If you’re wondering what a certificate of analysis is and how it relates to CBD, here’s an in-depth guide about why it matters and how to read one.
A CBD certificate of analysis is a document produced by a third-party laboratory to analyse the contents of a cannabidiol product.
The most important purpose of the document is to detect how much THC – if any – the product contains. We’ll explain why shortly.
For the certificate of analysis to be authentic, it should be from an ISO-accredited lab, ideally with a 0.01% detection limit.
From top to bottom, this is how to read a certificate of analysis for a CBD product.
At the top of the certificate of analysis, you should find information about the third-party testing lab used to examine the product.
At first glance, that may not seem like something worth reading, but it’s very important.
It should provide the proof you need that the testing certification was not completed in-house, but by an independent lab without any conflicts of interest.
The header should include the lab’s name and address, plus their licence and accreditation details. In short, it provides enough information so that you can research or contact them.
Some will have a QR code – if you scan this with your smartphone, you may find further information that will help you verify the CBD certificate of analysis’ authenticity.
If you can’t see everything you’re looking for, then try the footer on the certificate.
This is a list of the different cannabinoids present in the CBD product.
If you were only expecting to see CBD itself here, that may be the case when testing CBD isolate as it’s at least 99% pure CBD. Otherwise, there will be other cannabinoids present.
There are many active cannabinoids found in the Cannabis sativa plant. CBD is one of them and THC is another – this is the one responsible for psychotropic effects.
When CBD is extracted from industrial hemp, other cannabinoids come with it. By refining it carefully, the CBD can be separated from everything else to varying degrees.
The UK law on CBD oil makes it clear that a CBD product can only contain up to 1 mg of THC per pack. Whereas CBD isolate won’t contain any, other legal CBD products may have very slight trace amounts of THC – but not enough to produce a ‘high’.
Many CBD products will also contain small amounts of other cannabinoids – such as CBDA, CBG or CBC – for example, if it’s a broad-spectrum distillate. We’ve recently written about CBD distillate and how it differs from CBD isolate.
Many CBD consumers are happy to see other cannabinoids present in their products. It has been claimed that there could be a ‘full entourage effect’ – with different cannabinoids working together to potentially produce stronger overall effects.
So, throughout this section on a certificate of analysis, expect to see several cannabinoids mentioned.
To the right of each cannabinoid, you’ll usually see a percentage.
These figures reveal the percentage by weight of each cannabinoid from the lab tests, out of the overall weight of the product.
If you don’t see a percentage, you may see the letters ND instead. It means ‘not detected’ – there may be some of this cannabinoid in the product, but so little that there isn’t enough to analyse.
This is measured in milligrams per gram or mg/g – it is the concentration of each cannabinoid as part of the entire product.
Again, the letters ND next to a cannabinoid means that it wasn’t detected. If it says ND in the weight percentage column, there should be one in the concentration column too.
Heavy metal analysis
This is the first part of the safety testing results section – just note that not every CBD certificate of analysis has this.
It should reveal the concentration, and there is also an ‘ingestion’ statistic. The latter is the maximum amount of heavy metals – such as mercury – that is safe to consume, presented in micrograms (0.000001 gram, or one-millionth of a gram).
If there are any traces of heavy metals, then the tested concentration should be far below the number in the ingestion column.
Again, not every certificate of analysis will have this part of the safety testing section.
An upper limit of potential acceptable consumption is shown by parts per billion (ppb) – but of course what you really want to see next to each pesticide tested for, are the letters ND.
Limit of detection or quantification
These may appear on the certificate of analysis as abbreviations – LOD or LOQ.
It’s a statistic used to confirm the accuracy limit or reliability of the weight and concentration measurements.
As mentioned, we recommend that CBD manufacturers use third-party labs with a detection limit of 0.01% so that there’s no margin for error.
On some versions of a certificate of analysis, a few of the details we mentioned from the header may be down here – for example, contact information or a QR code.
There should be a signature – this will be from one of the most senior members of staff at the lab.
There may also be a key, explaining any abbreviations used in full.
Final thoughts: What Is A CBD Certificate Of Analysis And How Do You Read One?
We hope this run-through has answered all your questions. Now you know how to read a CBD certificate of analysis.
Remember, if you want to see a certificate of analysis from a CBD provider, any reputable company should make it accessible to consumers. If you can’t find one, just ask for it.
It’s worth taking care and researching any new CBD product you buy in advance. In the Centre of Medicinal Cannabis report CBD in the UK, several products available in shops were tested – some had too much THC and some had high amounts of heavy metals.
One product had no CBD at all – some providers are, wittingly or unwittingly, mislabelling their products. It just shows the importance of only buying high-quality CBD products from reputable providers. For any further information about reading a certificate of analysis, or to ask about specific products, then please contact us.