Most of the manufacturers of CBD products show Certificate of Analysis or third-party lab reports on their websites. However, an average consumer does not always understand how to read them and what does each piece of information reflect. This article will help you to understand the lab reports and to interpret their results. The lab reports can be obtained for any type of product: gummies, oils, capsules, but there is nothing to worry about as they are reported in a similar manner.
There are many types of lab reports; however, the most common ones are Cannabinoid Profile; Tepene Content; Pesticides; Residual Solvent; Microbial Content; Heavy Metals; Moisture Content; Water Activity. We will briefly look at each type of report separately.
Cannabinoid Profile is perhaps the most important part of the lab analysis as it shows the actual active ingredients of the hemp extract used in the product. It shows percentage weight and concentrations of the most popular cannabinoids, such as D9-THC, THCa, CBD, CBDa, CBN, CBDV, D8-THC, THCV, CBG, CBGA, CBC as well as total cannabinoids. To distinguish between types of spectrums, you don’t need to know what each of these letters represents. The total cannabinoids row shows the overall concentration of the extract in the product being analyzed. The biggest portion of the concentration falls on CBD and CBDa, and with a few exceptions for some manufacturers, CBD takes up either 100% or above 90% of cannabinoids’ share. If the product is based on CBD isolates, then total share of CBD (and possibly some of CBDA and CBDV) on the report will show 100%, whereas all other cannabinoids will be not detected and shown as “ND”. However, if you are looking at a lab report of a full spectrum extract, most of the other cannabinoids will be present in trace amounts. Broad spectrum extracts typically include 2-4 cannabinoids. Cannabinoid profile is what makes every full spectrum extract unique. Some manufacturers purposefully increase the share of acidic form of CBD (CBDa) or cannabinol (CBN) or other cannabinoids, as they may have additional therapeutic effects. As you may have heard before, having a full-spectrum rather than isolate has a stronger effect on our body as cannabinoids work synergistically.
Terpene Content shows whether or not the products contain any plant materials that belong to a chemical group of terpenes and give cannabis scents. They provide additional health advantage as they boost the activity of cannabinoids. Sometimes, having a product made with full-spectrum extract plus terpenes is referred to as a “Whole-Spectrum”. If terpenes are not present in the extract then the report page that lists terpenes will show “ND” for every chemical. On the contrary, if terpenes are present, their concentration will be shown numerically. The effects of terpenes vary and include anti-inflammatory, pain relief, improvement of mood, nausea relief, and others.
Pesticides page shows whether the extract contains any pesticides, which are chemicals used during plant cultivation to keep insects away. As they accumulate in our body, pesticides may become harmful and cause some health issues. Make sure that the lab report says not detected (ND) in the “Result” column. If the report shows any trace amount of pesticides, make sure it is below the action level, which is also typically reported at a neighboring column for your reference.
Residual Solvent is important because, during the extraction process, some of the solvents used for extraction may still remain in the final product no matter which technique was used. Even extracts obtained by CO2 method, which contains no solvents, still need this report for consumption safety. Make sure that “Result” column of the report says either ND or shows a number that is lower than a solvent’s action level.
Microbial Content tests for the presence of fungi and bacteria that are hazardous to human health. As you may have guessed already, all of the results should be below action level or ND. You can check the report for fungal toxins by checking the section that says “Mycotoxin”, and for the presence of microorganisms that include both fungi and bacteria in the “Micro Analysis” section.
Heavy Metals are dangerous if they are present in products above their action level. Typically, the labs would test for lead, arsenic, mercury, and cadmium as these may cause health issues at certain concentrations. Most of the labs report heavy metals table at the end of the full panel test. Make sure that the result is below action level or is ND.
Moisture Content and Water Activity are two important inter-related parameters used in the food industry. The purpose of these tests is to show whether microorganisms are likely to start growing in the product. You want to see a low number in this section. As an example, bacteria usually require water activity of at least 0.91 and fungi at least 0.7 to support their growth. The lower is the number, the less likely microorganisms are to start growing and multiplying in the product.