How Do You Know That a CBD Product Is Safe?

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How Do You Know That a CBD Product Is Safe?

For all the well-deserved hype surrounding CBD, it can be a bit of a grey area, especially for those who are new to the wonders of this cannabis-constituent. There is great confusion about CBD product labels, and rightly so, as many companies continue to take advantage of the industry's slack regulations, and print whatever sounds best on their labels. 

Here at MANTLE, we care about distinguishing the good guys from the bad guys, and that can only happen through education. And although there are many trusty and transparent CBD brands out there, there are always those that bend the rules, too. We want prospective CBD consumers to feel utterly safe and confident about the products they're about to purchase, so we have put together a guide on what to look out for when making that revolutionary CBD purchase. 

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is amongst the more famous and historical of the cannabinoids that are known to be present in Cannabis sativa. It is the second most abundant after Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). However, unlike THC, CBD is a non-intoxicating constituent of the cannabis plant and therefore will not result in a "high" when taken.

CBD is thought to centre our body and is often associated with increased balance. CBD is therefore a great ingredient for a successful self-care routine.

CBD legality

You'll be pleased to know, CBD is legal all over the EU (though there is a spectrum to the number of restrictions placed upon it) including here in Sweden, where MANTLE was born.

The reason that the legality of cannabis is shrouded in confusion is to do with all the different variables in the cannabis plant. What is legal is hemp-derived cannabidiol that has less than 0.2% THC content (in some European countries such as Italy and Switzerland, this THC threshold is slightly higher). Final CBD-based products must not contain any more than 1mg of THC. In the United States, hemp-derived CBD is legal at a federal level, so long as THC content does not exceed 0.3%. However, different states have different regulations about the sale of this cannabinoid.

Marijuana is the other variety of cannabis Sativa - think of it as hemp's cousin. CBD derived from marijuana remains illegal. Marijuana contains naturally higher concentrations of THC and is therefore often used for recreational purposes, but is illegal in many countries globally for this kind of usage. Basically, marijuana is still a big no-no in many countries and states around the world.

All legal CBD products must only contain trace amounts of THC, as this is the cannabinoid that is strictly regulated due to its intoxicating effects. But rest assured, CBD products containing the legal concentration of THC will never get you high, as their THC concentration is simply not strong enough.

What is usually in CBD-based products?

This depends on the CBD extract, of which there are three main types:

  • Full-spectrum extract contains all the natural compounds of the cannabis plant; such as terpenes, flavonoids, vitamins and fatty acids. Full-spectrum CBD has not been through any further processing so will still likely contain THC from the hemp plant - but the concentration will be within legal limits of the relevant country (and will thus never get the user high).
  • Broad-spectrum extract: Similarly to full-spectrum CBD extract, broad-spectrum is laden with all the naturally-occurring, beneficial compounds from the cannabis plant. The only thing that has been dealt with is the THC. Usually, there is virtually zero THC in this type of CBD extract.
  • CBD Isolate: This type of CBD is pure cannabidiol, usually without any of the other compounds. It is the best option for those who are uninterested in the promise of any of the other compounds from the cannabis plant, looking to hone in on the effects of CBD alone.
  • Let's now elaborate on the key, body-balancing phytochemicals in both full and broad-spectrum CBD extracts:

  • Terpenes: Terpenes are responsible for that earthy, floral fragrance you may smell or taste when taking CBD, or when you get close enough to a plant. This scent protects plants by repelling predators and attracting pollinators. Over 100 terpenes have been identified in the cannabis plant, and each of them is a unique type and compound. As well as giving off their distinct aroma, terpenes are packed with different properties, meaning different terpenes have different properties.
  • Flavonoids: Sometimes termed dietary flavonoids because they are found in great numbers within foods and beverages originating from plants, such as fruits, vegetables, tea, cocoa and wine. Like terpenes, flavonoids are thought to be hugely beneficial to our bodies when consumed.
  • Vitamins: CBD contains B-complex vitamins, including Vitamin B6, B12, riboflavin, niacin and thiamine. 
  • Carrier oil: CBD oils will usually have a carrier oil that it has been infused into. Popular choices for such oils include olive oil and MCT. At MANTLE, we use MCT (coconut-derived) oil for The Original Oil.
  • Given that broad and full-spectrum CBD oils may contain other cannabinoids from the cannabis plant, it is essential to know which you should expect to see. The Certificate of Analysis (COA) will usually list the following cannabinoids in your product:

    • Cannabidiolic acid (CBDA)
    • Cannabinol (CBN)
    • Cannabigerol (CBG)
    • Cannabichromene (CBC)

    Now, you're probably wondering what all these different compounds found in CBD-based products do. That's where the" entourage effect" comes into play. It is thought that when we take CBD products, or indeed any cannabinoid that also contains other cannabinoids and compounds like those we listed above, they all work together synergistically and mutually to enhance each other's effects.

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    How is the CBD world regulated?

    No CBD products have to pass through an approval test by the FDA. This means that some CBD outlets can get away with being dishonest about their products and what is in them, as regulations may be obscure. For this reason, it is always best to check the Certificate of Analysis of a given CBD product, which we will go into later.

    Misleading labels

    Unfortunately, the lack of strict CBD labelling requirements has resulted in scores of mislabeled CBD products. Such violations have led to lawsuits, bans and warning letters issued to multiple CBD companies. Whether it concerns the THC content, other elements of the ingredients, or the growth of the hemp, mislabelling continues to be a problem and will continue to be until the industry settles on more solid regulations.

    One example of something that CBD companies might falsely claim is that their products are 'vegan' or 'organic'. For a product to be certified organic, it has to meet specific standards of organic farming throughout the growth process. In the EU, these rules are as follows:

    • Responsible use of energy and natural resources;
    • maintenance of biodiversity;
    • preservation of regional ecological balances;
    • enhancement of soil fertility;
    • maintenance of water quality.

    We are proud to say that MANTLE's hemp plants are grown organically on the Swiss hillsides according to the BioSuisse standard, which is the highest organic standard in Switzerland (widely considered even higher than EU's and Sweden's regular organic standards). 

    Another sometimes misleading aspect of CBD labels is when a CBD product proclaims itself 'vegan'. For a product to be vegan, this means there are no animal products involved in any of the processes that go into making the product such as the growth or final product. Sometimes, companies can make an honest mistake in mislabelling their products as vegan when they might actually contain gelatine, (a derivative of animal body parts) for example. If you are vegan or follow a strict dietary regime, we recommend checking the ingredients on CBD products - this especially applies to CBD edibles like gummies, which often contain gelatine.

    Furthermore, many CBD products declare themselves Gluten-Free. Gluten is the general term for a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and triticale. All forms of wheat contain gluten, including durum, spelt and farro. So be sure to check the product's ingredients before indulging, especially in a CBD edible.

    Due to the multitude of different names under which CBD oil has been known to appear, there is often confusion about what does and does not count as CBD oil. Companies may use the different names of CBD to their advantage so that they can catch people out, leading them to think they are purchasing a CBD product when really, no cannabidiol is actually present.

    The various names of CBD to memorise are:

    • Hemp CBD 
    • Cannabidiol
    • Full-spectrum hemp
    • PCR (phytocannabinoid-rich) or PCR hemp extracts. 

    Speaking of hemp, it is also important to know the difference between simply hemp(seed) oil and CBD oil. Confusingly, they both come from the hemp plant, but the former is made from just the seeds of the hemp plant, while CBD oil is derived from the entire hemp plant. As such, the two types of oil have different properties, and it is important not to be fooled into purchasing a hemp seed oil posing as a CBD oil.

    Desirable labels

    Of course, if a label does correctly state that it is vegan, organic, gluten-free, or anything else that makes it more flexible to the masses, then great! So long as the ingredients can verify this, there shouldn't be an issue.

    Other desirable things to look out for on a CBD product label would be that the hemp is non-GMO and has been grown in pesticide-free soil. MANTLE's hemp is grown in such soil, under natural sunlight. What's more, only the best leaves are hand-picked during a small window of three days per year to maximise the CBD content, while minimising the THC, which is later entirely removed during the extraction process. 

    You might also want to check out the way the CBD has been extracted, even if just out of curiosity. After harvesting, MANTLE CBD is extracted using the environmentally friendly and non-toxic supercritical CO2 cold-extraction method. This involves using pressurised carbon dioxide (CO2) to pull CBD from the plant. It is both safe and effective, freezing the CO2 gas and compressing it into a supercritical cold liquid state, to ensure the preservation of all the active plant ingredients.

    What is a COA?

    A Certificate of Analysis (COA) is a document certifying that a CBD product has gone through rigorous testing by a third-party laboratory. A COA should also list the exact cannabinoid and terpene profile of a given product.

    Every single batch of our The Original Oil is analysed by a third-party lab and tested for purity and potency to ensure consistent dosage and safety. The result is an entirely natural product, of which we are incredibly proud.

    Whether you opt for MANTLE's CBD or that of any other brand, always check for a COA. This tells you the most essential aspects of the CBD product, and any reputable CBD company will not hesitate to produce one on request.

    What you should be looking for on a COA:

    • CBD and THC concentrations: they should match what's stated on the product label. 
    • All the cannabinoids present in the product
    • Heavy-metal and pesticide analyses. COAs should tell you if a certain contaminate is detected, and if it has been, whether it's within a safe limit for ingestion. 
    • The status column should say "pass."

    Understanding Dosage

    Depending on the brand, it can either be super simple to determine the CBD concentration in a given product or a little obscure. Many companies might not make the CBD concentration so clear-cut, meaning you are left in the dark about how much CBD there actually is, versus the amount of carrier oil. We have a formula that could help you work it all out. Worry not, the formula takes a mere second.

    For this formula, you will need to consider:

    • The size of the bottle containing your CBD oil (in ml)
    • The CBD amount indicated on the label in mg (Likely to be somewhere between 250mg and 1000 mg, but some concentrations do exceed this).

    Now you just need to out your figures into this formula:

    [CBD in mg] ÷ [vial / bottle size in ml] = [CBD in mg / ml] 

    The result produced by this formula will tell you the number of mg per millilitre of CBD in your chosen product.

    For working out your own personal dosage, we always say to "go low" at the beginning - especially if you are new to CBD. Dosage differs per person, as it is totally dependent on factors unique to the individual, like age, weight, metabolism, CBD experience, and physical condition. Gradually, you can increase your dose until you find one that works for you. At least to start with, we don't recommend you use doses higher than 70mg - this is a guideline given by the Food Standards Agency (FSA). For MANTLE’s organic CBD oil, The Original Oil, this means 140 drops. We like to play it safe and not take more than 50 drops per day.

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    Harmful additives to be aware of

    Watch out for preservatives, chemicals, or artificial flavours. It's also a bonus if the so-called "carrier oil" has some good and healthy properties. Our, The Original Oil, contains solely 10% organic CBD and organic coconut-derived MCT oil. Many companies use only natural terpenes as they are all-natural additives, so this is good to see when looking at the additives in a CBD oil.

    Some less reputable CBD companies may have laced their CBD products with potentially harmful additives, such as:

  • Propylene glycol (PG)
      • Vegetable glycerin (VG) is generally considered safe for consumption via food and drink or applying to the skin. Yet, it has not been thoroughly assessed for safety in smoking or vaping. So, if you are looking into a CBD vape oil, watch out for VG.
      • Polyethylene glycol (PEG). Though reportedly safe when applied to the skin, PEG can bring on a general feeling of discomfort called malaise. It may also result in a sleep disorder, abdominal bloating, dehydration, excessive thirst, abdominal pain and nausea.
  • Vitamin E acetate / Tocopheryl Acetate: This is a vitamin E variant usually found in skincare products and dietary supplements. However, there is a limit we should not surpass, which is 1,000mg. Consistently using this compound in high doses has been associated with dizziness, fatigue, headaches, weakness, blurred vision, abdominal pain, diarrhoea and nausea.
  • The importance of real customer reviews

    Knowing what your forebears thought of the CBD product you are about to purchase is of great importance. Having authentic customer reviews will let you know how the product was received and, most importantly, whether any adverse reactions were triggered by the products.

    At MANTLE, prospective customers are able to see not only a range of reviews left by customers on our product pages, but our Trustpilot score, too.

    When to avoid CBD altogether

    For women who are pregnant, family-planning or breastfeeding, we recommend avoiding CBD altogether, as it is unconfirmed what potential effects this cannabinoid may have upon development, pregnancies, or the quality of breastmilk.

    If you are on medications for any health condition, it is always best to consult your doctor about whether CBD might disturb them.

    We don't mean to insult your intelligence with this next piece of advice, but it is surprising how many dismiss the expiration date. So, it is important not to take a CBD product that has passed its expiration. 

    The future of CBD regulation

    The CBD industry has come a very long way in recent years, and much is already known about the balancing potential of this cannabis constituent. Because so much more remains to be known about CBD, however, rules are becoming tighter about the way CBD products are made and marketed. This is to guarantee the reputability of CBD companies and protect public health and safety from companies that cast a negative reputation over the CBD industry.

    Regulatory bodies like the UK's Food Standard Agency (FSA) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) couldn't possibly regulate the activities of every CBD brand in existence, but they are fervently clamping down on things like mislabelling. They are doing this by issuing warning letters to multiple CBD companies who make medical or dishonest claims about their CBD products, which could mislead the general public. A deadline of 31st March 2021 has been set by the FSA for all companies in the CBD industry, cautioning them to submit a Novel Food Authorisation application. Once the deadline has passed, only products with the FSA's approval will be allowed to remain on the market.

    As scientific investigations into CBD continue around the world, more will become known about this phytocannabinoid. In turn, countries will increasingly adopt CBD, enabling the relaxation of stringent rules and regulations. They will also hopefully be more straightforward and more uniform as the years go on, instead of the present contradictions that run rampant through CBD laws.

    Final thoughts

    There is a whole spectrum of CBD products out there, some more basic, and some fancier, with premium prices to match. Remember that just because a product looks nice, it doesn't mean the quality is of a high standard. Likewise, a cheap CBD product doesn't have to mean it is bad quality. 

    We know all this advice may feel like a list of checkboxes, making CBD purchases feel slightly daunting or overwhelming, but we urge you not to worry. This post isn't designed to concern you or turn you into a CBD detective; instead, it's to get you wise and alert to the obscurities of the current CBD world.

    If in doubt, use this rule of three before switching to a new CBD product or company:

    • Check for a certificate of Analysis
    • Browse through authentic customer reviews
    • Check with your doctor for their seal of approval

    Stay safe, and enjoy!