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Healthline has sole editorial control over this article. Potential uses for the products listed here are not health claims made by the manufacturers. The information in this article is intended to be general in nature. It’s not intended to be a substitute for medical advice from a healthcare professional. Healthline encourages you to make any treatment decisions with your healthcare professional.

It’s hard to miss cannabidiol (CBD) these days. 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 products are available in three forms:

Full-spectrum CBDBroad-spectrum CBDCBD isolate
contains all plant compounds, including THC, terpenes, and flavonoidscontains fewer of all plant compounds, but they are still presentcontains only CBD
may result in entourage effectless likely to result in entourage effectno entourage effect

Full-spectrum CBD

This type of CBD retains all components of the cannabis plant, including a small amount of THC and other cannabinoids like CBG and CBN. Full-spectrum CBD also contains terpenes — which contribute different aromas and tastes — as well as flavonoids, which are known for adding antioxidant properties (and are found in other plants as well).

All of these are naturally occurring compounds in the cannabis plant and are present in their highest amounts in full-spectrum CBD compared to broad-spectrum CBD or CBD isolate.

Though federally legal full-spectrum CBD products have less than 0.3% THC, it’s important to know that THC is still present in full-spectrum products.

Broad-spectrum CBD

This type of CBD still has all components of the cannabis plant that full-spectrum CBD does but in more trace amounts. It won’t be as potent as full-spectrum CBD. Broad-spectrum CBD may contain only trace amounts of THC, so it could be a better choice if you’re looking to limit THC.

CBD isolate

This form is pure CBD, with no other compounds from the cannabis plant. It’s CBD isolated from all other plant compounds.

However, know that even if you choose broad-spectrum CBD or CBD isolate, there’s still a chance it could contain trace amounts of THC, which could show up on a drug test.

Now that we’ve defined the three types of CBD, you can buy each in many forms.

Oils and tincturesIngestiblesCapsulesTopicalsVape juices
What they areCBD-infused liquids (oil or alcohol)gummiesCBD-containing pills or softgelscreams, lotions, salves, balms, 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, easy to finddiscreet, easy to doseeasy to doseprovide direct relief to a specific spot on the bodyfastest onset time
Conssome people don’t like the tastelonger onset, gummies may meltlonger onset, may be hard to swallowdifficult to dosemay pose health risks, including lung injury
Product recommendationsBest CBD oilsBest CBD gummiesBest CBD capsulesBest CBD topicalsWe don’t recommend

Still wondering which type of CBD is best for you?

Some research states that the compounds of the cannabis plant, which include cannabinoids (such as CBD and THC) as well as other organic compounds, such as 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 reap the full benefits of CBD from these forms.

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% 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

You can find many CBD products online and in some stores. But this does not mean they are all from reputable companies and are safe or effective for use. 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 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 whether 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.

Don’t get fooled

Keep in mind that CBD can be purchased online directly from CBD companies. But it’s not for sale on Amazon.

“CBD” products sold on Amazon are often made of hempseed oil, not CBD oil. Hempseed oil and CBD oil are not the same thing.

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

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.

CBD interacts with your body’s u003ca href=u0022/health/endocannabinoid-systemu0022u003eendocannabinoid systemu003c/au003e, 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 several health benefits. Though research is still in its infancy, preliminary studies suggest that its potential benefits include:rnu003culu003ern tu003cliu003eu003ca href=u0022/health/cbd-oil-for-painu0022u003epain reliefu003c/au003e from various conditionsu003c/liu003ern tu003cliu003eu003ca href=u0022/health/cbd-for-insomnia#overviewu0022u003ebetter sleepu003c/au003eu003c/liu003ern tu003cliu003erelief from u003ca href=u0022https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4604171/u0022u003eanxiety disordersu003c/au003eu003c/liu003ern tu003cliu003eintervention for certain types of u003ca href=u0022https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4444130/pdf/sart-9-2015-033.pdfu0022u003eaddictionu003c/au003eu003c/liu003ernu003c/ulu003e

Potency varies from one product to another, so determining u003ca href=u0022/health/cbd-dosageu0022u003ethe right doseu003c/au003e is important. Manufacturers provide general dosing guidelines, but factors such as your body weight and body chemistry also play a role.rnrnIn general, the best approach is to start with a low dose and go slow.

The u003ca href=u0022https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/what-you-need-know-and-what-were-working-find-out-about-products-containing-cannabis-or-cannabisu0022u003eFood and Drug Administration (FDA)u003c/au003e recognizes the potential u003ca href=u0022/nutrition/cbd-oil-benefitsu0022u003ebenefitsu003c/au003e of CBD, but the agency is quick to note that more research is needed. At this time, there’s only one u003ca href=u0022https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2020/210365s005s006s007lbl.pdfu0022u003eFDA-approved prescription CBD medicationu003c/au003e. It’s for the treatment of a severe form of u003ca href=u0022/health/cbd-for-epilepsyu0022u003eepilepsyu003c/au003e.rnrnThat means any over-the-counter (OTC) CBD product you choose to buy and use isn’t regulated by the FDA in the same way as an OTC vitamin or u003ca href=u0022/nutrition/best-supplements-for-energyu0022u003esupplementu003c/au003e.rnrnOn occasion, the FDA does send u003ca href=u0022https://www.fda.gov/inspections-compliance-enforcement-and-criminal-investigations/compliance-actions-and-activities/warning-lettersu0022u003ewarning lettersu003c/au003e 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 their products when they shop.

This is still up for debate.rnrnHowever, if  you’re comfortable consuming small amounts of THC, consider a full-spectrum CBD product to benefit from the u003ca href=u0022/health/the-entourage-effectu0022u003eentourage effect.u003c/au003ernrnThis is a theory that all the compounds of the cannabis plant, including CBD and THC and other compounds like terpenes and u003ca href=u0022/health/what-are-flavonoids-everything-you-need-to-knowu0022u003eflavonoidsu003c/au003e, are more effective when they’re taken together.rnrn 

Potency levels can vary widely from 10 mg per serving to 100 mg per serving, depending on the CBD product. Your experience with CBD may also affect what you consider u003ca href=u0022/health/strongest-cbd-oilu0022u003ehigh potencyu003c/au003e. You can look for lower potency products if you’re new to CBD. It’s also a good idea to speak with a healthcare professional for guidance on potency.

Many people find 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? 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.