What to Look for in CBD Brands (Plus My Favorite Ones)

The world of cannabidiol, aka CBD, is expanding rapidly. To understand the buzz around all of these new CBD products, it is important to look at the fundamentals of the compound as a whole. CBD is derived from the cannabis plant, which contains different compounds called cannabinoids. The most dominant cannabinoids are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). The main difference between the two is that THC produces intoxicating psychoactive effects (it gets you “high”), while CBD does not. While THC offers wonderful health benefits, its mind-altering effects are not enjoyed by everyone.

Since CBD provides many of the same positives without changing the way you perceive experiences, people have grown to really love it. There are multiple ways in which you can consume CBD. CBD oil is the most potent and typically the most unprocessed form of the cannabinoid, which is why it is my favorite. In oil form, you use a dropper to place a small amount under your tongue, you have complete control over how much you are ingesting. Some people like to consume CBD in edible form because it is convenient and does not require any thought on the consumer’s end, but it is not my favorite since the foods and beverages that the CBD is infused into are often loaded with sugar and/or simple carbs.

I have become a huge supporter of CBD over the years because of its extraordinary health benefits. The strongest evidence for CBD’s healing effectiveness is in treating some of the most severe childhood epilepsy syndromes, many of which do not respond to anti-seizure drugs. The effects of cannabis on these epilepsy syndromes are so profound that the FDA recently approved the first ever CBD-derived medication to treat them. While the science is limited, CBD is:

  • Commonly used to treat anxiety
  • Currently in early clinical trials for treating post-traumatic stress disorder as well as schizophrenia
  • Being used to treat various types of chronic pain including inflammatory and neuropathic pain, which are two of the most difficult kinds of chronic pain to remedy
  • Used topically to help with arthritis pain
  • Effective for some people in combating insomnia as it has been shown to help with both falling asleep and staying asleep.

Alternative health benefits of consuming CBD are regularly being discovered by the medical community and with many states decriminalizing and legalizing cannabis, new CBD products are being released daily. CBD’s popularity has had such a drastic spike over the last couple of years that sales in the U.S. are expected to reach $2.3 billion by 2022! The newfound CBD craze illustrates people’s determination to explore natural methods to improve health.

Since the CBD boom is still so young, products are not FDA-regulated, which means it is hard to know if companies are telling the truth about the ingredients or levels of CBD in their items. Plus, with all of the hype around cannabidiol, more and more companies are jumping on the band wagon and it is getting difficult to detect which brands can be trusted and which products are high quality. If you know anything about me, you know that I am a huge promoter of everything organic, but it is still challenging to find high quality, organic CBD. Currently, there are no CBD-infused food or beverage products that carry the USDA organic seal, and the number of USDA certified organic CBD oils is miniscule. In fact, I know of only a handful of CBD oil brands that are labeled organic by the USDA (more on them later).

What should you look for when buying CBD oil?

CBD is either full-spectrum, meaning it is extracted with all of the other cannabinoids from whole cannabis plants, or a CBD isolate, which is an extraction of solely CBD. While CBD isolates are the most legally unproblematic, many experts believe in “the entourage effect,” which basically means that whole-plant, full-spectrum CBD is more effective when activated by the plant’s other cannabinoids.

Then there is the question of how much CBD you are actually consuming. As I mentioned, because the FDA has not yet tackled oversight, mislabeling of CBD products is rampant. Recent Penn Medicine research showed that almost 70% of CBD products available online mislabeled their CBD content, inflating the concentration of CBD. Because of this, it is imperative that you choose products from reputable companies, ideally those that have been third-party verified. In addition, opt for CBD that was grown on organic farms (most manufacturers cannot claim that their product is certified organic, but they can state whether it comes from an organic farm). It is also important that the CBD was obtained using a safe form of extraction. CO­­2 is one of the safest and most common methods of extraction. It uses carbon dioxide to obtain the cannabinoids. Lipid extraction using organic coconut oil is another safe method as it uses lipids, or fats, to absorb the hemp compounds. Other processes should be avoided since they can involve using toxic solvents like butane and hexane, which can leave harmful residue behind in the final product. If any of this information is not readily available on a product’s website or packaging, simply ask – many brands are happy to share for transparency’s sake. Plus, if they are not willing to share, you know that you are better off buying from a different company.

In terms of the highest quality CBD brands, my favorite are currently…

NuLeaf Naturals: This company obtains its CBD from non-GMO hemp plants in Colorado. Aside from meeting all of the standards I have already discussed, its CBD is also all natural with no additives or preservatives. You can purchase NuLeaf Naturals CBD products online, which cannot be said for many other CBD brands.

Reed’s Remedies: Reed’s never uses any herbicides or pesticides and its CBD is always quality checked by a third-party organization. Another reason why I love Reed’s Remedies is because its products are organized based on the desired outcome: calm, focus, detox, relief and sleep, making it super easy to find what you are looking for.

Pure Spectrum: I am a huge fan of this brand. Its products come with a 100% guarantee and they even offer military and veteran discounts. Pure Spectrum is so transparent that it posts all of its test results online for consumers to review.

Re Botanicals: If you stopped by Re Botanicals’ booth at Natural Products Expo West this year, you know how popular this company is. The line for its organic CBD extended further than any other one at the event! This brand sells high quality coconut oil and CBD oil blends, so you know I am a huge supporter.

Charlotte’s Web: They are not organic, but Charlotte’s Web’s CBD products are very high quality. They also offer CBD specifically for dogs in case your canine companion is experiencing stress.

Sunsoil: This brand sources CBD from hemp plants grown in Vermont. I recommend sticking with Sunsoil’s unflavored CBD oil as some of the other options contain “natural flavors,” which I am not a fan of as they are unregulated.

BonaVibe: Its CBD is high quality and free from any additives. Along with general third party lab testing, BonaVibe also requires that its products are tested for heavy metals. As a little bonus, this brand also offers vegan Omega-3 algae oil.

Plant People: Not only is Plant People’s CBD extremely high quality, but the company’s foundation is also very powerful. Its two founders both experienced adverse reactions to pharmaceuticals after they each underwent surgeries for traumatic spinal injuries. They decided to experiment with more natural pain relief methods, which lead them to create Plant People.

Green Gorilla: This brand has been growing rapidly in popularity and is now available in many health stores and dispensaries. It is also is an ethically sound company as it is making sustainable and ethical choices that will help preserve the planet and plans to expand its environmentally-friendly growing methods in the future.

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If you are not excited about CBD oil, I recommend consuming it in tea form. My favorite CBD tea brand is currently Kikoko. The company offers various combinations depending on desired outcomes such as stress-release and sleep function. Be sure to check with your doctor before taking CBD for the first time to make sure it is right for you.