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How to Read Third-Party Lab Reports for CBD Products

Cannabidiol products are legally available in the UK without a prescription, and CBD has gained popularity since the UK declared CBD a novel food product in 2019. 

Despite efforts to regulate the CBD industry, consumers may encounter a wide range of CBD products on the high street and online. Not all of cannabidiol products have the same high quality, and some might even have misleading labelling.

Consumers who only want the best can look for manufacturers that subject their CBD products to third-party lab testing. These manufacturers offer a certificate of analysis that consumers can evaluate themselves and compare to the cannabidiol product’s labelling. 

A certificate of analysis shows you what’s in a CBD product and gives you confidence in its quality. You’ll first have to understand how to read third-party lab reports, though! We’ll show you how.

What Are Third-Party Lab Reports for CBD Products, And Why Do They Matter?

Third-party lab reports give information about a CBD product’s potency, purity, and the presence of any contaminants. They’re called “third-party” lab reports because an independent lab, not associated with the manufacture of CBD products, conducts these lab tests that verify their quality.

If a CBD manufacturer you’re considering buying cannabidiol from offers third-party lab reports, that already inspires some confidence. You can only be sure that a certificate of analysis indicates a high-quality CBD product if you actually read it, though!

How to Read a Third-Party Lab Report for CBD Products

All lab reports are similar, so if you’ve ever had a blood test done, you’ve probably seen documents with a similar format already. 

Here’s a closer look at the information you’ll generally find in third-party lab reports on CBD products! We’ll use a lab report on Vibes CBD’s 1000 mg CBD oil as an example to pick apart the anatomy of certificates of analysis.

The introduction contains information about the sample:

  • The description supplies basic information about the tested CBD product. In this case, it’s “10% CBD in organic hemp oil”. The description also specifies that the sample matches the description.
  • The sample received date simply shows when the lab received the sample.
  • The date on which the test was conducted is also listed.
  • The company name lists the name of the cannabidiol manufacturer, in this case, Vibes CBD.
  • Next comes the batch number. Consumers may want to check that the batch number listed in the certificate of analysis matches the product they intend to buy. However, some CBD manufacturers conduct periodic lab testing rather than testing every single batch.
  • The test method describes the method used to perform the lab test. The most commonly used testing methods for CBD products are high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), gas chromatography (GC), and mass spectrometry (MS). Individual labs may use different terms to denote their methodology. In our example, you’ll see that the lab used the HPLC method to analyse the Vibes CBD sample.

The second part of the certificate of analysis looks at the results of the lab test. This portion is called the cannabinoid profile.

You’ll see five sections at the top:

  • Analyte. The substance being analysed, in this case a range of cannabinoids.
  • Specification. The strength or concentration of a particular cannabinoid in the sample.
  • LOD %w/w. “LOD” stands for “Limit of Detection”. That’s the smallest amount of a substance that the testing method can reliably detect. The addition “%w/w” refers to the lowest amount the lab could detect in the provided sample. 
  • Result mg/g (w/w). This is the concentration of each substance in the sample, in milligrams per gram (mg/g) and on a weight-to-weight (w/w) basis. In other words, the analyte’s weight is measured against the weight of the entire sample.
  • Result %w/w. This portion shows you how the amount of a particular cannabinoid present in the sample by weight.

You may see a whole bunch of “ND” results. These letters stand for “not detected”, and indicate that a particular cannabinoid isn’t present in detectable amounts. 

Vibes CBD oil has a CBD content of 10 per cent, for example — indicating that the lab test matches the manufacturer’s claims. It doesn’t have detectable amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or other cannabinoids, meanwhile, which means the product conforms to UK legal requirements.

However, consumers should remember that CBD products do have ingredients that weren’t subjected to third-party lab testing. In addition to CBD, Vibes CBD oil contains natural terpenes, flavonoids, and hemp seed oil. The lab test didn’t list those because the certificate of analysis only looked at the product’s cannabinoid profile.

Tips for Reading a CBD Product’s Certificate of Analysis

We hope that our explanation of the anatomy of a third-party lab report helps you understand the certificates of analysis you may come across when shopping for CBD products better. 

If you want to go above and beyond, you can take additional helpful steps:

  • Check if the product name and company name on the certificate of analysis match those you see on the CBD product’s packaging.
  • Verify that the cannabinoid profile the packaging lists matches the certificate of analysis.
  • If contaminants such as heavy metals are present within the product, a third-party lab test should list those, too. These residues result from certain extraction methods and will generally not be present when the manufacturer uses supercritical CO2 extraction to manufacture cannabidiol products.
  • Some third-party lab tests contain terpene profiles. This isn’t relevant in the case of CBD isolate, which only contains cannabidiol, but you’ll want to look at the terpene profile when buying full-spectrum or broad-spectrum CBD products.

Reading Third-Party Lab Reports for CBD Products

Not all CBD products adhere to high-quality standards and the fact that the CBD industry still remains fairly unregulated plays an important role in that fact. 

Do you only want the best? You can look out for CBD manufacturers that subject their products to third-party lab testing to ensure you know what you’re consuming. Reading a third-party lab report can be tricky at first, but it’s really quite easy once you know how. 

We hope this guide has armed you with the information you need to shop for premium-quality cannabidiol products!



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