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In December 2018, a federal bill legalized the cultivation and sale of hemp products nationally. Some states still don’t allow it, but increasingly, states are open to hemp and cannabidiol (CBD) products.

Indeed, an influx of CBD products has created a new group of people who are looking to the cannabis-derived product for its potential health benefits. These include reducing anxiety, easing pain, and helping alleviate side effects of cancer treatment.

But because CBD products aren’t approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it can be hard to figure out what you’re getting when you’re shopping for CBD. Labels can be difficult to decipher. Claims aren’t always vetted. The FDA has even cited some companies for false claims and health promises.

But it is possible to purchase a reputable CBD product, and some are better than others for particular health issues. Read on to learn more about what CBD is, how to find a good CBD product, how to take CBD, and more.

CBD products often make a lot of claims. Some have meaning. Some do not. It’s important to know how to read a CBD label so you can decipher legitimate claims from ones that are not.

Besides THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD, cannabis contains about 100 other cannabinoids.

Types of CBD

  • CBD isolate is the purest form of CBD. It contains no THC. It’s also tasteless and odorless. This may make it preferable to other forms of CBD.
  • Full-spectrum CBD contains all the available compounds of the cannabis plant, including THC.
  • Broad-spectrum CBD contains all compounds of the cannabis plant but THC.
  • Whole-plant CBD is another name for full-spectrum CBD. It not only contains CBD and THC, but it also contains all the cannabinoids that occur in cannabis.

Other active compounds

  • Flavonoids are present in a variety of fruits, vegetables, and plants. They have properties that help protect against disease.
  • Terpenes, like flavonoids, have helpful compounds with health-boosting benefits. They may enhance the benefits of CBD. Additionally, terpenes are responsible for a plant’s aroma and flavor. Terpenes in CBD products may cause unique flavors.

CBD is a compound found naturally in cannabis. Cannabis plants also produce THC.

THC vs. CBD

THC and CBD are just two of dozens of active compounds found in cannabis. THC is most well-known for its psychoactive properties. It’s the compound that helps produce the “high” associated with cannabis use.

CBD, on the other hand, is psychoactive, though non-euphoric. This means you won’t get high from CBD. But CBD does have many of the same health benefits as THC. It also has some unique properties.

CBD products can have some THC, but by law, the concentration must be lower than 0.3 percent.

Types of cannabis plants

The two primary types of cannabis are Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica. Both are used for recreational and medicinal purposes. Both types can be used to produce CBD, but Cannabis indica often has higher ratios of CBD and less THC.

Most cannabis plants today are hybrids. The cannabis industry is now classifying plants based on their chemovars, or chemical varieties. Plants are classified in the following ways:

  • Type I: high THC
  • Type II: CBD/THC
  • Type III: high CBD, including hemp

Hemp plant vs. hemp seed

Hemp is a type of cannabis plant that naturally has very little THC. Hemp plants are a primary source of most CBD.

You may also see products out there made from hemp seed, but hempseed oil is not the same thing as CBD oil.

While cannabis has been used for centuries for medical treatment, the use of CBD products is fairly new. That means research is also new and limited.

Still, a few studies have shown some benefits for conditions that commonly affect older adults. CBD may help people with these conditions:

  • Anxiety disorders: Limited research suggests CBD may help relieve symptoms of anxiety. This may be preferable to prescription medications or addictive substances that can cause a number of side effects.
  • Arthritis: Researchers are investigating the benefit of CBD on different types of pain. This includes pain and inflammation caused by arthritis.
  • Pain: CBD may be a pain management alternative. Limited research suggests it may help reduce pain and inflammation. Conditions that may benefit from this include fibromyalgia, cancer pain, and neuropathic pain.
  • Cancer treatment side effects: Cannabis products like CBD and THC both have some benefits for easing the side effects caused by cancer treatment. These include nausea, loss of appetite, and vomiting.
  • Brain health: CBD acts on the endocannabinoid system in your brain. That system helps manage feel-good responses and activities within the brain. But activating this signaling system with CBD may have benefits for other parts of the brain, too.
  • Heart health: Some research suggests CBD may help lower blood pressure. It may also reduce the increase in blood pressure that happens while a person is stressed or anxious.

We chose these CBD oils based on criteria that we think sets quality products apart from less reputable ones. These criteria include safety, quality, and company transparency. Each CBD oil in this list:

  • is made by a company that provides third-party testing by an ISO 17025-compliant lab
  • clearly provides a certificate of analysis (COA) for the product
  • contains no more than 0.3 percent THC, per the product’s COA
  • is made with U.S.-grown hemp

We also looked for this information on lab test reports:

  • levels of CBD and THC are listed
  • mycotoxins test
  • heavy metals test
  • pesticides test

During the selection process, we also considered:

  • company brand and reputation, based on:
    • customer reviews
    • whether the company makes unsupported or unsubstantiated health claims
  • product potency
  • overall ingredients, including the use of preservatives or artificial ingredients
  • additional components that make the product better for older adults
  • company certifications and processes

While no one type of CBD oil is best for older adults, these criteria helped us create a list of better options.

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $35
  • $$ = $35–$100
  • $$$ = over $100

Most CBD products fall in the middle range, between $35 and $100.

Healthline

Charlotte’s Web CBD Oil, 17 mg/mL

Use code “HEALTH15” for 15% off

  • CBD type: Full-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 17 mg per 1-mL serving
  • COA: Available online

Price: $$

Charlotte’s Web uses whole-plant extracts, which include terpenes and flavonoids. People have used Charlotte’s Web CBD products specifically for exercise-induced inflammation, to manage stress, boost a sense of calmness, and maintain healthy sleep cycles.

Flavored versions use coconut oil as a carrier oil for enhanced flavor. The flavors include lemon twist, orange blossom, olive oil (natural), and mint chocolate.

They offer a 30-day satisfaction guarantee, and you can subscribe to regular deliveries to save 10 percent. Their test analysis is available online.

Lazarus Naturals High Potency CBD Tincture

  • CBD type: Full-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 750 mg per 15-mL bottle, 3,000 mg per 60-mL bottle, or 6,000 mg per 120-mL bottle
  • COA: Available on product page

Price: $–$$$

Hempseed oil and coconut oil are the carrier oils for Lazarus Naturals’ hemp extract. The full-spectrum CBD contains no preservatives or sweeteners, and this product doesn’t have artificial flavors. Lazarus Naturals also posts their third-party testing results on their site for quick verification.

A financial assistance program is also available for veterans, people with long-term disabilities, and low-income households.

Eureka Effects Full Spectrum CBD

  • CBD type: Full-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 15 mg per 1-mL serving
  • COA: Available on product page

Price: $$

Colorado-grown hemp extract is housed in organic hempseed oil for a full-spectrum CBD oil product. With a lower dose amount, this Eureka Effects’ CBD oil can be a great beginner option. One bottle contains 30 1-mL servings.

One common complaint is that the dark bottle color makes seeing how much tincture remains difficult, but most CBD bottles are dark to protect the integrity of the oil or tincture.

CBDistillery Full-Spectrum CBD Oil Tincture

Use code “healthline” for 15% off sitewide or choose the subscription option for 20% off the first 2 subscription orders and 25% off the 3rd order.

  • Price: $
  • CBD type: Full-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 500-5,000 mg per 30-mL bottle
  • COA: Available upon request

Price: $–$$

CBDistillery’s full-spectrum CBD is housed in MCT oil for a two-ingredient CBD oil option. Each serving contains less than 0.3 percent THC. This product is designed to promote relaxation and pain relief, but other CBDistillery products might answer specific complaints.

Their full-spectrum CBD oil is available in CBD strengths of 500-mg, 1,000-mg, and 2,500-mg bottles.

THC-free products are also offered.

Veritas Farms Full Spectrum CBD Tincture

Use code “HEALTHLINE” for 15% off

  • CBD type: Full-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 250–2,000 mg per 30-mL bottle
  • COA: Available online

Price: $–$$$

Available in strengths from 250 to 2,000 mg of CBD per bottle, the Veritas Farms Full Spectrum CBD Tincture is one that can grow with you if you begin trying higher doses. The lowest dose, the 250-mg bottle, has just over 8 mg of CBD per serving. The highest dose has almost 67 mg per serving.

MCT oil is the carrier oil, and the flavored oils are sweetened with Stevia. The available flavors are citrus, peppermint, watermelon, strawberry, and unflavored. The test analysis is available on the product page.

Receptra Naturals Serious Relief + Turmeric 0% THC Tincture

Use code “Healthline20” for 20% off.

  • CBD type: Broad spectrum (THC-free)
  • CBD potency: 990 mg per 30-mL bottle
  • COA: Available online

Price: $$

This broad-spectrum CBD oil is designed for people seeking pain relief from their CBD. The combination of ingredients, including hempseed oil, MCT oil, and turmeric, is targeted to pain and inflammation relief. Varieties for relaxation are also available. The test analysis is available online.

Lord Jones Royal Oil

  • CBD type: Broad-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 1,000 mg per 30-mL bottle
  • COA: Available online

Price: $$

This CBD oil is made with grapeseed oil, a mild, neutral oil that maintains the CBD’s freshness and strength. But it is a broad-spectrum CBD oil, which means it has no THC. The company recommends using this product to soothe irritated skin and promote a sense of calmness and well-being. The test analysis is available online.

CBD is unlikely to pose significant risks to anyone using it. Studies show any side effects are often mild and either go away on their own or when you stop using the product. These side effects include:

  • diarrhea
  • fatigue
  • changes in appetite
  • changes in weight

Before you begin taking CBD, however, you should check with your doctor or pharmacist. CBD can interfere with some enzymes that help metabolize drugs. If your medications come with a grapefruit warning, you may be unable to use CBD.

Also, it’s important to note that some CBD products, including those that are broad-spectrum and THC-free, contain trace amounts of THC. As a result, in rare cases, using CBD can lead to a positive drug test.

CBD products come in a variety of forms. Before you shop, you’ll want to decide which form appeals to you most. These forms include:

  • oils and tinctures
  • creams and lotions
  • capsules and pills
  • edibles
  • vaping

These different forms allow you to tailor your CBD intake to a form that makes the most sense for you.

Creams and lotions may be preferred for people trying to ease joint pain. Oils and tinctures, which are faster acting than pills, may be ideal for anxiety or side effects from cancer treatment. Edibles, which are often in the form of gummies, are portable. They can be more discrete.

The next thing you want to research is third-party testing. Reputable CBD companies will seek out and publicize third-party testing to show that their products are labeled accurately.

Companies with third-party testing will willingly produce a certificate of analysis, or COA. A COA should provide information about labeling accuracy, cannabinoid profiles, and any heavy metals or pesticides present in the product. Products worth buying will share their COA on their web sites, by email, or by scanning a QR code on the product.

With this information, you can begin to look for specific products for you to begin using.

What you can look for on a COA

  • Does the COA list CBD and THC levels?
  • Did the lab test for mycotoxins, which are produced by some molds?
  • Did the lab test for heavy metals and pesticides?
Healthline

The more information you have about CBD products, the better prepared you will be to make decisions about your CBD usage. These questions can help you narrow down selections.

Does the product have CBD?

CBD products should list that they contain CBD or cannabidiol. Some CBD products will also list hemp extract on the ingredients list.

But if the ingredient list only shows hemp seeds, hempseed oil, or Cannabis sativa seed oil, the product doesn’t have CBD.

What other ingredients are in the product?

Some CBD products may also contain carrier oils like grapeseed oil, MCT oil, olive oil, or cold-pressed hempseed oil. These oils help stabilize and preserve the CBD and make it easier to take.

Some products, especially gummies, will also have added flavorings and colorings. CBD oils may have flavoring ingredients that give the final oil a flavor like mint, lemon, or berry.

What claims does the product make?

Beyond full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and isolate claims, you may see a few other claims. Here again, without third-party testing, it may not be possible to know how reputable the claims are.

  • Organic. Regulations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) don’t regulate what type of products can be made from organic hemp. That means any organic claims aren’t verified by any agency. The organic label on a CBD product doesn’t necessarily guarantee the product is organically grown or sourced.
  • USA-grown. Like organic, this claim isn’t regulated. Any claims may be difficult to verify.
  • CO2 extraction. Carbon dioxide (CO2) extraction is one way manufacturers can pull the chemicals from the cannabis plant. This type of extraction is commonly used for ingredients like coffee and flowers for perfume, too.
  • Vegan. Animal products are rarely used in CBD products, but a vegan label will let you know the carrier oils and additives don’t contain animal products.

What’s the recommended dosage?

Companies will list recommended dosages on their bottles or jars. This helps you know what they believe is the right level for beginners. If it doesn’t contain dosage information, start at the lowest level. You can always increase it over time.

CBD products are sold online, directly from retailers. But always carefully inspect the product information because some websites don’t sell genuine CBD products. Instead, they may be offering a hemp product that doesn’t contain CBD.

Amazon, for example, doesn’t allow CBD sales on their site. If you search CBD on Amazon, you’ll see a variety of hempseed products instead.

If you’re in a state that allows cannabis dispensaries, you can visit a local shop. Even in states where marijuana isn’t sold, CBD products can be sold this way. Employees at these dispensaries can help answer questions and sort products.

You can also ask your physician for recommendations of local providers and internet options.

CBD is in its infancy for use, but it’s growing rapidly as a popular alternative to many drugs and medications. For older adults, it may be especially beneficial at relieving pain and discomfort caused by arthritis. It may also have some protective benefits for the heart and brain.

You just need to do a few steps of research to make sure the product you’re paying for is worth your money. A lot of false claims and bad products are on the market.

If you’re interested in trying CBD, talk with your doctor, or find a CBD-friendly clinician who can advise you on the proper options for your lifestyle. If it works, then you have a low-risk way to help alleviate some common aging issues.

Is CBD Legal? Hemp-derived CBD products (with less than 0.3 percent THC) are legal on the federal level, but are still illegal under some state laws. Marijuana-derived CBD products are illegal on the federal level, but are legal under some state laws. Check your state’s laws and those of anywhere you travel. Keep in mind that nonprescription CBD products are not FDA-approved, and may be inaccurately labeled.