Guide on How to Read CBD oil Labels

CBD oil has been proven both scientifically and by users to be one of the safest and most potent health supplements that can aid in the treatment of several difficult-to-cure conditions and diseases. 

Its innumerable health benefits range from relieving pain and inflammation to calming seizures associated with epilepsy. It’s no wonder so many people have switched to CBD oil for more natural and side-effect-free treatment of their ailments. 

However, one needs to be careful about the quality of the product he/she is buying. There are quite a few ways to get an idea about the quality and potential of a CBD product. But the first step towards gaining insight into any CBD product, in fact, into any product for that matter, is to carefully study the label. 

It can’t be emphasized enough how important reading the label and batch number of a CBD product is. However, it may not be as easy as it sounds. 

Understanding what the label says about its ingredients, sourcing, manufacturing and what it suggests about the usage may be difficult to understand for some. 

  • A lot of people get confused about what’s mentioned in the label. 
  • Sometimes, the use of certain words or terms can be quite perplexing or even misleading. 
  • In other instances, brands deliberately mislead consumers by mislabeling. 
  • There are also points to look for that may not be mentioned on the label. Sometimes, their absence means a lot for the user – more like warning bells!  

So, now the questions that arise are: 

  • What are the things that should be mentioned on the label?
  • What do these points really mean to the user?
  • How can a user use this information (or the lack thereof) to improve his or her CBD experience?
  • What should a person do if certain information is misleading or absent?
  • How to safeguard oneself from mislabeling or other hazards? 

Whether you’re using CBD tinctures or vape juices, CBD-infused edibles or capsules, or even using a CBD-infused balm or salve for topical application – you need to be aware of what should and may not be mentioned on a CBD product label. You should also understand what they mean to you as a user. 

Read on to understand each and every aspect of CBD product labeling in detail. 

Things you DO get to KNOW from Labels & What they Mean

  1. Dosage: CBD oil (or any CBD product for that matter) does not have a specific dosage. It can be difficult for a person to know for sure which kind of product is good for an individual for a specific ailment. However, certain CBD calculators help in gauging the approximate amount for a certain condition, depending on some other factors, like weight, the severity of the condition, etc. So, if a product label tells you that this is for pain relief, they are not being accurate. CBD is not designed specifically for any particular ailment. The other ingredients in a particular product may indeed have something to do with the pain relief factor. However, the amount of CBD you should take can’t be specific to a product. It depends on a lot of other variables. 
  2. Size (or capacity) of the bottle: CBD products, like oils or tinctures and vape juices, often come in bottles. Their capacity (should be mentioned on the label) plays a role in the strength and potency of the product in two ways. If a 30ml bottle of CBD product claims to have 30mg of CBD, it means, each milliliter of CBD oil contains 1mg CBD. Then again, if a 100ml bottle contains 50mg of CBD, that means each milliliter of CBD oil contains 0.5mg of CBD. Similarly, a 30ml bottle, containing 1000mg of CBD, has the same strength of CBD a 15ml bottle with 500mg CBD. 

The size of the bottle will also tell you whether you’re actually buying CBD oil of hemp seed oil. For instance, CBD oil is usually available in 10ml, 15ml, 20ml, 30ml, 100ml (3.38 ounce) bottles. A bottle of capacity above 5 ounces will usually contain hemp seed oil and hemp-derived CBD oil, which is a much costlier substance compared to the former. The hemp seed oil has its benefits, but unlike CBD, it can’t actually help treat any ailment. 

  1. Serving size: It’s important to measure your dosage during use. If the CBD product comes in a bottle, it will also come with a dropper. Sometimes, these droppers have calibration marks to help you measure the exact dose. At other times, the label will mention the serving size, i.e. how much dropper delivers (for example, 0.5ml, 1ml, etc.). In the case of edibles, the CBD dose per soft gel capsule may be mentioned or the CBD dosage per bottle and the number of capsules will be mentioned. In the latter case, you have to calculate the CBD dosage per capsules by dividing the CBD strength of the entire bottle by the number of capsules. For example, a bottle of capsules, containing 30 capsules of a total CBD strength of 150mg, suggests each cap contains 5mg of CBD.  
  2. CBD Content: Commonly mentioned on the label as 250mg, 500mg, 750mg, or 1000mg CBD, this is the total amount of CBD, in weight, contained in the pack, irrespective of the kind of CBD product used. This not only helps you measure your dosage per day/per dose, but it also helps you to microdose, i.e. find the right dosage in the long run. 
  3. Ingredients: This is a critical part. The ingredients on the label tell you a lot about what you’re consuming. 
  • Where is the CBD sourced from and manufactured? It is always best to select a brand that grows its hemp and produces its CBD within the US, as practices here are regulated (at least to a certain extent). 
  • Was it extracted from organically grown industrial hemp? (If not mentioned, then not) 
  • Is it really CBD oil? If it is written hemp seed oil, then it doesn’t contain CBD. But CBD-rich hemp oil is CBD oil. 
  • What carrier oil or carrier base has been used to hold the CBD together, like MCT oil, hemp seed oil, olive oil, or thinning agents (in case of vaping juices, like VG, PG, etc.)
  • What other ingredients (like terpenes) have been included? If they are plant extracts. 
  • If the flavoring is from natural plant extracts, the brand will declare it as a natural flavoring. If they don’t then be sure the flavors are produced with the help of artificial (man-made) chemicals.
  • Does the label mention anything else? If it does, look them up on the internet to know more about what they are, what they do and how they can affect your health.  
  1. Type of extract: CBD product labels usually mention if the product is full-spectrum (often indirectly mentioned as whole-plant extract), isolate, or broad-spectrum (may only mention zero THC). Different kinds of extracts have varying effects on our body. Besides, different people react differently to these types of extracts. While some may find it more beneficial to use full-spectrum or broad-spectrum products over an isolate, others may react negatively to the THC in a full-spectrum CBD product. If you know which type you’re more comfortable with or want to take a call depending on what they contain, this can help you. 
  2. Extraction method: How was the CBD extracted? The extraction process will tell you how clean the CBD product is. Bigger and more reputed brands extract CBD with the help of the CO2 method. They do not use alcohol-based solvents, the consumption of which can be detrimental to your health. 
  3. Usage & storage instructions: Follow the usage and storage instructions carefully. The serving, dosage, etc. are often mentioned on the label. Although you may not need to stick to the usage instructions by the book as CBD interacts differently with each individual, it definitely gives you a reference point. CBD products should ideally be stored in a cool and dark place to prolong their life span. Additionally, some vaping juices are highly potent and need to be stored in a place where the temperature can be maintained to avoid crystallization.  
  4. Water-soluble or oil-soluble: Water-soluble CBD oils are better absorbed into the bloodstream. Find out if the label mentions it. If it does not, it is oil/fat-based and needs you to eat fatty foods along with it to ensure fast and effective absorption.  
  5. Batch number of product: Be on the lookout for the batch number of the product you’re buying. If it does not contain it, beware, the brand may be trying to hide the real contents, potency, purity, and quality of its product. This batch number will help you find out about these aspects about the product from their online lab test reports. These tests are usually done by a third-party laboratory to ensure genuine and unbiased test reports. 

Research the brand

Lastly, you need to look up the brand of the product you want to buy. Read the user reviews, study their performance ratings, find out how long they have been in the industry, what kind of practices (regulations) they follow, where they source their cannabis, where they manufacture the CBD products, what kind of cultivation and extraction methods they use, what all they put in their products, etc. 

You can find brand reviews on different CBD companies all over the internet. They give you an in-depth idea about all these aspects. 

Buy their product only when you’re satisfied with what you read about them. Also, look up the CoA (Certificates of Analysis – third-party lab test reports) on the internet. This will give a better (and scientifically tested) idea on the veracity of the brand’s claims. 

Beware of these Telltale Signs on Labels 

  1. THC content: Some labels would read zero-THC, others may read isolate. These are indications that they are broad-spectrum CBD extract or CBD isolate extract – that do not have any THC, a cannabis compound, which despite some benefits, has hallucinatory effects on humans in a substantial enough dose. However, full-spectrum CBD extracts (that do have traces of THC) can also have added health benefits, but only as long as its level is low. The permissible level in the US is 0.3% by weight of the total product. Labels on such products will mention this level. If they do not, it’s safe to stay away from them. Look for their CoA on the brand website. That should hold proof of the actual level found in the product. 
  2. Use of carrier oil/base & additives: Carrier oils and bases are an important part of the product. While they are necessary ingredients (unless it is a CBD isolate powder), the kind of carrier oil used makes a lot of difference in the experience, effect of CBD, and its benefits. While thinning agents in vape juices carry certain risks, so do fatty oils if inhaled. The proportion of these carrier oils also determines the effectiveness and safety parameters. Besides, some brands include certain additives to their CBD oil tinctures and vape juices. If they are made from natural ingredients, chances are that they are safe for you. But take note of whether that is mentioned. 
  3. CBD oil or hemp seed oil: This is a point we’ve mentioned earlier. Look for the telltale signs that may indicate that the product you’re buying is, in fact, CBD oil and not some other extract of the plant that does not contain any CBD. CBD is most concentrated in the cannabis flowers and least in the seeds. 
  4. Natural or artificial: If a CBD product contains natural and organically grown ingredients, they would flaunt it. If they don’t, then you should stay away from those products, as they would most certainly contain artificial chemicals that might prove to be harmful to your health.  

Do your own research. Seek clarifications from brands. Look for brand reviews, but take it with a pinch of salt. Balance out all the information you gather, and then make an informed decision. 

More often than not, the things mentioned on the labels are no guarantee to what the brand claims are present in a product. You should look up the test results of a third-party laboratory to find out and be certain that you’re consuming a genuine, potent, pure and clean product. 

Reading the Certificate of Analysis – Lab Test Results

What is a Certificate of Analysis (CoA)?

A Certificate of Analysis (CoA) is a document published by an accredited laboratory, not affiliated with the company making the products, showing the test results on those products. The tests done by the labs are to check for the quantity of CBD and other cannabinoids, as well as contaminants (if any). 

Manufacturers are required to send every batch of each product they make for testing. This is done to ensure and establish the safety and potency profiles of all their products.

A CoA not only benefits the customers, but also the company making the products – to stand proof of their products’ safety and potency, as well as to ensure the growth of their company by spreading goodwill. 

Where to find the CoA? 

  1. Posted on the Brand Website – so you can check before purchase 
  2. If not, you can request one from their customer support team. Some brands oblige, others expect you to buy the product to access their CoAs.
  3. Some offline and online brands have QR codes printed on the labels. Scanning them with your phone scanner app will direct you to their CoA pages online. 

What to look for? 

  1. THC content – tally with claims (mentioned in percentage, mg/ml, mg in full product, or mg per gram of product) 
  2. CBD content – tally with claims (mentioned in percentage, mg/ml, mg in full product, or mg per gram of product)
  3. Content of other cannabinoids, terpenes (natural or otherwise), carrier oils, fatty acids, other ingredients, natural or otherwise, that the brand claims would be beneficial to your health, etc.
  4. Are they tested in-house or by a credible third-party laboratory?
  5. Are there any contaminants? The CoA will specifically mention the level of solvents, heavy metals, pesticides, and other contaminants, if present.

The Bottom Line

CBD product labels are understandably a bit difficult to figure out. Given that CBD is a comparatively new substance in the market, one that doesn’t have FDA approval, it is necessary to do our own research before buying a CBD product. 

Besides, with a little bit of help from the scientific fraternity (CoAs and online resource of scientific research), we can safely make the most out of cannabis.  

For instance, you must have noticed the words MCT oil printed on some CBD oil labels. MCT stands for medium-chain triglyceride. It is a chemical compound broken down from natural coconut oil. 

MCT is good for health when consumed orally. It can also be safe if present in vape oils. However, the percentage of it should not exceed safe limits. 

Like MCT oil, you may encounter several other unknown terms on CBD product labels. Look for words you don’t understand and look them up on the internet. 

The internet is full of scientific studies and articles, made easy by bloggers and science writers, available for the public to read and gain knowledge from. When it concerns your health, don’t restrict yourself to only what others say (or claim), or some brands promote. Read, research, and make a well-informed decision on your next CBD product. 

Stay safe. Remember nothing matters more than your health!

Author Details
Senior Editor & Researcher , Greenthevoteok
Matt Hansel is a Medical Practitioner, who has been writing and researching about cannabis since 2014.  His popular quotes which we like are: \"Don\'t use CBD oil for a cure, use it as a precaution\"  \"CBD should be considered as any other vitamin supplement and your body needs it!\"