• “Medical grade” CBD? Except for the newly developed extremely concentrated form of CBD called Epidiolex, which is prescribed solely for one of two rare and severe forms of childhood epilepsy, there’s no such thing.

    Why? Because until very recently hemp extracts were Federally classified as “Schedule I narcotics,” controlled by the DEA, and permissible research was practically nonexistent. Even though the Farm Act of 2018 made cultivation of agricultural/industrial hemp legal for all purposes (not just textiles), the FDA is considering regulating it as a pharmaceutical drug and requiring clinical trials (and states may follow suit). Doctors are allowed to discuss CBD with patients, but not prescribe it. (They’re not supposed to recommend or advise except to warn about contraindications or interactions—if any—with other meds you may be taking).

    So if any health food store, CBD/vape boutique, head shop or website touts their wares are “medical grade CBD,” they’re lying (or ill-informed and innocently inaccurate).

    As to licensed dispensaries (either in states that allow recreational marijuana or in states where qualified individuals are permitted to buy medical—note, NOT “medical grade”—marijuana), be aware that any CBD they sell is almost certainly derived from marijuana itself and not from agricultural/industrial hemp; and most states require that products sold at dispensaries be produced (if not actually grown) in-state. But at least you will know exactly what you’re getting and that it’s safe, unadulterated and matches what its label says—there is, of course, no guarantee of effectiveness. (There’s no such guarantee for regular nutritional supplements either).

    If you do not have lawful access to a state licensed dispensary and must therefore buy your CBD from a boutique, health food store, or online, look for products that are made from U.S. (or for a very few brands, carefully verified European) organically-grown hemp (ideally, by the grower itself or by a handful of carefully-vetted growers with whom the maker has cultivated—pun intended—a working relationship); that are periodically third-party tested by independent labs for purity, potency, and any potential contaminants (if any, most likely from the soil); have been extracted by either the CO2 or ethanol processes; and whose label contains not only the amount of CBD content in the entire bottle or package but also the amount of CBD per suggested dose or “serving” (better yet, also number of doses/servings per package or bottle, and in the case of oils or tinctures, clear milligram markings on the bottle droppers).

    As to “full-spectrum,” that means the entire hemp plant, including flowers, is used to produce the CBD. That means you will also be getting terpenes, flavonoids, and other beneficial substances naturally occurring in the plant—producing what’s called an “entourage effect,” which synergistically enhance the effectiveness of the CBD. The flip side (or downside) of that is that full-spectrum CBD products may have up to 0.3% THC in them—which while contributing to the entourage effect can make you flunk a drug test. If you want absolutely NO THC, look for “Zero THC” or “THC-free” on the label. Most of those products are made from pure CBD isolate, which may or may not (usually not) contain the other beneficial compounds found in full-spectrum products.

    If you must buy online, check various independent review websites first (for instance, Leafly.com is a very informative & impartial site)—unless the brand has been specifically recommended to you by a trusted source, don’t take the producer’s word as absolute gospel. If you see a product has been highly recommended by a variety of review sites (a red flag is identical verbiage on several sites, which indicates it’s basically an ad) you can probably trust it. I am not familiar with “Real Scientific Hemp Oil,” but other trustworthy brands are Receptra Naturals (recommended to me sub rosa by a physician), Bluebird Botanicals, Green Roads, Select, Hemplucid, Hemp Bombs (zero THC, but their hemp is European-grown), Medterra, Sopris, Denver, and the company that makes “Charlotte’s Web.”

    Another red flag is packaging that refers to “weed” or stylistically gives off a high or stoner vibe. A reputable product’s labeling and packaging should be downright boring even if aesthetically pleasing and nicely designed. Beware packaging that makes medical claims.

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