Our Review Methodology
CBD is a safe, natural therapy that has little or no side effects, with proven benefits for anxiety, pain, cancer, insomnia, epilepsy, and more.
Like any health product, you want to know that the CBD oil you’ve bought will provide the relief you need, in a safe and effective way. Most people who take CBD are using it for health reasons, but even if you just take CBD for general wellness, you deserve the same confidence in the products you’ve chosen.
Unfortunately, as a young and growing industry, CBD isn’t yet subject to the same regulation as other health and wellness supplements. That places the burden on you as a consumer to evaluate CBD oils for safety and efficacy before purchasing them.
There’s already a lot to unpack with CBD, from finding the right dose to the best method of ingestion for you. How are you supposed to learn all the other details in the manufacturing and production process?
That’s why we founded CBD Awareness Project. We’re here to demystify CBD and bust the myths and misinformation that surround this beneficial therapy. Here, you can learn all about how CBD is made to how it relieves various health conditions. We also test and review CBD products, using our proprietary review methodology and brand research process.
In other words, we do the research for you, so you can make an informed purchasing decision.
But, you may want to know more about our process. Read on, as we explain.
Our Review Methodology and Research Process
At CBD Awareness Project, we follow an in-depth research process and review methodology for all of the CBD products you see featured on our site. All of the CBD products and brands we recommend have been vetted for the following five characteristics:
- Third-party testing
- Extraction method
Learn more about each of these below.
The best thing a CBD brand can do is use a third-party lab to test their products. In fact, this may be the single most important factor when it comes to evaluating the safety, efficacy, and overall quality of a CBD oil. A third-party lab will identify all of the beneficial cannabinoids, terpenes, and amino acids contained in the oil. They’ll also test the product for potential toxins, like heavy metals, pesticides, or residual solvents.
The third-party lab results will delineate not only the presence of each of these ingredients, but also the amount of each. Having this information helps you know whether you can trust the product, and whether it will be safe for you. For example, if a product contains THC, you’ll know exactly how much.
A manufacturer should not merely use a third-party lab. They should also make those lab results readily available to their customers, either directly on the product page, somewhere else on their website, in the product packaging (or, in the worst case scenario, upon request by the customer).
Questions we answer:
- Does the brand use a third-party lab to test their CBD oils?
- How are those test results made available to consumers?
- How often does the brand retest their products?
- What’s the safety profile of the cannabinoid content and other ingredients?
Why this matters: A brand who uses a third-party lab to test their CBD oils has nothing to hide They’ve made a commitment to customer transparency and product safety.
CBD can be sourced from different strains of the cannabis plant, including hemp or marijuana.
We recommend CBD oil sourced from hemp for a few key reasons. First, it’s legal nationwide, (unlike marijuana), so you don’t have to worry about breaking the law when you use it. Second, hemp contains a higher concentration of CBD than marijuana does, so you’ll enjoy more of the health benefits you’re seeking.
Additionally, hemp contains very little THC—0.3% or less. Marijuana, on the other hand, contains much higher amounts, anywhere from 5% to 40%. While THC offers benefits of its own, for both medical and recreational use, it can create feelings of anxiety and paranoia in the user, along with a psychoactive high. With CBD oil, you can experience the health benefits of a cannabis-based therapy, without the unattractive aspects of THC. (You can learn more about the difference between CBD vs. THC here.)
For quality control, CBD companies should extract their CBD oil from 100% organic, pesticide-free hemp grown in the U.S. their hemp is grown. An organic farming process is more eco-friendly, and helps ensure that the end product doesn’t contain any potential toxins.
Questions we answer:
- Is the CBD oil sourced from hemp or marijuana?
- Is the hemp locally grown in the United States?
- Is the hemp 100% organic and pesticide-free?
Why this matters: CBD oil sourced from 100% organic hemp will contain very little THC, so it will be safe and legal for you to use, no matter where you live in the U.S.
Companies use one of four extraction methods to create their CBD products from hemp: CO2 extraction, steam distillation, hydrocarbon solvent extraction, or natural solvent extraction. Each of these methods is efficient to varying degrees regarding the amount of CBD they produce, and some pose a larger safety risk than others.
We evaluate each brand’s extraction method for safety and efficacy. We will share with you which method they use, and how that may impact the quality of final product.
CO2 extraction, steam distillation, and natural solvent extraction are all safe, with little potential for toxic residue. Of the three, we recommend CO2 extraction. While it’s more expensive (which will raise the cost of the final product), it consistently produces the highest, most stable concentration of CBD without affecting the taste.
We do not recommend brands that use hydrocarbon solvent extraction. This cheap extraction method has the highest potential for toxic residual solvents.
Questions we answer:
- Is the brand transparent about the extraction method they use?
- Which extraction method do they use?
- Is there any potential for the extraction method to affect quality, safety, or taste of the final product?
Why this matters: The CBD extraction method a brand uses impacts both the safety and efficacy of the final product you enjoy. With CO2 extraction, you’ll enjoy a consistent concentration of CBD in the products you choose, and you won’t have any concerns about toxicity or taste.
The strength, or concentration, refers to how much CBD the product contains. It’s typically expressed in milligrams. Manufacturers will use terms like “extra strength” and “full strength” but that’s vague and can differ from brand to brand.
The strength of a bottle, or the total amount of CBD it contains, translates to how much CBD you’ll get in a serving.
For example, a 1 fluid ounce (or 30 milliliter) bottle by brand A could contain 250 milligrams of CBD, while a 1 fluid ounce bottle by brand B might contain 1450 milligrams. Brand B would provide more milligrams of CBD per serving, which would make it a better choice for those who require higher doses of CBD.
Questions we answer:
- What is the concentration of CBD
- What is the concentration of other cannabinoids?
- How much CBD is contained in a serving?
Why this matters: Knowing the strength can help you evaluate the cost-effectiveness of a particular CBD oil.
With CBD, as with most health products, cost is an indicator of quality. CBD oils that are dirt-cheap are often unsafe, made from synthetic materials, or using a sub-par production process. Having said that, you don’t want to overpay.
Generally, you can expect to pay between 5 to 20 cents per milligram for a decent quality CBD oil.
It’s hard to compare the value of a brand unless you’re willing to do a bit of math. For every product we review on our site, we save you the hassle and break down the cost per milligram. This makes it easy for you to see at-a-glance which brands are the most affordable. Beyond the cost per mg, we also look at other perks a brand offers to provide value to their consumers, such as customer service, product selection, or shipping speed.
Questions we answer:
- What is the cost per mg?
- Does the company offer bulk pricing or promotional discounts?
- Is free shipping available?
Why this matters: Once you have the cost per mg of a CBD oil, you can compare that price against other things a brand offers, which may make it feel more or less valuable to you.
More Tips for Making a Research-Backed CBD Oil Purchase
Beyond safety, our product reviews are designed to help you purchase the best CBD oil for you personally. We’re here to help you answer the following questions:
- What brands share your personal values?
- Which CBD oils will be the most convenient for you to purchase?
- Which brands offer the best customer service, if you have a question about your order or how to use it?
- Which brands offer a wide selection of products, so you can change ingestion methods if you need to?
- Does the brand offer flavored CBD oils or is everything all-natural?
All of these are important questions to answer as you compare brands. For help answering them, we invite you to read the reviews on CBD Awareness Project. If you’d like to do more research on a particular CBD oil, we recommend the following steps:
1. Read the online reviews.
Customer reviews are a good place to learn about how actual consumers feel about a CBD oil, as opposed to the brand’s marketing team. You can mine online reviews to learn how the company’s order and shipping process works, whether consumers felt the product lived up to the hype, and if they found it effective for the same condition you’re planning to use it for.
However, be careful about the source of the review you’re reading. Dozens of third-party affiliate sites have sprung up with the CBD industry, and many of them can be extremely biased in their reviews. Their main goal is to get you to purchase the brand using their promo code, rather than giving you the unbiased information you need to know.
We recommend gut-checking reviews you read on potential affiliate sites by seeing how they match up with real customer feedback in forums (see point #2, below) and community sites.
2. Ask questions in forums.
Besides online reviews, many everyday consumers, CBD experts, medical professionals, and industry advocates actively participate in online forums like the CBD subreddit, CBD-focused Facebook groups, and other health websites.
If you want to know something, just ask!
3. Contact the brands yourself.
We aim to give you the most unbiased, comprehensive review of a brand and product out there. But it’s possible that our reviews didn’t answer all of your questions. (If this happens, please let us know. We want to know how we can help people make better buying decisions).
You can always contact a brand directly and ask them what you need to know.
4. Talk to your doctor.
CBD is a wellness therapy that many have found beneficial and safe. However, there are a few risk groups that are more prone to experience side effects. For this reason, it’s always a good idea to consult your physician (or your vet, if you’re giving CBD oil to your dog or cat) before starting a CBD regimen.
Our goal is to provide the most researched content about CBD oil that exists online, but we are not doctors or medical professionals. Everything you read here is for informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute medical advice.