A hand drawing the chemical formula for CBD on a blue background

Before You Buy CBD Oil, Learn to Read the Lab Tests

There are several analyses that need to be done in order to certify that a hemp product like cannabidiol oil is indeed pure, free of toxins and able to provide the claimed benefits. I’ll first list these CBD oil tests, then explain what each of them analyzes and why it’s important to be done:

  • Potency testing
  • Pesticide testing
  • Microbiological testing
  • Terpene profiling
  • Residual solvents testing

The first test – potency testing – is done for determining the levels of cannabinoids in the product. As you probably know, hemp doesn’t contain only CBD; cannabidiol is only one of the numerous cannabinoids that can be found in the cannabis plant, and a lab test is necessary for determining the concentrations of all these compounds and therefore the potency of the CBD oil.
In general, the tested cannabinoids are CBD, CBC, THC, CBG and CBN. CBD or cannabidiol is a non-psychoactive compound, and is responsible for most of the health benefits of the cannabis plant. CBD is known to act as a natural neuroprotectant and to exert antioxidant properties, being therefore effective in protecting against and reducing the risk of neurodegenerative disorders, as well as in strengthening the immune system protecting against inflammations and infections. CBD is also believed to counteract the psychoactive effects of THC.

THC, the other abundant cannabinoid in the cannabis plant, is the one that gives the psychoactive properties.It also has mild analgesic effects, but for one who doesn’t want to use the hemp or cannabis products for recreational purposes, it’s preferable not to buy products that have a high concentration of THC.

Just like CBD, THC has antioxidant properties, and can attach to the cannabinoid receptors in the endocannabinoid system. Once it gets there, it can slow down the communication between brain cells and interfere with brain’s activity, preventing neurotransmitters from properly doing their job. By binding with the receptors in the hippocampus for example, THC impairs the memory function, as this area of the brain is responsible for the learning process; when it binds to receptors in the cerebellum, THC can affect the motor coordination and balance, and the list can go on.

Besides these two components, there are other cannabinoids tested during lab analyses. THCV for example is believed to have appetite-suppressing properties and to be effective in treating metabolic disorders. THCA or the acid form of THC is found in large amounts in raw cannabis and it known to have anti-inflammatory effects. Studies suggest that it might also be effective in inhibiting the proliferation of cancer cells and in relieving muscle spasm.

CBNA has mild psychoactive properties and enhances the effects of THC, while CBGA is non-psychoactive, has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial effects and is believed to be useful in preventing certain forms of cancer. Another compound usually found in hemp products is CBC, also with anti-inflammatory properties but believed to be a bone-stimulant as well.

It is desirable for a hemp or cannabis product to have a higher concentration of CBD and to contain little to no THC, as well as minimum concentrations of the other potentially psychoactive compounds.

Moving to pesticide testing: this analysis is important for ensuring the safety of hemp and cannabis compounds, as the plants can be treated with herbicides and fungicides and too high concentrations of these substances can cause significant side effects.

The microbiological testing is done for ensuring there’s no harmful bacteria or mold on the hemp or cannabis plants. Pathogens that are present on the plants can easily get inside the body and if the levels are too high, they can also cause unwanted health effects.

A complete lab test should also include analyses of the residual solvents. Solvents are used when the plants are processed and turned into oils, powders or other products, but only for the solvent-based extraction processes. Too high concentrations of solvents like ethanol, propane, carbon dioxide or acetone can lead to unpleasant health effects and can turn the products into highly flammable ones.

Finally, terpene testing is done for identifying those compounds that give the color and distinctive flavors to the cannabis plants. Terpenes are pungent oils that provide flavors like mint, berry, citrus or pine, and are believed to have beneficial health effects as well.

As you can see, a lab test for a hemp product provides information on more than the content of THC or CBD, and it’s useful to know these facts and to get informed before purchasing a CBD oil.