Let’s talk CBD oil and efficacy …
When considering the potency of a CBD oil, most people think it’s all about the strength of the cannabidiol (CBD) in the product. And why wouldn’t you? It seems like common sense and certainly CBD strength is significant—if there’s not enough in the product, it’s not going to get into your bloodstream and have the desirable effects. This is especially the case with conditions that require high doses of CBD, like certain forms of untreatable epilepsy. So yes, you’ll need a baseline of CBD in your CBD oil to experience effects.
But when we’re talking about potency, what we’re really talking about is efficacy, right? And that involves a lot more than just CBD strength. How a CBD oil is formulated is important. Formulation has an effect on the strength of a CBD oil, but it’s also responsible for how well that strength is delivered into your bloodstream … and furthermore, how well the CBD interacts with your endocannabinoid system (ECS).
The ECS is a master regulatory system. Imagine that each time you put CBD into your system, you’re sending it on a mission to accomplish the relief and well-being effects you desire. How well your CBD does will depend on how well-prepared it was for the mission. That’s formulation.
In this article, we’ll discuss what is meant by the strength of CBD, the part it plays in potency, as well as all the factors that contribute to a CBD oil’s efficacy. But first, let’s take a quick detour through a review of what CBD oil is.
What Is CBD Oil?
There are several types of CBD oil: isolate, distillate, broad spectrum, and full spectrum. All of these contain a minimum of two things: extracted cannabidiol (CBD) and an oil carrier. The oil carrier is generally some kind of healthy fat like coconut oil, olive oil, grape seed oil, and, most commonly, cold-pressed hemp seed oil.
Medium-chain triglycerides, a.k.a. MCT oil, are often added to the mix because MCTs have a bumped-up bioavailability—that is, they get greater access to your gut with less guff from digestive enzymes and have some clout with the liver, where oral forms of CBD are metabolized.
Beyond these two essential ingredients, things can get tricky. CBD isolate will have only these two ingredients. The kind of oil and amount of CBD can vary, but otherwise, it’s the purest kind of CBD oil—around 99% CBD crystal suspended in oil.
Okay, it’s important to keep in mind, pure doesn’t always mean the most potent. We’ll dive into that little conundrum in a moment. But before we do, let’s take a look at the other types of CBD oil.
Distillation is an extraction process that separates and refines cannabinoids at a molecular level. It starts with crude extraction, and then refines from there to remove more and more plant compounds until the product is roughly 80% CBD. The remaining amount of the extraction leaves behind traces of terpenes, minor cannabinoids, and other plant compounds.
Full spectrum CBD oil is extracted to preserve the greatest range of beneficial cannabinoids (including THC), terpenes, flavonoids, and other phytonutrients. In the U.S., full spectrum CBD oil is legal as long as it contains .3% or less THC.
Broad spectrum is a clever little term the industry came up with to describe full spectrum CBD that has had the THC removed. You may also see it expressed as THC Free on a label.
How CBD Oil Strength Is Measured
As discussed above, CBD oil can vary in type, as well as the amount and kinds of ingredients. On top of that, depending on the transparency and integrity of the brand, it can vary in its label talk—that is, what they tell you (and are trying to convince you of) on the label. Here’s what you should know to get a better understanding of what’s in your CBD oil.
When dealing with isolate or distillate, the label may tell you the percentage of the CBD in your CBD oil, but that does not tell you the strength. This reflects more the purity of the CBD in the product (again, we will get to how important purity is), but beyond that, you need to know how much CBD (in milligrams, not percentage-wise) is in the bottle, so that you can divide that by the amount you take to know the milligrams of CBD that exist in your dose.
For example, if you are taking a distillate, it might claim to be 80% CBD on the label. Okay. But does it tell you how many milligrams of that 80% CBD are in the oil carrier, in the bottle. Let’s say the label says it’s 1000 mg of CBD in the bottle. If it’s a 30 ml bottle, that’s 33.3 mg of CBD per ml. If it’s a 50 ml bottle, it’s 20 mg/ml.
According to Adie Rae, a cannabis researcher at Legacy Health, for high-potency CBD oil you need at least 35 milligrams per serving.
It’s important to realize, however, that this pertains to the strength of pure (isolate and distillate) CBD. If you are taking an isolate, or pure CBD product, the highest mg/ml amount is going to be the most potent and the most cost-effective.
However, there are other important factors that affect the potency of a CBD oil, and that’s where full spectrum comes in.
At The Hemp Haus, we do not sell isolates or distillates, because we believe in the power of the entourage effect. Along with that, there are other factors that help us determine the select brands we feature and put in our own bodies. The quality of the brand is paramount. But form is important too. We recommend specific forms for specific needs. It’s important to find the type and brand of CBD that works for you, and then the correct dose and optimal time of day. Our mission is to fine-tune all of these factors as far as possible to help guide our clientele, so that adjustment is minimal.
Here’s a quick run-down of what we take into consideration, beyond strength, when we talk about CBD oil efficacy.
Strength Is Only One Factor of CBD Potency
CBD oil on its own (isolate and even distillate) does seem to require a higher strength to produce the intended effects. Especially for something like intractable forms of epilepsy, for which the only CBD that the FDA has approved, Epidiolex, is used to treat.
Keep in mind, potency of CBD oil, and the dose you require, varies from individual to individual. Chances are you’re not taking CBD for severe seizures. So, what kind of potency do you need and what makes a CBD oil potent, besides strength?
According to Dr. Alex Capano, chief science officer for Ananda Health, “Dosing for CBD is highly individualized and depends on many factors, including personal endocannabinoid tone and why you are using CBD.”
The potency required for your biological profile and your specific needs may be different from that of someone else. Realistically, it’s probably a given. The good news is that CBD is known to have a good safety profile and shows no potential for addiction or overdosing. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) stated that CBD is considered safe in that it does not pose a public health risk and it is not associated with abuse potential. And in January 2018, the World Anti-Doping Agency removed cannabidiol (CBD) from its banned substance list. Some athletes have explored using CBD oil as an alternative to traditional over-the-counter options.
When it comes to full spectrum (or even broad spectrum) CBD oil, potency has more to do with a CBD oil’s efficacy than its strength. This effectiveness often has to do with formulation. Full spectrum CBD oil is believed to be more effective even at lower doses than CBD isolate because of what experts call “the entourage effect.”
When different cannabinoids like CBD, THC, CBG, CBC, THCV, CBN, and whole-plant players like terpenes and cannaflavins are presented together, they work synergistically to optimize relief and well-being—that’s the entourage effect. Unlike isolated or synthetic cannabinoids, full spectrum hemp oil contains a range of cannabinoids, as well as essential vitamins and minerals, fatty acids, flavonoids and terpenes that are in the “crude extract”. This is what we consider pure—the unmodified compounds of the hemp plant. And we believe they should be there because these compounds have been proven to work more effectively when presented together in a specifically designed, synergistic manner than when separated into purified molecules.
Initial research strongly suggests that cannabis plant compounds interact synergistically with receptors in the ECS. A 2017 study demonstrated that low doses of THC:CBD have the potential to treat neuropathic discomfort in mice. Dr. Ethan Russo has conducted studies that suggest both cannabinoid-cannabinoid synergistic interactions and cannabinoid-terpenoid interactions exists. And some of this research has even come from human trials.
Delivery Format Can Affect CBD Oil Potency
Oral CBD that has to be digested has poor bioavailability. If your CBD oil does not absorb into your bloodstream efficiently, its strength will not matter, and potency goes out the window. You can gulp dozens of mg/ml, but it will only absorb up to a certain amount. This is true of many kinds of supplements—vitamins, melatonin, etc.
The way around this is delivery format. Tinctures that can be taken sublingually (under your tongue for 30-60 seconds) will enter your bloodstream through glands in your mouth, bypassing your gut and your liver, where the majority of CBD oil is obliterated or ushered out like waste.
Liposomal CBD—specifically the brand that we recommend at The Hemp Haus, Puffin Hemp—is a powerhouse of potency. This is a prime example where CBD strength is not what matters; the quality of hemp actives and the formulation are what make it powerful and effective. Liposomes are little healthy fat bubbles that bypass the dangerous environment of the gut and liver, and deliver CBD into the bloodstream at a much higher rate than regular CBD. You can take a lot less liposomal CBD than regular CBD and have much more effective results, because liposomal full spectrum CBD has been designed to be drastically more efficient.
If you’re only after a baseline of CBD for overall preventative health and well-being, swallowing a high-quality CBD oil daily is fine. We recommend Ananda Hemp Full Spectrum Softgels to get this job done. But if you need potency, you have to think sublingual tincture or liposomal CBD oil.
Our go-tos are Ananda Hemp’s Full Spectrum Extract available in 200, 300, 600, and 2000 mg of hemp actives per bottle. And the only liposomal CBD hemp actives we recommend is Puffin Hemp; it’s the only liposomal CBD on the market that can back up its claims of safety and absorbency (up to 85 percent) with scientific research. No wonder … it’s created by an award-winning chemist with nearly twenty years of experience customizing liposomes and a decade of experience in the cannabis industry.
Quality Can Affect the Potency of Your CBD Oil
Whatever the label on it claims, it’s quality that matters most. There are several things to keep in mind when shopping for CBD oil. First, know where the hemp was sourced. This is important because hemp is a bioaccumulator, which means it leaches impurities from the soil. The hemp plant can literally be used to purify soil. That’s why it’s important to know that your product has been tested. A certificate of analysis (COA) should be available either with the product or on the manufacturer’s or seller’s website. This will show that there are no harmful levels of contaminants in your CBD product.
The other reason you’ll want a COA is because mislabeling has been a problem. In a 2018 study on the effects of artisanal CBD for the treatment of epilepsy, researchers stated that a key concern and challenge to their results was the variability that mislabeled CBD products introduced. They cited one study, conducted in 2015, in which all labeled CBD content was mislabeled 100% of the time.
Another 2017 study discovered that out of 84 CBD products (from 31 companies) purchased online, only 31% were accurately labeled.
The hemp industry is new and growing rapidly, and in the process, regulation has been unable to keep pace. It has fallen to the farmers, manufacturers, and sellers to self-regulate, and to the consumer to do their due diligence. A good brand will make all of this information and their practices, processes and the source of their ingredients available. Their team will have backgrounds in science, hemp experience, and food-manufacturing know-how.
Why Your CBD May Not Be Working
So, given everything we have just discussed, there are several reasons why your CBD may not be working, including:
- Mislabeling—The product might not have the amount of CBD or cannabinoids that it claims.
- It’s not full spectrum—We are firm believers that full spectrum is the difference. Many people aren’t aware of the different types of CBD (isolate, distillate, full spectrum, broad spectrum). They try CBD isolate, it doesn’t have a significant effect to justify the cost, so they believe CBD “doesn’t work”.
- Harmful additives—Products that contain harmful pesticides and additives will not only not work, they’ll actually hurt you, especially taken over a period of time.
- The wrong form for your need—Your problem may be chronic or acute. Or maybe you simply want to take CBD like a vitamin for preventative maintenance—give your natural cannabinoids a boost. Different forms can have varying effects on different conditions. At The Hemp Haus, we’re always here to help match our select high-quality products with your needs.
- The wrong dose for your need—Sometimes CBD effectiveness is a matter of dosing. Things like metabolism, weight, when you take your CBD, what you take it for, and your personal endocannabinoid system can affect how CBD works for you. If you’re using a high-quality, full spectrum product, it’s usually just a matter of tweaking your dosage.
CBD Oil Potency Takeaway
If you’re looking for a potent CBD oil, remember there’s more to consider beyond strength. Look for a full spectrum CBD oil in tincture form that you can take sublingually or a liposomal form that you can swallow, that is a high-quality product that you can verify yourself.