What To Look For When Buying CBD Oil

Feeling overwhelmed about CBD oil options? Read on to learn more about what to look for when buying CBD oil.


CBD, short for cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive compound in the Cannabis sativa plant, is part of a booming industry. CBD has been found both anecdotally and scientifically to relieve a variety of ailments, including:

CBD comes in many different forms, including edible products, tinctures, and, most commonly, oils. The CBD market was valued at almost $400 million in 2019, which means that there are a lot of competing products available online and in retail shops.

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CBD purchases should be based on quality

Although hemp-based products are legal in the United States, the industry is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, meaning there are inconsistencies in terms of quality and potency. So how do you find the best CBD oil?

We’re going to cover the basics of what to look for when buying CBD oil, as well as how to interpret packaging and where you can find high-quality CBD oil to treat your ailments.        

What is CBD?

CBD is a naturally-occurring chemical compound that is found in cannabis. The recreational drug marijuana has both cannabis and THC, which is the psychoactive compound that gives you a ‘high’ feeling. CBD does not cause this sensation, and this distinction is the difference in legality.

In many states, marijuana and THC-based products are legal, but this is not currently legal at the federal level. CBD products may naturally contain THC, but federally legal hemp contains no more than 0.3% THC. Any higher percentage is considered marijuana.

CBD is very often extracted into oils that can be consumed or applied topically, depending on your ailment.

CBD oil regulation

When we talk about regulation and standards, there really isn’t much on the federal level. Many CBD oil manufacturers use third-party labs to analyze oil content and potency (which we’ll get into later), but there aren’t consistent regulations in terms of extraction techniques, manufacturing, or oil consistency. This leads to a lot of questions for consumers looking to purchase CBD oil. Let’s start by talking about what makes up CBD oil.

Ingredients in CBD oil

One of the reasons oil is such a popular form of CBD is because pure CBD is hard for the body to absorb in its extracted form. CBD is actually fat-soluble, which means that when it’s combined with fats (like oil), you can absorb the compound much more easily.

CBD extract is combined with a ‘carrier oil’. Simply put, the carrier oil is the fat that helps dissolve the CBD compound. There are different carrier oils that may be listed on the bottle, but the most popular ones are:

  • Hemp seed oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Olive oil

There is some research that indicates that coconut oil might be easier to digest, but the bigger difference is going to be the quality of the oil.

When you’re looking for high-quality CBD oil, the fewer ingredients the better. Some manufacturers cut corners and include additives like thinning agents and even heavy metals.

Cultivation and extraction methods

CBD has to be extracted from the plant, and this process isn’t always easy. CO2 is often used to extract CBD and is preferred by many experts. Liquid solvents (like alcohols) can also be used but may have an impact on the taste and introduce impurities. Less expensive brands may use the liquid solvent process, but the quality may be less than with the more expensive CO2 method.

Full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, or isolate

Full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and isolate oil

Depending on which state you live in, you may have access to ‘full-spectrum’ oil. The term ‘full-spectrum’ refers to oils that contain both CBD and THC compounds. Some experts indicate that there may be added benefits to processing the whole plant, including THC, as opposed to extracting isolated CBD.

Full-spectrum oil also contains trace amounts of other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids, which can contribute to its effectiveness in a process known as the ‘entourage effect’. Full-spectrum oils may not be legal in your state, and you may not want THC, in which case you may want to look for ‘broad-spectrum’ CBD oil, which includes other cannabinoid compounds but not THC.

Read the label

When it comes to marketing, packaging and labels are designed to be attractive to the eye, but dig deeper and take time to actually read the label. The packaging should provide you with the following information:

  • Type of oil (full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, isolate)
  • Volume of product (usually in mL)
  • Potency
  • Amount of CBD (usually in mg)
  • Recommended application method
  • Serving size/drop size
  • Ingredients (active and inactive)
  • Batch number
cbd dosing
Potency matters

Not all labels tell you the potency, which can take a little bit of math to figure out. Potency is determined by the amount of CBD per milliliter and is labeled in mg/mL. Serving size may vary, and this will be important when you’re trying to determine the appropriate dose. Bottles of oil come with droppers that are usually 0.5 or 1 mL.

The ingredients list shouldn’t be too complicated, but there may be added flavors or an oil type that can trigger certain allergies, such as coconut.  The batch number (often attached to a QR code) can direct you to lab reports that can verify oil contents.

Laboratory testing and analysis reports

Some brands offer lab-based analyses that verify the oil’s potency and ingredients. However, check these reports carefully. Some manufacturers use their own labs, which can lead to bias. After all, their goal is sales.

Look for third-party, independent analysis reports to help make your decision when comparing oil brands.

Where to find high-quality CBD oil

Full-spectrum oil may possibly be legal where you live, but for everywhere else in the country you may be limited to broad-spectrum or isolate CBD oils. It seems like there are hemp shops on every corner now, but you’ll make good use of your time researching brands and comparing labels online.


CBD oil is an effective way to treat certain ailments, and oil is easily absorbed when consumed or applied to the skin. Exercise caution and put on your thinking hat when you’re comparing brands, because not all oils are created equally. Compare extraction techniques, potency, and lab results, and read the label carefully.         

CBD dosing
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