Your mini COA field guide—3 Things you MUST know


Every CBD supplier’s site advertises a Certificate of Analysis available upon request. After all, a laboratory analysis on the quality of your wholesale/bulk CBD product is mighty important. The COA proves a number of important points such as the contents of the product (what’s in it) and the potency (how much is in it.) Interestingly, the COA also shows you “what’s not in your product.”

The report is straightforward when you know what to look for . . .  Let’s walk through a standard Certificate of Analysis to interpret the 3 most important determinations regarding the formulation of your CBD (Cannabidiol):

  1. What’s in it?
  2. What’s the potency?
  3. What’s NOT in it?

A typical Certificate of Analysis

  1. Product type

This Certificate of Analysis is testing “Pharma Grade CBD Isolate, Zero THC”. There are many varieties of CBD. Some are full-spectrum which include all the possible cannabinoids and terpenes from the original plant (which may include the famous THC cannabinoid and some extracts isolate cannabinoids (typically CBD). This product type denotes a CBD isolate with no THC present.


  1. List of active ingredients

The potency results section reports the percentage by weight of compounds present in the formulation. In this case 99.7% CBD. And less than 0.1% of other cannabinoids.


  1. Total active ingredients

The total active ingredient is 99.8%. This formulation is 99.7% CBD.


  1. Total THC

Due to it’s status as a psycho-active, schedule 1 controlled substance, the concentration of THC in any CBD formulation is a significant concern. The legal limit on inclusion of THC in a CBD formulation is .3% (not enough to produce a psycho-active result.) While hemp contains far less THC than its cannabis cousin, marijuana, mother nature is not entirely predictable. It’s important for legal considerations to test your batches to support the claim of ‘within legal limit THC’ or ‘Zero THC’.


This COA reports ND or none detected and therefore, is a one of the newly available “Zero-THC” formulations.


  1. Terpenes

Terpenes can be described as the essential oil of a plant and it’s the terpenes that create the aromatic profile of the formulation. There are hundreds of different terpenes but the most common is myrcene. Research suggests that terpenes work synergistically with cannabinoids to enhance the overall effects.


Not to be confused with “The entourage effect”, which describes the synergy between 2 or more cannabinoids such as THC and CBD, terpenes also may have a synergistic effect when combined with cannabinoids. Full-spectrum products aim to capitalize on the beneficial effect of the entire plant profile. A COA for a full-spectrum CBD product lists the percentage by weight of various terpenes (and cannabinoids).


The terpenes result in this COA shows trace amounts in the terpene category which is consistent with a CBD isolate (formulated to extract only the CBD cannabinoid.


Note: The next section delves into the elements and compounds you’ll want to make sure ARE NOT present in your product samples.

Warning: Testing CBD products in a marijuana testing laboratory does NOT yield a COA complete with all the following categories. Instead obtain COAs from agricultural labs which contain all necessary testing data.


  1. Residual Solvents

Solvents are used in the extraction process of oils. With essential oils, for instance, precious little volatile oil is available is contained in the flower making expression (pressing or squeezing) impossible. Another popular method of extraction is steam distillation which can denture and ruin delicate oils. From raw biomass to finished product in the production of fine organic compounds, solvents like hexane, butane, ethanol and acetone are used in an LLE (liquid-liquid extraction) process to separate compounds, called “partitioning”.


Solvents used in the manufacturing process of organic material must be completely removed from dispensed products as they are hazardous, poisonous, and lethal for human consumption.


This COA example indicated “none detected” for residual solvents.


  1. Pesticides

Pesticides can be introduced into the growing environment to produce a full crop unfettered by pests. Organically grown crops don’t use pesticides in farming but a complete COA provides proof of pesticide-free product.


This COA example indicates “none detected” for pesticides.


  1. Heavy Metals

Among the worst toxins are heavy metals. Lead, mercury, cadmium, and arsenic wreak havoc on the body and build up causing fatigue, organ damage, immune issues and more. Heavy metals in crops primarily stem from pesticides and water contamination.


This COA example demonstrates “none detected” for heavy metals.

Now that you know how to dissect a Certificate of Analysis, make sure that the products you are buying come complete with dated COAs. And run your own laboratory tests on samples to assure that your products are premium-grade, organic, and potent.

For questions on CBD, COAs, or anything else, contact us.