Cannabidiol, or CBD for short, is certainly having its moment in the health and wellness spotlight.
CBD is a derivative of the hemp plant, the cousin of the plant used for medicinal marijuana. For a long time, it was considered to be the same as its cousin’s derivative THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the part that gets you high. But after the 2018 Farm Bill, the game changed in regard to the ways the population viewed hemp. The bill made hemp federally legalized, allowing farmers and companies to grow the plant so long as they followed regulation that the plant must contain less than .3 percent THC. Thus, in a matter of months, new products and store fronts began popping up all over the United States — Austin included.
The heyday of the hemp plant is both an exciting and confusing time for consumers. While the industry is becoming full of anecdotal evidence of success for various products against ailments, it’s also still very new and unregulated. The lack of regulation was what let so many companies and individuals get in on the industry — meaning just about anyone could start a line of their own products and say whatever they wanted on the label.
“If you wanted to go out and start a company, you could,” says EJ Zain, co-owner of storefront and Austin-based CBD line Greenbelt Botanicals. “There’s nothing stopping you from slapping CBD on a label and selling it to anyone.”
Zain explains that that’s how CBD gets bad reputations or skeptics. Due to the number of products out there that are just looking to make money off of the hype, the industry itself is saturated with a wide variety of qualities and effects.
So, how do you know what you’re getting is worth the money, isn’t potentially harmful and is at the greatest possibility to work for you? In an industry that’s become saturated with products and wannabe CBD tycoons, it’s important to do your research and know as much as you can about the products, ingredients and the people behind it all.
First, as Caleb Simpson of Hemp Daddy’s Therapeutics points out, it’s important to remember that every person and body is different. Hemp Daddy focuses on athletes and using CBD to aid in recovery, performance and rehabilitation. Not only does each individual come looking for relief for person-specific treatment, but each person will also then react differently to the same product.
In the same way that caffeine affects each individual differently based on their chemical makeup, the type of caffeine and their individual exposure to caffeine — CBD success comes with many variables.
The first product you try may not work for you. The first form of ingestion or application may not work for you. The first dosage might not work for you. But that doesn’t mean CBD as a whole can’t help with ailments to some capacity. Even Ted Moskovitz, a co-owner of AMMA Healing CBD, says after the first few times he used CBD, he wasn’t convinced. It wasn’t until his friend gave him the right product and the right dosage that his passion for how CBD could revolutionize wellness stuck.
“Being a part of that search for the right product for people is one of the best parts of this job,” Moskovitz says. “It feels amazing to get a skeptic to come to you and tell you how much your product helped them.”
Now, like many other brands, these Austin-based individuals are trying to take back the market. From fraudulent vapes to misleading labels, the industry can be discouraging for both the consumer and businesses. But the likes of AMMA Healing, Greenbelt Botanicals and Hemp Daddy’s Therapeutics are not letting that quantity overshadow their quality.
“The best way to weed out the guys cutting corners is to educate the consumer,” Moskovitz says. “That’s why half of what we do is education.”
To ensure you get what the label promises and to validate that there are no extraneous chemicals or particles in it from the production process, ask to see the product’s Certificate of Analysis. With many brands, there will be a QR code that will take you directly to the COA. On this sheet, you can find a wealth of information in regard to the chemical makeup of the product.
“You especially want to see who ran the analysis,” Moskovitz explains. “Ideally it’ll be done by an unbiased third party that’ll also test for all sorts of chemicals and metals.”
Usually, you can find these COAs on the website, with most reputable companies offering them to the consumer before they even ask — hence the QR codes on product labels.
“For every product I carry in my store, I go through an intense vetting process,” Zain explains. “If it’s not something I would put in my body, I don’t put it on my shelves.”
Even for products that are requested by her customers, Zain says they still have to meet her standards. The COAs are the best starting point for that information, because if it’s not safe, then it’s not worth however good it tastes or smells.
“If they don’t offer me a COA right away, chances are I’m not going to carry their product,” Zain says.
Some places might even make the claim to be third-party certified but not offer that information in an easy-to-access form — so you’ll have to reach out and ask for it. But in the long run, it may save you from purchasing a product that tested poorly or had trace amounts of unwanted pesticides, metals or other particles.
Staying aware, educated and open to discuss the contents of a product are the ways you can ensure your purchase is the best it could be. Many storefronts, like Greenbelt Botanicals, are eager to talk you through a purchase and answer any questions you might have. Even the customer support on the websites that directly sell the products are excited to share the information they have about what CBD is and how it may be able to help you. All you have to do is ask.
“I have a hope that with our own devotion to quality products, those products that don’t stand up to the tests are going to start dropping out,” Simpson says. “They can’t compete in the long run.”