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Cannabidiol (CBD) oil is derived from the cannabis plant. Many CBD products only contain trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), so they will not make you feel high. THC is the main psychoactive cannabinoid in cannabis.
While there are plenty of CBD oils and tinctures currently on the market, not all of them are created equal.
There are currently no over-the-counter (OTC) CBD products approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and some products may not be as effective or reliable as others.
Knowing how to properly read CBD labels helps you identify quality products. When choosing a CBD product — be it a gummy, oil, or otherwise — there are some key questions to ask yourself when reviewing the labeling. These questions are outlined below, along with definitions of the CBD vocabulary you need to know.
Is it an oil or tincture?
CBD oil needs to be created using some sort of liquid. This will dictate whether it is an oil or a tincture.
CBD oil: made by infusing cannabis in a carrier oil
CBD tincture: made by soaking cannabis in alcohol and water
Has it been third-party tested?
Currently, the FDA does not guarantee the safety, effectiveness, or quality of CBD products.
However, to protect public health, they can take action against CBD companies that make unfounded health claims.
Since the FDA does not regulate CBD products in the same way they regulate drugs, companies sometimes mislabel or misrepresent their products. That means it’s especially important to do your own research to find a quality product.
The product’s certificate of analysis (COA) should confirm that it’s free of contaminants and that the product contains the amount of CBD and THC it claims. A COA is an analysis document provided by a third-party lab that ensures everything on the label is accurate.
Beware of any company that promises extreme results, and remember that results may differ. A product that works well for a friend or family member may not have the same effects for you.
If a product does not work for you, you may consider trying another with different ingredients or a different amount of CBD.
What, if any, other ingredients are in it?
Usually, you’ll find hemp, hemp extract, or hemp oil listed as the main ingredient on a bottle of CBD oil or tincture. These ingredients contain CBD.
Sometimes other ingredients are added for taste, consistency, and other health benefits. If you’re looking for a product that has a particular flavor, you might want to look for one with added essential oils or flavorings.
If you’re looking for possible extra health benefits, you might want to look for one with added vitamins.
Where’s the cannabis grown and is it organic?
Look for products made from organic, U.S.-grown cannabis. Cannabis grown in the United States is subject to agricultural regulations.
Organic ingredients mean you’re less likely to consume pesticides or other chemicals.
Doses should be taken at least 4 to 6 hours apart. You can take CBD at any time of day. If you’re using it to improve sleep, take it before bed.
The immediate effects of CBD usually take effect within 30–90 minutes, but long-term results may take several weeks to achieve.
You can also mix CBD oil into drinks and food, but this may affect absorption.
Store CBD oils and tinctures in a dry, cool place away from direct heat and sunlight. Make sure the cap is closed tightly after each use. It is not necessary to refrigerate the product, but it may help to prolong its shelf life.
Avoid touching your mouth with the dropper to prevent bacterial contamination and preserve the quality of the oil.
CBD is also available in capsules or gummies or infused into skin care products, such as lotions and salves. CBD skin care products can be absorbed into the skin and do not need to be washed off.
Yes. Most CBD oils are safe to use orally and topically. Always check the manufacturer’s guidelines to be sure, though.
Some people find applying CBD directly to the hands and wrists with arthritis helps reduce pain.
No, you do not need to take CBD oil with foods. But if you don’t like the taste, you may find that ingesting CBD oil by mixing it with a beverage gives it a better taste.
Yes. But if you’re thinking of increasing the dose, just make sure to do so slowly. Some people may also prefer to take it only as needed for aches and pains.
While research into the benefits of CBD is still ongoing, there’s promising evidence that it may help with:
PTSD and other mental health conditions
stress and anxiety
Most people are unlikely to experience issues when taking CBD, but minor side effects can occur, such as:
weight and appetite changes
If you’re trying CBD for the first time, it’s best to err on the side of caution and start with a small dose. Most people find that 20 mg is a good starting point. You can try increasing the dose by 5 mg until you start to feel the effects.
Wait several hours before taking more CBD or increasing the dose. CBD can take some time to produce noticeable effects.
Evidence suggests that CBD is pretty safe to use, though it may cause mild side effects in some people. If you’re taking any prescription drugs, it’s a good idea to talk with your doctor before mixing CBD with your current medications.
Because CBD isn’t rigorously regulated, it’s important to buy only from reputable sources. This helps ensure that you’re consuming the safest version of the product available.
Some research also suggests that consuming CBD with high fat meals could increase your risk for side effects. This is because high fat meals can increase CBD blood concentrations, which can increase the risk of side effects.
Carefully read the ingredient list if you’re allergic to coconut oil or have any other possible allergies.
CBD is legal in many parts of the United States, but most manufacturers require you to be at least age 18 to purchase their product. It may not be legal in all countries.
Check your local laws before buying CBD. When buying online, confirm with the manufacturer that they’ll ship to your area, but also check local laws.
Since CBD products can contain trace amounts of THC, it’s still possible for them to show up on a drug test. Avoid taking CBD products if this is a concern.
Is CBD legal? The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the legal definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act. This made some hemp-derived CBD products with less than 0.3% THC legal at the federal level. However, CBD products containing more than 0.3% THC still fall under the legal definition of marijuana, making them illegal at the federal level. Some states have legalized CBD, so be sure to check state laws, especially when traveling. Also, keep in mind that the FDA has not approved nonprescription CBD products, and some products may be inaccurately labeled.
Last medically reviewed on November 10, 2023
How we reviewed this article:
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