Real VS Fake CBD: How to Spot the Difference

By Jenny Menzel, H.C.

Only eight months after the national legalization of cannabidiol (CBD), 14% of Americans have reported using CBD-based products per a Gallup poll — a significant finding, considering 35% of people surveyed had no familiarity with CBD at all.

In spite of the myths surrounding this hemp-derived cannabis compound, the U.S. market expects to see CBD sales to swell to $23 billion by 2025 — a massive leap from 2018’s CBD market of $620 million, according to statistics.

Categorized as a natural health supplement, it’s only a matter of time before CBD finds its way into the homes of 68% of Americans regularly buying dietary supplements, most of which remain unregulated by the FDA. Due to similar regulation gaps in the CBD industry, it’s up to consumers to educate themselves on how to find the best CBD products.

So before you jump on the CBD bandwagon, learn how you can spot the real from the fake.

How to Tell if your CBD is the Real Deal

Any CBD product worthy of being considered legit will offer a certificate of analysis (COA) on their products to ensure their products are safe and labeled accurately.

1. Look for a Certificate of Analysis (COA).

Any CBD product worthy of being considered legit will offer a certificate of analysis (COA) on their products to ensure their products are safe and labeled accurately. These COA’s should come from independent third-party labs with no vested interest in being anything but accurate.
Many CBD products will have QR codes right on their labels, directly leading you to their products’ COA reports.

When reading a COA, first look at the report date, batch number, and product description to ensure they match your CBD product. Next, the most important results to read on a COA are:

  • CBD Total: Total milligrams on the COA should match your product label.
  • THC Total: Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) should test below 0.3% to be legal.
  • Other Cannabinoids: To verify the CBD spectrum, a COA should show levels of other non-psychoactive cannabinoids like CBN, CBG, and CBC. Know the lingo to understand these subtle spectrum differences and why they matter.
  • Toxic Contamination: A risk of crop contamination by pesticides, microbes, mold, mycotoxins, heavy metals, and other foreign material is possible. A COA will show whether a CBD product has passed or failed acceptable toxicity limits.
  • Extraction Solvents: Extracting CBD from hemp plants sometimes includes the use of health-harming solvents like ethanol, butane, or other flammable accelerants. A COA will test for these solvents to ensure any residuals aren’t lingering in your CBD product.

2. Your CBD is Third-Party Tested at an ISO-certified Lab.

If your CBD has a COA, you can be assured your product has been third-party tested. But is it third-party tested enough? Go a step further and see if the independent lab that tested your product has been accredited by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). ISO 17025-compliant labs have gone the extra mile to certifiably meet international standards. Most CBD manufacturers will proudly display the ISO logo on their product to indicate their COA comes from a high-quality lab.

3. Check Their Rating with The Better Business Bureau.

If your CBD supplier has skin in the game and conducts themselves with integrity, they will likely have an excellent rating with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) — and zero complaints. If there have been prior complaints, you can see whether they got resolved in a satisfactory manner. A reputable company will make an effort to resolve issues to maintain itself as a trustworthy CBD supplier.

4. Read Customer Reviews on Third-Party Sites.

Not everyone knows to go to the BBB to resolve consumer complaints, but most people know where they can give an online review. You can find testimonials displayed on CBD company websites, but they tend to be only the most positive reviews from their most satisfied customers. Visiting a third-party review site will provide a larger range of mixed reviews — some seemingly good, and some bad. Read through them objectively, taking into account that not everyone knows how to give helpful, detailed reviews. More importantly, CBD products that work for one person may not work for another for many reasons. However, good companies with quality products will have more good reviews than bad ones.

5. It Comes With a Satisfaction Guarantee.

CBD suppliers with confidence in their products will likely offer a money-back guarantee if you aren’t completely satisfied with your purchase. Check your product’s company website or directly contact their customer service department to verify if they have a return policy and what the terms are if they have one.

The Takeaway

While the process of purchasing quality CBD may seem to take a lot of education and effort, the time spent is well worth it when you find a natural solution that affords you relief. Stick to these five guidelines, ask questions, and remain objective as you compile information — you’ll soon notice a return on investment as you experience improvements in your health and wellness.


Jenny Menzel, H.C., is a Certified Health Coach and branding specialist for various alternative healthcare practices, and volunteers her design skills to the annual grassroots campaign, the Lyme Disease Challenge. Jenny was diagnosed with Lyme in 2010 after 8 years of undiagnosed chronic pain and fatigue, and continues to improve by employing multiple alternative therapies, including Āyurveda, Chinese Medicine and Bee Venom Therapy.

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