December 03, 2020 5 min read

If you’ve spent any time reading stories about CBD in the media, you’ve no doubt heard our industry referred to as the “Wild West.” The combination of a hot new product mixed with almost no official oversight has attracted all kinds of bad actors out to make a quick buck.

This reality has meant that any company that has ambitions to create high-quality, legitimate CBD products pretty much has to be willing to prove to customers that they are selling what they say they are selling. 

After all, if you opened a bottle of hemp seed oil, would you be able to tell if there was any CBD present? 

We’re guessing not.

In another blog post, we covered information about the significance of third-party lab reports, so we won’t repeat that information here. But if you’re wondering about how to actually read a lab report, you’re in the right place. We’ll cover some of the language you’ll encounter, as well as what the numbers actually mean.

How to Find the COA for my Product

lady trying cbd

First things first. Where do you find the dang things? 

Many companies require customers to contact customer service to see lab reports, but since transparency is one of our core values, we’ve decided to put what is called the certificate of analysis (COA) on our website for all our products. Product pages seemed to us to be the most obvious place to look for COAs, and because we double test everything, you can see two lab reports for each product.

On the product page itself, we give an overview of the most important information covered in the COA.This includes the percentage of CBD (obviously) in the tincture as well as the percentage of THC (if any). We also include percentages of two main minor cannabinoids: CBDA (the acidic precursor of CBD) and cannabigerol (CBG).

If you’ve already found this section of the product page, you may have noticed the initials HPLC-DAD. This stands for “high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) with a diode-array detector (DAD),” which is the method the lab uses to separate, identify, and quantify each component in a mixture. 

In order to see the whole lab report, you can click on the links under the COA summaries. This will open the COA in another tab.

The Header

cbd lab report

Each section of the COA contains important information, which we’ll cover from top to bottom.

Once you open up the COA, the first thing to look at is the name of the lab that performed the lab test. This is an important step to make sure that the company you’re buying CBD from is having their tests performed by a third party. At Kanibi, we include both third-party and in-house COAs. The labs we use are ProVerde and ACS laboratories.

In this section, you’ll also find critical information like what product is being reported on, including flavor and potency. There’s also usually a batch number, a photo of the packaging the lab received, and sometimes a QR code. That code can be scanned and should link to the lab that performed the test, in order to verify the authenticity of the report.

Testing for Contaminants

If you open the COA for our full-spectrum tincture, for example, you’ll notice that under the header, there are six boxes with the following labels:

  • Potency
  • Residual Solvents
  • Heavy Metals
  • Mycotoxins
  • Pathogenic
  • Pesticides

With the exception of potency (the results of which are underneath this section), all of these are things that you do NOT want in your CBD tincture. We only use organically grown CBD, so the chances of finding heavy metals (usually from synthetic fertilizers) or pesticides are highly unlikely. But we test for them anyway in order to give our customers peace of mind.

Residual solvents refer to any harmful solvents that might be left over after the extraction process. We use clean CO2 as a solvent, rather than harmful chemicals like butane or other biofuels (commonly used in the industry). But again, we over-test rather than under-test. 

Mycotoxins are naturally occurring toxins that may occur to the presence of molds (no thank you). These can grow if the hemp is not stored properly, and so we test to ensure the safety of our customers.

Pathogenics, on the other hand, refer to pathogenic bacteria that can grow in food products — like salmonella or E.coli.We get it — it’s gross to even think about. That’s why we test for it so you don’t have to wonder if there’s anything nasty growing in your tincture.

Cannabinoid Profile (or Potency)

hemp plant

Now we come to the testing that most people are looking for when they ask to see a COA: the potency of the cannabinoids in question — in this case, of course, CBD. 

You’ll notice right away that we don’t only include the potency of CBD. We’ll get into those other substances in a moment, but first, here are some terms you may encounter in this section of the COA:

  • Analyte: refers to the substance being analyzed.
  • LOQ: the lowest concentration at which the analyte can be reliably detected. If you see >LOQ next to an analyte (like THC), that means that there isn’t enough of the substance to be detected.
  • ND: none detected (some labs use ND rather than >LOQ.)
  • Mg/ml: This is how much of the cannabinoid you’ll find per milliliter of product. If a tincture is 30 ml, then multiply the mg/ml times 30 to find how much the tincture contains.

What else is there to pay close attention to in this section?

The main cannabinoids that most people are looking for are CBD and THC. If you’re thinking of buying an isolate-based product like our Pure Isolate Tinctures (COA here), you’re going to want to check that the amount of CBD is at (or very close to) what is labeled on the bottle. 

Other than that, in an isolate product, the other cannabinoids should be >LOQ (or ND). That’s because when we make our CBD isolate, we are purifying it of all the other cannabinoids.

For full-spectrum products, make sure that the CBD is as listed on the label and also that the THC is below the legal limit of 0.3%. We keep our THC well below the legal limit (closer to 0.1%), so you should never experience any psychoactive effects whatsoever.

Other than that, full-spectrum products should have a smattering of other minor cannabinoids as well, like cannabigerol (CBG) or cannabinol (CBN).

We hope this information makes it easier for you to read COAs!These independent lab reports are an essential part of our unregulated industry — and we’re always happy to answer any questions you have about anything you see on a COA.