Broadly speaking, a certificate of analysis is a document issued by Quality Assurance that confirms a product meets it's product specification. In the realm of CBD products, CoA's are used by trustworthy brands to show that they have hired a third-party lab to test their products. The main purpose of a CoA is to make sure that the product contains what is advertised, is free from contaminants, and is safe for consumption.
Why is a CoA important to a consumer?
A CoA is important to a consumer because it let’s you know exactly what is inside the product. This is important in CBD products because some products do contain trace amounts of THC. If you are employed in a position that has a strict drug policy, taking CBD might lead to a positive drug test. CBD concentrations also vary between batches, so if you're trying to get an accurate dose, you'll want to review a CoA for your specific batch.
Where else can you find a CoA?
Most of the larger CBD brands offer a CoA when you purchase their product. They most often provide a lot or ID number linked to a specific CoA. More recently, brands have been including a QR code to take you to the CoA of the purchased product. Some brands also offer a sample CoA that you can view prior to purchasing. If you cannot find a CoA for your product, you can often request one from the manufacturer.
Why you should always check a CoA before purchasing CBD.
It’s important to know exactly what you are getting when you order a product. Always make sure a sample CoA is available on the brands website before purchasing.
What if a product doesn’t have a CoA?
As we mentioned earlier, some brands don't have a CoA available online. Again, we recommend that you don’t purchase a product that does not have a published CoA.
Is the CoA from an accredited third-party lab?
Always make sure that the CoA is from an accredited third-party lab. These labs must follow strict protocols, generally have at least a yearly inspection, and must remain in good standing in order to keep their accreditation status. Most legitimate third-party labs will have accreditation with a state and/or other accrediting bodyhttps://anab.ansi.org/laboratory-accreditation/cannabis-testing. The following table shows which states have legalized marijuana (medical and/or recreational) and which offer accreditation for cannabis testing:
How do I read a CoA?
Reading a CoA can be a daunting task for a new CBD user. Most CoA’s contain a section on cannabinoids, terpenes, microbials, and residual solvents. The more thorough CoA’s also contain sections that include pesticide and heavy metal analysis.
The header of the CoA contains some very important information. It contains the following information:
- Sample Name – The name of the sample, usually contains the brand and the product name.
- Received Date – The date the sample was received.
- Report Date – The date the sample was analyzed.
- Business Name – The name of the brand who ordered the report.
- Batch Size – The size of the entire batch, for example, 5,000 units.
- Overall Results – Whether the batch passed the tests.
What do LoD, LoQ, LoB, and ND mean?
An analyte is defined as a chemical substance that is the subject of chemical analysishttps://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/analyte. In CBD products, these are generally: CBD, THC, other cannabinoids, and terpenes. The following terms are used to identify quantities of the analyte in a CoA:
LoD, or limit of detection, is the smallest amount of analyte that can be reliably measured from zero.
LoQ, or limit of quantitation, means that the analyte is detected, but is too small to measure accurately.
LoB, or limit of blank, is the highest analyte concentration expected to be found when testing a blank (test sample with no analyte) sample.
ND, or not detected, means that the analyte was not detected in the sample.
In a thorough CoA, these terms are defined in the footer section of the first page.
Section: Cannabinoid Profile
The first page of the Certificate of Analysis generally contains basic identifying information of the sample being tested, along with information regarding the manufacturer. This includes the product name, date received, date the certificate was issued, and a batch number. It also contains a summarization of the tests that were performed on the sample.
What are the different cannabinoids?
CoA's for CBD products generally contain readings for the following cannabinoids (both the carboxylated and decarboxylated forms – for example CBD and CBDA):
- Tetrahydrocannabinol (Delta 8 THC, Delta 9 THC)
- Cannabidiol (CBD)
- Cannabinol (CBN)
- Cannabigerol (CBG)
- Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV)
- Cannabidivarin (CBDV)
- Cannabichromene (CBC)
Section: Terpene Profile
What are terpenes?
Terpenes are aromatic compounds often found in many plant species. Cannabis plants have high concentration of terpenes. There are over 100 different terpenes that have been identified in cannabis. Many in the industry believe that terpenes have beneficial effects. Scientific research with regards to terpenes is currently ongoing. Terpenes are believed to be a key factor in the entourage effect.
What are some common terpenes found in a terpene profile?
Some of the most common terpenes that are tested are: Alpha-Bisabolol, Alpha-Humulene, Alpha-Pinene, Alpha-Terpinolene, Beta-Caryophyllene, Beta-Myrcene, Beta-Pinene, Caryophyllene Oxide, Limonene, Linalool.
Section: Heavy Metals
The heavy metals section of a CoA lists out which heavy metals the sample was tested for. These should all have a None Detected (ND) value.
Section: Microbials Contaminants
The microbial contaminants section lists the results for contaminant tests. This section generally tests for:
- Total Aerobic
- Total Coliforms
- Total Yeast & Mold
- E. Coli
The reporting units for the analyte are Colony Forming Units per gram (CFU/g).
Section: Pesticide Residue
The pesticide residue section lists the results for pesticide tests run by the lab. These tests vary between labs and are affected by the accreditation body. Generally the following pesticides are run:
- Abamectin (Avermectins: B1a & B1b)
- MGK 264 1
The data is usually presented in a table with the following headers: name of the analyte, CAS number, Result, Units, Limits, Status. The reporting units for the analyte are ppb (parts per billion).
Section: Residual Solvents
The residual solvents section of a CoA tests for residual solvents. Residual solvents are the byproducts of extraction processes used to extract CBD and other cannabinoids from the hemp plant. Popular methods such as CO2 extraction, which does not use solvents, can still yield some residue that can be toxic. Tests typically check anywhere between 4 – 12 solvents depending on how thorough the lab is. These solvents are:
- Ethyl Acetate