How To Choose CBD Oil

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Cannabidiol (CBD) is a chemical extracted from hemp and marijuana that can possibly reduce stress, anxiety, pain, and the chance of seizures without giving you a high. While CBD is still being tested and is not regulated by the Food and… Do you know how to choose CBD oil and what you should look at when shopping for CBD products online? This article provides an all-around buyer’s guide for both beginners and those who already have experience in the CBD space but like to expand their research skills. With an abundance of CBD shops popping up around the country, you need to know about CBD oil quality and sourcing and vet brands to find the best one for you.

How to Choose CBD Oil

This article was co-authored by Aimée Shunney, ND and by wikiHow staff writer, Hunter Rising. Dr. Aimée Gould Shunney is a Licensed Naturopathic Doctor at Santa Cruz Integrative Medicine in Santa Cruz, California where she specializes in women’s health and hormone balancing. She also consults with various companies in the natural products industry including CV Sciences, makers of PlusCBD Oil. Dr. Aimée educates consumers, retailers, and healthcare providers about CBD oil through written articles, webinars, podcasts, and conferences nationwide. Her work has been featured at the American Academy for Anti-Aging Medicine, the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians Conference, and on Fox News. She earned her ND from the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in 2001.

There are 13 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

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Cannabidiol (CBD) is a chemical extracted from hemp and marijuana that can possibly reduce stress, anxiety, pain, and the chance of seizures without giving you a high. [1] X Trustworthy Source Mayo Clinic Educational website from one of the world’s leading hospitals Go to source While CBD is still being tested and is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), you can still buy CBD oil legally in many locations. But how do you shop for CBD, and what’s the best CBD oil? To help you out, we’ve put together some tips on choosing CBD oil and shopping for the best CBD oil available.

What To Look For When Shopping for CBD Products

CBD oil is a versatile supplement, but now it’s also a growing market, which entails the risk of stumbling upon unscrupulous scam-artists trying to make a quick buck on misinformed customers, too.

Is there any way to tell that you’re looking at high-quality CBD oil?

While it’s not easy for consumers to determine which CBD brands and products they should choose, there are several factors that can tell you right away whether you’re dealing with a reputable vendor or with one of the aforementioned fly-by-night suppliers.

Having been in the industry for years, we’ve set out certain quality standards that we incorporate into our farming, extraction, and lab-testing practices. Before launching Gold Bee, we’ve been working in the organic superfoods space, so we can tell the difference between a good crop and a bad crop, point you to the right extraction methods, and highlight all the important points on your checklist before choosing CBD oil.

In this article, we’ve put together our knowledge in one place so that you can choose your CBD oil based on thorough research rather than marketing buzz.

How to Choose CBD Oil?

There are thousands of cannabis products on the shelves and in online stores — but determining what’s safe and effective is up to you.

The CBD space is unregulated by the FDA, and many brands are taking advantage of that fact churning out poor-quality, sometimes dangerous products.

According to statistics, up to 70% of CBD oil products sold locally are mislabeled and contain significantly less CBD than stated on the bottle. Other products have residual contaminants, but then again, the market is unregulated, so companies aren’t obliged to test their CBD oils in third-party laboratories for potency and purity — although it’s the industry’s standard.

The market has matured since its first years. That being said, due diligence is still required if you don’t want to fall victim to sketchy vendors.

Then there’s also the question of your preferences, dosage needs, different product types, formulas, concentrations, and more — choosing CBD oil for the first time can be a pain.

Okay, enough of the negative vibes.

Problems aren’t negative by nature because there’s always a way to solve them.

Below we cover everything you need to know if you’re about to choose your first bottle of CBD oil.

Know the Difference Between CBD Oil and Hemp Seed Oil

Hemp is used in lots of different product categories, from food to health supplements to skincare products.

When you choose CBD oil for the first time, you need to make sure you’re buying the actual CBD oil — not hemp seed oil.

These two products are confusingly sold as “hemp oils,” which is an umbrella term for all oils derived from hemp.

However, hemp seed oil and CBD oil are two completely different products.

Hemp seed oil is made from the plant’s seeds. And while it has a rich nutritional content — chock-full of omega fatty acids, proteins, vitamins, and trace minerals — it doesn’t contain any CBD or any cannabinoids for that matter. This type of hemp oil is made by cold-pressing the seeds.

CBD oil, on the other hand, is extracted from the plant’s flowers. This is the resinous part of hemp, where all the cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids are secreted. The flowers are harvested and then treated with pressurized CO2 to pull the beneficial compounds from the plant material. The resulting product is a thick, dark liquid that has a botanical smell. Once extracted, the oil is suspended in a food-grade carrier oil such as MCT oil or hemp seed oil.

So, while both products come from the same plant, they use different parts and thus have different properties and applications.

Tip: If you want to make sure you’re choosing the actual CBD oil, read what the label says. If it states “CBD oil” or “full-spectrum hemp extract,” then you’re looking at the right product. On the other hand, if it says “hemp seed oil” or “hemp oil,” you might be looking at a culinary oil.

Set Your Goals with CBD

The first thing to consider when you choose CBD oil is why you want to take it. Though CBD is praised for numerous potential health benefits — backed by scientific research — each person may have different expectations when it comes to the effects.

CBD oil isn’t the only format you can choose; there are CBD capsules, topicals, edibles, and vapes — each of them might be appropriate.

According to experts, the method of consumption determines the onset, type, and duration of the effects.

For immediate relief of stress or physical discomfort, inhaling CBD may be the most effective; if you want to ensure efficient absorption and don’t mind waiting several minutes for the effects to kick in, CBD oil drops will be your best bet. Oral forms of CBD, such as capsules and edibles, are better suited for the means of daily supplementation thanks to the level of convenience they offer. Finally, topical products may lend their hand if you suffer from localized discomfort, such as muscle stiffness and soreness.

Consider the THC Content

The THC content in your CBD oil determines not only its effects but also legal status — something that is important to many people who choose CBD for the first time. Research suggests that in some people, CBD may be more beneficial when taken in tandem with at least a little THC.

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The synergistic interaction between CBD, THC, and other cannabinoids, as well as terpenes, is known as the entourage effect. According to this concept, the sum of the two chemicals, plus other related compounds, provide greater efficacy than their individual parts.

Hemp-derived CBD oil contains very little THC — up to 0.3% — which isn’t enough to get you high but maybe enough to leverage the health benefits of CBD. Such products are legal on a federal level and you can find them in dispensaries, vape shops, organic health stores, pharmacies, and online stores.

With marijuana-derived CBD oil, it’s a different story. CBD products extracted from marijuana plants are legal only in the states that have legalized its recreational use. You’ll mostly find them in cannabis dispensaries. Dispensaries sell a wide range of CBD products, from high-CBD marijuana strains to oils, tinctures, topicals, and vape pens. If your state only allows medical marijuana, then you’ll need a prescription or an MMJ card to purchase marijuana-derived CBD.

What to Look for in CBD Oil?

Now that we’ve established the prep work behind choosing CBD oil, it’s time to take a peek at the factors that directly affect its quality. Here are a few important questions to ask yourself before you choose a CBD product and add it to your cart.

Is the Hemp Organic?

The source of hemp is paramount because it is where CBD and other valuable compounds are secreted. Since hemp plants are dynamic bioaccumulators, they easily absorb every substance from the soil they grow in. When cultivated in clean and nutrient-dense soil, the hemp will yield high-CBD flowers that are free of any contaminants. On the other hand, mass-produced hemp will yield poor concentrations of CBD, not to mention the presence of heavy metals and other toxins in the final product.

Most hemp in CBD products sold in the United States comes from Colorado, California, Oregon, and Kentucky, which have long histories with cannabis cultivation. Some companies import hemp from overseas, which may be risky from the customer’s perspective because such hemp isn’t subject to U.S. federal quality testing.

Don’t know which CBD oil to choose? We always recommend purchasing from manufacturers who use locally grown hemp. Not only do you support local farmers this way, but you’re also getting a product that is compliant with the FDA guidelines.

How Was the Product Extracted?

Once grown to full maturity and harvested, the plant is taken to an extraction facility, where the lab workers use different methods to extract the beneficial compounds from the source material. CBD can be extracted in many ways — the most popular being CO2, ethanol, and organic solvents such as butane, propane, or hexane.

CO2 is the industry’s golden standard. Pressurized carbon dioxide efficiently pulls the cannabinoids and terpenes from the plant material without using additional heat or toxic solvents. This technology ensures pure CBD extracts that maintain consistent potency throughout the batches.

Ethanol extraction is an acceptable alternative. In fact, the traditional cannabis tinctures were made using alcohol. However, this method isn’t as efficient as CO2 extraction when it comes to broad-scale manufacturing. The purging process also needs to be run with caution, as alcohol is highly flammable.

The cheapest — and the riskiest — way to extract CBD from hemp is through hydrocarbon extraction. Hydrocarbon solvents include substances like butane, hexane, and propane. They are a low-cost method of making cannabis concentrates. Unfortunately, they’re also difficult to purge from the final product, leaving toxic impurities that can make you sick.

When choosing CBD oil, we encourage you to opt for CO2-extracted products. They are slightly more expensive than alcohol-based extracts, but it’s worth spending a few dollars more on a better-quality product.

Has It Been Third-Party Tested?

Always ask to see a product’s certificate of analysis (COA). The document shows how a product went through tests checking for CBD and THC concentrations, and the presence of contaminants.

The lab-reports should come from a third-party laboratory. “Third-party” means that the facility has no affiliation with the manufacturer and thus can provide unbiased results.

Some companies test their products throughout the entire production process — from the seed to the bottle — while others only test the final product. Regardless of the company’s testing practices, you should check if the lab reports are batch-specific and up-to-date.

If an online manufacturer or a local store doesn’t provide the information or refuses to share it, avoid the product and the vendor.

Are There Any Other Ingredients In It?

CBD oils have a simple formula. They mostly consist of a full-spectrum hemp extract and food-grade carrier oil. The extract itself is too thick to be handled with a dropper, so the oil is added to make dosing easier on top of improving its bioavailability. ‘Bioavailability’ refers to the amount of CBD that ends up in your bloodstream. Cannabinoids dissolve both in alcohol and fats, so the addition of carrier oil enhances the efficacy of CBD extracts.

Aside from the carrier, CBD oils may be infused with other ingredients that are used to boost or complement the health benefits of CBD. You can find CBD oil with guarana for morning use, but there are also CBD oils with melatonin, a sleep-enhancing neurotransmitter. If you dislike the flavor of natural CBD oil, you can choose from many flavored versions; popular flavored variations of CBD oil include mint, vanilla, berry, kiwi, and citrus fruits.

When choosing CBD oil, make sure the flavorings are natural, and that the oil doesn’t contain any suspicious additives.

How to Buy CBD Oil?

Don’t have the time to run through the above checklist? This section will help you choose high-quality CBD oil if you’re in a hurry.

Choose Reputable Brands

This may sound like a dead giveaway, but brands with a well-established reputation are more likely to sell quality CBD products than companies coming out of the blue and providing little to no information on how they make their CBD oils.

How can you tell that you’re buying from a trustworthy vendor?

The company should have a clear mission statement written on its website. Moreover, they should provide a detailed insight into their farming, extraction, and testing practices. Every reputable brand also sends its products to third-party laboratories for content analysis.

Speaking of which…

Look for Certificates of Analysis

As mentioned earlier, the certificate of analysis is a document confirming the potency and purity of a CBD product. The content analysis may cover one or several aspects, from the CBD concentration to the cannabinoid and terpene profiles to potential contaminants.

If any impurities or dangerous additives are found during the analysis, the lab report will show it.

Again, never buy from companies that refuse to provide certificates of analysis for their products.

Read User Reviews

This point is closely connected with the first one. Reputable brands usually have many positive user reviews. However, you should look at the source of these testimonies. There are many companies out there that have lots of positive reviews on their websites, but when you check with third-party CBD rankings or expert blogs, you may find that the reviews are biased.

When choosing between different brands and CBD products, always compare user reviews from at least three different sources. Doing so will provide you with a bigger picture of the company and its reputation in the cannabis community.

When to Shop for CBD Online?

The first thought that may come to your mind once you discover the health benefits of CBD oil is “where can I buy CBD oil near me?” After all, CBD is sold virtually everywhere — even at gas stations.

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But before you start making errands to find a trustworthy physical store, it’s a good idea to weigh the pros and cons.

Local shops are convenient and easily available — but that’s where the advantages usually end.

When you shop for CBD locally, you rely solely on the employees’ knowledge about the products. This leaves you with limited research options, not to mention a narrow product selection. Local shops usually stock two types of CBD products — much less than online retailers.

A person running a physical storefront must cover certain operational costs, such as electricity bills, rental space, etc. This, in turn, translates into higher product prices.

That’s where online shopping becomes an appealing alternative.

Buying CBD online means you can easily browse and compare different brands and products in the comfort of your home. You don’t need to drive from one shop to another — everything is available with a few clicks in your browser.

Online stores also offer more product types than local vendors. When shopping for CBD online, you can choose from oils, tinctures, capsules, gummies, honey sticks, bath bombs, creams, vape pens, and more. It would be difficult to find a physical store that would offer so many options.

And since online retailers can cut out the middleman, they can offer better prices for their products. You can take advantage of special discounts, coupon codes, reward programs, holiday sales, and bulk pricing to save money on your favorite products.

Choosing the Right CBD Product Type

You can find CBD in many forms, but in this section, we’ll cover the most often picked product types.

As we said, the form of CBD determines the onset, type, and duration of effects. Here’s a brief comparison:

  • CBD Oils – CBD oils are taken under the tongue. You need to measure the desired amount using a glass dropper or atomizer and place it beneath the tongue for up to 60 seconds. From there, the oil absorbs directly into the bloodstream, producing its effects within 15–30 minutes on average.
  • CBD Capsules – capsules contain a hemp extract infused with a carrier oil and covered in a soft gel shell. They don’t require any measurements because every capsule contains a fixed amount of CBD. Since capsules need to pass through the digestive system, the effects have a delayed onset, usually by 30–40 minutes, although, for some people, it may take up to 2 hours until they start feeling a difference.
  • CBD Edibles – similar to regular cannabis edibles, you can find hemp-infused CBD gummies, honey sticks, protein bars, chocolates, and beverages. They are processed by the body in the same way as capsules, which means the effects may be delayed, but they will also last longer since the CBD is released gradually into the bloodstream.
  • CBD Vapes – products like vape pens and cartridges provide the fastest onset of effects, bringing relief within minutes after inhalation. They also offer the highest bioavailability of all consumption methods, ensuring that up to 56% of CBD ends up in your bloodstream.
  • CBD Topicals – topicals are formulated to ease localized discomfort. The CBD doesn’t absorb into the bloodstream, so these products have literally zero bioavailability; instead, the CBD interacts with the CB2 receptors located in the skin. From there, they can signal the endocannabinoid system to promote homeostasis.

Full-spectrum vs Isolate: Which One Should You Choose?

There’s an ongoing debate on which type of CBD oil people should choose: full-spectrum or isolate?

Most users choose full-spectrum CBD due to more predictable dosing and higher efficacy.

Full-spectrum CBD is extracted from the whole plant, so it contains not only CBD but also other cannabinoids and terpenes found in hemp. As mentioned in the previous sections, these compounds work together synergistically, enhancing the benefits of the major cannabinoid. This synergy is known as the “entourage effect,” a term coined by Raphael Mechoulam and further expanded by Dr. Ethan Bud Russo. The entourage effect means that the cannabis compounds work better together than each of them alone.

CBD isolate is pure cannabidiol that has been separated from the other molecules. It’s usually sold as powdered crystals and offers the highest dose of CBD per serving — 990 mg in one gram. It’s also flavorless and odorless, which makes it more versatile than full-spectrum extracts.

However, CBD isolate doesn’t produce the entourage effect, which makes it a less desired option. People typically choose to isolate when they are tested for THC at work — high doses of full-spectrum CBD may trigger a false-positive result for THC — or are allergic to other hemp compounds.

How to Choose CBD Concentration?

CBD concentration is the first figure people look at when they choose between different CBD oils.

There is no one-size-fits-all CBD dosage because everybody is different and reacts differently to CBD. For some people, dosages between 5–10 mg may be sufficient, while others will need upwards of 50 mg to experience a noticeable difference in their well-being.

The rule “the more the merrier” doesn’t work in this case because people may also have different goals with CBD.

This brings us to the next choice.

High vs Low Concentration CBD Oil

Low-concentration CBD oils are usually picked for micro-dosing, which means applying very small doses of CBD throughout the day to maintain stable levels of endocannabinoids. People who’ve just dipped their toes in the subject choose low-potency CBD oils to find the right dosage and assess the cost-efficacy of their product.

High-concentration CBD oils are preferred by users who already have some experience with CBD and know their optimal dosage. When you buy a high-strength oil, you need to pay more for a single purchase, but the product may prove more affordable in the long-run than a less potent option. You can calculate the cost of your CBD oil by taking the total concentration of CBD and dividing it by the product’s volume. The less you pay for one milligram of CBD, the longer your product will go.

Lower doses of CBD oil produce different effects than higher doses. Lower amounts are known to produce invigorating effects that promote focus and reduce stress — a good option for daytime use. Higher doses, in turn, tend to have a sedative effect on the user. When you take high doses of CBD in your routine, low-concentration oils may be cost-prohibitive.

How to Choose CBD Oil: Bottom Line?

Choosing CBD oil for the first time can be a hard nut to crack. Since the market is unregulated, there’s a risk of buying a mislabeled product that will be ineffective and even dangerous for your health.

Research is paramount when it comes to choosing CBD products. You should always check the source of hemp, extraction methods, third-party testing, the company’s transparency, and reputation among CBD users.

Your choice will also depend on the type of CBD, consumption method, and potency; these factors should be suited to your lifestyle preferences and expected effects.

We hope our guide will help you maneuver in this booming space and find a true pearl amidst the sea of mediocre vendors.

How do you choose your CBD oils? Let us know your tips in the comments below!

What To Look For In CBD Oil Sourcing, According To Experts

Dr. Bindiya Gandhi is an integrative medicine physician with expertise in functional and holistic medicine based in Atlanta, Georgia.

Commissions we earn from partner links on this page do not affect our opinions or evaluations. Our editorial content is based on thorough research and guidance from the Forbes Health Advisory Board.

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Table of Contents

  • CBD Oil Sourcing: Why It Matters
  • What to Look for When Shopping for CBD Oil
  • How to Find a High-Quality CBD Brand

With so many CBD shops popping up, it’s easy to step into the nearest store and grab whatever product you see first. But CBD, or cannabidiol, is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and quality can vary dramatically between brands and products.

Here’s what you need to know about CBD oil quality and sourcing and vetting CBD brands to find the best one for you.

Partner Offers feature brands who paid Forbes Health to appear at the top of our list. While this may influence where their products or services appear on our site, it in no way affects our ratings, which are based on thorough research, solid methodologies and expert advice. Our partners cannot pay us to guarantee favorable reviews of their products or services

Charlotte’s Web CBD Oil

Charlotte’s Web CBD Oil

  • Approx. 60mg of CBD per 1-milliliter serving
  • Certified organic, USA grown and U.S. Hemp Authority Certified
  • Full-spectrum CBD oil is derived from premium hemp extract

CBD Oil Sourcing: Why It Matters

“Knowing the source of the hemp used in making a CBD product is important because it gives you insight into [a variety of components],” says Vanessa Niles, M.D., a medical cannabis expert at Heally, a telehealth platform for alternative medicine based in New York. Source information can indicate whether the hemp is sustainably farmed; organic; contains pesticides, heavy metals or other fertilizer chemicals; and has been tested by a third-party laboratory.

“Harmful additives can undermine the quality and safety of CBD oil,” says Dr. Niles. For instance, hemp plants treated with nonorganic chemicals can create a bitter taste. Even worse, you may end up ingesting those chemicals in the final product in harmful amounts, which can result in serious health conditions, such as kidney damage and cancer.

Variability in quality and lack of regulation in the CBD market ultimately affect how consumers feel about the cannabinoid. In fact, 21% of U.S. adults think CBD should still be deemed illegal and 19% remain on the fence with this issue, according to a recent Forbes Health survey of 2,000 U.S. adults conducted by OnePoll.

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What to Look for When Shopping for CBD Oil

Here are a few important factors to look into when buying CBD oil.

A Certificate of Analysis (COA)

A COA detail compounds found in a CBD product. Sometimes, you can easily find a product’s COA on the company’s website. If not, the company may send you a copy if you request one.

If a company doesn’t have a COA or won’t send you one, consider it a red flag. At best, it indicates a lack of transparency. Worst case scenario, the company isn’t testing the safety or validity of its products, or it received problematic results that it doesn’t want to publish.

According to Steven Phan, founder of Come Back Daily, a CBD dispensary in New York City, trustworthy COAs should feature at least three panels:

  • The cannabinoid analysis, which indicates the weight and concentration of the cannabinoids found in the product.
  • The heavy metals analysis, which indicates the levels of heavy metals like cadmium, lead, arsenic and mercury found in the product. High or extended exposure to heavy metals can result in severe health issues, including kidney damage. Anything more than 0.001 mg/mL of cadmium, 0.003 mg/mL of lead and 0.0001 mg/mL of mercury would be considered problematic.
  • The pesticides analysis, which measures traces of the substances used to protect plants during the farming process. Exposure to pesticides can result in weakened immunity, hormone disruption and liver toxicity. In children, parental exposure to pesticides may also cause cancer and birth defects. There are dozens of pesticide chemicals used in agriculture, but some examples of chemical levels to avoid are 40 parts per million (ppm) of cypermethrin and 7ppm of ethylene oxide.

“The easiest red flag is when companies just have a cannabinoid panel, because they’re choosing to not spend the extra money to be transparent with their customers,” says Phan.

A COA may also include contents like terpenes (organic compounds associated with cannabis aromas), mycotoxins (mold toxins) and residual solvents (organic volatile chemicals).

Third-Party Testing

The use of a third-party laboratory for product testing is another important aspect of a COA and a company’s trustworthiness. Results are more likely to be accurate and unbiased with third-party testing. You may also want to research the third-party lab itself to ensure it’s also a trustworthy and qualified entity.

A Short, U.S.-Grown Ingredient List

Unless you’re buying pure CBD oil (called CBD isolate), you’re likely ingesting other cannabinoids and compounds called terpenes in products labeled “broad spectrum CBD” and “full spectrum CBD,” the latter of which includes small traces of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). When several cannabinoids are present together, they can produce a mutual enhancement called the “entourage effect,” which can increase the product’s overall wellness benefits.

Common cannabinoids—in addition to CBD and THC—include cannabigerol (CBG), cannabichromene (CBC), cannabidivarin (CBDV) and cannabinol (CBN).

Common terpenes include limonene (known for its citrusy, sweet and tart flavor), pinene (known for its piney flavor) and sabinene (known for its woody, citrusy and spicy flavor).

Generally, CBD oil is mixed with an inert carrier oil. The most popular carrier oil is medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil, which is often found in coconuts. MCT oil is easily digestible and has anti-inflammatory properties that boost its overall wellness benefits. You can also find CBD oil mixed with almond oil, sunflower oil, olive oil or vegetable oil, giving you more options to find what works best for you.

Organic, Non-GMO, Vegan and Gluten-Free

Organic CBD oil is free of synthetic chemicals like certain pesticides. In order to claim a product is organic, a company or part of its operations must be Certified Organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Not all CBD companies provide USDA Certified Organic products, and some may claim select ingredients are organic when a product as a whole isn’t certified. You can see which CBD oil companies are Certified Organic on the USDA website.

Non-GMO CBD oil comes from hemp plants that aren’t genetically altered through external intervention. The non-GMO (genetically modified organism) designation is verified by the Non-GMO Project, a nonprofit organization. Many CBD brands claim to provide non-GMO products without official verification. Ask for more information regarding where their hemp plants come from to be sure.

Vegan CBD oil is easy to find since CBD comes from the hemp plant and animal products aren’t used to extract the oils or create tinctures. It gets tricky, however, when CBD oil is incorporated into products like edibles, which may contain gelatin or dairy.

Gluten-free CBD oil is also common but not guaranteed, as some hemp plants are grown around other crops that contain gluten. Tinctures, capsules and topical products are usually gluten-free while CBD edibles like gummies are more likely to contain gluten. If you have a gluten allergy, check the ingredients list and sourcing information of any CBD product you buy.

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