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CBD Third-Party Lab Reports: What Do They Mean – And How do you Read Them?

Green Shoppers Written by Green Shoppers
Updated on November 2, 2018

If you have been shopping around for CBD products lately, you will likely have come across the term ‘third-party lab reports.’ But most companies don’t fully explain what this means on their site, which can lead to a few confused consumers wondering whether this is a good thing.

You might have followed the link to a PDF or separate web page detailing the findings of a third-party lab report. This can be enormously confusing, as you will probably see a lot of acronyms and terms and wonder what they mean, and you might also see some other ingredients and ponder over whether this has a positive or negative effect on the resulting oil.

In this article, we are going to show you step-by-step how to read third party lab reports for CBD, so that you can rest assured you are buying high-quality CBD oil and not wasting your hard-earned money. But first, let’s look at why third party testing is so important.

What are third-party lab reports and why do companies do them?

As it stands, CBD products sold in health stores are not actually regulated in the UK. The Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) that oversees CBD products only regulates those available as medicines under special circumstances. This means that the CBD food supplements you see on the shelves are not government regulated.

This means that, in theory, a company could put anything in a glass bottle and sell it as CBD oil. Of course, this is a risky business, as anyone found guilty would face criminal charges and have their company shut down, but this is not to say that scammers don’t try it.

Thankfully, there are reputable CBD companies already establishing themselves in the UK, and these companies are paving the way for a better CBD industry. In order to do this, they promote transparency, which requires proving what is in their products. A trustworthy CBD manufacturer will thus provide unbiased third-party lab reports to prove that they are producing high quality, safe CBD oil.

The company sends off samples of their oils to a third-party laboratory, who conduct chromatographic tests to find what is in the oil. This helps you find out what exactly you are putting in your body, and is why you should always buy CBD oil from a company who pays for this testing.

What to look for in a CBD lab report

In order to help you understand CBD lab reports better, we will go through real-life examples shortly. But first, let’s take a look at some terms you might see in a lab report. For reference, we will note the “good” ingredients with a (*), and “bad” ingredients – the ones you don’t want to see in CBD oil – with a (^).

  • *CBD: Let’s get the obvious out of the way. You will want to see CBD, or cannabidiol, listed in the ingredients of your CBD oil. If it isn’t present, then it would be a complete scam!
  • Other cannabinoids: There are a whole host of cannabinoids that can be found in the cannabis plant. Not all of these are great, so we will break it down a little bit below. Note, however, that just because cannabinoids aren’t listed doesn’t mean they aren’t present, it just means that they might not have shown up on the chromatograph. Furthermore, more cannabinoids exist other than the ones listed below, so don’t be scared if more acronyms like this show up.
    • *CBC
    • *CBG
    • *CBDA
    • *CBN
    • ^THC
  • ^Pesticides, herbicides, growth hormones and fertilizers: The best CBD oils are 100% organic, meaning that their cultivation did not involve any chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Some of these are harmful for health, so you don’t want to find any sneaking into your CBD oil.
  • ^Microbes: Microbial organisms can actually be good in some circumstances – think of gut bacteria, for example. But really, you don’t want living organisms showing up in your CBD oil, so try to avoid this.
  • ^Chemical solvents: You want to avoid chemical solvents as much as possible. If the third-party lab report lists ANY glycols – particularly polyethylene glycol (PEG) or propylene glycol (PG) – then give the oil a wide berth. These solvents are known to break down into carcinogenic aldehydes such as formaldehyde and acetaldehyde.

There may be other ingredients present in your CBD oil, but these are the most common. If you have any doubt, then it’s best to give it a quick Google.

Without further ado, let’s get better acquainted with real-life third-party lab results.

CBD Third Party Lab Report: Elixinol

If you want to see transparency, Elixinol is the place to look. As Elixinol contains no THC (as you’ll see in the lab results), it should be legal in the UK. Although, as it is a company based in Northern Europe that mostly sells to the USA, you would need to pay shipping and may find that it is not approved to pass the border. Nonetheless, it is a good example to look at for a third-party lab report – we will look at a UK-based company next.

Elixinol sends samples to leading US labs to confirm testing from European labs. Before deciding which third party labs to use, they send off ‘dummy’ samples to assure the quality of the lab’s testing – now that is dedication! If you want to see the results yourself, everything is on their Certificates of Analysis page. The following is a certificate from their 100 mg Cinnamint CBD oil drops, with the report conducted by Gabriel Ettenson, COO:

  • Verified ingredients: These were the actual base ingredients tested to be present in the sample – MCT oil (natural fracturation from coconut oil), hemp seed oil, CO2 cinnamon extract (for flavour), peppermint essential oil.
  • Active cannabinoid profile: This is the most important category, as it determines the actual presence and potency of CBD – 100 mg CBD (*with allowable variation of +/- 10%), 0% THC. No other cannabinoids were listed on the report.
  • Heavy metal content: This refers to the presence of metal elements that are known to be hazardous to human health. The 100 mg Elixinol sample tested for:
    • Arsenic (As): 0.01 ppm (acceptable limit 1.5ppm)
    • Cadmium (Cd): <0.01 ppm (acceptable limit 25 ppm)
    • Mercury (Hg): <0.01 ppm (acceptable limit 15 ppm)
    • Lead (Pb): 0.06 ppm (acceptable limit 5 ppm)
  • Microbiology results: 3M Petrifilm was used on the Elixinol CBD oil, which results showing that it tested negative for E. Coli and Salmonella, and it tested at less than 10 cfu/g for the total Coliform count – well within the acceptable values.
  • Pesticides and herbicides: Tested using HPLC mass spectrometry, the Elixinol sample was deemed 100% clear of 24 common pesticides, including Abamectin, Spinosad, Imazalil and Carbaryl.

These lab results coincide with what is stated on Elixinol’s labels and website, showing that they are indeed a reputable source.

CBD Third Party Lab Report: Love CBD

If you’re wanting to see results from a reputable UK CBD manufacturer, then here you go. Love CBD has been selling CBD products in the UK for some time now, and they offer third-party lab reports for all their products. This transparency is key in a growing CBD market.

Here is the lab report for their 800 mg Entourage Oil, carried out on the 1st of August in 2018.

Compound Values (mg/g) Mass (%)
CBD 35 3.5
CBDA 9.4 0.94
THCA 0.30 0.03
THC 0.59 0.059
CBG 0.72 0.072
CBDV 3.6 0.36
CBN 0.32 0.032
Pb <0.00010 <0.000010
Cd <0.00010 <0.000010
As <0.00020 <0.000020
Hg <0.00001 <0.000001

Love CBD persists that their products are legal in the UK since they are made from industrial hemp, which is legal because it contains a legal limit of THC. By providing lab results, they can further prove this and allow their consumers to feel safer and more confident.

Final thoughts on reading CBD third-party lab reports

So, as it turns out, CBD lab reports are pretty simple to read as long as you know what you’re looking at. If you know what compounds to look for, you should be all set.

All you need to do is remember to look for CBD, other cannabinoids like CBN and CBC, and look for things to avoid such as THC and dangerous metal elements. If you are really doubting something, you can always get in touch with the company themselves.

Above all, make sure you always look out for lab results to ensure that you’re consuming something safe.