With a high level of brand saturation in the hemp-derived CBD industry, consumers and retailers alike are left unsure about what brands to purchase when it comes to CBD products.
It’s important for retailers to understand some fundamental components of what make up the CBD products they’re selling in their stores, as not all CBD brands are created equal.
Here are 5 important things to know when helping your consumer find the best CBD product:
There are three commonly used methods for turning hemp into CBD oil: supercritical carbon dioxide (CO2) extraction, hydrocarbon extraction, and ethanol extraction.
The first method uses carbon dioxide. The plants are filled into chambers that are filled with CO2, extracting the cannabinoids from the plant. What results is a buttery, pure plant extract. The carbon dioxide evaporates as soon as it hits the air.
Hydrocarbon extraction uses butane or propane to extract CBD from the hemp plant, dissolving the CBD to create a resulting liquid extract. The butane or propane is evaporated when the extract is heated.
Ethanol extraction involves soaking the plants in ethanol alcohol to obtain a liquid extract. There may be a need to remove further by-products from the extract, depending on the heat used, but the ethanol evaporates off the product, leaving a pure extract.
What it comes down to is the flavor and composition of the final product. CBD that has been extracted using lower temperatures typically preserve the terpenes that are responsible for the aroma and taste of the product. Solvent extraction removes and preserves other cannabinoids other than CBD from the plant, allowing for a full-spectrum product.
Hemp for CBD products is either cultivated by small farmers or in large scale operations, both of which hold different attributes when it comes to the processes involved and the resulting products.
It may be important for the consumer that they purchase from small-farm operations, which usually farm hemp in small batches and pay close attention to terpenes and the nuances of the growing process. Large scale hemp growers may be more focused on higher yields rather than focusing on different plant attributes or growing techniques.
The region of the country in which the hemp is grown is also important; states that have legalized cannabis, for instance, can openly exchange information on best practices in growing, resulting in a more advanced crop from these areas. Oregon and California, for instance, are two states that have been involved in farming hemp and cannabis for decades, often being considered “pioneer states” of the cannabis, hemp, and CBD movements.
Consumers want to be aware of what they’re putting into their bodies and will increasingly demand more product information around their CBD products, including testing information. Best practices around CBD products include third-party laboratory testing, which brands should be able to produce on their website and in packaging as transparency becomes more valued by the consumer. Third-party testing ensures CBD products are free from pesticides, contaminants, heavy metals, solvents, and microbial activity. Testing will also confirm CBD concentration in a product.
Since different extraction methods preserve terpenes other cannabinoids within hemp and not just CBD, people are becoming more aware of full-spectrum products versus products that contain CBD isolates alone.
Full-spectrum products include terpenes and other cannabinoids such as CBG (cannabigerol) and CBN (cannabinol). Common terpenes found in full-spectrum products include linalool, limonene, pinene, and humulene, which are also found in common fruits and in nature and are valued within alternative health communities for their properties.
Third-party testing will also confirm the number of milligrams of CBD per milliliter that the CBD brand puts on the label so to be able to help with accurate dosing.
Devoid of Claims
Recently the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued warning letters to the CBD company Curaleaf Inc., for making unsubstantiated claims about the benefits of their products. According to Brightfield Group, Curaleaf Inc. holds 1% of the CBD market.
Claims included “CBD was effective in killing human breast cancer cells,” and, “CBD is being adopted more and more as a natural alternative to pharmaceutical-grade treatments for depression and anxiety.” The FDA has not yet begun approving CBD products entering the Consumer-Packaged Goods (CPG) industry and thus have not been able to approve their safety and impacts on human health.
In a statement released by the FDA in regards to Curaleaf’s claims, the FDA said, “Unlike drugs approved by the FDA, the manufacturing process of these products has not been subject to FDA review as part of the drug approval process, and there has been no FDA evaluation of whether these products are effective for their intended use, what the proper dosage is, how they could interact with FDA-approved drugs, or whether they have dangerous side effects or other safety concerns. Unsubstantiated claims associated with CBD products may lead consumers to put off getting important medical care, such as proper diagnosis, treatment, and supportive care.”
While CBD was acknowledged by the World Health Organization (WHO) as generally safe in 2018 writing, “no public health problems (e.g. driving under the influence of drugs cases, comorbidities) have been associated with the use of pure CBD,” the FDA is yet to approved CBD as they have other pharmaceuticals and health supplements. Companies who take liberties in their marketing, without providing the research to substantiate the claims, are potentially putting consumers at risk by misleading them about the potentials of CBD.
Presently, since hemp and CBD have remained illegal until the passing of the U.S. Farm Bill, there is a lack of peer-reviewed published research that supports the efficacy of CBD, despite there being a strong body of empirical evidence and personal testimonials about CBD’s potential.
Personal Choice & Consumer Freedom
When choosing the best CBD product, consumers may have personal motivations for choosing one over the other, such as extraction process preference, sourcing, or whether they want a full-spectrum product or CBD isolate.
It’s up to the retailer to become astute to the nuances that make up each CBD brand, so to help consumers make the most responsible choice when introducing CBD into their lifestyles.