Jade Mansfield from British CBD Company, explains why it is so hard to know which CBD products to buy since its growth in popularity
The UK CBD market has exploded in 2019 – the Guardian named it the ‘avocado toast’ of the year for its viral popularity and domination of the wellness industry. But with the market so new and already so crowded, how are we to know what we’re buying and whether it’s the right product for us? Since CBD is extracted from the cannabis plant, prohibition has limited professional research which has left industry standards lacking. In the ‘wild west’ of medicinal and ‘novel food’ CBD products, consumers need to understand how to identify effective products and how to keep themselves safe from unregulated, unapproved products.
We at the British CBD Company are passionate about the fair and safe usage of CBD for its wellness benefits so we wanted to call attention to the issues surrounding the CBD industry and how our customers can determine for themselves the best products to help them.
Lack of industry standards
Cannabis for research purposes has only been legal in the UK since 2001 and CBD has only really been available on a large scale in the past few years. However, consumers of CBD doubled between 2017 and 2018 and as more people buy into the trend, more retailers are taking advantage of the loose regulations established around its sale.
The legal THC limit for hemp products containing CBD in the UK is 0.2%, this changes to a limit detection of 0.01% for products containing CO2-extracted CBD. But several studies have found that, upon more rigorous testing, many high street products contain inaccurate levels of THC. An American study in 2017 found that only 26 out of 84 sampled products contained their stated levels of THC, with 18 containing higher dosages. Another study found that only 11 of 29 samples were within 10% of their stated THC levels. Given that THC is the compound with psychoactive properties, inaccurate testing could cause serious issues if left unregulated.
Additionally, lab tests from think tank Centre for Medicinal Cannabis (CMC) found that 62% of UK high street products didn’t contain their promised levels of CBD, with many containing only trace amounts of the substance. For those using CBD to help relieve anxiety or treat pain conditions, the lack of universal standards could be damaging and cause further distress or pain.
Different strengths in every product
Due to the loose regulations, not only are the actual CBD concentrations of products sometimes inaccurate but determining the expected strength of each product can be difficult even if lab tests are accurate. Some products advertise CBD levels by percentage and some, like oils advertise CBD in milligrams per millilitres.
Percentages are less clear for determining the concentration as this makes it more difficult to know the concentration of each dosage. For oils and topicals, a mg per ml value is clearer for consumers. To find out the concentration, divide the mg level of CBD by the volume to find out the strength of 1ml then follow the dosage from there. With products advertised in percentages, many will also advise on the mg per dosage which should be followed.
Different ways of extracting CBD
Not only are strengths, concentrations and levels of cannabinoids unstable in the high street market, there are also different ways of extracting CBD for products, each with varying effectiveness. For example, CO2 extraction is the most accurate method for extracting CBD and the purest. Extraction by this method also extracts other compounds such as terpenes, phenols and flavonoids which have other additional benefits. Butane extraction produces lower-quality CBD as it doesn’t protect the integrity of the compounds and can also result in dangerous chemical residues. CBD made from crystal isolates is actually a lab-produced form of the substance and so comes with none of the other chemicals found in cannabis. This means that products with these types of CBD could be less effective for certain treatments.
On top of the issues with labelling and lab testing, choosing the right CBD product can be difficult as everyone will have different levels of tolerance which could lower the oil’s effectiveness. Some additional factors include:
Bodyweight – In general, heavier people will need larger doses of CBD to feel the effects while lighter people will experience better results from smaller doses. Heavier people should still start their doses small if they have never taken CBD before just to ensure there are no adverse side effects first.
Time – Over time, tolerance to CBD gets greater, meaning that those who take supplements for longer periods of time will find they need to gradually increase their dosage. This can also be an issue when switching products to determine which dose to properly take. CBD products are more effective when taken for extended periods of time because the body is able to get used to the chemical and experience the full effects.
Pain levels – for those using CBD for its potential medicinal effects, the level of pain experienced will determine the dosage required. When starting CBD treatment, consulting a physician is essential and gradually increasing the initial dosage is essential to avoid harmful side effective like nausea and diarrhoea. As tolerance increases over time, those with chronic pain issue may need to continue increasing their dose if they feel the effectiveness of the product dropping.
Lack of professional knowledge
A further hangover from the intense restrictions on cannabis in the UK also means that many of the issues facing the industry today are due to a lack of professional cannabis chemists to establish objective guidelines. Many products which contain more or less chemicals than stated are not made intentionally and have simply used lab results from professionals who are unable to accurately identify and measure the necessary compounds. The CMC are beginning to establish professional guidelines for the industry and the continued increase of CBD in both prescription medicines and supplements will mean that more testing will be carried out across the UK.
For the time being, taking steps to determine the levels of CBD in products before you buy them should be essential even for those who have used CBD products without issue before. As the trend of CBD products continues to gain traction, the establishment of more universal guidelines should help consumers understand exactly what they’re taking to fully enjoy the wide range of benefits CBD can bring.
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