- CBD is a new and rapidly growing phenomenon, with sales tripling in the last three years.
- Manufacturers are unauthorized to make medical claims about the effectiveness of CBD oil.
- 62% of CBD products tested in the UK didn’t contain the cannabidiol content promised on the label.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Following is a transcript of the video.
Narrator: Depending on who you ask, CBD oil can be a miracle cure, a snake-oil placebo, or something vague in between. This poorly regulated industry, which has boomed over the last three years, is a minefield for newcomers. Considering that manufacturers are unauthorized to make medical claims, how can one CBD oil cost $50, while another of the same volume costs $390? And are premium CBD oils justified for being so expensive?
Firstly, what is CBD?
Dani Gordon: CBD stands for cannabidiol. That’s the chemical name for one of the chemicals in the cannabis plant. The CBD oil that you’re seeing on shelves that consumers can buy without a prescription is actually from low-THC, the stuff that makes you high, varieties of the cannabis plant.
Narrator: CBD is a new and rapidly growing phenomenon, with sales tripling in the last three years. But the line between what consumers are using it for and what manufacturers can say to attract them is increasingly blurred.
Gordon: It can be used for a variety of purposes, things like inflammation, anxiety, stress, and it can also be used just to support general wellness. Now, the differentiating criteria between a medicine and a supplement is you cannot make a claim that it treats or cures a specific medically diagnosed disease. And that’s really important for companies to understand, because they can get their products pulled off the shelves, and they can also potentially sometimes unintentionally mislead consumers.
Narrator: But in the age of anxiety, it’s no surprise that CBD has become a hot ticket for manufacturers, who infuse all sorts of products with cannabidiol, shrewdly tapping into its perceived wellness benefits and bumping up the price of otherwise standard items, like gummies, sportswear, tampons, and even dog treats. But how do we assess the value of CBD oil, which is actually produced in two different ways?
Gordon: A full- or broad-spectrum product is made from the whole plant extract. They take the flower and they process it, and they come up with an extract that not only has CBD, but it has other plant chemicals, other cannabinoids, other terpenoids, other things in the plant that work together in this, what’s called this herbal synergy, this entourage effect. And what you get is greater than the sum of its parts.
Narrator: But some manufacturers process the extract even further into CBD isolate, a substance devoid of all other plant chemicals and labeled as “pure CBD.” But this isolate, which often features in expensive products, is generally considered to be less effective and cheaper to make.
Gordon: Some brands and some companies will put CBD isolate into a product and then brand it as a premium product, even though the cost of actually making it, because the cost of the isolate, is quite a lot lower than the cost of a full- or broad-spectrum CBD.
Narrator: But because of lax regulations in the industry, this fundamental difference in CBD oils is often disguised by manufacturers. The front of this premium $300 bottle, for example, does not display that it is, in fact, made from isolate.
Gordon: Sometimes you have to dig into the nitty-gritty of the ingredients. And sometimes you even have to, you might have to call the company and see what they’ve actually used. But in general, the labeling criteria are becoming a little bit stricter, so more and more consumers will be able to know what is a CBD isolate product and what comes from a full- or broad-spectrum source.
Narrator: These products can also be measured by the amount of cannabidiol in each bottle.
Gordon: What you really need to look for is the number of milligrams in the entire bottle, and then the number of milligrams of CBD per dose. And that’s really gonna tell you the bang for buck.
Narrator: But even high-dosage, full-spectrum CBD doesn’t have the approval from the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA says it “recognizes the significant public interest in cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds, particularly CBD. However, there are many unanswered questions about the science, safety, and quality of products containing CBD.”
More worryingly, lab tests conducted by the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis found that 62% of CBD products tested in the UK didn’t contain the cannabidiol content promised on the label. One product actually contained no CBD whatsoever.
CBD is shrouded in mystery and confusion for the consumer. On the one hand, a 2018 cross-sectional study of CBD users found that almost 62% “reported using CBD to treat a medical condition,” stating that CBD has “broad therapeutic value. But on the other hand, manufacturers cannot use the research data to make medical claims, leaving spokespeople in the unenviable position of having to promote their products to a certain demographic while avoiding endorsing the public’s perception of CBD.
Brett Heaps: So, what we’re not allowed to do with our products is make any medicinal claims, ’cause they’re not medical products. All our products that we sell are wellness products to improve sleeps and moods. We see CBD as a homeostasis product, which balances the levels in your body to get you into a normal state and balanced mind.
Narrator: Thankfully, despite the misconceptions, no matter what you use it for, there is a way to get a snapshot of the quality of CBD oil.
Gordon: You wanna look for a certificate of analysis. That means that that is a third-party-tested lab report. They test their product to make sure that it’s not contaminated, make sure it doesn’t have accidental THC levels above the allowed limit. Make sure it doesn’t have heavy metals in it. Make sure there’s no microbials, so, bacteria or fungus that can grow in these plants. No herbicides, pesticides, things you don’t want in it.
Narrator: So, why is it so expensive? The cost of producing CBD oil isn’t particularly high in relation to other large-scale crops. But there appears to be a premium on all cannabidiol, as revealed in this comparison of full-spec CBD, which shows that its prices grow pretty uniformly, according to the price per milligram in each bottle. With any wellness product with a global hype, high demand means high prices. Statistics show that sales of CBD will likely reach $1.8 billion in the next two years. But without regulation, medical research, and clear consumer knowledge, the human value of CBD oil will, for now, remain a matter of opinion.