CBD label literacy is a must for anyone who’s shopping for, buying, or consuming CBD oil products. But, understanding what’s included in CBD labeling can be confusing for the uninitiated. Learning how to read a CBD label just takes a little info and practice.
We’re consolidating the basics of reading CBD oil product labels here for you. Familiarize yourself and then spend a bit of time going over the labels of various CBD products. You’ll develop expert-level skills in no time!
CBD oil products are becoming more popular all the time and for good reason. CBD has been shown to have a wide range of uses for supporting health and wellness — including reducing anxiety and inflammation, alleviating pain, improving sleep quality, and more.(1)
But how can you be sure the CBD you're scoping out is likely to do what you hope it'll do? Well, CBD oil labels are a great place to start!
It's important to know that not all CBD oil products are created equal. Different companies will produce different types of CBD oils with different levels of CBD, THC, and other cannabinoids. This is why it’s critical to read the label and internalize what it's telling you before purchasing any CBD product.
Reading the label can help you determine a host of things like:
- What the product is
- The product's intended use
- The potency of the product's ingredients
- Serving size and number of servings in the container
- If there are — in addition to the CBD — other ingredients that you may be sensitive to
- THC content
- When the product was made
- The product's batch or lot number
- The product’s expiration date
- Where the product was made
Given that you're putting this product into or onto your body — and you probably strive to be the savviest consumer possible — this is valuable info.
These details will help you decide if a particular product is well suited to your needs and preferences and likely to be effective, safe, and a good value.
CBD label design will vary across product lines and brands. No surprise here.
However, there are certain CBD product label requirements mandated by the federal government. And many states have specific additional mandatory CBD labeling inclusions.
All this means you should see more or less the same information and CBD terminology on every legitimate CBD product label — it just might be laid out or formatted differently from one maker to the next.
Federal CBD product label requirements dictate that product labels include the following details.(2) (We'll use Martha Stewart CBD Wellness Gummies as a working example.)
- The brand. ex. Martha Stewart
- The product. ex. CBD Wellness Gummies, Citrus Medley flavor
- The amount in the package. ex. 30 gummies with 10 mg of CBD each, 300 mg CBD per bottle
- Ingredients. ex. Hemp Extract Isolate, tapioca syrup, cane sugar, pectin, water, natural flavors. (Less than 2% of sodium citrate dihydrate, citric acid, malic acid, fruit and vegetable juice color)
- Manufacturer info. ex. Manufactured by Canopy Growth USA, LLC (plus its address and phone number)
- Nutrition values. ex. the Supplement Facts panel that indicates the serving size, calories, carbs, etc.
- Warnings. ex. Cannabidiol use while pregnant or breastfeeding may be harmful....
- Disclaimers. ex. This product has not been evaluated by the FDA for safety and efficacy and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
- Other material details. ex. expiration date, lot or batch number, extraction method, special usage and storage instructions, origin of the hemp, testing info, where to find out more about the product
State CBD product label requirements sometimes go above and beyond the federal ones. Some states actually require a scannable QR code or barcode, website address, or other way to access additional details about the CBD product or company.
Similar to what must be on CBD oil product labels, there are things that must not be there. No-nos include:(3)
- Explicit or implied health claims. CBD labels can’t say that the product will cure or treat specific conditions or diseases.
- Recommendations that CBD replace standard treatments. CBD labels can’t advise substituting CBD for pharmaceutical medications.
- The term “Dietary Supplement.” CBD can be marketed as a “supplement” but not as a “dietary supplement” that’s intended to fill in the nutritional gaps of your diet or lifestyle. (Yes, it’s a bit nuanced.)
Failure to properly label CBD products can land CBD makers in hot water legally and shake the trust of consumers. Offenders can get warning letters, fines, and more from various governmental agencies. And noncompliance with labeling rules can turn customers away, which isn’t good for a business that wants to stay in business.
Reading CBD product labels is going to become second nature to you PDQ — if you stick with some simple tips and guidance.
- Confirm you have the right product. Check the brand name and product name. Make sure you have or are looking at the CBD oil product you’re curious about. It makes no sense to peruse the label of Brand X CBD Gummies if you’re only interested in Brand Y’s CBD Tincture…. Also verify what type of CBD you have: full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, or isolate.
- Check out the potency and dosing. If you’re wondering, “How is CBD strength measured?” or “What do the numbers on CBD mean?” — this is the time to find that info. You’re going to want to look at the suggested serving and nutrition table to see how much CBD (and other cannabinoids, etc.) you get in each dose. From there you can figure out partial or multiple doses as well. If the label doesn’t provide the per-serving amounts, you can easily calculate the concentration. For example, if a 10 mL bottle has 500 mg of CBD, there’s 50 mg of CBD per mL (i.e., 500 mg / 10 mL = 50 mg/mL). And, if the serving size is .5 mL, you’ll get 25 mg per serving (i.e., 50 mg/mL x .5 mL/serving = 25 mg/serving).
- Check the THC content. Find out how much THC, if any, is in the CBD product.
- Assess the product’s legality. For this, you have to know your area’s laws. Hemp CBD with no more than 0.3% CBD is federally lawful according to the 2018 Farm Bill but local regulations differ. For example, CBD food items are legal in some states but not others.
- Look at the ingredients. Make sure you know the source of the CBD as the laws governing hemp-derived CBD are different than those for marijuana-sourced CBD. Scan the list of ingredients to see if there are any red flags — like things you might be allergic to.
- Make sure the product isn’t on the verge of expiring. Shelf life can vary but most non-perishable CBD products last anywhere from 12-24 months (from the manufacturing date) when properly stored. You want an expiry date that gives you enough time to finish the CBD oil product.
We live in the Information Age, after all!
So, think of a company's other product literature (packaging, inserts, etc.), websites, social content, and videos as “extensions” of the label.
By this, we aren't insinuating that there are the exact same informational requirements for CBD product labels. Rather, we mean that you can mine a ton of useful info from these sources. Use them to your advantage!
Knock-offs are no joke. You need to know what to look for when buying CBD products. When you select real CBD products that are high quality, you can consume them with the confidence that you are getting the stated and or your desired amounts of CBD.
You’ll find your true CBD superstars by following these best practices:
- Review the certificate of analysis (COA). A CBD COA — done by an independent third-party lab and showing all the test results — is proof that what’s on the label is complete and accurate. Consulting the COA is the best way to verify your CBD product’s ingredients (short of having the product independently lab-tested yourself).
- Buy the best products you can afford. Cheap products can tip you off that the maker cut corners or is deceiving you somehow. Opt for products that are as natural or organic as possible — with the CBD extract coming from organic American hemp.
- Only shop at reputable stores with a track record of good business dealings. This will be evident by their reputation in the business community as well as with consumers.
- Beware of buzzwords. This includes anything that sounds too good to be true or wildly overreaching.
- Avoid rulebreakers. Anyone who’s willfully flaunting the rules — for example making unfounded health claims — can’t be counted on to sell you good products.
- Obey all laws. If you’re buying something legal from a qualified seller, chances are the products jumped through all the sourcing, testing, marketing, etc. hoops and are legit.
Reading CBD oil product labels is easy if you know what to look for. Labels reveal info you need — like what the product is, how much CBD is in each serving, and more — to help you pick high-quality CBD products that fit your needs and preferences.
Yes. CBD products must be labeled. While CBD product label requirements vary by state, federal rules require that labels include what the product is, how much of the product’s ingredients are in the container, a list of ingredients, and nutritional info.
Numbers you'll see on a CBD product label include: THC content, CBD content, nutritional details, and product size and count. Most of the numbers tell you how CBD-potent the product is per serving and how many doses are in the container. The THC number clues you into whether or not the product is Farm-Bill legal and might yield psychoactive effects.
To ensure you get a high-quality and safe product, you have to do some due diligence. Read labels carefully and verify the CBD against the certificate of analysis. Look for quality ingredients, like CBD made from organic hemp. Only buy products that have been tested by an independent third-party lab. Only purchase from a reputable seller, ideally one that’s earned a Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) certification and offers a strong money-back guarantee. Consider online reviews, ratings, and testimonials as well as recommendations from people you trust.
- (2022). Cannabis and Cannabinoids (PDQ®)–Health Professional Version. National Cancer Institute.
- (2021). What are the CBD Label Requirements for the FDA? McReynolds Vardanyan LLP.
- Ibarra, J. (2020). CBD Marketing Claims Guide: Do’s and Don’ts. ACS Lab Cannabis.