The Smart Girl’s Guide: 10 Mistakes To Avoid When Shopping for CBD

From capsules to tinctures, we have a lineup of pretty CBD products on our desks at all times — can you relate? Proven to help with stress, anxiety and inflammation, CBD has become an instant cultural phenomenon and modern wellness mainstay.

The trouble is that industry regulation is lagging behind the beautiful flood of well-designed CBD products we’ve seen over the past year. As we’re collectively just starting to unlock CBD’s incredible healing potential, it’s important to become an advocate for yourself when shopping around. Knowing what questions to ask and which brands to trust is key to staying safe and to seeing results.

A new online space, Prima, is here to help us make sense of the world of CBD. The digital magazine, educational hub and soon-to-be online shopping resource prides itself on a commitment to transparency. They embrace CBD as we do — fueled by the wisdom of holistic traditions and empowered by modern botanical science.

As with any natural supplement, your fave CBD product deserves thorough investigation before it becomes part of your daily routine. Admittedly we’re quick to try a buzzy new CBD cream or hemp-laced drink, but do we really know what we’re getting from them? How do we decode product labels to determine the active dosage? How do we know which product best suits our needs?

We asked Prima co-founders, Christopher Gavigan (a wellness power player who helped launch The Honest Company with Jessica Alba) Honest Company alum, Laurel Angelica Myers, and former beauty executive, Jessica Assaf, to help guide us through the essential do’s and don’ts when shopping for CBD. Read on to discover what these pros think consumers should know about navigating the CBD ‘wild west’…

How To Shop For Safe CBD Products

In the new and blooming hemp CBD market, there is just as much consumer confusion as there are products on the shelves. With no federal oversight, there aren’t any safety standards, testing requirements or regulatory systems in place to ensure product safety and efficacy. For now, the burden falls on us as consumers to determine whether products are safe. Let us help with our tips for shopping for CBD:

Find purpose-driven brands | And especially ones with sustainable sourcing. Transparency matters, first and foremost. Because the CBD industry is so new and underdeveloped, it is critical to know the faces behind the brand you choose to buy from. Intentions are everything, and it’s important to understand why a specific brand decided to enter the space and how they are taking precautionary action to ensure product safety and quality. Hemp is a bioaccumulator, meaning it absorbs compounds (both bad and good) from the soil. Healthy hemp starts with healthy soil, so choose mission-driven brands committed to sourcing from organic cultivation practices.

Choose broad-spectrum | Be sure to seek out broad-specturm CBD over CBD isolate. The hemp plant contains hundreds of therapeutic compounds: cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, amino acids and more that work synergistically with our bodies to support our health. These compounds activate one another and work best in unison, so choose products that contain a range of compounds, not just CBD. CBD isolate refers to a product that is stripped down to contain only CBD, a single molecule, without any of the other compounds. Use broad-spectrum products which contain a rich cannabinoid and terpene profile (with no detectable THC, the single intoxicating cannabinoid) for maximum benefits.

Request test results | Request pharmaceutical-grade third-party test results. Always look for (or request) “finished product” test results (not Certificate of Analysis from the raw materials supplier) from a pharmaceutical-grade, credible independent lab. Review the levels of cannabinoid and terpene content, and undesirable constituents like pesticides (including glyphosate, the harmful by-product of the herbicide Roundup), residual solvents, heavy metals, bacteria and mold in both the active ingredient (CBD or hemp extract) and the finished product. Most high-integrity brands feature test results on their website, but if not, buyer beware.

Optimize for bioavailability | Many cannabinoid products on the market are blended with carrier oils like MCT oil, hemp seed oil and olive oil. These aren’t the best for the body to properly process and absorb because the body actively digests and processes out the cannabinoids in the liver (so only a small percentage actually impacts your body). Look for sublingual, alcohol-based sprays and tinctures (applied under the tongue) instead of oil-based products to ensure better bioavailability and rapid uptake.

Understand the ingredient list | And a product’s preservative system. The other ingredients in the product are just as important as the carrier ingredient. Review the full ingredient list and look out for red flags like potentially harmful synthetic chemicals (or even sugar) that undermine the quality of the product. Understand the preservative system so you can evaluate the safety of the product and its shelf life. Study each and every ingredient like it’s your job.

Evaluate the dose of active CBD | Pay special attention to the total cannabinoid content in each product — especially per serving and in total. Many brands are misleading consumers by using hemp seed oil (which does not contain meaningful levels of cannabinoids) instead of CBD-rich hemp extract. And dose matters: In order to feel the benefits, you need a significant dose (100 to 750 mg) of cannabinoids per product.

Choose sophisticated formulations | Especially in convenient formats. Many products on the market (hello, tinctures) are not intuitive, easy or natural to use (holding oil under the tongue is just plain weird). You shouldn’t compromise your lifestyle to accommodate an inconvenient product form. Choose products that easily integrate into your life: Drinks, nutritional supplements (like soft gels) and skincare topicals are three delightful formats we love right now.

Integrate a holistically healthy lifestyle | In order to ensure a positive experience with hemp CBD, make sure you are sleeping well, eating whole foods, hydrating with clean water, working out, using non-toxic skincare, using digital devices less and are taking better care of yourself in total. CBD is not an all-encompassing cure-all or panacea, and in order to feel the benefits you must commit to a holistic lifestyle of healthful wellness practices.

Start slowly + monitor results | If you’re just getting into CBD, start with a small, consistent dose, monitor results and adjust as you go. CBD products are generally considered individualized, meaning everyone experiences the plant differently. There isn’t a standard dose that works well for everyone, so start with a small dose (like 5 to 10 milligrams) twice daily and monitor how you feel. It takes time for our bodies to adjust and find the right balance of cannabinoids in the system, so commit to a consistent dose twice a day accompanied by a large glass of water.

Reflect + repeat | Repeat use over time is critical: Use products consistently, supported by a healthy diet and lifestyle and work to monitor your results. For some people, it may be more impactful to evaluate what you don’t feel (such as the absence of stress, aches and pains, anxiousness, mood irregularities or sleeping issues). Stay positive — changes may be subtle at first, so be patient and listen to your body. It just may be the perfect time for that gratitude and five-minute mindfulness journal to reflect on how you feel.

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