

Hand in cannabis plant

1. Choose products derived from domestically grown hemp

Hemp grown in the United States is often said to be the best in class. According to Farm Progress, North America has 17% of the world’s arable land, meaning a huge chunk of viable soil is in the United States. Though many states have great hemp crops, the soil of Colorado is especially trusted for growing hemp due to an established hemp program with reliable rules and regulations. 

Other regions, like the EU and Canada, are also known to produce high-quality hemp products. The laws surrounding cannabis are different everywhere, so make sure you’re abiding by your area’s regulations before purchasing CBD.

The U.S. doesn’t produce the same quantities of hemp that other countries produce, mainly because American hemp is usually focused on the therapeutics market.  Other countries tend to focus more on textile and hemp fiber, while the United States has really dominated the CBD wellness space in the last few years. In the past, the United States has largely imported other forms of hemp from foreign nations, but the United States did recently quickly rise to be the third-largest producer of hemp in the world, and effectively outranked countries like France and Chile. If your CBD product is derived from hemp grown in the United States, you can rest assured it’s got good roots.


2. Check the Certificate of Analysis (COA)

How do you know exactly what’s in your CBD product? Unless you’re provided a third-party certificate of analysis (COA) - you don’t. 

A certificate of analysis brings a new level of transparency to consumer packaged goods, specifically CBD and other cannabis-derived products. Identifying the product’s cannabinoid content is the primary reason for COAs, however many reports go even deeper and look at things like pesticide levels, solvent residue and more. In other words, a certificate of analysis is an in-depth lab report that gives you an inside look at the product inside the bottle.

A CBD company can provide a COA with the CBD and THC dosage, but it doesn't mean they actually tested the product for cleanliness. Hemp is highly absorbent and leeches everything from the soil it’s grown in -- good and bad. It is important consumers advocate beyond potency and seek brands that define quality in broader terms that also make it safe for consumption.
High-quality CBD brands should always make a third-party certificate of analysis easily accessible to you. Transparency should be the standard of any CBD brand in existence. It shouldn’t be seen as special to put everything out there, but should be a requirement. Some brands provide a batch-specific COA to their customers upon purchase, however a COA should be made public to everyone. This speaks volumes about the company’s transparency. If they’ve got nothing to hide, why hide it? 

What to look for on the COA: 

    • Third-Party Lab Name: It is important that the COA is from a third-party lab, and not just the brand’s in-house testing. While in-house testing is great, a third-party lab ensures the results aren’t biased. Be sure to verify the name of the lab on the COA, which is generally located in large letters at the top of the report. 

    • CBD Dosage: The amount of CBD (and other cannabinoids’ content) listed on the COA needs to be close to the dosage indicated on the product’s label, with only a slight variance, if any. Experts agree that a 10%-15% variance from lab to label is generally seen as acceptable, but a discrepancy greater than that should be avoided.

    • THC Amount: The amount of THC in a CBD product is also important for people to know, and a COA can easily provide that information. Some are sensitive to THC, and should ensure that  the label matches the lab result.

    • Pesticides & Heavy Metals Levels: Inhaling pesticides can cause serious health problems, like respiratory issues and Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS). This is an indication of the quality of the cultivation practices and soil quality of the grower. Natural pesticides like terpenes are okay, however keep an eye out for frequently used pesticides lik azadirachtin found in neem oil, as it is believed to cause

    • Microbials: Microbials are single-cell microorganisms, or microbes, like E. coli that can be found in cannabis and other plants that can cause intestinal issues and harm the immune system. In most states, there are cannabis regulations that require producers to test for total microbials and limit the amount available. This is especially a good thing to check when purchasing flower products like pre-rolls.

    • Residual Solvents: For extracted products like tinctures, you’ll want to ensure there are no residual solvents. This proves that the hemp has been grown in clean soil.

    Organic CBD Oil

    3. Go with a brand that is USDA certified organic 

    Due to the rapidly growing research against pesticide use more and more people are opting for organic food and products when possible. According to Consumer Reports’ senior policy analyst, Charlotte Vallaeys, “CR recommends buying organic when possible, to reduce your pesticide exposure and protect the environment and farm workers.”  

    Devon Payne-Sturges, associate professor at the University of Maryland School of Public Health, told Consumer Reports, “Pesticides are chemicals that are specifically designed to kill living organisms. Some of the clearest evidence of harm comes from people who work with pesticides or live in agricultural areas. The Environmental Protection Agency says agricultural pesticide exposure is tied to asthma, bronchitis, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Parkinson’s disease, and prostate and lung cancers.”

    Furthermore, a 2004 review co-authored by the National Cancer Institute concluded that “epidemiologic studies of cancer and neurologic disease suggest that human health effects occur at current exposure levels in occupational and environmental settings.” 

    Given all of this, consumers are becoming more health conscious and prioritizing that their products are USDA certified organic. We’re proud that Toast’s tinctures are USDA certified organic, and the same certified organic full spectrum CBD oil is used in our chocolates. 

    Choosing a CBD brand with certified organic ingredients guarantees that you’re receiving a high-quality CBD product, and that you can rest easy knowing there is a limited amount of pesticide residue in your product. Organic farming is also thought to be a better choice for the environment, so if sustainability is your jam, give some love to planet Earth and choose a certified organic CBD brand.


    4. Pick a CBD brand that aims to educate 

    Knowledge is power, and it’s important that CBD brands put that power in the hands of their customers. The CBD industry is in its infancy, and while it has gained much deserved recognition, the explosion of a new industry has come with a lot of questions. 

     Some of the most frequent questions we hear are:

    • How much CBD should I be taking?  
    • What kind of CBD product is right for me? 
    • Will CBD get me high? 
    • Can I fail a drug test from CBD? 
    • How often do I take CBD?

    Your CBD brand needs to be answering these questions before they’re even asked. Just as your brand should be transparent about what goes into their products, they should also be transparent about how their product will affect you. You should not have to scour the darkweb to find an answer to your most pressing CBD questions. Nobody should know CBD better than them, and a high-quality CBD product comes from a brand that aims to educate. 

    Take a look at the website of the brand you’re interested in. What kind of information are they providing about CBD, and what is on their social media pages? Is there a blog in place that is updated regularly? If there isn’t a blog, how else are they educating and informing their customer base? Providing regular, scientifically-backed content is key to educating consumers and producing a great product. 

    Make sure the CBD brand you support is doing their part to support you, as well. It is also important that they are doing so from a non-biased position, and providing additional resources to back up their claims. 

    Any CBD brand can talk about how great their product is, but a reputable brand will provide proof. The information a CBD brand provides to you should be easily verifiable by reputable sources, like reputable studies and science. 

    5. Talk to your doctor 

    You should always talk to your doctor before introducing CBD into your routine. While CBD is generally deemed as safe, it can potentially interact with some medications. Talking to a CBD-educated doctor that knows your medical history is vital to choosing a high-quality CBD product that meets your needs. 


    Toast Products

    The Toast Promise

    If you’re looking for a brand that checks off all of the guidelines mentioned above, you’ve come to the right place. Toast was born in Aspen and formulated in the heart of the Colorado Rockies, and we continue to source hemp from only the best farms in the United States. Every Toast product comes with a third-party COA, so you can feel at ease with the contents of each carefully crafted Toast offering. As we mentioned, all of Toast’s CBD oils are USDA certified organic, and each small batch is tested for over 60 pesticides and 19 solvents, ensuring a superior product and elevated experience every time.