Can you trust the label on those costly CBD remedies?

Can you trust the label on those costly CBD remedies?

When you buy a cold remedy or a painkiller, you can be confident that you’ll be getting exactly what it says on the packet.

You don’t expect your 200mg ibuprofen to contain 150mg or 300mg per tablet, for example.

Yet a Good Health investigation has found such disparities, with one wellness product — CBD, or cannabidiol. This is an extract of the cannabis plant without THC, the element that induces a high.

Cannabidiol is hugely popular — between four and six million people in this country have tried a CBD product, according to polls, mostly for sleep, relaxation, anxiety or pain.

These products aren’t cheap — some oils cost almost £100 a bottle, and CBD chewing gum is £12 for eight pieces. But are customers being short-changed?

Cannabidiol is hugely popular — between four and six million people in this country have tried a CBD product, according to polls, mostly for sleep, relaxation, anxiety or pain

When we had a selection of High Street products analysed by a specialist lab, not one contained the amount of CBD stated on the label.

Some variation is inevitable — it’s a natural product, not a standardised pharmaceutical pill. But one of the 13 products contained less than half the CBD claimed, while eight had more. One had nearly twice the stated dose.

That’s important because the Food Standards Agency (FSA) recommends that healthy adults ‘do not take more than 70mg [CBD] a day, unless a doctor agrees on more’.

Our results indicate some consumers may unwittingly be exceeding this limit.

Cannabidiol is thought to work on cannabinoid receptors throughout the body, which have a variety of roles including transmitting pain signals.

High Street products are weaker than those used medically to treat, for example, epilepsy — these forms contain three to five times more CBD, says Mikael Sodergren, a cancer surgeon at Imperial Healthcare NHS Trust, and a founder of the private Sapphire Medical Clinic, which prescribes medicinal cannabis.

High Street CBD supplements are not classed as medicines, but foods, so can’t be sold with any health claims.

Yet they are popular, with sales reaching £690 million last year, £164 million more than industry expectations.

Once available only as an oil, CBD is found in everything from muscle rubs to bath salts. But there are questions over whether the scientific evidence yet supports the use of CBD in clinics, let alone the lower concentrations in High Street products.

As Dr Steven Alexander, an associate professor of molecular pharmacology at Nottingham University, explains: ‘With clinical trials for anxiety, there have been some interesting results on the efficacy of CBD, but these have involved very high doses.’

He adds: ‘I’m not averse to High Street CBD products, but there are potential problems with the dose, for example — it may not be sufficiently high to help with inflammation and pain, but enough to benefit poor sleepers.’

CBD is also not well absorbed by our bodies. ‘For most drugs, the clinical expectation is that 60 to 80 per cent will be absorbed,’ says Dr Alexander. ‘But with CBD, research shows only 10 to 15 per cent gets into the bloodstream.

‘So if you get a dose of 10mg to 25mg from the High Street, it means only a tiny fraction gets into your bloodstream.’

Even if it’s a leap of faith that High Street CBD can help, at least you should be confident you’re getting what you pay for.

In 2020 the FSA announced that to continue selling their products, manufacturers had to submit ‘novel food’ status applications, including content analysis and scientific safety data.

The deadline was March 31, 2021. Yet still not one of the 210 applications has been fully authorised.

Minutes from the FSA’s chief executive report in December, said ‘the quality of applications was lower than we anticipated’.

We commissioned our own tests, asking a long-established company to verify how much CBD is in products compared to their claim.

It used chromatography, a standard test that separates a substance into its components. They sampled each product three times, taking an average of the findings.

We then asked Mr Sordergen for his comments.

Mummy Gummies

Mummy Gummies

More CBD than stated on label  

Mummy Gummies 

£25 for 25 gummies,

Claim: ‘Feel less of the stress.’

Claimed content: 25mg per gummy

Content test results: 42.66mg

Expert comment: ‘Each gummy contains around 70 per cent more CBD than stated: if you have two, you would consume 80mg, above the recommended 70mg maximum.

‘CBD is relatively safe but it can affect the liver enzymes and cause constipation, for example.’

Company response: ‘As it’s a natural product there is variability of use in man-ufacturing and Canax [we] strive to ensure that our products are not underdosed.’

Less CBD than stated on label 

Dr.K CBD Nanotised Muscle & Joint Relief Balm

£34.99 for 60ml,

Claim: The maker says nano emulsion technology turns CBD ‘into nano-sized droplets’, meaning the ‘bioavailability’ [the amount of active ingredients] is ‘much higher than you might find with other products’.

Claimed content: 300mg per pot

Content test results: 114mg

Expert comment: ‘This is less than half what’s stated on the label. Pure CBD is not well-absorbed through the skin, but this company has used nanoparticles, which it says improves on that.’

Company response: ‘Our oils are tested at multiple points with transparent testing data available. Your result may have been affected by a number of variables. Nonetheless, we will be undertaking a review of our manufacturing processes.’

Dr.K CBD Nano Emulsified Heating Muscle Rub

Dr.K CBD Nano Emulsified Heating Muscle Rub

Dr.K CBD Nano Emulsified Heating Muscle Rub

£27.49 for 75ml,

Claim: ‘Nano emulsified rub with a mild heating sensation to help ease the aches and pains after activity and to help with recovery after exercise.’

Claimed content: 100mg per tube

Content test results: 82.68mg

Expert comment: ‘The test suggests this has almost a 20 per cent variation in the CBD claimed. This is “nano emulsified” and is said to have five times more bioavailability. Will this be so? It’s difficult to say. 

CBD may act on local nerve fibres under the skin but I don’t know how much will get through to the bloodstream.’

Company response: As before.

Love Hemp Dark Chocolate Balls

Love Hemp Dark Chocolate Balls

Love Hemp Dark Chocolate Balls

£4.99 for 50mg,

Claim: ‘CBD is becoming a huge part of healthy, active lifestyles as a natural way to help support pain, anxiety and sleeplessness.’

Claimed content: 50mg per pack

Content test results: 40.32mg

Expert comment: ‘This has 20 per cent less CBD than stated — and that will be broken down via the liver, so how much benefit you get is debatable.’

Company response: All products are subject to ‘state-of-the-art’ testing. ‘A tolerance [variation] of up to 10 per cent is normal for 100 per cent natural CBD oils.’

Insignificant variation  

H&B CBD Cooling Bath Salts

£14.99 for 525g,

Claim: ‘Magnesium-rich bath salts infused with CBD to relax muscles and ease tension.’

Claimed content: 316mg per bottle

Content test results: 336mg

Expert comment: ‘I question how much CBD will be absorbed via bath water — my guess is not much.’

Company response: ‘Our own testing found levels of 317mg across the batch.’

Dragonfly CBD Oral Drops 

£29.50 for 10ml,

Claim: ‘CBD oil can support a number of wellness issues — from anxiety to sleep deprivation.’

Claimed content: 500mg per bottle

Content test results: 559.945mg

Expert comment: ‘It’s difficult to measure your dose accurately with the pipette supplied.

‘On the plus side, the instruction to put a drop under the tongue means much of the CBD will gets absorbed into the bloodstream.’

Company response: ‘We question the accuracy of these results.’

Green Stem CBD Oil Seville Orange-flavoured Drops

£35 for 30ml,

Claim: ‘CBD oral drops let you incorporate CBD into your daily life effortlessly for maximum wellbeing.’ The CBD is in a coconut-based oil for ‘maximum bioavailability’.

Claimed content: 500mg per bottle

Content test results: 528.49mg

Expert comment: ‘It’s important that the CBD comes in an oil, as it dissolves in fat — it won’t dissolve in water. The triglyceride oil in this is a good carrier for CBD.’

Company response: ‘We add slightly more CBD than is stated to ensure the correct minimum levels . . . are maintained.’

Love Hemp CBD Oil Atomiser Spray 

£14.99 for 30ml,

Claim: As above.

Claimed content: 300mg per bottle

Content test results: 321.65mg

Expert comment: ‘This is used as a spray under the tongue, which will mean more is absorbed through the lining of the mouth and into the bloodstream than if it was simply swallowed.’

Company comment: As before.

Love Hemp CBD OIL

£29.99 for 30ml,

Claim: See previous comment.

Claimed content: 600mg per bottle

Content test results: 616.29mg

Expert comment: ‘As well as being delivered in an oil, the good thing is this has a graduated pipette to help accurately measure your dose.’

Company response: As before.

Love Hemp CBD Infused Body Salve

£19.99 for 50ml,

Claim: ‘Helps soothe dry, chapped and irritated skin.’

Claimed content: 300mg per jar

Content test results: 274.90mg

Expert comment: ‘The question is how much would be absorbed this way?’

Company response: As before.

Love Hemp CBD Infused Body Salve

Love Hemp CBD Infused Body Salve

Zoetic Ultra Premium CBD Oil

£99 for 30ml,

Claim: ‘Place under your tongue. It’ll be the best night’s sleep of your life’.

Claimed content: 3,000mg per bottle

Content test results: 3,030mg

Expert comment: ‘This has got a pipette with markings to help with accurate dosing. We hardly ever use CBD alone in the clinic [for sleeping issues]; we usually use it in combination with THC [the psychoactive element].’

Company response: The amount of CBD added ‘will always be slightly higher so customers are guaranteed they get the desired potency they are buying’.

Lady A Evening Tincture

Lady A Evening Tincture

Lady A Evening Tincture

£85 for 15ml,

Claim: ‘Unwind with this gentle evening blend of chamomile, broad spectrum CBD hemp extract, hemp seed oil and . . . chocolate mint infusion.’

Claimed content: 1,500mg per bottle

Content test results: 1,341mg

Expert comment: ‘The manufacturer says this is 1,500mg broad spectrum hemp [with all the components apart from THC], but I suspect the consumer would assume it was all CBD and this product is not cheap.’

Company response: The product does ‘not state 1,500mg of CBD: It states 1,500mg of broad spectrum hemp extract. At a rate of 85 per cent CBD, this is entirely correct’.

Canamis CBD Chewing Gum

£12 for eight,

Claim: ‘Stay cool, calm and collected with Canamis CBD chewing gum.’

Claimed content: 10mg per piece

Content test results: 10.72mg

Expert comment: ‘I would question how much CBD anyone would receive from a gum.’

Company response: ‘There is always variability when any compound is analysed by a lab.’

Canamis CBD Chewing Gum

Canamis CBD Chewing Gum

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