Looking to bring CBD oil into your beauty or self-care routines? Know what to look for in a clean, safe, effective (and better yet, regulated) product.

When it comes to America’s current sweetheart — CBD oil — it’s easy to get lost in the promises of beautiful products, lush labels and intoxicating smells. I know, it’s a whole thing.

With so much new information coming to the forefront with the regulation of topicals, salves, edibles and all the other lovely things just around the corner, it’s becoming increasingly important to know how to pick quality products that will have the most efficacy on the kind of relief you’re after. What you should know is that different products will have different effects for different people, and if you’ve been under the impression that you can get the same benefits from every CBD oil on the market, then you aren’t alone. CBD oil is CBD oil, right? Po-tay-to / po-tah-to, no?

The answer would be NO, dear reader. A hard, firm NO. Not all potatoes are made the same, and neither are your CBD products. And when you’re picking the right CBD oil, you really need to be looking for that organic, home grown, nutrient-dense sweet potato, if you know what I mean. If you’re looking to bring CBD oil into your beauty, self-care or medical routines, it’s wise to know what you should be looking for in a clean, safe, effective (and better yet, regulated) product.

Let’s take it back to basics and talk about what CBD oil is to begin with.

In short, CBD is one of many compounds found in the cannabis sativa plant, which is the parent plant of both hemp and marijuana. The cannabis plant produces a variety of cannabinoids, terpenes and flavanoids; different compounds that all interact separately and together to have thousands of physiological effects. Cannabis tends to have a fairly balanced ratio of two primary cannabinoid compounds that most of us know and love: THC (tetrahydrocannabinoids) and CBD (cannabidiol). Although cannabinoids are found in a variety of plant families, cannabis is the only found to have CBD – what a legend.

Cannabis cultivation is a very specific science and, depending on different variables like the type of strain, light exposure, genetics, harvesting, and curing, growers can produce product with varying ratios of different cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD. In order to cultivate hemp, flower must have less than .03% THC, and in order to cultivate marijuana, flower must have more than .03% THC. Badda-bing-badda-boom.

In terms of its effect, CBD oil is scientifically proven to have an impact on childhood epileptic conditions, anxiety, insomnia and chronic pain. In the case of auto immune conditions, CBD oil can decrease cytokine production and stop the body’s immune system from attacking itself, the primary indication in auto immunity such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Using CBD oil to manage pain, inflammation and other conditions is typically done through ingestion of an oil or inhalation of a vapour, but more and more popular is the application of homemade topicals for localized relief. Homemade products are currently the only ones you can legally access in Canada.

Unfortunately, the process of extracting oil from cannabis yourself is a little daunting to some and decarboxilizing cannabis at home isn’t exactly for the discreet. For the ease of use, convenience, accessibility and price point, many people turn to a CBD product derived from a hemp source to create at-home products.

Hemp may be the most renewable, re-usable, environmentally friendly source of energy, fibre and oils on the planet (it can produce hemp milk, hemp flour, hemp protein, hemp oil, hemp paper — it’s a seriously versatile botanical). But if you’re looking for that really rich, effective, cannabinoid-dense product, you’ve got to branch out, literally.

First, and most importantly, marijuana is a federally and ACMPR regulated plant, which means that the government really cares. Just imagine how much love you give to your houseplants, multiply that by a thousand and that’s how well cared for and well-loved Canadian cannabis plants are.

When you buy Canadian marijuana-derived CBD, you’re buying a CBD oil that is extracted from organic matter, is meticulously tracked, grown with precision and cultivated to perfection. We know, with exact measure, what physiological effect that exact plant will have. And better yet, you’ll know, because you’ll be buying a product with a label, cannabinoid ratios, manufacturing date and a batch number.

Marijuana-derived oils generally use a supercritical CO2 extraction method and have a CBD concentration content of at least 18-20%. In short, this means that CO2 is used at high pressure and variable temperatures to move through cannabis flower to extract phytocannabinoids, phytochemicals, terpenes (essential oils) and trichomes (the little hairs growing from the bud). Through varying temperatures and pressures, the CO2 changes density, becomes a solvent and is used in a secondary extraction method to separate plant matter from the oil. What you are left with is a highly concentrated, organic, non-toxic, regulated oil.

Hemp on the other hand, is FDA regulated, adhering more closely to policies regarding its use in common beauty products and food production. Hemp itself has lower concentrations of CBD, hovering around the 3.5% mark. It is extracted through a cold pressed technique that uses the entire plant – flowers, stalks, leaves and seeds. Around 50% of the weight of a hemp plant can be pressed into oil, and because it is cold pressed, it also leaves the omega 3/6 oils and vitamins and minerals like potassium and magnesium, intact.

This type of extraction method means it takes huge amounts of hemp oil to produce low concentrations of CBD oil, and in order to make the juice worth the squeeze, the isolated cannabinoid gets mixed with different carrier and essential oils to deliver a mildly therapeutic product. 

With a marijuana-derived product, consumers are simply getting an isolated CBD product, but with hemp, consumers are at risk of purchasing low quality products diluted with inorganic matter, leaving consumers at a risk for exposure to high levels of contaminants from things like soil, pesticides, herbicides and chemicals from production techniques. Certainly, this defeats the purpose of natural health care and also makes unregulated products unsafe for internal ingestion.

What is good – really, really good, are all of the naturally occurring compounds in cannabis that I mentioned: phytocannabinoids, terpenes, trichomes, you get the picture. These are the things that work  synergistically to create what experts call, ‘the entourage effect’, a holistic approach to cannabis that focuses on the benefits of whole plant medicine. Meaning, that although there is a benefit to one isolated compound, like CBD, the real strength is in the squad — the entourage. Complementing one compound with another, in different ratios, gives users a full range spectrum of benefits that you can’t get from fractioned extraction like cold pressing.

So, while you may be looking for the therapeutic benefits of a CBD product (and I don’t blame you), just make sure that you are making well-informed choices. 

Here’s what to keep in mind when shopping for a CBD product

1. Know what you need

If you’re looking for a topical to relax your muscles or unwind after work, hemp based products with low levels of CBD can help. Look for products that contain organic ingredients that you easily recognize and that have preferably been tested. If you need more therapeutic benefits for pain management, insomnia or anxiety, stick to products derived from plants that have higher concentrations of CBD and are not diluted. Particularly for internal use, i’ts safest to use an isolated oil from a regulated product. 

2. Do your research

We already know that CBD is closely regulated, but if you’re after its hemp based counterpart, do the research. Look carefully at the products you’re buying and the brands that create them. How are they made, what kind of chemicals or by-products can you expect, what carrier and essential oils are used, are there any testimonials or endorsements that you can find?Although hemp isn’t regulated, there are some very ethical brands out there paving the way for clean, safe products that are accessible and affordable.

3. Experiment

Experiment with different products, brands, ratios, strengths and uses. Try something from hemp to soften your skin and relax your muscles, try something stronger, instead of your sleepy time tea, to get that deep sleep and restful night. Bounce back from your workout with an infused bath or lotion. Look up natural recipes for homemade products and try a little DIY. I encourage you to get your hands on a quality oil, get in that kitchen and live a little.

If Martha Stewart is doing it, hell yes, maybe you should too.