Unless you’ve been living in a remote cave for a while, you’ll know that CBD-infused products continue to dominate the health and wellness space in the US and across the globe. We’re talking everything from CBD gummies to activewear, with CBD getting more popular by the day for its wide scope of therapeutic promise.
As this is going on at breakneck speed, many are often overwhelmed by the variety of products and companies available. Meanwhile, the hemp-derived CBD industry still waits for a federal regulatory framework by the FDA, so the responsibility of finding safe and effective products is solely on the consumer. Talk about pressure!
So, CBD may have the benefits you’ve been seeking, but it’s your job to find a reliable company to buy from and find the right product for you. For all these reasons, we’ve created a comprehensive guide on how to choose an ideal CBD product based on your needs. Read on for all this, plus tips on how to avoid bagging an ineffective or even harmful product.
Step One: Find a Trusted CBD Company
It’s all about trust here. Because with CBD companies left and right, you need a trustworthy, reliable go-to. It’s an unregulated market guys, but companies have created industry standards to gain customer trust through transparency and traceability. This is what we’re talking about, just look through this handy checklist to make sure whatever company you’re interested in checks all the boxes:
⬜ CBD sourced from US Hemp Authority-certified, non-GMO farms
⬜ CBD sourced from farms raised with strict organic farming practices or certified organic
⬜ CO2-extracted CBD
⬜ Provides independent, third-party lab testing
⬜ COAs are from an ISO 17025-accredited lab
⬜ COAs are batch-specific
⬜ COAs include the following test results:
⬜ Correct cannabinoid content
⬜ No pesticide exposure
⬜ Non-detectible heavy metals
⬜ No toxic solvent residue
⬜ No mold or mildew contamination
⬜ Products manufactured in a cGMP-certified, FDA-registered facility
Moreover, this information should be readily available on their website – and if you can’t find all the information that you’re looking for, reach out to their customer service team to follow up directly.
Step Two: Deciding On What Spectrum Is Best for You
Here’s one area of major confusion, so let us debunk it quick-smart. Hemp-derived CBD products are broken down into three spectrum classifications based on their cannabinoid content. Each category has its own pros and cons, so it’s important to understand the differences before picking your fav.
Full-spectrum CBD products contain 0.3% THC or less to stay federally legal in all 50 states (This number is 0.2% in the UK). These products also contain all the other yummy naturally occurring cannabinoids and terpenes, mimicking the whole plant profile of hemp. Most full-spectrum products out there contain distillate, meaning that the other undesirable plant material is removed. But (and this is a biggie) if you find a full-spectrum formula made with crude oil, plant waxes, and other bioactive plant material it may be an allergy concern for certain individuals.
Full-spectrum CBD is touted to offer the benefit of the entourage effect. The entourage effect is the theory that all naturally occurring plant materials found in cannabis work in gorgeous synergy. Together, they provide optimal health benefits. Including these other cannabinoids and terpenes is thought to provide further support for various conditions.
Since this product does contain minimal amounts of THC, it can trigger false positives in drug testing. So, if you’re sensitive to THC or would like to avoid THC exposure altogether, you’ll want to skip full-spectrum products.
Broad-spectrum CBD contains zero THC but has all the other naturally occurring cannabinoid and terpene content found in hemp plants. This category can also include CBD products that have multiple isolated cannabinoids but may not include the comprehensive original cannabinoid profile.
Broad-spectrum CBD offers the next best thing in terms of the entourage effect without the THC content. These products are ideal for people interested in a potentially wider scope of medicinal benefits who don’t want to risk any THC exposure. Specialty formulas are also crafted in this category with companies creating custom cannabinoid profiles from isolated cannabinoids and terpenes. These products can be used for specialized support (think specific health complaints). Broad-spectrum is also ideal for those expecting drug testing or who have other adversities to THC exposure.
Tip: Since the hemp-derived CBD industry is currently unregulated, we always recommend avoiding CBD if you’re undergoing drug testing. Broad-spectrum and isolate CBD products shouldn’t contain any THC but with no regulatory overhead, there have been cases reported of companies producing products with differing cannabinoid content than marketed. If you can’t avoid CBD, make sure you’re checking batch-specific COAs for your product to make sure there’s no THC. Topicals would also be a safer route if you’re in this conundrum.
The omission of THC may reduce the potential therapeutic promise that these products have to offer. If you have a more serious, chronic condition, it may require a full-spectrum product or even work up to a marijuana-derived CBD product for symptom management. Of course, this differs from person to person and may count out those without access to legal marijuana.
CBD isolate is CBD in its isolated form, featuring 99+% pure CBD. Before formulation, CBD isolate is generally extracted into a crystalline white powder form. This one contains no other naturally occurring cannabinoids, terpenes, or plant material.
CBD isolate is the purest form of CBD available, offering no risk of allergies to any other plant material. It is ideal for individuals solely looking for CBD without the risk of exposure to THC or any other cannabinoids. It also has the same versatility as full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD in terms of formulation – as in, all three types of CBD can be used to produce a wide array of product types.
CBD isolate lacks the benefit of the entourage effect, which may result in requiring larger doses to experience similar relief as full-spectrum or even broad-spectrum products. With over one hundred naturally occurring cannabinoids found in cannabis, each cannabinoid will have both overlapping as well as exclusive potential therapeutic properties.
Step Three: Choosing the Best Way To Use It
The cool thing about CBD is that it interacts with your endocannabinoid system which has cannabinoid receptors located throughout the body. Why does that matter? Well, this whole thing makes different administration methods possible. As with spectrum differences, each unique way of using CBD has its own pros and cons. Here you need to think about personal preference and budget along with the conditions you’re looking to support to choose your perfect CBD method.
Yep, that word sounds weird, but actually, intranasal CBD refers to anything that’s smoked, vaped, or inhaled. It’s reigned as the most popular method for consuming cannabis for centuries for a reason. With the highest bioavailability available, intranasal CBD has some exclusive benefits to offer.
Studies report that intranasal bioavailability ranges from 34% to 46%, with some studies as high as 56%. How? As CBD enters the bloodstream directly from the lungs, the effects are felt within 10 minutes or less. Better bioavailability means quicker effects, more accurate dosage, and a minimized waste of resources.
Smoking anything can cause negative, long-term side effects. CBD vape products may provide a less risk-averse option than smoking flower, however, consumers need to be vigilant when purchasing products. There are unfortunately CBD vape products formulated with known toxic fillers like PG, VG, and MCT oil. Intranasal CBD can also be a less approachable administration method for many.
Sublingual CBD refers to CBD oils and tinctures that are taken sublingually (AKA droppers under the tongue). The oil must be held under the tongue for at least 60 to 90 seconds to allow the CBD to properly be absorbed through the oral tissue. Sublingual products are the most popular administration method for CBD.
Holding the CBD underneath the tongue allows it to be absorbed through the sublingual gland in which the CBD enters the bloodstream. While it isn’t as quick as intranasal CBD, sublingual administration can still allow the effects to be felt within 20 minutes or so. The bioavailability range of sublingual products is between 13% and 19% but they need to be taken just right, or you’ll be getting what’s classified as oral ingestion, which is considerably less.
CBD tinctures are formulated with carrier oils to improve the bioavailability of the product. Some of these products are formulated with inflammatory seeds and vegetable oils, and more and more studies are showing these to be a driver of serious health risks. Always aim to avoid this by reviewing the other ingredients in your tincture formula. Also, if you swallow too soon, you’ll be orally ingesting your CBD oil, which equals the lowest bioavailability and slowest effects.
Ingestible CBD covers anything you take orally, which in CBD terms means gummies, capsules, and edibles. This is a great way to take your CBD if you’re after convenience and approachability, but note, that it does deeply lack in terms of bioavailability and dosage accuracy.
Popular with CBD newbies, it’s your regular method for taking any kind of supplement. If you’re familiar with all that and you don’t like the taste of CBD oil, edibles and capsules give you all the lifestyle benefits you need.
The not-so-good news is when you take CBD orally, it has to go through your digestive system before reaching the bloodstream. This means two things – it can take up to two hours for the effects to kick in, and much of the CBD can be lost to the liver and digestive tract. Oral bioavailability is between 10% and 20%, with some studies reporting as low as 6%. This impacts dosage accuracy, so you’re prioritizing taste and convenience over effectiveness.
Topical CBD is when you apply CBD to the skin with creams, lotions, and salves. This one is unique too because, unlike intranasal, sublingual, or ingestible CBD, topical CBD doesn’t engage with the cannabinoid receptors located in your peripheral nervous system. While it only interacts with the local cannabinoid receptors found in the skin, a negligible amount actually makes it to the bloodstream. So, it’s no shocker that the bioavailability of topical CBD hasn’t been quantified yet.
Topical CBD is a cool option for targeted pain relief in specific areas of the body like sore muscles or inflamed joints. Since a very minimal amount of CBD makes it past all three layers of the skin to the bloodstream, it shouldn’t cause any drug interactions. Another nice-to-know – this form of CBD may also be used in therapeutic roles for certain skin conditions.
Tip: While topical CBD shouldn’t cause any drug interactions, we always say – speak to your doctor first! Here’s why: like grapefruit, CBD temporarily deactivates the cytochrome p450 system responsible for metabolizing most pharmaceuticals. It can be taken safely with certain medications under doctor supervision, so please discuss this with your healthcare provider.
Since topical CBD only interacts with the local cannabinoid receptors in your skin, it’s ineffective in relieving conditions that need that antagonist role to cannabinoid receptors found in the central nervous system and brain. That means that it won’t offer any therapeutic promise for neurological conditions, cardiovascular conditions, and so on. Like sublingual application, topical administration relies on the perfect technique to be effective. It sounds weird, but the skin is limited when it comes to being porous (we know, despite having pores!) meaning that you’ll need to apply CBD topicals liberally and vigorously into desired areas to make sure it is adequately absorbed.
CBD suppositories are designed for either anal or vaginal administration. Funny, this is the least popular administration method, but these specialty products are useful for specific support. For example, these suppositories are believed to be concentrated, localized topicals for providing promising relief for PMS, lower back pain, and more.
CBD suppositories may offer 25% to 50% more bioavailability than oral administration when applied rectally. Both vaginal and anal administration has an average of 13.5% bioavailability but more importantly, they have the potential for concentrated topical pain and inflammatory relief for the lower body region. Anecdotal accounts report superior results for alleviating the symptoms of PMS, menopause, lower back pain, gastrointestinal issues, and other lower-body ailments.
Yep, as we say, this is the least popular administration method, but suppositories are often purchased for more specialized, specific concerns located in the lower body. This one is data-thin too, with most of the research conducted on CBD centering on other administration methods.
Step Four: Using Your Chosen CBD Product
We advocate self-experimentation as the key to finding the best CBD match for you. As with any new supplementation, you should geek out and keep a journal writing down the timing, dosage, and how you feel. This helps you clearly track the benefits and if you need to make any adjustments to how much you’re taking or when you’re taking it. If you’re still wondering how to find the best CBD regimen based on your needs, the HOO RAA team is always here to help. Shop now or speak to one of our dosage specialists today to create an individualized plan for you!