Lab technician holding cbd oil and cannabis leaf

How to read a certificate of analysis (COA)

4 minute read

As you research more about CBD, you see so many people online telling you to make sure the CBD product you intend to buy is lab tested. It makes sense, right? You are buying a product so you should make sure it is clean and high quality. But once you find a product that seems to be a good fit, you look at the certificate of analysis and don’t necessarily know what you’re looking at. How do you know that the information you are looking at means the company is really being transparent with you? This blog will teach you some easy shortcuts to help you make sure the company you are buying from is really being honest with you. We have broken down a COA below.

Header

This is the header of the COA. It will tell you some immediate information on the legitimacy of the report. The first thing you will always want to do is make sure that the COA has a recent date. Many companies who show you a COA will often be showing you reports that are months old. Old COAs are an indication that the company doesn’t do regular testing, or recent testing did not come back as good as they would like. The header will also tell you who the COA was prepared for. Most of the time, this should match the name of the company selling the product. The exception to this rule being if the company gets their products white labeled from another company. Finally, you will want to make sure the name of the product on the COA matches the product it is attached to.

Profile Table

If everything appears to be in order with the header, we can move on to the actual cannabinoid profile. This is the section of the COA that will tell you what is in the product. Please note, most COAs will read contents in milligrams per gram. In the case of tinctures, 1ml of tincture will weigh about 1 gram. Also, the values referenced will be pulled from the Result (%) and the Result (mg/g) columns. The LOQ (%) column means limit of quantitation which the smallest amount detectable by the laboratory’s equipment.

First on our list, let’s look at how to make sure the product is compliant on THC content. Legally, CBD products must contain <0.3% THC. This will ensure the product will not be falsely identified as a marijuana derivative or make you feel “high”. The line on a COA that will show you this is Delta 9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (Delta 9THC), sometimes listed as “∆9 THC”. This lab we are viewing shows this particular tincture contains 0.14% THC, which is less than half the legal limit.

The “Cannabidiol (CBD)” line will show us how much CBD is present. In this COA, the tincture contains 39mg/g of CBD. Levels of minor cannabinoids (CBC, CBN, etc.) will vary in any given product as they are not typically present in meaningful quantities in the hemp plant.

Calculating Tincture Contents

So how does the 39mg/g of CBD translate to the 1000mg claimed on the label of this product? Using what we learned earlier, 1g of tincture is equivalent to 1ml. If this tincture contains 39mg per milliliter, we just need to multiply it by the size of the bottle. The header tells us this is a 30ml bottle claiming 1000mg CBD total. 39mg multiplied by the 30ml bottle is 1170mg in the bottle, which is 170mg more than promised!

Calculating Topical Contents

Topicals can be a bit more confusing to calculate, however the process is identical to that of a tincture. Let’s use Extract Labs Muscle Cream as an example.

We know from our learnings in the previous section that this report tells us this Muscle Cream contains 18.78mg/g of CBD. But since the cream isn’t measured in milliliters like the tincture, how can we know it contains the 1500mg total promised in the title of the lab? With items like creams or edibles, we need to know how much the product weighs to perform our calculations!

CBD Muscle Cream

The label of this product states that it contains 84g of cream total. Since the lab report analyzed a sample of the completed cream, we can take the 18.78mg/g of CBD from our COA and multiply it by the 84g of cream in each container. This tells us that each container of cream will contain 1577.5mg of CBD!

Footer

The footer of the COA is straight forward. It will have the name, date, and signature of the technicians who analyzed the sample swearing to the authenticity of the COA. It will also contain the lab’s name, contact information, and any remarks about the inspection process.

Conclusion

Listing lab reports openly is a sign of an honest company with quality products. Learning how to read COAs can help to make sure the company you are buying from is doing things the right way. Don’t just navigate on to a product page, see any lab report, and check a box mentally that they have COAs listed so they must be legitimate. Do your diligence. In a must larger picture, having the average consumer know what they’re looking at will help the CBD industry, and weed out the dishonest companies just trying to make money off a key word. 

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