How to Read CBD Lab Results & What To Look For 

CBD lab results are a critical way to make sure safe and effective products. But how do you read these tests and what should you keep an eye out for?

Paul James Updated on December 21, 2021

As you start exploring the cannabidiol (CBD) industry, you’re going to notice the term “Lab Results” be thrown around quite a bit. These are detailed analyses of third-party test results for CBD products and are vital to deciphering a reputable CBD company from the one you shouldn’t trust.

To put it simply, lab results (sometimes referred to as Certificates of Analysis) inform you of what’s in and what isn’t in your hemp-extracted CBD.

If you ever plan to purchase CBD, it’s important to understand how to read these results. This article will inform you of all the basics when it comes to lab testings and give you a comprehension of why they’re vital to this industry.

The Importance of CBD Lab Results

There’s no denying CBD has captured the eyes of mainstream media. More and more people are becoming interested in this natural medicine and, with that, more are giving it a try for themselves. However, most don’t realize the CBD industry is still very unregulated.

Currently, the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only approves of one CBD pharmaceutical, known as Epidiolex. Every other product available on the market has not been approved nor regulated by the FDA. ¹

Still, due to the peek of interest, thousands of brands have flooded the market. Many of which don’t care for the consumer and are only in it to make a quick buck. In turn, this has also flooded the market with a number of poor-quality and sometimes dangerous products.

The good news is companies leading this industry are keen on this fraud. And they’re taking it under their own wing to make sure you’re aware of what’s in your CBD.

How Do Companies Rest the Quality of Their CBD?

Through lab reports, they offer you the knowledge of what’s inside your CBD. Everything from cannabinoid content to whether or not it contains any contaminants, such as heavy metals or pesticides.

Still, even with these lab results at your disposal, it can be difficult to understand the text. That’s why we’ve developed the following guide to help you equip yourself with everything you need to know when reading CBD lab results.

The Different Compositions of CBD

how to read cbd lab test

It’s fairly well-known that CBD comes from the cannabis Sativa plant known as hemp. However, what’s less discussed are the different compositions of CBD that can be extracted from hemp. ²

Currently, there are two important differences you should be aware of:

  • Full-Spectrum CBD – CBD that contains all the cannabinoids, terpenes, amino acids, carbohydrates, vitamins, fatty acids, and other compounds from the hemp plant it was extracted from. Sometimes referred to as whole-plant CBD, whole-flower CBD, and CBD extract.
  • CBD Isolate – By processing the CBD further, laboratories are able to produce a crystalline substance that’s the purest form of CBD (usually, around 95%+ pure). Products labeled CBD isolate will only contain CBD and other additives added later in the process. These products also tend to be 100% THC-free.


It’s important to note that no two hemp plants will grow the same. Therefore, their contents will slightly differ in terms of cannabinoids and terpenes.

By learning to read lab results, you’ll be able to pick apart these slight differences. In turn, this can benefit you as you’ll be able to look for cannabinoids and terpenes that can cater to your needs.

How to Read CBD Lab Results

When a CBD company runs their product through a lab test, there are a number of different screenings that can be given. Admittedly, since CBD companies aren’t inclined to run through any of these screenings, they may pick and choose in accordance with their preferences.

The following are the most common screenings you’ll find within a CBD lab result:

Cannabinoid Profile

A cannabinoid is a molecule derived from the cannabis plant. As of now, scientists have discovered over 100 cannabinoids. The two most famous are cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Still, all cannabinoids do have therapeutic properties in humans.

Cannabinoid Profile

A cannabinoid profile measures out how much of each cannabinoid can be found within the CBD product. In order to understand these various cannabinoids, it helps to do extra research on their therapeutic properties.


From cannabinoid content levels, you’ll be able to find:

  • Potency – how much concentration of each cannabinoid is within the product (often measured as a percent of weight or mg/mL).
  • Non-Decarboxylated Raw Material – how much of a presence of acid forms to non-acid cannabinoid forms.
  • Spectrum – how much of each cannabinoid is within a product.

Referring back to the terms mentioned above, you can expect:

  • Full-spectrum products contain a variety of different cannabinoids with CBD being the dominant cannabinoid.
  • Broad-spectrum products contain a variety of different cannabinoids, but withholding THC – the cannabinoid that causes psychoactivity.
  • Isolate-based products contain only CBD and a bit of CBDV – the cannabinoid molecule CBD initially begins as.


Some products may label themselves as full or broad-spectrum, yet, only contain CBD isolate. This is usually because the hemp extract was tested rather than what was put into the final product.

Terpene Profile

Terpenes are aromatic oils that are found in cannabis and come with their own set of therapeutic benefits. They can interact with certain cannabinoids and, in effect, produce further health benefits. For this reason, it also helps to do a bit of research on terpenes themselves.

All full and broad-spectrum CBD products will contain a terpene profile, even if the lab results don’t list them. When CBD is isolated, it is removed from its terpene profile.

However, you’ll sometimes run into CBD isolate products where terpenes were added in afterward. These products are sometimes referred to as “terpsolates”.

Heavy Metal Screening

Hemp has the ability to soak up whatever’s in the soil around it. ³ Due to this behavior, the plant’s extract may have dangerous heavy metal contamination. For this reason, lab results should report whether or not their CBD product contains heavy metals, such as arsenic, cadmium, mercury, and lead.

Microbiology Screening

Some companies test to make sure their CBD is free of microbes, such as yeast, molds, E-coli, and salmonella.

Mycotoxin Screening

Some companies test to make sure their CBD is free of toxic substances such as fungus.

Pesticide Screening

It’s important to make sure the hemp your CBD was extracted from was grown organically. An organic farm WILL NOT use pesticides as a means of yielding more crops. Some companies test to make sure their CBD is free of pesticides and grown only through organic methods in clean soil.

Solvent Residue Screening

A common way to extract CBD is through various solvents. Unfortunately, these solvents sometimes leave behind a chemical residue which can be dangerous if consumed. Some companies test to make sure their CBD is free of this solvent residue.

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Final Word

CBD has the potential to help a lot of people. It’s unfortunate the government hasn’t completely woken up to this and, in turn, leaves the industry completely unregulated. Still, we’re lucky enough to have entrepreneurs take the responsibility into their own hands.

By using a third-party lab test (or certificate of analysis), we as the consumer are given the chance to know just what our CBD contains. If you’re new to this industry, it’s important to understand the value of this knowledge.

By having a comprehension of what’s in the cannabidiol itself, we are given the right to decide which companies will continue to prosper.


1. FDA: FDA Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products, Including Cannabidiol (CBD)

2. Harvard Medical School: Cannabidiol (CBD) – what we know and what we don’t

3. Springer 3 Biotech: Comparative assessment for hyperaccumulatory and phytoremediation capability of three wild weeds

Paul James

Paul James is a seasoned cannabis and CBD writer and expert. He is a mental health blogger who advocates CBD as a natural alternative to prescription medications. You can read more about this and other natural alternatives on his blog:"