Topical CBD Product Labels Likely Inaccurate, Study Finds

By | Updated on September 26, 2023

Evidence Based 2

Are topical CBD product labels accurate? You would hope the answer is yes but, a new study suggests otherwise. Researchers out of Johns Hopkins University tested over 100 topical CBD products, finding that most contained significantly less or more CBD than advertised.

They also found that many had small amounts of THC despite not listing it on the label or made prohibited medical claims. These results echo the findings of earlier studies, highlighting the ongoing issue of CBD product accuracy. 

The Study Design

The researchers bought 105 different CBD topical products online or at retail stores. These included lotions, creams, salves, balms, and patches. The products were tested for levels of CBD, THC, and other cannabinoids using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS), a commonly used scientific method. 

To be considered accurate, products had to contain CBD levels that were within 10% of the labeled strength. Amounts over 10% would be considered underlabeled (more CBD than advertised), whereas those below 10% would be overlabeled (less CBD than advertised). Out of the 105 tested products:

  • 18% were overlabeled
  • 58% were underlabeled
  • 24% were accurately labeled
  • Patches contained the least CBD out of all product types

The researchers also found that out of 37 products containing THC:

  • 11% were labeled THC free
  • 51% didn’t mention THC on the label 

Additionally, 28% of the products made therapeutic claims (such as relieving pain), which are not allowed under FDA rules, with another 14% making cosmetic claims (such as improving wrinkles).

Choose Your Products Wisely

As a whole, the study reiterates two major points. First, there is still a need for improved testing and labeling accuracy of CBD products.

Secondly, it highlights the importance of doing your due diligence when buying any type of CBD product. Look over third-party tests, read unbiased CBD company reviews, and take your time to research before buying.

Still, the findings are not as bad as they sound. For one thing, most products contained more CBD than advertised, which is better than getting less. Meanwhile, the presence of THC in some products isn’t necessarily a bad thing because topical cannabinoids cannot reach the bloodstream and cause psychoactive effects (unless you’re using transdermal products).

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