Updated: Oct 20
If you have been trying to find good CBD, the first place to look is at a company that provides a COA. In the world of hemp and CBD products, a certificate of analysis (or “COA” for short) is proof that testing has been carried out and the manufacturer, farmer, or product developer has verified proper handling and safety. A full panel of tests for products containing CBD should include tests for pesticides, heavy metals, bacterial/microbial growth, mycotoxins, and of course... potency.
Currently, there are guidelines from the FDA/USDA regarding only THC potency in the original plant or product. This is because “industrial hemp” or CBD products need to be tested at 0.3% or below THC by dry weight at or around harvest and after manufacturing. A test showing THC levels above 0.3% is deemed a controlled substance by the DEA. It is important to note that testing levels and parameters for hemp biomass and other concentrates are set at the state level. This has been done for a few reasons.
First, the FDA does not recognize hemp-derived CBD products as “able to treat any disease or condition.” Second, Cannabis s. has a troubled past with the Federal Government, meaning approval of cannabinoid products is minimal, but CBD products are plentiful. This is one reason it can be hard to find good CBD products.
Hemp is a hyper-accumulator that gathers anything in the soil around its roots and collects it in the plant material. Heavy metals and harmful compounds can be compounded in the plant if proper soil testing or pesticide usage isn’t maintained before and during growth. The same goes for proper curing and storage of the plant after harvest. These are all aspects that either the hemp plant itself or the extraction process will compound before being passed on to the consumer.
If proper conditions aren’t met, the plant won’t be allowed to be put on the market. Now, with that being said, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty: how to read a COA.
8 to 16 cannabinoids should be listed on a potency test. Some of these concentrations will be zero but should still be listed. These cannabinoids are generally Δ⁹-THC, Δ⁸-THC, THCA, CBD, CBDA, CBG, CBGA, CBC, THCV, CBDV, CBN, and sometimes CBL & CBT. Next to these cannabinoids in a related column, you will see a unit of measurement. These come in a variety of measurements but will generally be “mg/g,” “% (w/w),” or “concentration (ug/ml).” You may also see “LOQ” (“limit of quantification”), meaning how sensitive the test is, and possibly a graphical representation of the concentration.
Let’s explain why each of these is important and how to read and apply them to your hemp products. Let’s start with “mg/g”: there are 1,000 milligrams per gram. Let’s take a tincture as an example: a 30-milliliter tincture contains approximately 28 grams of liquid oil by weight. This means that one dropper-full of a tincture (approximately 1 ml) is going to contain about 0.93 grams of oil.
(“28 grams / 30 milliliters” gives us “0.93 g/ml”)
Now, if you take two droppers full of a tincture and the COA states “CBG … 18mg/g, " you are introducing about 33.5mg of Cannabigerol into your body.
(18mg/g CBG x 0.93g/ml x 2ml = 33.48mg CBG)
This is why “mg/g” is extremely important to understand and might be the easier way to measure your dosage. This same approach can be applied to the main product label too. If you are taking two droppers full of a “1000mg CBD” tincture per day, you can assume that you are getting approximately 66mg of CBD per day.
(1000mg CBD / 30 droppers-full per bottle = 33.3mg per dose x 2 doses per day = 66.6mg per day)
Another important part of COA to understand is how it relates to your product type. As we discussed in a previous blog post, there is a difference in products that are made from isolated cannabinoids or mixtures of cannabinoids. If a product is a “full spectrum” product, but the COA shows that only CBD was found in the testing, that is not a full spectrum product. If a consumer had been taking a true full spectrum “2000mg CBD” product, that means there is 2000mg of CBD plus other cannabinoids. The product that contains only CBD will most likely not have the same effect because of the entourage effect.
Another aspect to consider is becoming familiar with what your state allows as acceptable levels of other constituents that may make it into hemp products. Some states allow certain levels of specific pesticides, and others may ban the same pesticide altogether. Luckily, a few common things are tested for by all states, including microbes (E.coli, Salmonella), mycotoxins, heavy metals, pesticides, and solvents.
At Blackhouse Botanicals, not only do we hold ourselves to high standards regarding testing our products, but we are held to some of the strictest standards for production in the country by the Utah Department of Agriculture.
Certificates of analysis give us the ability to really understand what we’re ingesting. By understanding and applying them, consumers can ensure they are getting the best quality products.
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Next time we’ll discuss different extraction and post-processing procedures and how they’re utilized across the industry.