Understanding a CBD Certificate of Analysis: A Comprehensive Guide to Interpretation

CBD Certificate

You’ve probably seen CBD products that come with labels proclaiming “third-party tested”. These labels might not be as eye-catching as “100% organic” or “extra strength”, but don’t be fooled. They hold a wealth of important information that can help distinguish between a quality product and one that’s best left on the shelf.

For any CBD savvy shopper, the term “third-party tested” is an invitation to delve deeper, a prompt to scrutinize what’s really in the product you’re considering. And that’s where a Certificate of Analysis, or COA, comes into the picture. This little document is like a report card that spells out exactly what’s in your CBD product, from cannabinoids and terpenes to potential contaminants.

So, what exactly is a Certificate of Analysis, how do you get one and most importantly, how do you read one?

What is a Certificate of Analysis (COA)?

A Certificate of Analysis is a document issued by an accredited laboratory that performs tests on the CBD product. This isn’t a simple one-size-fits-all report. Instead, it gives a detailed analysis of the product’s components, including its cannabinoid profile, terpene profile, and any potential contaminants.

But why do we need a COA for CBD products? 

Simply put, the CBD industry, despite its exponential growth, still lacks stringent regulatory oversight in some regions. That’s why having a third-party test the products and provide a COA is so important. It acts as a confidence booster for consumers, providing assurance that what’s on the label is indeed what’s in the product.

Remember, reputable CBD brands will have their products tested by independent, third-party labs to ensure impartial results. For example, when a product has undergone CBD testing at ACS Laboratory, you can breathe a little easier, knowing that you’re getting the full picture of what’s in your CBD. And since the facility has no affiliation with the manufacturer, you can trust that the results they present in the COA are unbiased and accurate.

What are the Components of a Certificate of Analysis?

Cannabinoid Profile: 

The cannabinoid profile shows the concentrations of various cannabinoids in the product. The most important one to look for is, of course, CBD. The report should list the amount of CBD, often both as a percentage of the total and in milligrams. But CBD isn’t the only cannabinoid you should be interested in. You might also see others listed, such as THC, CBG, or CBN, each of which can contribute to the overall effectiveness of the product.

Terpene Profile: 

Terpenes are the compounds that give cannabis its unique aroma and flavor. But they also contribute to the potential therapeutic effects of the product. The terpene profile section of a COA tells you which terpenes are present in the product and in what concentrations.

Contaminants Testing: 

This part of the COA is where the lab reports on any potential contaminants they tested for. These might include microbiological contaminants (like mold or bacteria), chemical contaminants (like pesticides or solvents), and heavy metals (like lead or arsenic). A high-quality CBD product will be free from these contaminants.

Residual Solvents: 

During the CBD extraction process, certain solvents might be used. This section of the COA reveals if any of these solvents remain in the final product. It’s crucial that these levels are within safe limits, as some solvents can be harmful if ingested.

Other Tests: 

Depending on the thoroughness of the laboratory, other tests might be included on the COA. This could be things like moisture content, pesticide residue, or foreign material detection.

What to Look Out For in a CBD Certificate of Analysis

Here are some key points to focus on when deciphering a COA:

Laboratory Details: 

The first thing you should verify is the details of the laboratory that conducted the tests. Is it accredited? Is it independent and not affiliated with the CBD manufacturer? 

Product Information: 

Make sure that the COA is for the exact product you’re considering. Check details like the batch number, product name, and the date of testing. 

Cannabinoid Profile and Potency: 

Review the concentrations of the various cannabinoids in the product. The most critical component to look at is, of course, the CBD content. Ensure that the amount of CBD listed on the COA matches what’s claimed on the product label. You can also check the levels of other cannabinoids, such as THC. Remember, in the US, CBD products should contain less than 0.3% THC.

Terpene Profile: 

If you’re interested in the potential synergistic effects of terpenes with cannabinoids (also known as the “entourage effect”), you might want to check out the terpene profile. It can give you an idea of the possible aromatic and therapeutic properties of the product.

Contaminants Testing Results: 

Pay close attention to the section on contaminants. The COA should clearly indicate whether the product passed or failed for each potential contaminant tested.

Residual Solvents Analysis: 

Lastly, take a look at the residual solvents section. The product should pass this test, meaning it should be free of harmful solvents that might have been used during the extraction process.

In a nutshell, a CBD Certificate of Analysis (COA) is a crucial document that gives you the inside scoop on the quality, safety, and transparency of any CBD product you might consider. It’s the result of rigorous third-party testing that ensures your CBD product is what it claims to be. Being able to read a COA effectively allows you to make informed choices about the CBD products you purchase. So next time you pick up a CBD product, don’t just take the manufacturer’s word for it – ask for the COA, and take control of your CBD experience