With so many CBD products on the market, knowing what to look for can feel overwhelming. S&H spoke with Christina Sasser, the CEO, founder, and chief product officer at Portland-based Vital Leaf. Sasser is also a chef and wellness educator.
S&H: When buying CBD products, is American made/produced best, and if so, why?
Cristina Sasser: Hemp has been grown all over the world throughout human history. Canada, China, and the European Union are the leaders in terms of exports and production. The U.S. is quickly expanding acres under cultivation and is currently the fourth-largest hemp producing nation in the world. Colorado began hemp cultivation in 2012 under its medical cannabis program, with more states like Kentucky following suit, transitioning large tobacco farms to hemp cultivation after the 2014 Farm Bill passed.
Oregon is currently the third-largest hemp producing state and is known for specialized, high-CBD resinous genetic varieties of hemp. Oregon also has the most farmers practicing sustainable, small-scale, organic, and regenerative models of hemp cultivation. Most of the hemp being grown outside the U.S. is not necessarily grown for its medicinal value or for a high CBD content, whereas many of the Oregon and Colorado hemp farmers specifically grow the Cannabidiol-rich strains of the plant that create the most effective CBD products.
I would recommend that any consumer who is looking for CBD products understands where the hemp came from, how it was grown, and whether the products have verifiable lab test results.
S&H: Should a user go for full spectrum or isolate?
CS: CBD from full-spectrum hemp oil provides the end user with more of the entourage effect, which is the synergistic interaction of compounds that are available in the whole plant. What most consumers don’t understand is that there is a plethora of meanings when it comes to the term full spectrum. Many extraction methods can be applied to hemp biomass, including CO2 extraction, butane, and ethanol.
These full-spectrum extracts or concentrates can vary widely in actual cannabinoid content. Some concentrates go through multiple passes, producing a very concentrated and potent oil, and some of them have much lower cannabinoid counts.
I look at lab Certificates of Analysis (COAs) all day, and concentrates can range anywhere from 20 to 80 percent active CBD content, among all the other cannabinoids such as CBG, CBN, CBC, and even THC.
Isolate is a highly concentrated extract that is almost pure CBD with no other cannabinoids. Since many companies do not divulge whether they’re using isolate or full spectrum in their products, if it doesn’t say full spectrum, it’s probably a good bet that they’re using isolate—which will not give the end user the entourage effect. If a product does say full spectrum, then make sure to look at the COAs to verify the active cannabinoid content in the product. It can be very misleading to see a label that says a product has 3000 mg in it, but the actual active cannabinoid content is only 20 percent of that amount, so it’s really more like 600 mg of actual active CBD in that bottle.
S&H: How do consumers avoid contaminants? Is it OK to ask a manufacturer for a COA?
CS: Unfortunately, many products say CBD on the label, but some of them are simply food-grade hemp oil containing very little cannabinoids or CBD. Also, many products use isolates or oils extracted from industrial hemp grown in China or India, which are cheap and widely available on the Internet. These extracts can vary vastly in quality, actual CBD content, and testing and quality standards.
Since hemp can easily pull toxins and heavy metals from the soil, it is extremely important that these hemp concentrates or extracts are checked by verified state-certified labs with hemp program testing standards designed to protect consumers. Many U.S. states do not even have a hemp program yet or state testing standards, so it is best to purchase products from U.S.-grown hemp, preferably from Oregon or Colorado, that comes from high-CBD resinous strains of the hemp plant. And it’s important that these products have been subject to the testing protocols that are applied to the regulated adult-use cannabis markets in those states, and that COAs can be easily obtained from third-party state-verified testing labs that know how to properly test hemp flower, concentrates, and extracts for contaminants like molds, pesticides, residual solvents, and even heavy metals.