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It’s hard to miss cannabidiol (CBD) these days. But that doesn’t mean everyone has all the facts.

If you’re new to CBD and want to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck, you’re in the right place. This guide will teach you the basics of CBD and help you understand how to shop for CBD products.

We’ve also included a few recommendations for the best CBD gummies, oils, topicals, and capsules to get you started.

CBD is one of the many active compounds found in the cannabis plant. It interacts with your body’s endocannabinoid system, which helps maintain a state of balance.

Aside from the fact that it’s unlikely to cause a “high” feeling like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) does, CBD’s popularity stems from the fact that it may offer a number of health benefits.

Though research is still in its infancy, preliminary studies suggest that its potential benefits include:

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) recognizes the potential benefits of CBD, but the agency is quick to note that more research is needed. At this time, there’s only one FDA-approved prescription CBD medication. It’s for the treatment of a severe form of epilepsy.

That means any over-the-counter (OTC) CBD product you choose to purchase and use isn’t regulated by the FDA in the same way an OTC supplement would be.

At this time, the FDA only sends warning letters to companies making false claims about the efficacy or scope of their CBD products. It’s up to the consumer to ensure they’re carefully vetting a CBD company and its products when they shop.

CBD products are available in three forms:

  • Full-spectrum CBD. This type of CBD retains all components of the cannabis plant, including a small amount of THC. While federally legal full-spectrum CBD products will always have less than 0.3 percent THC, it’s important to know that THC is still present in full-spectrum products.
  • Broad-spectrum CBD. This version has all components of the cannabis plant, except for THC.
  • CBD isolate. This form is pure CBD, with no other compounds from the cannabis plant.

You may wonder which form of CBD is best for you.

There’s some research to suggest that the compounds of the cannabis plant, which include cannabinoids (like CBD and THC) as well as other organic compounds, like terpenes and flavonoids, are more effective when they’re taken together. This is a theory known as the “entourage effect.”

If you want to get the full benefits of the entourage effect and don’t mind consuming some THC, opt for a full-spectrum CBD product.

Just be aware that a large enough dose of a potent enough CBD product means greater exposure to THC. Euphoric effects are possible, but unlikely.

If you want to avoid any chance of experiencing an intoxicating effect, opt for a broad-spectrum or isolate product. However, you might not be reaping the full benefits of CBD from these forms.

CBD is available in a range of products. Here are some of the most common ones.

Oils and tincturesEdiblesCapsulesTopicalsVape juices
What they areCBD-infused liquidsingestible CBD products, like gummiesCBD-containing pills or softgelscreams, lotions, patches, or ointmentsCBD-infused liquids
How you take themsublingually (under the tongue)orallyorallyapplied to the skininhaled with a vaporizer
Prosrapid onset if held under the tongue rather than swallowed and easy to finddiscreet and easy to doseeasy to doseprovide direct relief to a specific spot on the bodyfastest onset time
Conssome people don’t like the tastelonger onset time and gummies may meltlonger onset time and may be hard to swallowdifficult to dosemay pose health risks, including lung injury

Research is still limited on whether CBD is safe or even effective for dogs and cats. Before giving your pets CBD, it’s best to check with your vet.

We chose these products based on criteria we think are good indicators of safety, quality, and transparency. Each product in this article:

  • is made by a company that provides proof of third-party testing by an ISO 17025-compliant lab
  • is made with U.S.-grown hemp
  • contains no more than 0.3 percent THC, according to the certificate of analysis (COA)
  • passes tests for pesticides, heavy metals, and molds, according to the COA

As a part of our selection process, we also considered:

  • the company’s certifications and manufacturing processes
  • product potency
  • overall ingredients
  • indicators of user trust and brand reputation, such as:
    • customer reviews
    • if the company has been subject to an FDA warning letter
    • if the company makes any unsupported health claims

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $25
  • $$ = $25–$35
  • $$$ = over $35

Charlotte’s Web CBD Gummies, Sleep

Charlotte’s Web Sleep Gummies are formulated with melatonin, making them a good choice for people who experience insomnia.

Customers enjoy the raspberry flavor and say the gummies work well as a sleep aid.

Use code “HEALTH15” for 15% off.

Joy Organics Premium CBD Gummies

  • Price: $$$
  • CBD type: broad-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 10 mg per serving
  • Count: 30
  • COA: available online

These fruity gummies from Joy Organics are sweetened with organic tapioca syrup and organic cane syrup. They’re vegan and free of both THC and gluten.

These are available in strawberry lemonade or green apple, and customers are big fans of both flavors.

Use code “healthcbd” for 15% off.

Cornbread Hemp Organic Berry CBD Gummies

  • Price: $$$
  • CBD type: full-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 10 mg per serving
  • Count: 30
  • COA: available online

These USDA-certified organic, full-spectrum CBD gummies are vegan-friendly. They’re flavored with organic blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries, and they get their color from organic beetroot.

Customers praise the texture and flavor.

Use code “HEALTHLINE” for 25% off on first purchase.

Sunday Scaries CBD Oil Tincture with Vitamins

  • Price: $$$
  • CBD type: broad-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 10 mg CBD per serving
  • COA: available online

Sunday Scaries supplements their CBD oil with vitamins D3 and B12, two vitamins that many people don’t get enough of, especially if they’re following a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Customers find the oil pleasing in flavor and effective for relaxing. It’s sweetened with stevia and has a fruity flavor.

Use code ‘healthline20’ for 20% off.

Medterra CBD Tincture

  • Price: $$
  • CBD type: isolate
  • CBD potency: 16 mg CBD per serving
  • COA: available online

This Medterra tincture is made with just CBD isolate and MCT oil, without any added flavorings.

The tincture is incredibly well-reviewed. Over 2,000 customers on Medterra’s site call this a great product.

Use code “health15” for 15% off.

Lily CBD Daily Strength

  • Price: $$
  • CBD type: full-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 16 mg per serving
  • COA: available on product page

Lily CBD Daily Strength is made with just two ingredients: full-spectrum, organic CBD oil and organic, non-GMO medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) coconut oil.

Customers find this simplicity beneficial for a variety of concerns, from poor sleep to stress and anxiety.

Healist Sleep Drops, Double Strength

  • Price: $$$
  • CBD type: broad-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 40 mg CBD per serving
  • COA: available online

While many CBD oils designed for sleep have added melatonin, this one is a little different.

Instead of melatonin, it uses lavender, chamomile, and lemon balm, plus a customized terpene blend, to support healthy sleep.

Over 1,000 reviewers rate Healist Sleep Drops an average 4.5 stars.

CBDfx CBD Bath Bombs

With CBDfx bath bombs, you have your choice between eucalyptus and lavender for recharging or soothing. Both versions are made with essential oils and Hawaiian black salt for softening and detoxifying effects. They’re also 100 percent vegan and don’t contain harsh dyes.

Use code “HEALTHLINE” for 15% off.

CBDistillery CBD Cooling Cream

  • Price: $
  • CBD type: broad-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 300 mg per 50-mL container
  • COA: available on product page in image slideshow

This cooling cream is non-greasy and fragrance-free. It’s formulated with menthol for a refreshing cooling sensation and relief right where you need it.

The cream can be applied as needed throughout the day.

Use Code ‘healthline’ for 15% off.

Lazarus Naturals CBD Massage Oil

  • Price: $$$
  • CBD type: full-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 800 mg per 8-oz container
  • COA: available on product page

This CBD massage oil from Lazarus Naturals is made with jojoba and sweet almond oils to soothe and moisturize the skin.

Reviewers say it has a pleasing and subtle fragrance, and a little goes a long way.

Use code “Healthline10” for 10% off your first order. One time use only.

NuLeaf Naturals Full Spectrum CBD Capsules

  • Price: $$
  • CBD type: full-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 15 mg per capsule
  • Count: 60
  • COA: available online

These Nuleaf Naturals plant-based softgels are made with just five ingredients. Over 300 reviews give them a five-star rating.

Use code “HEALTHLINE” for 20% off.

Bluebird Botanicals Concentrated CBD Soft Gels

  • Price: $$
  • CBD type: full-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 15 mg per capsule
  • Count: 30
  • COA: available online

These concentrated capsules are made with full-spectrum CBD and organic hempseed oil.

Customers enjoy the precise dosing of these capsules and find them easy to swallow without an unpleasant aftertaste.

Saha Self-Care Premium Nano CBD Softgels

  • Price: $$$
  • CBD type: broad-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 25 mg per capsule
  • Count: 30
  • COA: available on product page

These softgel capsules are made with nano-encapsulated CBD. Some research suggests that nano CBD is more bioavailable than non-nano CBD. That could mean that the effect is stronger.

If you prefer CBD that’s easy to swallow and simple to dose, this is a great option.

You can find CBD products online and in some stores. But don’t assume this makes them all safe or effective. Here’s how to shop for CBD.

Check the COA

A current and comprehensive COA is a sign that a product is third-party tested by an outside laboratory. COAs are often found via a QR code directly on the product label or on the product website.

At a minimum, make sure to check the cannabinoid potency and see if the amount of CBD and THC advertised matches what the lab found. Also check whether the product passes tests for contaminants, including pesticides, heavy metals, and mold.

Check for FDA warning letters or lawsuits

A quick search online will tell you if a particular CBD company has received any FDA warning letters or if they’re involved in any lawsuits.

Reputable CBD companies also include an FDA disclosure on their website that notes their products aren’t intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease.

Check the brand’s reputation and customer reviews

What are customers saying on the website and on third-party review platforms? If you want to use CBD for a particular purpose, you may want to scan reviews from people similar to you and see what they have to say.

The right way to take CBD depends on the product you choose.

  • Edibles. This method involves ingesting CBD that’s been infused in a gummy or other consumable. Follow the manufacturer instructions to ensure you’re taking an appropriate dose.
  • Oils. CBD oils are taken beneath the tongue with a dropper. Check the instructions for the right dosage and to ensure you’re holding the oil beneath your tongue for the right length of time. CBD oils can also be added to smoothies and foods.
  • Topicals. These CBD products are used to treat skin, muscle, and joint pain. Start with a small amount, and work your way up as needed.

Potency varies from one product to another, so determining the right dose is important. Manufacturers provide general dosing guidelines, but factors, like your body weight and body chemistry, also play a role.

In general, the best approach is to start low and go slow.

While CBD is generally considered safe, there may be some side effects, according to a 2017 review.

Reported side effects include:

  • fatigue
  • diarrhea
  • changes in appetite or weight

It’s a good idea to speak with your doctor before trying CBD, especially if you’re currently taking any medications. CBD may interact with some OTC drugs, dietary supplements, and prescription medications.

If you’re using a topical CBD product, start with a test patch to make sure you don’t have an adverse reaction before you use it more broadly.

Many people are finding success with CBD products. But it’s important to do your research before you start shopping.

Be clear about why you’re considering CBD to help you zero in on the right company and product for your needs.

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.

Jessica Timmons has been working as a freelance writer since 2007, covering everything from pregnancy and parenting to cannabis, chiropractic, stand-up paddling, fitness, martial arts, home decor, and much more. Her work has appeared in mindbodygreen, Pregnancy & Newborn, Modern Parents Messy Kids, and Coffee + Crumbs. See what she’s up to now at jessicatimmons.com.