The CBD industry is huge, and it’s only going to get bigger for the foreseeable future. Given that the industry’s ultimate size is expected to exceed $20 billion, it’s logical that companies all over the world would be rushing in to claim pieces of the pie. That’s not always the best thing for consumers. While most CBD companies are undoubtedly trying to bring the best CBD products to market that they can, there may also be a few companies taking shortcuts – and it isn’t always easy to tell the difference between a trustworthy CBD brand and a brand that you should avoid. So, how can you spot a reliable CBD brand? These are the 4 things you should know before buying CBD from any company.

Where Is the Hemp Grown?

When you buy produce in the supermarket, its origin is clearly labelled. That’s because people want to know where their food comes from. If you’re going to put CBD into your body, you should also know where it comes from. Don’t assume that a CBD brand sources its hemp domestically unless the company specifically says that they do. It’s legal to grow hemp in the United States, for example, but the U.S. isn’t the world’s largest hemp producer; China grows 70 percent of the world’s hemp. We source our hemp from the United States. American-grown hemp is expensive, and farmers aren’t currently able to grow enough to meet demand. If you don’t know where a CBD company’s hemp comes from, it’s probably safe to assume it comes from China.

Why does hemp’s origin matter? Soil pollution is a serious problem in China, with heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury present in dangerous levels in almost every province. One of the solutions for that problem is bioremediation – growing plants that draw pollution out of the soil – and hemp is ideal for that purpose. China grows most of the world’s hemp. Do you see a possible connection here? Do you want to risk flooding your body with heavy metals?

How Is the Hemp Grown?

There’s a reason why “weed” is a slang term for cannabis; it grows like a weed. Given healthy soil and an adequate supply of water, a hemp plant will grow without any trouble. There’s no need for hemp farmers to use pesticides, herbicides or industrial fertilizers. It is therefore perfectly reasonable to expect any CBD product to come from organic hemp. At the time of writing, organic certifications for industrial hemp are rare – but they’ll become more common in the coming years. In the meantime, you should definitely avoid buying CBD from any company that doesn’t at least claim to be using organic hemp. If a company doesn’t know whether its hemp is grown according to organic practices, it’s likely buying bulk hemp or CBD oil from unknown sources.

How Is the CBD Oil Extracted?

There are two ways of extracting the essential oils from hemp. The first way is by exposing the ground plant material to a solvent such as ethanol, hexane or butane. The solvent boils at a lower temperature than the cannabinoids in the CBD oil, so heating the mixture boils the solvent away until only CBD oil is left – in theory, at least. In practice, it’s highly likely that trace solvents will remain in the final product. That’s a problem if the product is something that you’re going to ingest or inhale. Solvent-based extraction isn’t safe, but it is cheap and has a high yield. Some CBD oil producers use solvents regardless of the inherent risks.

The second way to extract CBD oil from hemp is by forcing pressurized carbon dioxide through the plant material. This extraction method leaves no residual solvents, but the equipment necessary to perform the extraction is expensive. CO2 extraction is the gold standard for the CBD industry, and you shouldn’t buy from a company that doesn’t use CO2 extraction.

Does the Brand Use Third-Party Testing?

CBD is a natural product that’s extracted from plants, and that means there can be significant variation from one batch to the next. As you’ve also learned from reading this article, growing conditions can also help to determine exactly what is in a bottle of CBD oil. With all of those variables in play, it’s important for any CBD company to subject its product batches to third-party testing rather than simply trusting that all of the different people in the supply chain are doing their jobs. A good CBD brand will test its products for cannabinoid content along with the presence of undesirable contaminants such as heavy metals, solvents and pesticides. Through third-party testing, a CBD brand can ensure that its products have consistent cannabinoid content and are free of unwanted adulterants.