Scott Shannon, MD, assistant clinical professor at the University of Colorado, recently sifted through patient charts from his four-doctor practice to document CBD’s effects on anxiety. His study, as yet unpublished, found “a fairly rapid decrease in anxiety scores that appears to persist for months,” he says. But he says he can’t discount a placebo effect, especially since “there’s a lot of hype right now.”
Although CBD oils aren’t regulated by the FDA, purchasing products stateside from one of the nine states where recreational and medical cannabis use is legal will likely result in a higher-quality product than buying one made with hemp-derived CBD oil imported from abroad, says Martin Lee, director of Project CBD, a nonprofit that promotes medical research into CBD.
When it comes to bang for the buck, Lazarus Naturals is the industry leader. They’ve built a loyal customer base because of their low prices, high-quality products, and compassionate assistance program for those in need. In fact, they’ve been voted the Brand of the Year by members of the CBD Oil Users Group on Facebook for the last 3 years. We particularly like their dedication to posting third-party lab reports on their website by batch. Their 30-day money-back guarantee speaks to the confidence in the quality of their products which clearly makes them one of the best CBD oil brands on the market.
There's no question that CBD is the buzzy wellness product of the moment. If you live in a state where it's currently legal, you might feel like CBD has gone from being sort of around to absolutely everywhere all at once. Coffee shops sell CBD lattes, spas offer CBD facials, beauty companies are rushing to release lotions with CBD or hemp oils in their formulas. And everyone from your anxious coworker to your arthritis-suffering dad wants to get their hands on some CBD gummies.
Transparency: Receptra Naturals’ website has a database where you can look up lab reports for their products. The first time we checked, we got some 404 errors for a couple of the lab reports, but these glitches seem to have been fixed since then. We were able to see third-party lab reports for all their tinctures (though, apparently not for their topicals).
NuLeaf only offers one concentration of CBD oil, 50 mg/ml, and the ingredients are as simple as it gets: USDA Certified organic hemp oil and full spectrum hemp extract. NuLeaf essentially has only one product. But this strategy allows them to keep their prices reasonable and offer bulk buying options—you can buy a bottle of NuLeaf CBD oil containing 240 mg total CBD all the way up to 4,850 mg.
This is why Amanda Oliver, 31, a career consultant in Charleston, SC, pops a CBD gummy bear each night before bed. “I used to lie there tossing and turning as my mind raced from work projects to whether I had set the home alarm,” Oliver says. One piece of candy with 15 milligrams (mg) of CBD is enough to shut off her brain and facilitate sleep. She also swears by the CBD oil she takes at the height of her period, which she says quells her debilitating cramps.
Hemp-derived CBD products were made federally legal in December 2018 with the signing of the 2018 Farm Bill. However, several states still have laws in place that restrict the sale and possession of these products. Most companies selling CBD oil are shipping to all 50 states. You should consult your local laws or an attorney in your area if you have concerns about legalities.
Most human studies of CBD have been done on people who have seizures, and the FDA recently approved the first CBD-based drug, Epidiolex, for rare forms of epilepsy. Clinical trials for other conditions are promising, but tiny. In one Brazilian study published in 2011 of people with generalized social anxiety disorder, for example, taking a 600-mg dose of CBD (higher than a typical dose from a tincture) lessened discomfort more than a placebo, but only a dozen people were given the pill.
There are two possible exceptions to this. The first is that some people, for unknown reasons, just react differently to CBD. According to Dr. Chin, about 5% of people say they feel altered after taking CBD. "Usually they're the same people who have side effects from Advil or Tylenol," she says. You never know how your body will react to any new supplement, so when taking CBD for the first time, do so safely under supervision.
PlusCBD Oil offers three different CBD oil formulations. The Total Plant Complex formulation is unflavored and made with extra virgin olive oil. It also has the fewest additives of all of their oils and contains 4 mg of CBD per serving. The Gold Formula comes in unflavored, goji berry, and peppermint flavors with options for 3 mg, 5 mg, or 9 mg of CBD per serving. And the Raw Formula is available in 1mg and 3mg concentrations. It’s high in CBDA which has unique therapeutic properties distinct from CBD.
Transparency: Moon Mother sends each batch of product to a third-party lab to be tested for potency as well as other contaminants. You can find all of these lab reports on the company’s website. They also added more information about their company processes to the website, so it’s easier to find important information about extraction and manufacturing.
Don’t let the name confuse you. CBD oil comes in many shapes and forms besides the traditional oils that we’ve highlighted here. CBD tinctures are the most popular type of CBD oil, because they tend to have more potent concentrations and offer high bioavailability (e.g. more CBD gets absorbed through your bloodstream when you apply it beneath your tongue as a tincture). Plus, users typically begin to feel the effects within minutes.
PlusCBD Oil is one of the few companies that doesn’t source their hemp from the United States. Although the company is working to move its hemp farming to the United States, PlusCBD Oil currently imports hemp grown in Europe. But don’t let that worry you. PlusCBD Oil is still certified by the U.S. Hemp Authority, meaning they follow high standards, industry best practices, and self-regulation.
Lisa Hamilton, a jeweler and doula in Brooklyn, NY, knows about the side effects. She recently tried CBD for the shoulder pain that plagued her five years after an accident. Her doctor certified that she was in chronic pain, which under New York State law allowed her to buy from a state dispensary. One Friday, she swallowed two 10-mg capsules, the amount recommended at the dispensary, then took another two on Saturday. “By Sunday, it felt like I’d gotten hit by a truck. Every muscle and joint ached,” Hamilton says. She cut back to one pill a day the following week, but still felt hungover. She stopped after that.
Along with PureKana and Premium Jane, MedTerra CBD is one of the few companies that has a commercialization agreement with hemp farms under the Kentucky Pilot Research Program. My partner and I really like this brand because it’s clear that they’re much more focused on health and science rather than creating gimmicky promotions and web advertisements to try and build their “brand.” The CBD industry definitely needs more companies with this mentality. We haven’t tried them a whole lot, but we did receive a couple of samples of their “Medoil Tinctures,” and they worked particularly well for my partner’s anxiety and sleep issues. They also were OK for my back pain, but not quite as potent as some other brands I’ve used.
Over the last couple of years, CBD oil has become a popular form of treatment for pain management. While CBD is not yet FDA-approved for pain relief, more and more doctors are looking into it. The major advantage of CBD oil compared to traditional cannabis is that it doesn’t cause the “high” feeling. Under updated hemp legislature in the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill, CBD is sold in all 50 states.
This is a confusing one for many people. "A lot of brands don't do a good job of clearly instructing their consumer on the dosing," says Chris Roth, CEO and co-founder of Highline Wellness. When thinking about dosing, also consider whether your CBD is full-spectrum or isolate: Full-spectrum could include other cannabinoids like cannabidivarin or cannabigerol (this is important, since "there's something called the 'entourage effect' when all together, they're more effective than any one of them alone," Roth explains), while isolate is 100% CBD. "Some people might only need 10 milligrams of full-spectrum CBD, but with isolate, even taking 80 or 100 milligrams might not have the same effect," he says.
And now, onto the thorny issue of legality. The simple answer to the question is yes — if it is extracted from hemp. The 2014 Farm Bill established guidelines for growing hemp in the U.S. legally. This so-called “industrial hemp” refers to both hemp and hemp products which come from cannabis plants with less than 0.3 percent THC and are grown by a state-licensed farmer.
Dr. Cohen has found that chronic conditions including autoimmune diseases and pain syndromes can be helped with a 6-mg under-the-tongue tincture (the fastest delivery system) or a 25-mg capsule taken twice a day. Dosages for topical products like lotions are especially hard to determine—there’s no clarity on how much CBD gets into the system through the skin.
A newcomer to our CBD oils ranking, RE: Botanicals is no stranger to hemp. Founded by John Roulac, a long-time hemp advocate and founder of the organic superfoods brand Nutiva, RE: Botanicals is one of the only CBD brands to earn the USDA organic seal. They deserve a shout-out for prioritizing regenerative agriculture, while keeping prices reasonable.
Real Scientific Hemp Oil touts itself as being somewhat of a pioneer, as – according to the company – its own variety of CBD oil was the first to hit the mainstream back in 2012. In addition, the brand claims that its RSHO-X CBD liquid is the earliest no-THC product of its kind, making it a sound choice for those worried about whether CBD oil use will influence the results of drug tests. The company is also transparent about the processes that go into making its varieties of CBD-containing hemp oils, helping customers make informed choices as to which of its products are best for them. And minds may be put at ease upon learning that Real Scientific Hemp Oil tests its CBD oil three times – a process which seems to speak to the quality, purity and safety of the provider’s wares.
Historically, hemp could legally be grown and cultivated for academic research purposes only. However, the legality of hemp growth has changed in the past year. In April 2018, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky introduced the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, a piece of legislation that proposed legalizing all hemp products at the federal level. The act was incorporated in the 2018 United States Farm Bill, which passed in both the House and Senate in December 2018. Per the farm bill, industrial hemp will be descheduled as a federally controlled substance.