How To Read CBD Oil Labels

The CBD oil industry is self-regulating, and by that we really mean that it’s currently unregulated by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. The lack of consistency across product labels on CBD oil products often confuses consumers who want to know what’s in the product.

There are key elements of the labels on most CBD oil products. The purpose of this article is to help you understand these key elements and to teach you how to read CBD oil labels.

Amount of CBD in Milligrams 

One of the main things on CBD oil labels is the amount of CBD (or hemp extract) in the product. This is commonly expressed as the amount of CBD in milligrams. Usually, you will see this as the big number right on the front. Most commonly found in 250, 500, 750, and 1000mg amounts, this indicates the amount of CBD in the entire bottle.

Occasionally, you will find products that do not indicate the amount of CBD, but rather the amount of hemp extract. Charlotte’s Web is one major brand whose labels indicate milligrams of hemp extract instead of CBD. Converting milligrams of hemp extract into milligrams of CBD can be a little tricky.

It can either be a direct substitute for CBD, or it can be thought of as the total cannabinoids content. If it’s a direct substitute, then an example would be something like: 1000mg hemp extract = 1000mg CBD.

If it’s the total cannabinoid content, then the CBD amount is a smaller constituent of that. For instance, 1000mg hemp extract may only be 700mg of CBD. To find out which it is, check the third party lab tests for the product or reach out to the company directly.

Full Spectrum, Broad Spectrum or Isolate

The label should clearly indicate the type of product. It may not always explicitly say “Full Spectrum”, “Broad Spectrum” or “Isolate” but it should have some kind of indicator specific to that brand.

Full Spectrum products have a wide range of other cannabinoids in addition to CBD (most notably trace amounts of THC) and terpenes. Typically this range is in the naturally occurring ratios from their source strain.

Broad Spectrum products also include a range of cannabinoids and terpenes but no detectable levels of THC.

Isolate products include only “pure” CBD and no detectable levels of other cannabinoids or terpenes.

Bottle Size

CBD oil bottles usually come in 0.5 ounce (15ml), 1 ounce (30ml), or 3.38 ounce (100ml) sizes. If you have a 16 ounce bottle of “hemp oil,” then chances are it is hemp seed oil and contains no CBD.

The size of the bottle will help you determine the amount of CBD per milliliter which is an important indicator of CBD concentration/strength/potency.

A common misconception is that a bottle with more milligrams of CBD is always “stronger” or “more potent” than a bottle with fewer milligrams. This is not always true and also depends on the bottle size. For example, a 30ml bottle with 1000mg of CBD has the same potency as a 15ml bottle with 500mg of CBD. In both cases, there are 33.3 milligrams of CBD per milliliter. Our CBD oil drops potency comparison explains this in more detail.

Serving Size

The serving size is important because it helps verify the amount of CBD in the entire bottle. It will also often tell you the size of the dropper.

Most droppers will come in 0.5 milliliter or 1 milliliter sizes. If you have a calibrated dropper, then this can help you easily dose the amount indicated on the label for one serving size. If you do not have a calibrated dropper, then we recommend getting a 1 milliliter oral syringe instead and using that.

Our CBD dosage tips page can help you get started with dosing and find your “sweet spot” dosage.

Batch Number on CBD Oil Labels

This number is extremely important. It helps tie your specific bottle of CBD oil to a lab test. Lab testing of every batch helps with consistency and transparency. Third party CBD lab reports are the best way to know what is really in your product. Some brands will even use QR Codes that directly link to the test for your batch.

It’s important to realize that the products of even the most reputable brands can vary between batches. The terpenes and cannabinoid content can be slightly different, resulting in the occasional report of different effects being experienced. Batch testing allows you to see these varying differences between batches so you can make educated brand choices and purchasing decisions.

Ingredients List on CBD Oil Labels

Every bottle should have an ingredients list. Sometimes, the bottle will display a nutritional label with the CBD or hemp extract listed and the “inactive” or “other” ingredients listed below it.

In other cases, the CBD or hemp extract will be listed in sequence with the other ingredients. Other ingredients shown may be the carrier oils, any beneficial herbs, artificial coloring, sweeteners and flavors.

For carrier oils, it’s not uncommon to see coconut oil, MCT oil, or hemp seed oil listed on the label. This can sometimes lead users to believe their product is not a CBD product. But rest assured, these are just the carrier oils that the CBD extract is diluted in.

For CBD vape products, the ingredients list will typically tell you whether either Propylene Glycol (PG) or Vegetable Glycerine (VG) is included. CBD vape liquids do not include carrier oils since vaping those could be dangerous to your health.

The Bottom Line on CBD Oil Labels

While the industry is currently unregulated, there are certain labeling standards that are consistent among reputable brands. Key features of a CBD oil label include the number of milligrams in the bottle, bottle size, serving size, batch number and ingredients. The label should also have a clear indication of the type of CBD product it is.

Product labeling has been vetted for all of the companies on our best CBD oil brands list. They have also been vetted for other key factors including product quality, customer service support and feedback from customers.

Sarah Jorczyk

Sarah Jorczyk is an advocate for CBD products and one of the Administrators of the CBD Oil Users Group on Facebook. She strives to educate the public, and promotes the use of safe products while helping others throughout their CBD journey. You can also find a variety of her content, including reviews and educational videos, on the group's youtube page.

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