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CBD Buyer’s Guide

CBD — short for encannabinoidoil — is a mysterious substance (some would say a miraculous substance) and one that many consumers don’t have much experience with. Even if you go ahead and buy your first CBD product, the effects may be subtle at first. Like purchasing high-end herbal supplements or vitamins, consumers are often caught between two thoughts:


  • You’ve been convinced of the many scientifically-backed benefits of CBD.
  • All you have to “go on” are marketing materials offered by CBD manufacturers.


We’ll level with you, the sale of CBD in a mind-boggling array of delivery methods and products is brand spanking new. As regulators are finally starting to catch up, some of the top CBD brands are just now honing their processes to make some pretty darn good stuff.


That’s not to say that CBD is for everyone, though there’s a growing scientific consensus that CBD is indeed beneficial to all. In fact, a growing body of evidence points to endocannabinoid deficiency being at the heart of a number of hard to pin down general maladies including irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome. It’s called Clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CED) if you’re interested in reading up.


A growing body of evidence supports the fact that CBD is actually a great product to consume for everyone. Over the last 20 years, over 25,000 peer-reviewed articles have been published in medical journals about cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system. That’s over 2 articles a day.


The most common maladies that peer-reviewed studies have linked CBD to treatment with include:



But back to our point, it can be hard to know what CBD product you need, and which CBD products you can trust.


That’s why we’ve crafted a CBD Buyer’s Guide here on Best Choice Reviews. Below we’ll tackle the following aspects of CBD buying:


Extraction Methods and CBD

CBD is made up of a number of compounds found in the Cannabis plant. In order to ensure the end product is potent, doesn’t include harmful additives, and contains only the compounds that users want, it’s important to know a little bit about extraction methods when buying CBD.


The most common extraction methods for creating CBD products include:

  • C02 Extraction
  • Olive Oil (or related oil) Extraction
  • And Solvent Extraction


A majority of CBD products sold by established brands utilize C02 extraction.


C02 extraction has been known to be harmless to human health for decades. It’s routinely used in food products including carbonating drinks and removing caffeine from caffeinated coffee. While the sophisticated equipment needed to extract CBD compounds in this manner is beyond the reach of most consumers, many established CBD companies have spent the money to ensure they can provide this safe and well-tested extraction method.


Put simply, CO2 extraction involves lowering the temperature of C02 below -69 degrees fahrenheit. At this temperature, C02 is a liquid. Using a compressor, the liquid is compressed to at least 75 pounds per square inch (PSI) of pressure. When hemp or cannabis is inserted into the cooled and pressurized chamber, the C02 removes the critical terpenes oils and trichomes from the raw plant material.


Finally, the CBD and C02 are passed to a seperator. The C02 is recycled for another run while the CBD materials are ready to be added to any CBD product the producer chooses.


Oil extraction methods often utilizes olive oil. In this method, the raw plant matter of hemp or cannabis is decarboxylated. In short, this just means that the plant matter is heated to activate some of its chemical components. Commonly this process involves heating the raw plant material to 248 degrees for 60 minutes. Afterwards, the plant matter is added to olive (or another) oil and heated to 212 degrees for an additional 120 minutes.


This method is generally quite effective, safe to perform, and creates a safe to consume end product. The reason this extraction method is not commonly used in commercial CBD operations is that the end result is perishable.


You may find oil extraction CBD in more locally produced CBD operations. And this method can lead to a high quality, but just be aware that the results are perishable and should be kept in a cool, dark place as well as consumed quickly after purchase.


Solvent extraction methods are commonly employed by DIY CBD makers as well as smaller producers. This method involves placing the raw hemp or cannabis materials into butane, ethanol, or high-proof alcohol. The solvent removes all terpenes and cannabinoids from the plant matter. But this method can also remove some chlorophyll, which is not always digested well in a condensed form.


Once all of the cannabinoid products are removed into the solvent, heating can separate the solvent mixture from the removed CBD products.


While you’re less likely to see this method from large-scale CBD producers, you will see it some in apothecary and small herbal practitioner settings, as well as from smaller CBD brands and DIY crowds. While the consumption of a properly made end product from this method is safe for consumers, one of the negatives of this approach is that butane and ethanol are extremely flammable. And you must heat them up to obtain the CBD materials from the solvent.


Full-Spectrum Vs. Isolate CBD

While the extraction methods we talked about in the last section will often be comprised of only C02 extraction methods within large producers, there’s greater variety when looking for isolate or full-spectrum CBD on the market.


So what’s the difference between isolate and full-spectrum CBD?


Full-spectrum CBD is found in CBD oil products that are minimally refined and often use the entire cannabis plant matter to create the oil. Cannabis plants contain hundreds of healthy phytonutrients, terpenes, and cannabinoids. A list of chemical compounds known to be beneficial to the human body that are included in higher numbers in full-spectrum CBD include:

  • CBD
  • CBDA
  • CBG
  • CBGA
  • CBC
  • CBCA
  • THCA
  • And THCV

One of the issues with full-spectrum CBD is that depending on the manufacturer, there could be more than trace levels of THC in these CBD products.

According to federal law, hemp-derived CBD is legal and contains less than .3% of THC by volume. While some full-spectrum CBD products do fall under this THC amount, others do not. Meaning that some full-spectrum CBD products are only legal at the state level within certain states (whose numbers are growing).

For those interested in full-spectrum CBD but not seeking some of the feeling associated with THC, full-spectrum CBD has been highly studied for the entourage effect. The entourage effect describes a phenomena in which CBD modulates the effects of THC in the body. Those consuming both CBD and THC report less psychoactive feelings from THC, and have been shown in clinical settings to gain greater health benefits from both CBD and THC.

On the other hand, isolate CBD leads to CBD oil products that are more than 99% pure CBD. While these products cut out some of the chemical compounds known to be good for a range of bodily systems, they are much more likely to be considered hemp-derived CBD. Thus, isolate CBD is much more likely to be considered federally legal as opposed to just legal according to some state laws.

Choosing the Right CBD Dosage Level

If you haven’t tried CBD before, or have only tried a few varieties of CBD, the range of potencies and formulations can be overwhelming. With some CBD brands, the range of CBD in products can range from 40MG to 7500MG. So where do you begin?


First off, there isn’t a standard dosage for CBD.


You’ll need to start somewhere, see how you feel and adjust according to:

  • How the CBD affects you
  • The severity of the condition (if any) being treated
  • The concentration of the CBD product
  • And elements like your body weight and metabolism speed


Additionally, as with any bodily system your endocannabinoid system will change throughout your life. This means there are different points in your life in which your endocannabinoid receptors are more fully “expressed” (there are more of them) and when there are not.


With all that said, there are some “rules of thumb” that many longtime CBD users and producers go by. One method involves calculating your starting dose by body weight and pain level.


In this method, you rate your pain level on a scale of 1-6 (with 1 being non-existent and 6 being extreme). For every 10 pounds of weight on your body, you take 1-6MG depending on your pain-level calculation.


For instance, a 200 pound male with a pain level of 3 would start at 60MG according to this calculation tactic. Additionally, a 150 pound female with a pain level of 4 would also start at 60MG.


Generally you’ll want to start relatively small with your dosage until you figure out how CBD affects you. Once you’re used to a dose, you can start to increase your dosage over time.


Be sure to take periodic breaks so that you body does not gain a tolerance to CBD. And so CBD will remain effective over time. For this, consider taking 1-2 days a week off of CBD.


Additionally, while many doctors don’t have a ton of experience with CBD, some have routinely prescribed CBD. Your doctor should also have some notion of how your body may absorb CBD based on your medical history with other medicines.


One final dosage area that some CBD consumers find a bit trick is calculating your CBD dosage from a CBD tincture.


Typically a CBD tincture dropper contains one ML of liquid. First, find total amount of CBD in the tincture bottle. Next divide the number of milliliters in the bottle by the total CBD in the bottle. This will equal the MG of CBD in each dropper full. If a dropper full is 100MG of CBD and you’re trying to take 50MG, take half a dropper.


One final note on absorbing your full dosage of CBD from a tincture is that you should squeeze the correct dropper amount under your tongue. Hold the CBD solution there for 30 seconds, and then swallow the CBD oil.

Hemp vs. Marijuana-Derived CBD

When choosing between hemp and marijuana-derived CBD, one of the largest issues at play is that of legality. Hemp-derived CBD is federally legal. And all but a handful of states have mirrored the federal law to explicitly label hemp-derived CBD as legal according to state laws.


Marijuana-derived CBD, however is considered a controlled substance Federally. While 46 states do have medical marijuana laws that would allow a doctor — in at least some circumstances — to prescribe marijuana-derived CBD, the product is still technically illegal federally. Additionally, states (presently eleven of them)  in which recreational marijuana has been legalized would consider marijuana-derived CBD legal for everyone over the legal age within the state.


So what’s the difference between hemp and marijuana-derived CBD?


Both hemp and marijuana-derived CBD are from the cannabis plant. Which up until recently put even hemp-derived CBD into a legal “gray area” in many cases. The 2018 Farm Bill, however — as well as specific state laws in many states — put this to rest. According to the 2018 Farm Bill hemp is defined as an agricultural commodity. Accordingly, hemp was removed from the federal schedule of controlled substances. Marijuana, however, is still a scheduled (controlled) substance.


The main difference chemically and by derivation is that hemp is made from portions of or strains of the cannabis plant that produce less than .3% THC per volume. Marijuana-derived CBD, on the other hand, can have up to 15% THC, which is lower than some marijuana strains, but substantially more.


Is hemp-derived or marijuana-derived CBD better for me?

There are hundreds of helpful chemical compounds in the cannabis plant. The US government even holds patents on some of these valuable terpenes and cannabinoids. While the largest contributor to health-related chemical constitution of hemp and marijuana-derived CBD will be whether you get isolate or full-spectrum CBD, the second largest difference is in the amount of THC present.


A wide range of peer-reviewed studies have noted the beneficial nature of THC. But with small levels of THC present in all CBD products, the question then becomes how much do we really need? This question is still open to interpretation. And for many CBD consumers the answer will come down to the legality of marijuana-derived CBD as well as how it makes them feel.


Keep in mind that the well-documented entourage effect involves a synergistic tendency between THC and CBD. CBD tamps down the psychoactive effects of THC. And when both sets of compounds are present, the body absorbs an even greater range of terpenes and cannabinoids than in either single substance.

Organic vc. Non-Organic CBD

Hemp is a miraculous plant that can be used for a wide variety of practical, medical, and culinary purposes. One unique aspect of hemp as it grows is that it purifies the soil in which it’s growing. Hemp functions as a sort of sponge for the materials in the nearby soils, both good and bad.


What this means is that it’s important to find hemp from a quality location, or that is organic.


Certified organic products are made of 95% or higher organic matter and aren’t exposed to harmful pesticides, dyes, industrial solvents, or chemical fertilizers.


This is what you should ideally look for in all your CBD products. But there’s just one hitch.


The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) doesn’t regulate hemp products in America. This means that there aren’t any domestic certified organic producers of CBD. Interestingly, the USDA does regulate imported CBD products. This means that there are international CBD products that have been able to obtain certified organic status.


While there may be no official (certified) organic producers in the United States, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t producers using as or more responsible farming practices. In fact, there are many CBD producers that produce their hemp at or above organic standards. There’s just no body that can provide certifications for these producers at the present.


If you’re looking for a CBD producer that likely upholds as or more stringent standards than certified organic, either look to European producers that are certified organic, or look to producers that provide detailed information related to the following topics:

  • Toxicity and contamination levels
  • Use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers
  • Sustainable agricultural practices
  • Soil quality
  • Environmental impact
  • Overall healthiness of product


This leads us to our next section on how to find CBD from a quality source.


CBD From a Quality Source

As we noted in the previous section, the USDA doesn’t regulate hemp products in the United States. This means that there are no certified organic CBD products in the domestic US.


This means that it’s particularly important to do some research about the source of hemp for your CBD product. Luckily, hemp growing has not yet expanded to anonymous “big ag” corporations like some other dietary supplements and herbal products. Many of the best CBD producers disclose their hemp sources, many of which are small, responsible, and ecologically minded farms.


A vast majority of hemp farmed in the United States is farmed in Montana and Colorado. Together, these states comprise over 70,000 acres of farming. They’re also two of the least polluted states in the nation. The following 15,000 acres are farmed in Oregon, Kentucky, and Tennessee.


One argument for the generally high quality of hemp farms in the United States involves the nation’s rich history with the crop. Hemp was routinely produced in almost all of the states in the union until around 50 years ago. With a great deal of the farming experience with hemp detailed in a pre-chemical fertilizer time (as well as with more traditional farming practices), today’s hemp industry is built on a more sustainable basis than many crops.


If you’re looking for CBD from sources overseas, you will likely be able to default to certified organic sources.


When looking for quality CBD from US producers, look to producers that detail the sources of their hemp as well as documentation on the topics mentioned in the previous section.


As you may have heard in reference to other food items, there are some crops where the quality of the producer matters much more than with others. Due to the sponge like nature of maturing hemp, a quality source for hemp-derived CBD is of utmost importance.


Legality of CBD

As there are a number of top-quality guides on the convoluted topic of CBD legality, we’ll make this as short and sweet as we can.


Since the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp-derived CBD has been considered legal according to Federal law. In this bill, hemp is defined as plant matter from a cannabis plant that contains less than .3% THC per volume. This means that a vast majority of CBD products online, and all that legally consider themselves hemp-derived, are legal at the federal level.


While most states either preempted the 2018 Farm Bill with their own state laws legalizing hemp-derived CBD, or aligned with the bill after it’s passing, a handful of states have stricter laws about CBD. In this handful of states, hemp-derived CBD is treated like marijuana-derived CBD, and generally only legal for certain medical conditions.


In states that have legalized recreational marijuana, both hemp-derived and marijuana-derived CBD are legal at the state level. Furthermore, the FDA has made it their policy in recent years not to prosecute individuals consuming cannabis products in states that have legalized them. The FDA has gone so far as to explicitly state that prosecuting marijuana-derived CBD consumers in states where it is legal as a non-priority.