In isolate form, CBD is separated from other cannabinoids found in hemp and cannabis. Previously, users and researchers believed that CBD isolates were more potent than full spectrum CBD hemp edibles. But that myth was eventually proven wrong by different studies performed in recent years. Therefore, full spectrum CBD oil is more effective than CBD isolate.
Cohen has found that chronic conditions including autoimmune diseases and pain syndromes can be helped with a 6-mg under-the-tongue tincture (the fastest delivery system) or a 25-mg capsule taken twice a day. Dosages for topical products like lotions are especially hard to determine—there’s no clarity on how much CBD gets into the system through the skin.
Full spectrum CBD includes hundreds of active compounds, each in varying amounts and potencies, each with their own subtle action. The Entourage Effect predicts that some of these compounds can work in concert with each other to produce larger effects than they could individually, and that some compounds support the actions of others or even help render active compounds that normally wouldn’t be.
Extracts of CBD—either from marijuana or hemp (a cannabis variant that is essentially free of THC)—are sold as an oil or in tinctures. You can also get CBD via a transdermal patch, capsule, sublingual spray, gel, cream, or vapor. Some contain pure CBD extract (or so they say); others—particularly if you’re in a state where recreational marijuana is not legal—will contain hemp extract, which includes CBD as part of its makeup. As of this reporting, recreational marijuana is legal in nine U.S. states and medical marijuana in 29. Don’t miss these 50 weird things that are banned in the United States.
Quality is a particular concern, because cannabis plants easily soak up heavy metals from pesticides and other contaminants, Marcu says. If you are buying online, look for a company that documents how it tests its products. (If the website doesn’t indicate this, call and ask.) “Buying from a reputable manufacturer is crucial, because it matters how the plant is cultivated and processed,” Dr. Maroon says. One clue that a company is cutting corners: too low a cost. Good CBD is pricey—a bottle of high-quality capsules is sold in Cohen’s office for $140. But for many, it’s worth the money. Roth spent $60 on her tiny bottle. But when her energy returned the day she started taking CBD, she decided that was a small price to pay.
“There’s no oversight,” says Marcel Bonn-Miller, PhD, adjunct assistant professor of Psychology in Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania and author of the JAMA article. Beyond the label, he adds, “There’s no consistency. You know that every Hershey’s bar you buy and every Coke you buy will be exactly the same. But that’s not the case with the majority of CBD products. It’s not unexpected to see variability within a given brand.” This means that you may notice improvements the first time you buy and try a particular product, but none the next.
Buying online is less reliable still because there’s no regulation or standardization. What you see on the label may not be what you are getting. A 2017 study in JAMA found that of the 84 CBD products researchers bought online, 43% had more CBD than indicated, while 26% had less, and some had unexpected THC. “There’s a 75% chance of getting a product where the CBD is mislabeled,” says Marcu, one of the study’s coauthors.