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What is a CBD Certificate of Analysis (& Why Do You Need One)?

CBD Certificate of analysis

CBD is everywhere these days: corner stores, gas stations, coffee houses. And of course, all over the internet.

You’ve heard all about this natural compound, but have you heard about a CBD Certificate of Analysis? It’s something you should never overlook.

So what is it, exactly, and why is it important?

What is a CBD Certificate of Analysis?

A Certificate of Analysis (COA) is a document from an accredited laboratory that shows you exactly what’s in a certain product.

In the case of a CBD Certificate of Analysis, it shows the quantity of various cannabinoids in a product, along with other possible contaminants. This proves that the potency and purity claims of the company are true.

It looks a little something like this:

CBD Certificate of analysis

Maybe you’re thinking, “who cares what’s in that bottle?” Well, YOU should! Here’s why.

More Great Stuff: What to know more about the history of hemp? Check this out.

Why a CBD COA is Important

CBD is everywhere these days. And, on the surface, that’s a good thing. In our opinion, the more people with access, the better.

The problem is, this means that it can be tough to separate the quality products from the junk. And there is junk out there.

This is partly because there are no industry standards in place, so companies are not watched for accuracy. Incorrectly labeled products are common.

In fact, a 2017 study of 84 different CBD products found that only 31% were accurately labeled. 26% contained less than the CBD listed on the label.

If you’re using CBD for a specific reason, you really want to make sure you’re getting what you pay for.

But it goes beyond the levels of CBD itself.

Many low quality CBD products out there contain things like pesticides (like bifenazate or myclobutanil), heavy metals (like mercury or lead), or chemical solvents (like butane or propane). These are typically thanks to a less than stellar growing or manufacturing process.

It goes without saying that these aren’t good for you, so you don’t want them in your CBD. A COA will test for these as well.

How to Read a CBD Certificate of Analysis

At first glance, a CBD Certificate of Analysis may seem a little intimidating. I mean, all that science…

But seriously, once you know the basics, you’re set.

First things first. Start at the top and check out who performed the testing. You want a COA to be conducted by a third party, accredited laboratory or it isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. A COA should be an unbiased report, so you need to be sure it’s completed by a neutral third party.

Moving on to actual ingredients and amounts. The most important thing to check? CBD.

Start with the LOQ.

The limit of quantitation (LOQ) is the concentration at which quantitative results can be reported with a high degree of confidence. This may be listed as mg/unit (milligrams per unit), PPB (parts per billion) or CFU (colony-forming units).

Then, you need to check out the mass for each item listed, and see what the levels are for the product.

For example, on this COA, you can see that CBD has a mass of 53.551mg/unit.

CBD certificate of analysis

Then, check the THC. In most cases, you’ll want to make sure it contains less than 0.3% THC.

Moving Beyond CBD and THC

Don’t just check CBD and THC though. Make sure to check everything else:

  • Terpenes (good)
  • Pesticides (bad)
  • Microbials (no thanks)
  • Heavy metals (definitely not)
  • Residual solvents (no, nope, not a chance)

For example, in the image below, the LOQ for Arsenic is 48. So a level of 48 PPB is required for detection. The harmful ingredients will have a limit listed. This is the amount that is allowed.

CBD certificate of anlaysis

To be clean, you want the mass for the bad stuff to be well below that limit. For a high-quality product, you don’t even want it to be detectable (meaning <LOQ).

Final Thoughts

The CBD industry is expanding rapidly, with limited regulation. This is why it’s so important to validate what’s on the label.

As a consumer, you should know exactly what you’re paying for. If the company doesn’t offer a COA, move on to another, more reputable company that tests each and every batch.