How to Choose the Best Hemp CBD Oil

How to Choose the Best Hemp CBD Oil

By Donna Gregory Burch.

If you’ve researched natural pain treatments, you’ve likely seen articles and advertisements for hemp CBD oil, an extract of the cannabis plant that reportedly eases pain without causing euphoria like marijuana. As a chronic pain patient myself, I understand how tempting it is to hand over your credit card number in hopes of finding relief.

Donna Gregory Burch

But before you do that, know that all hemp CBD oils are not created equal! A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found nearly 70 percent of hemp CBD oil sold online was mislabeled. During the Penn Medicine study, researchers analyzed 84 products purchased from 31 companies. Around 42 percent of products were under-labeled, meaning the product contained more CBD than labeled. Twenty-six percent of products contained less CBD than indicated on packaging.

“Only 30 percent of CBD products purchased contained an actual CBD content that was within 10 percent of the amount listed on the product label,” reads a press release about the JAMA study. “While studies have not shown that too much CBD can be harmful, products containing either too little or too much CBD than labeled could negate potential clinical benefit to patients. Further, the variability across products may make it troublesome for patients to get a reliable effect.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began testing hemp CBD products in 2015 and has reported similar findings.

Hemp CBD oil is not regulated, creating a situation of buyer beware. Despite this, hemp CBD oil continues to be in high demand as a growing number of chronic pain patients look for alternatives to opioids and drugs with troubling side effects. With so many companies pushing their products, how can you ensure you’re purchasing a quality product that’s potent and safe to use?

I recently interviewed Martin A. Lee, director of Project CBD and author of “Smoke Signals,” and asked for his advice on how to choose quality hemp CBD products, but first, let’s cover some basics.

There are actually two kinds of CBD, or cannabidiol, oil: hemp-based CBD oil and marijuana-based CBD oil. Both are derived from varieties of the cannabis plant. Hemp-based CBD products can be purchased online or at certain stores; marijuana-based CBD is generally sold by dispensaries in states where cannabis is legal.

(Read more: What is CBD?)

According to experts I’ve interviewed over the years, a marijuana-based CBD oil is always preferable to hemp because it contains multiple cannabinoids and other compounds that work synergistically to provide better pain relief and healing. Dispensary products are also going to be safer because they are tested and grown in controlled environments.

“Essentially CBD is no different whether extracted from industrial hemp or from marijuana,” Lee explained. “What’s different is what else is in there. When you extract from industrial hemp, you’re not getting a lot of cannabinoids. You’re not getting much CBD. You’re getting very, very little THC. Because it’s a low-resin plant, you don’t have a lot of cannabinoids that are contained in the resin.”

Hemp CBD oil is basically a stripped down version of what you’d buy at a dispensary. It likely won’t be as effective, but some people do find it beneficial for pain and other conditions.

(Read more: What’s the difference between hemp CBD oil and marijuana-based CBD oil?)

“The main overarching criticism we have with all CBD hemp products – even the good quality ones – is that they’re very limited,” Lee said. “They’re just basically one thing: a lot of CBD and very little of anything else. That can help some people sometimes but most people will find they need other options. There’s other cannabinoids you need – sometimes THC, sometimes THCA.

“What we know is that THC and CBD combined has a greater therapeutic effect than either one given alone,” Lee continued. “The best medicines to use are the medicines that have both THC and CBD. What we suggest to people – and I will emphasize we are not doctors – is that people should use products that have as much THC as possible, with the CBD, that doesn’t make them feel dysphoric or stoned.”

(Read more: What are cannabinoids?)

Hemp CBD products do have limitations, but they’re still an option for people who aren’t able to access marijuana in a legal state. For those who are interested in trying hemp CBD oil, below are some characteristics to look for when trying to choose a quality product.

(Read more: Is hemp CBD oil legal?)

Buy American

Many hemp CBD products are made from industrialized hemp grown overseas. These countries may or may not have strong environmental regulations governing how and where the plant is grown. That can be a problem since both hemp and marijuana are bio-accumulators, meaning they suck up heavy metals from the soil in which they’re grown.

Depending on how the oil is processed, consumers may end up exposed to toxins and/or chemical solvents used to purify the CBD after harvest.

U.S.-produced hemp CBD products tend to be safer because of better growing and refining practices.

Go organic

Choose hemp CBD products that are grown organically to reduce potential exposure to pesticides and other unhealthy chemicals.

“If you punch in ‘CBD hemp organically grown’ on Google, you’ll probably find a few companies from Colorado or maybe Kentucky, and I personally would lean toward those,” Lee advised. “You want to have as clean of a product as possible.”

Choose full spectrum

Look for a full-spectrum CBD product instead of an isolate.

Full spectrum means the product contains CBD plus trace amounts of other cannabinoids and terpenes for better healing and performance. An isolate only contains CBD.

“CBD isolates can confer medical effects, but you’re going to need much higher doses of an isolate than you would of a whole-spectrum oil, so you’ll be spending more money on that,” Lee said.

Isolates are also more likely to cause drug interactions than full-spectrum products.

Beware of health claims

The FDA prohibits companies from making health claims about CBD products, so it’s best to avoid companies that claim their product can cure cancer or end pain forever.

“If a company is making medical claims, it suggests they don’t understand the rules,” Lee said. “It suggests something is amiss.”

Avoid unnecessary ingredients

Steer clear of companies that use thinning agents, flavoring or other potentially harmful ingredients in their products – especially those used for vaping.

“We would strongly warn against using a vaporizer to vape CBD hemp oil products because we haven’t seen one yet that doesn’t contain thinning agents that can be very toxic,” Lee said. “Thinning agents like propylene glycol and polyethylene glycol should not be in a product that you’re going to eat or inhale. Flavoring agents that are added to CBD hemp products should be a red flag. I think they should be avoided because the FDA hasn’t approved any of these flavoring agents for being heated and inhaled.”

Bottom line: “If a product is grown properly, and it’s made well, it should not require any thinning agents or any flavoring agents,” Lee said.

Ask questions

Don’t be afraid to call or email companies to inquire about their growing and refining practices. Reputable companies should be happy to answer questions about their products.

(Read more: What you need to know about CBD oil and fibromyalgia)

(Read more: How to use medical marijuana without getting high)

(Read more: The best cannabis strains for fibromyalgia and how to use them)

Now it’s your turn: Have you tried hemp CBD oil for pain? Did it help? Share your experience in the comments section! 

Donna Gregory Burch was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2014 after several years of unexplained pain, fatigue and other symptoms. She was later diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease. Donna covers news, treatments, research and practical tips for living better with fibromyalgia and Lyme on her blog, FedUpwithFatigue.com. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter. Donna is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared online and in newspapers and magazines throughout Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania. She lives in Delaware with her husband and their many fur babies.

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Authored by: Donna Gregory Burch

There are 15 comments for this article
  1. marlene donk at 1:48 pm

    I just started using CBD oil about 6 to 8 weeks ago after much research. I have Parkinson’s disease and I was on a Parkinson’s blog and I asked the question, “Does anyone know what relieve restless leg syndrome?” One man’s answer caught my attention. He said that he used CBD oil when he started getting restless leg syndrome. He
    would take the oil and put about 2 or 3 dots behind his knee and to his surprise, the tingling went away right away. I found this hard to believe, but after hearing from some other people on the benefits of CBD, I decided to give it a try. It didn’t come cheap. I had to pay 50 dollars for an oz. but it was whole plant in full spectrum. The first night that I got restless leg syndrome and went into the bathroom and put 3 dots behind my knees on both legs it was only a matter of seconds before I
    had relief. I also rubbed some on a couple of sour spots near my back, and it seems to have helped. Im also, in a better mood, I feel more alert and more full of energy. Now, I haven’t been taking it long enough to make a full decision on its benefits, but for now I’m going to continue the use of it because it seems to be working. I believe it to be the thing of the future!

  2. Judy at 8:25 am

    I have tried several different CBD products from different US companies, capsules, drops, sprays, even a balm…..nothing has done anything to reduce my chronic pain. I strongly believe that without THC, CBD it’s pretty useless. I live in a state where that’s NOT legal. Maybe it will become legal before I’m dead & gone, but I doubt it.

  3. Cheryl at 12:53 pm

    Those of you who have bought this, what is a good link I could use?? Brand, what ever ??

  4. Plant life at 9:27 pm

    I do hope this will be approved since the one was approved of someone attacking marijuanna supporting opiate pills yet lying on marijuanna to keep rights to their pain pills. First no I don’t agree the handling of how the war on opiates were done, its lead to sky rocketing of heroin not just for high some pain as they felt it all they had left but but becomes problem fast, heroin is the end of the line solution ! Patients like me stage 4 cancer up recurrence were just cold turkey took off left pain meds left to feel cancer and opiate withdrawal pain. I too never overtook my pain meds. You don’t have to be addicted you will become dependent as your body will stop making natural opiate receptors. Two years of pure suffering goes by and I give in to medical marijuana and cannibas oil and my life changed! I went from hospice 2mo max to hospice leaving my health improved so much! A surgery where tumors on bile ducts, liver was cancelled, the pain gone vomiting stopped and MRI confirmed tumors gone. So sorry if taken little offense to sthg be said sthg like “they making marijuana legal & these younger-older folks get high while I take my opiates as presribed & they save me” as I don’t care much for the head feeling of marijuanna if was honest give me the feeling from an opiate anyday. No-one thinks they have a problem with pain pills for most dangerous reasons “my doctor gave to me, i take only as needed, its legal” other than pain relief & quality of life opiates give you no saving your life. Opiates can not cure conditions, slow or kill cancer or near what cannibas-marijuanna is known to do. Until medical marijuana I continued to slowly lose my battle to cancer, not blaming pain meds at all only saying they provided no medical benefit other than pain relief and pleasure feeling. Upon the marijuana..it medical miracle..went from dying with 2mo left to live here 8mo later putting makeup on again living. I only use minimum amount early morning and late night. I have went on to teach myself about other things like enzymes and other plant life to alkaline, anti-inflammatory my body. I support opiates when needed but highly support medical marijuana and cannibas oil.. I just don’t think to inform others educationaly something that is not true judging others. Marijuana is not addictive unless the brain is not fully developed but even then in kids it can save their life: seizures etc. Noone has ever overdosed or died of marijuana per DEA. You can’t say that for opiates. Although I advocate for being fair to true pain patients on opiates. I also advocate to legalize marijuanna but because someone has a preference or dependency on one should not make them want them come to a forum helping so many medically to advocate for their vice to insult others medical choice proven with so many medical cures to make it out like the plant life is hendering a pain patients pain pill access, you need to contact the DEA, FDA, CDC, Senators and Washington about that…we are all looking for an answer not a war against one another. Peace to all

  5. Millie Campbell at 3:40 pm

    Kathy C, I will have to disagree about CBD oil being a “fad” or a scam. I have fibromyalgia ( guess you think fibro is a fake disease too ) been taking cbd oil for several months now and I’ve been able to wein myself off my fibro mess. Everyone’s body chemistry is different so some oils and medicines may work wonders for some but not have much affect on others. I did my research and have great product. I hate taking pills! I also have DDD, RA, Fibro, sciatica, ruptured discs in lower back, brain lesions and seizures and adrenaline tumors (3)….

  6. Schmidt Wanda at 3:21 pm

    I use cbd oil every day. I refuse to go without it. I have no arthritic pain at all anymore. I had a hip replacement 3 years ago. I am in need of the other one to be replaced. I was laying awake crying at night because of my hip pain. After I started using the oil my hip has quit aching. I sometimes forget I even have a problem with it or my arthritis. Had I known about the oil before I had my hip replaced I never would have had the surgery. I am pain free. I use hemp oil. There are 20 mg of cannabiniol in each 1 ml dose.

  7. Gary at 2:38 pm

    Just read your article about CBD oil and checked the label on the oil I bought 9 months ago from a legal dispensary in Pendleton, Oregon. Across from the Subway. It lists herbs and supplements long before CBD oil and it is a derivative of Hemp oil. I paid $52 for one ounce (30 ml). I had not done any research prior to my purchase and relied on the folks at the marijuana shop to sell me a good product. Buyer beware is the best advice I got from this article. I have not achieved any pain relief from this product and use about 1 ml under my tongue with the dropper in the bottle. I intend to find a full spectrum CBD oil and I hope to notice a difference in pain relief. Thanks for the great information.

  8. connie at 3:01 pm

    I use a cbd oil that is 1/1 thc. I had desperately hoped for pain control but while it helped a little while on low dose fentanyl, without I get no relief to speak of. The positive is in its helping my severe digestive issues! I have not been able to eat or digest what I ate for many years and with the use of this oil I am actually gaining weight! I was losing as much as five pounds a week! Just wish it helped with pain control!
    By the way cbd oil of ANY kind tastes like ten dead dogs in the hot sunshine! I sandwich mine between small pieces of peppermint bark!

  9. Bob Schubring at 12:45 pm

    A hundred years ago, what Martin Lee describes, was common to all pharmaceuticals. Drugs were generally made from dried plants ( the Dutch word “Drug” derives from the word for “dry”) that a pharmacist ground into powder and extracted. Standardizing the growing conditions was difficult. Ultimately, standardization was a matter of isolating the active ingredient and making pure crystals of it, then weighing out the crystals milligram by milligram, to mix the finished medicine.

    The problem with these cannabis extracts, is that very few people are isolating each pure active ingredient and studying what each ingredient does by itself.

    Once we know what each ingredient does by itself, it’s possible to make sense of how mixing several ingredients back together, has a particular enhanced effect on a particular disease.

    Shortcutting this scientific process results in unreliable products. The potency varies.

    A number of people who have used cannabis to fight cancer, have later died of the cancer. I’m concerned that what may have killed many of these people, is that a minor change in the growing conditions of the cannabis plants, reduced the potency of whichever ingredients have the anti-cancer effect. The people kept dosing themselves with their oils or tinctures, but the oils and tinctures no longer contained enough cancer-fighting agents to defeat the cancer, and the people had no way of measuring this.

    Cannabis research is very much a research field. Patients need the insights that a hundred years of pharmaceutical science has done for every other plant-derived medicine that’s presently in use, by identifying each of the active ingredients, and then weighing them out milligram by milligram, so that patients know exactly what they’re taking. The Government needs to do it’s part, by moving out of the way and allowing researchers to carry out studies…at present, DEA won’t allow studies to be done and this interferes with scientific research into what’s in cannabis and why the substances in cannabis work for people. But cannabis supporters must do their part as well. Hiding from the scientific method, and hurling bizarre conspiracy theories around to impugn the motives of science researchers, is making cannabis medicine less reliable than it needs to be, for the people whose lives most depend on it. We’ve known since 1974 that something in cannabis can stop cancers from growing. Don’t we deserve to know why this works?

  10. Renee Mace at 12:42 pm

    I have to share this with you all, I live in Washington State where pot is legal to everyone of age except if your sign a Pain Contract. As we all know to well who suffer from chronic pain that taking or lowering our life saving pain medications is slowly killing us, but we need to all remember that our country and state and the CDC are all trying to save us from addiction. So to my ear, I heard on the radio an advertisement from a local pot shop on their quality products and then when you listen to it, then it goes on to say as fast as they can, it my lead to addiction, so use cautiously. WHAT, it may lead to addiction but those of us who tried everything else to ease our miserable pain to only find that pain medications is so far the only thing that gives us relief. But our government and states want to protect us from ourselves by taking away our much needed medications and in my state offer me instead marijuana that may cause addiction, I say that is so CRAZY! Let people young and old use marijuana either to get high or for help with medical conditions with the chance that they may become addicted to it but for me, who I have never ever abused my pain medications, we have to lower you because you could become addicted to it and it is dangerous for your health. I ask so if you lower me so low where I have to stay in bed all day because it hurts to much to walk and with my blood pressure up so high that I am a sitting duck for a stroke, that that isn’t unhealthy for me????? At least with the proper dosage that aids me to have some life is so much better for my health than not enough or not any. INSANITY TO THE FULLEST!

  11. Kathy C at 11:41 am

    Like everything else in the U.S it is buyer beware. I was told that the 30 dollar a bottle Hemp Oil, would not work becasue I was “Skeptical.” I had asked exactly these questions at a Dispensary. The CBD Craze is mostly hype. It does little or nothing for pain, or anything else. The only thing I have seen is that when it is derived from marijuana in the for of a Salve with the a small amount of THC in it, it might help with arthritis topically.

    Dispensaries are charging 30 bucks and ounce for Hemp Oil so they have no economic incentive to derive the CBD from Marijuana. I found that it was like pulling teeth, just to get the to admit the CBD oil came from Hemp. They isolate the CBD and then add it back to the Oil. This means there is no THC or Terpenes or any of the beneficial compounds found in marijuana.

    The Medical Marijuana Industry here has glommed on to the “Alternative” Medicine Industry models. I half expected the Dispensary employee to explain that because the Hemp Oil was in contact with CBD, it was the same thing. The Industry even has high quality magazines where they advertise and give advice, most contain a lot of pseudo science. The refer to Pharma Industry Studies as proof that CBD works.
    The other issue with the Medical Marijuana Industry is that they are throwing pain patients under the bus. In order to market their products they are conflating Heroin Addiction, with pain patients taking medically prescribed medications. They overstate the effectiveness for pain control, and present marijuana as a “Cure” for the Opiate Epidemic. They are claiming that Medical Marijuana is a Cure for “Opiate Addiction” in order to sensationalize their claims and make them sound beneficial.
    The Marijuana business has become like a Cult. They whole heartedly ‘Believe” it cures cancer and a host of other issues. A local University “Researcher” has moved in to provide more pseudo science with a narrow, self selected “Survey.” The results or lack of Scientific rigor don’t matter to these people, it is more profitable to ignore the facts and science. They already believe that Medical Marijuana can replace pain medications for chronic pain.

    This has become another way for schemers and scammers to cash in on an ignorant public and mislead us all. Thank goodness ti did not fall for the hype, and treat my dogs seizures with this stuff, after all they claimed it cures seizures.

  12. Ibin at 9:20 am

    My wife and I have tried many various brands and srengths of CBD oil from the hemp plant only. Our state is not pot legal except in very specific uses which we do not qualify for, We were very hopeful when reduced 80 percent in opiiod medication that I have used without increase with very effective results for over 23 years that CBD oil may be the answer in the quest to mange lifetime, intractable pain. We have not found an effective CBD oil after spending over $1000.00 on different brands and strengths.

    A real problem is as suggested, quality conrol and safety. As a patient for 23 years after disastrous surgery and my wife being diagnosed with fibromyalgea and lymes disease, neither of us even with psychlogical hope that CBD oil would be the answer to pain management, now under managed and fully regulated by dot/gov. I have read fairly extensively about CBD oil, spoke with different representatives of CBD oil products but, unfortunately we have not found effective pain mangement with any CBD oil products..

    This is not stated to discourage the use of the product because I have read…..some patients have had some efffective relief wth CBD oil but, pain managment is subjective to each individual patient even with opioid medicatios, Research, asking questions is important and the representatives of CBD oil product providers are more than willing to talk to you. There are different ways that the product is extracted from the plant. One in particular seems quite dangerous to me. Read for yourself. Again I do not discourage trying the product. Some, a great deal of patients are even reporting effective pain management with other products such as “kratom”. Again this product is not FDA approved and has no quality control regulation. Word of mouth amd sometimes great reviews but, again pain is subjective to each patient.

    That’s our two cents worth. We are still reserching products with claims of effective pain relief and possibly something will work. As of right now if dot/gov can not point the now abandoned pain management patient to an effective pain management product, not willing to listen to our physicians or VERY negatively affected patients with a maximum, unilateral dosage of opioid medication new “policy”, then where do we turn for real, effective, pain management?

  13. Rachel at 7:31 am

    I tried this hemp extract CBD said to be made under pharmaceutical conditions in Poland. It is very expensive, available in concentrations from 5%-50% and it did absolutely nothing for me.
    This does not mean of course it won’t work for someone else. However The University of Glasgow Faculty of Pain Medicine have done extensive trials on medical cannabis too which they does not really work. They are disappointed they can not recommend it for their chronic pain patients. This research is published in peer reviewed journals.
    Thankyou Donna for such an important article which help people like me from wasting my money. The price in GBP £183 is extortionate. This is the sales description, copied and pasted from the seller’s page:
    CannabiGold Intense 30% 3000mg CBD Oil Drops – Hemp Extract Tincture – 10g
    Top-quality gold CO2 hemp extract rich in naturally occurring cannabinoids contains a guaranteed level of CBD and other naturally occurring cannabinoids terpenoids and flavonoids – 3000mg (30%) – 10g.
    Manufactured By: Hempoland
    EAN: 5060439186961
    £ 183.33

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