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Although new and promising research comes out every day about the benefits of CBD, the market remains largely unregulated. This is why it’s more important than ever to be able to read and interpret a CBD product’s Certificate of Analysis (COA). 

This post will act as a handy COA guide; so you can shop for the best CBD products with confidence.

Let’s take a closer look a COAs, what they are, and why they are so important.

What is a COA?

Essentially, a Certificate of Analysis is a report from an accredited laboratory that details the chemical analysis of a substance, so you know you are getting what the label says is in the product. 

The COA verifies the content of all cannabinoids, including CBD and THC, in the final product and a host of other substances like heavy metals, pesticides, mycotoxins, and solvents as a minimum.

Typically, every batch of CBD products tests individually using a third-party lab. 

An unbiased COA report ensures product transparency, so you know that what you are buying is safe and effective.

So what exactly does a COA test for?

CBD Quantity and Potency

Not all the companies are honest concerning the levels of CBD they claim the product contains.

The FDA issues warning letters every year to companies after testing indicates the products do not include the CBD the label says it has.

The COA shows the amount of CBD and the potency.

Cannabinoids in the product, including THC

A study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association found many product labels erroneously reported cannabinoid potency; did not report all the cannabinoids in the products, and did not report the product contained THC.

As a result, there is a long list of cannabinoids needing testing that include CBD, CBN, CBG, CBC, and THC, to name a few.

Concentrations of other elements and compounds

A COA reports on terpenes, microbiological content, heavy metals, mycotoxins, pesticides, and foreign materials in the product.

Concentrations of solvents resulting from the extraction process

The CBD extraction process can lead to residual solvents in the product. The COA reports on the content of solvents like ethanol, isopropyl alcohol, methanol, and propane.

Third-Party Lab Testing

A third-party lab should always issue a COA. 

That means the company has paid to have an outside company analyze the contents of their product and generate a report that tells you everything you need to know about it. 

You can determine if this is a third party by checking the logo and contact info on the document.

For example, if the lab shares a logo or name with the company you are buying from, they are probably affiliated. 

Don’t hesitate to give them a call and ask about the reports they produce!

By having the testing done in a non-affiliated lab, you can be pretty sure the company selling the item has no bias in reporting its contents. 

Without this document, we cannot prove that what is printed on the bottle is true of what’s inside. 

When dealing with something as serious as a health supplement, there cannot be enough transparency, and most companies worth their stuff will gladly offer a COA.  

How to Read a COA

Not all COA reports have the same format.

The depth of the information provided easily determines the COA quality. Some COAs are very detailed, providing details like the LoD (Limit of Detection) and LoQ (Limit of Quantitation). 

LoD and LoQ are scientific terms that indicate the lowest concentration of detectability compared to an expected concentration (LoD) and the lowest concentration of detectability compared to predefined goals or allowable amounts.

Some COAs say Pass or ND for “non-detectable” for cannabinoids and other substances. Three CBD spectrums influence the information you want to make sure you review.

Most people read the results of COA test results to learn:

  • Whether the amount of CBD matches the product label
  • What other cannabinoids and their amounts are in the product
  • Total THC detected
  • Other non-cannabinoid elements and compounds detected
  • Note that if the LOQ column shows “less than LOQ” next to any substance, then the substance is below the allowable limit.

Following are other essential details to check when reading a CBD Certificate of Analysis.

  • Report date to ensure these are recent results.
  • Name of the CBD brand retailer to make sure the report is for the brand on the label.
  • Product description to confirm the report is for the product you wish to purchase.
  • Name of the laboratory and the certifications; you may have to go to the lab’s website to determine its independence status and licensing and COA credentials.
  • Batch number to ensure it matches the batch number on the product label.

The main thing to look for is how many cannabinoids like CBD and THC are found during testing. 

There are over 114 known cannabinoids in small quantities that they may not show up in typical lab tests.

That doesn’t mean they aren’t present; they’re just in really small proportions. 

Furthermore, carrier oils like hemp seed oil or MCT are great for improving the bioavailability of a hemp extract, but this can reduce the number of cannabinoids to less than detectable levels. 

A full-spectrum hemp or cannabis extract should report quantitative data for CBD, THC, and at least a couple of the minor cannabinoids like CBG or CBC.

These reports should also test for pesticides, heavy metals, mycotoxins, microbiological agents, and solvents. 

To be clear, any and all CBD products should be free of all of these substances.

Ultimately, each laboratory uses its own COA form, so the key is to understand the basics of lab standards.

Where Can I Find a Product’s COA?

Companies should always make it easy for you to find this information. 

Most of the time, you can find these lab reports on their websites or online stores.

At PureKana, for example, every COA is conveniently available right on the product page, so you can check it whenever you want!

If their lab test results are not listed and accessible, there is a possibility that they may be hiding something. 

By providing a readily available COA, CBD companies are operating with the transparency necessary for consumers to ensure at a minimum that what they say about their product on the label is reflective of what’s inside the bottle. 

If you have a hard time finding a product’s COA, you can always call or email them directly and ask them to send you their COAs. 

In the unregulated CBD market of today, transparency is so important that good companies should be happy to prove themselves!

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