The Endless War for CoA Perfection
We are going to take a deep dive into the world of cannabis testing, and product creation. The quality of your CBD (cannabidiol) products is predicated on the technology of extraction and the transparency of the company you purchase from.
For a long time, we relied on word of mouth marketing back in the RSHO (Real Scientific Hemp Oil) days of creating one’s own homemade hemp products. Many CBD companies started that way and sold products that didn’t test high enough (not actually having the marketed level of CBD in the product) or including dangerous heavy metals and other nasty things. Thankfully, companies can now be trusted to produce a CoA (Certificate of Analysis) on your hemp products. But not all CoA’s are the same, we will outline the best types of CoAs so you can be certain that your product is of the highest quality.
To be considered a hemp product here in the US, there are some things you need to know. First, your THC levels must be below 0.3% and second, you must follow the laws in your state. Finally, how you process and extract your product needs to have an entirely traceable process in some states from growing to harvesting to putting the product on the store shelves. This has led to an industry within hemp which creates selective breeds that express higher and higher amounts of CBD and or other cannabinoids.
The final note on quality is knowing how your product was created. Some companies outline their entire seed to sale process while others do not. Some companies discuss technology that may seem state-of-the-art, but we’ll discuss what it all actually means. How you extract is also of utmost importance ensuring quality.
Quality from Testing
Since the late 2010’s, labs started popping up for cannabis testing. Testing at that time was rudimentary as in testing standards differed and sample preparation differed between lab to lab. This confused a lot of growers and enthusiasts, thankfully state governments started regulating testing requirements and standards for their respective state. This meant that labs now had to become more unified under multiple different types of testing standards such as the original ISO 17025:9001.
There are multiple different things to look for when testing a cannabis product using the conventional HPLC or GC/MS methods (High Pressure Liquid Chromatography and Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry respectively):
This test represents the quantity and amount of each cannabinoid in your product. Some labs are better than others for detecting extremely rare cannabinoids (since there are two major cannabinoids and over 80 minor cannabinoids). This test is what the government would look at to determine if your product is hemp or cannabis (fun fact, it’s all Cannabis sativa but the law is the law) based on the percentage of THC. If your THC level is below the 0.3% by weight, then you can move on with your product, if not, you need to dispose of it or you are selling cannabis and need that respective license. The more minor cannabinoids, typically, the higher quality your extract is and the better the process is for fractionating those different cannabinoids. We will get into fractioning in the extract section.
An obvious category that most CBD companies still don’t do since it is extremely expensive per product. Thankfully ProMED offers pesticide information on our CoAs. Hemp is a bio accumulator which means it will absorb and keep the pesticides that are used to grow the product. Thankfully, most farms do not use excessive pesticides but when the US was open to international markets, much of the hemp we imported from China had nasty pesticides like DDT which is outlawed here in the US.
Another fact of bioaccumulation is heavy metal buildup in a hemp product. This is especially concerning for arsenic and lead. These are terrible things to have in a CBD product and if you do not see that information on the CoA, don’t purchase the product.
These can include foodborne illness info which is important to have.
More related to foodborne illnesses, however, this deals with fungi instead of viruses/bacterium like microbes.
Quality from Extraction
Growing and extraction are the two most important aspects for CBD preservation and quality aside from the MCT oil or other carrier used in product development.
Back in the day, hemp companies used to make BHO primarily for THC, this is butane hash oil. The theory is using butane or other hydrocarbons to extract. It is cheap and easy to do but also dangerous to accomplish as well as if the product isn’t off gassed, can be a deadly mixture for the end user.
Next comes alcohol extraction and nothing is wrong with this procedure, however, it is still a form of hydrocarbon and tends to take a lot more with the plant which means another step of winterization is needed to separate plant lipids which many CBD companies did not do.
The most expensive option but also the best is CO2 extraction which involves CO2 reaching a supercritical state (where it is between a gas and liquid) to strip the plant of terpenes and all cannabinoids. The lower temperature and pressure extracts are fractionated out to preserve the minor cannabinoids and terpenes while the higher temperature and pressure extraction (Which takes longer) strips the CBD and THC off the plant. Depending on the temperature reached, this can also denature (activate) the CBD and THC from their carboxylic states (CBDa and THCa).
CO2 extraction is what ProMED uses to make all of its amazing CBD products since it’s reliable every time and safe. The CO2 is also recycled in more expensive extractors.
Terms of The Trade
Many companies use the terms “colloidal, nano, nanotechnology, nano emulsion” to describe their products. And they aren’t entirely wrong, but these terms can be used to compare someone’s CBD product against another when they really shouldn’t especially if the CBD product is using an MCT oil which automatically makes the product a nano emulsion, using nanotechnology. What do we mean? Well, since CBD and the other cannabinoids are lipophilic (or likes fat molecules) they will naturally want to be inside an oil like an MCT oil such as coconut oil. What happens next does depend a little on the manufacturer if they use lecithin or a different emulsification method which encapsulates the CBD molecule inside a liposome or lipid bubble. Think of our red blood cells, they have a membrane of phospholipids, this is a remarkably similar process for CBD in MCT oil. All it takes is the emulsifier, temperature, and the ability to agitate the mixture. Don’t be tricked into a brand stating nanotechnology over another brand but not offering the transparency of their CoA.
So, yes, it’s difficult to find the perfect CBD product since a lot of products on the market are great, however, there are a lot of products that still have issues such as the ones outlined above. These issues will not go away unless the state governments take a strict stance on testing such as Florida. States with the strictest standards for testing outweigh the benefits of the term “Organic” because all this information is readily available to the customer such as potency, heavy metals, and pesticides. When does your organic cereal or tomato provide you with that information at the grocery store? With ProMED products, scan the QR code on the product to be taken directly to that information.
Stay safe out there and make sure you get the best quality CBD product you can by knowing the three most important facts, testing, extraction and terminology.