By Emily Ledger
Users of CBD and those interested in using CBD products have probably come across certificates of analysis when browsing products. These analysis sheets are designed to provide clarity and peace of mind to those in the market for the Cannabis derivative.
But how do you make sense of these certificates?
A few years ago, most people hadn’t even heard of Cannabidiol – the second-most commonly occurring cannabinoid found in the Cannabis plant. However, in 2019 the CBD market grew larger than the Vitamin C and D markets combined.
Despite the product’s ever-growing popularity, the UK industry is yet to be held to any official regulations. This has allowed some companies to take advantage of a growing marketplace, and its customers. This year, a study by the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis found that 62% of 30 CBD oils tested, had been mislabelled.
The situation is mirrored in the US market, where a similar study in 2017 found that a shocking 69% of 84 products had been labeled incorrectly. However discouraging these results are, customers shouldn’t be completely deterred from the market. There are some standards in place, such as members’ bodies and certificates of analysis.
Certificates of Analysis
These certificates can differ in their layouts and contents, depending on the labs and countries in which the tests have been carried out. We have laid out some of the key components of certificates of analysis which may help you to determine if a product is right for you.
The gold standard of CBD certification is third-party tests. This means that the company testing the products isn’t the same company that is selling the product. This improves the reliability and transparency of the results, as the lab has no affiliation with the products.
The certificate will often be broken down into a number of sections, including cannabinoid, heavy metal, and pesticide content. However, some certificates may focus solely on the cannabinoids. The appearance and layouts of the certificates can also vary.
This is probably the thing that most people will be concerned with when checking out a certificate of analysis. This section will tell you how much of each cannabinoid was found in the product. It covers CBD and THC, as well as lesser-known cannabinoids that may be contained in the product.
As a rule, in the UK, products should contain no more than 1mg of THC per product. It is thought that some companies thought that their products could contain 0.2% THC (the same as Hemp grown in the country), however, the Home Office has clarified that this is not the case.
All certificates will display the weight of the cannabinoids (%), and some will also show the concentration (mg). The CBD content should match up to the levels advertised on the bottle.
You may notice that your product also contains a number of other cannabinoids, especially in full and broad spectrum oils extracts. The concentrations of these products are often very low, and nothing to worry about. Some studies have even shown that these cannabinoids can work with Cannabidiol to deliver better results.
Although increasingly rare in Cannabis sourced from licensed farms, heavy metal contamination still occurs. This contamination can occur throughout the growing, processing, and post-processing. The Cannabis plant has been found to be an effective absorber of heavy metals in soil – leading to its celebration as a soil cleaner.
The main metals that have been noted for detection in lab tests are mercury, lead, cadmium, and arsenic. If the lab has performed a heavy metals analysis, it will usually be these four metals that have been measured.
The certificate will give an indication of the allowed levels of the substance (Use Limits), to be compared against the detected concentration (Conc.). If a substance has not been found in the product, the concentration will read ‘ND’ (Not Detected).
This also applies to the cannabinoid and pesticide concentrations. Analyses for heavy metals and pesticides will also be given a status – this should be ‘PASS’ if the product is within the legal and safe limits.
Cannabis is often celebrated for requiring few pesticides, as it contains natural defenses. However, in some climates and conditions, farmers may use pesticides, which can be absorbed into the plant, and its extracts.
Again, not all certificates will display these analyses, especially in the UK. However, if it does, you will notice that, like the heavy metals analysis, the acceptable ‘Limits’ will be displayed, for comparison with the detected concentrations or ‘Result’. Again, to make things easier, each pesticide will receive a status of either ‘PASS’ or ‘FAIL’.
Much like other cannabinoids, terpenes are usually not something to be worried about, and can even enhance a product. In fact, many terpenes have been found to have medicinal and therapeutic value. If the certificate gives an indication of the terpenes found in the extract, this is simply a bonus.
Terpenes are known to contribute to the taste and aroma of plants, and this is no different with Cannabis. Having a list of the terpenes may even help to give you an indication of the taste and smell of the product.
Certificates of Analysis can vary, depending on the country in which they were carried out, and the labs themselves. However, the most important thing is to ensure that the product labels match up to the certificate.
Ensure that the CBD and THC levels are correct to avoid paying for false and misleading products.