How to Choose a CBD Oil

4 Min Read

Since the passage of the Farm Bill—a term which references a piece of legislation passed in 2018 that removed hemp as an illegal substance federally—the marketplace has been flooded with a never-ending amount of CBD (cannabidiol) products.

While this is great news for consumers who are interested in obtaining the health benefits this particular hemp plant extract has to offer the body’s endocannabinoid system, it has also created somewhat of an issue.

Because CBD products are not yet regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), not all brands or products can be trusted for their safety or effectiveness. This leaves it up to the consumer (you) to do enough homework to differentiate one from the other.

But how do you tell which CBD products will likely do what they say from those that you’re probably best avoiding because, not only do they not work, but they could potentially do you harm?

Here are a few factors to consider.

Where the hemp is sourced

Any gardener will tell you that the quality of the soil you use to grow a plant is extremely important because the substances in the dirt ultimately impact the quality of the fruits, vegetables, seeds, or nuts that particular piece of vegetation bears. The same is true with regard to the cannabis plant.

The better the soil the hemp is grown in, the lower the risk of contaminants such as pollutants and heavy metals being transferred into the CBD product. Additionally, the conditions a hemp plant is grown in not only determine whether the hemp is high quality, thus more effective, but it can also impact how much tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) the plant, and ultimately the CBD product, contains.

This is critical since THC is the one cannabinoid responsible for providing psychoactive effects. Though some CBD users don’t mind experiencing mind-altering side effects, others simply want to take the CBD oil because it helps treat their medical conditions without having to worry about whether it is changing the way they act and think.

Additionally, if the CBD product contains a higher level of THC—some contain one-tenth of the THC found in medical marijuana—it is possible to test positive for this substance on a drug test according to workplace safety and compliance service provider DISA Global Solutions. [1] In positions that require regular and/or random testing, like law enforcement and driving positions, this could put the individual’s job (and career) at risk.

How much THC is in the product can also determine whether the CBD oil is legal. For a plant to be considered ‘industrial hemp’ under the law, thus exempting it from being considered illegal under the Controlled Substances Act, it cannot contain more than 0.3 percent THC.

To better ensure that your hemp is sourced in a way that both decreases contaminants and doesn’t violate the nation’s legal standards for THC, it’s best to buy CBD products that are made from hemp that is sourced in America.

Oftentimes, this means buying directly from the U.S.-based manufacturer and staying away from the cheap CBD products available on e-commerce sites like Amazon.

Quality of the CBD strain

Another factor to consider is the quality of the strain itself as the hemp oil experts at Leafly explain that “great cannabis oil is sourced from clean, well-grown cannabis that is rich in cannabinoids and terpenes.” [2]

The cannabinoids Leafly is referring to consist not only of CBD but also other health-promoting cannabinoids like cannabigerol (CBG) and cannabichromene (CBC). Terpenes are the hemp extracts responsible for the different smells of the varying strains.

Leafly goes on to say that strain quality is affected by genetics of the strain, how fresh the source materials are, which portion of the plant was extracted, and whether the cannabis plant was handled carefully after being harvested. All of these matter as each one can impact the total quality of the strain.

Take Spruce, for instance. This manufacturer uses a 120-year-old strain that came over during the war of 1812. That makes this strain extremely rare and it is a critical piece to why this company’s CBD oils work so well.

Whether the CBD is organic

If you’ve paid attention to the news at all, you already know that organic foods are healthier for you, thus the better choice.

This is because they provide a whole host of benefits ranging from containing fewer pesticides that can potentially hurt you to offering a higher level of nutrients. [3] Well, the same basic principles apply to organic CBD.

By choosing organic CBD oil, you’re reducing your exposure to potentially damaging contaminants. By default, this makes the product safer while also giving your body higher-quality, more cannabinoid rich CBD.

Full spectrum CBD vs CBD isolate

It’s also important to read the CBD oil label to determine whether the product you want to purchase is a full spectrum CBD oil or a CBD isolate. What’s the difference?

A full spectrum CBD oil is an oil derived from the entire hemp plant. This means that it contains not only CBD, but also a host of other beneficial cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes that research has found work together to create a more powerful impact, often referred to as the entourage effect.

CBD isolates, on the other hand, are a product that contains only one hemp extract: CBD. Certainly, CBD by itself can still potentially provide some health benefits, but it’s not near as effective at creating positive results as a CBD product that contains multiple hemp oil extracts.

CBD extraction method

CBD extraction method refers to the manner in which the CBD is taken from the hemp plant where it can then be used to create CBD oil.

Currently, some of the most common extraction methods include CO2 extraction, alcohol extraction (whether ethanol or moonshine), oil extraction, and steam. [5] Which one results in the best CBD oil?

The answer is alcohol, and Mile Hi Distilling, a provider of ethanol extraction equipment designed specifically for the cannabis industry, explains that the alcohol is first used to dissolve the resin on the buds. Then, after the buds are ground, it is used again to dissolve the oils. [6]

This extraction method results in a better full profile and enhances the CBD oil’s entourage effect.

Manufacturer's testing practices

When choosing a CBD oil, you also want to make sure the product you select was tested by a third-party lab.

The consumer justice law firm Saunders & Walker explains that “third party product testing is a quality control (QC) process that allows for an independent company (a third party) to test for any and all product quality and safety issues that may pose a risk of harm to the public.” [7]

In short, this outside testing agency is more objective, which means that, if it finds something in the product that isn’t on the label or isn’t on the label correctly, this will be exposed and lead to more accurate results.

Saunders & Walker goes on to say that third party testers also ensure that the product complies with governmental regulations. In the case of CBD oil specifically, one of these regulations would be how much THC the product contains.

Form of CBD

CBD products come in a variety of forms. There are CBD gummies, CBD capsules, CBD tinctures, CBD salves, CBD vapes, and more. Each one of these contains CBD, yet they are not all created equal.

For instance, in mid-2018, the digital news provider VICE reported that CBD vaping—which involves ingesting CBD with the help of a vaporizer—perhaps isn’t the best option, largely because vaping, in general, is under regulated. [8] This can cause users to suffer from more mild symptoms ranging from headaches and nausea to major medical issues such as seizures and loss of consciousness.

Instead, many CBD users are finding that tinctures are not only safer, but also more effective. This is because, when a dropper is used to place the hemp oil under the tongue, the benefits of CBD are more quickly realized because the CBD is able to quickly enter the bloodstream.

Also increasing the effectivity of tinctures taken this way is that it enables the CBD to bypass first pass metabolism. First pass metabolism is when a product’s effects are diluted just by going through the digestive process.

That’s why tinctures are considered more “fast-acting and potent” than CBD products taken orally, such as capsules or gummies. [9]

CBD dosage

The final factor to consider when selecting a CBD oil to address your health care issues is how much CBD is in the product you decide to use. The amount of CBD matters because, if it is too low dose, you won’t achieve your desired effects, essentially making the purchase of that particular product usage.

Instead, it’s best to choose CBD oils that are available in higher doses which are, therefore, more capable of helping you achieve relief.

On this same topic, it’s important to note that many brands have confusing dosing, increasing the likelihood that you’ll end up with an amount of CBD that does you no good. To rectify this issue, it helps to choose a product line that clearly labels its dosage amounts.

Spruce, for instance, doesn’t sell a weaker version of any of its CBD products. When you buy the 2,400 mg lab grade CBD oil, that’s what you get. There is no risk that you’ll mistakenly order a lower dose.

Putting it all together

In the end, whether you purchase your CBD oil products from the manufacturer, a dispensary, or anywhere else, there are many factors that can impact how high quality that hemp CBD product is.

With this in mind, buying quality products means choosing a CBD oil company that meets all of these basic guidelines. You’ll be glad that you did.



[1] “Will CBD Oil Result in a Positive Drug Test?” DISA Global Solutions. Jul 22, 2019.

[2] Hyde, W. “How to Identify and Shop for High-Quality Cannabis Oil.” Leafly. Jul 19, 2019.

[3] “Organic Foods: What You Need to Know.” HelpGuide. Accessed Jul 26, 2019.

[4] Gallily, R, Yekhtin, Z, & Hanus, L. “Overcoming the Bell-Shaped Dose-Response of Cannabidiol by Using Cannabis Extract Enriched in Cannabidiol.” Pharmacology & Pharmacy. Feb 2015; 6(2).

[5] “Cannabis Oil Extraction.” Project CBD. Accessed Jul 26, 2019.

[6] Ethanol Extraction. Mile Hi Distilling. Accessed Jul 26, 2019.

[7] “The Importance of Third Party Product Testing.” Saunders & Walker P.A. Accessed Jul 26, 2019.

[8] Hay, M. “Everything We Know About the Health Risks of Vaping CBD.” VICE. Aug 27, 2018.

[9] Wong, C. “What You Need to Know About Herbal Tinctures.”  Verywell Health. Jun 30, 2019.