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How to Read a CBD Certificate of Analysis

April 28, 2022 4 min read

How to Read a CBD Certificate of Analysis

When you’re purchasing CBD, it’s easy to assume the product is regulated by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) or some other government agency. It’s not. In fact, most over-the-counter dietary supplements and other vitamins aren’t regulated for safety or effectiveness by anyone.

That’s why it’s so important to be informed as a consumer. It’s up to you to know exactly what’s in the product. And there are a lot of BS companies selling CBD, marketing it to fix everything under the sun, from ingrown toenails to curing diseases.

So how can you know what is in your CBD and if it’s a reputable company? Three little words: Certificate of Analysis (COA).

What is a CBD Certificate of Analysis?

A CBD COA is the analysis of cannabinoid products, including those containing CBD. It tells how much cannabinoids, terpenes, and other elements, including THC, are in the product. And most importantly, the tests are performed independently by third-party labs.

Why should you care? It’s pretty straightforward. Without oversight or regulation, companies can say they are THC-free or that they contain a certain amount of CBD, but no one is holding them accountable. You have the right to know if what you are buying is what you’re getting, and that’s exactly where COAs come in!

Parts of the COA

We know what you’re thinking…this sounds really technical and boring. We won’t lie; it can be. But let’s break it down and make it less intimidating and actually useful.

If you just want to review the company’s COAs, you can review a few and see how consistent their results are across various batches and even products. To start, if you already have a CBD product, you can search for the COA based on its specific batch number.

Once you find a product’s certificate, going piece by piece, here’s how to read a COA and the key takeaways.


The heading at the top of the report tells you a few important things, such as: 

  • The client (who ordered the test)
  • The lab performing the test
  • The product being tested (drops, gummies, vape, etc.)
  • The batch number

Terms, Measurements, and Acronyms

When you start reading the body of the COA, don’t worry if you have to look up abbreviations, terms or measurements. It's better to know and understand what you’re reading than to be confused.

A few common measurements and acronyms include:

  • PPM - parts per million
  • mg - milligrams in the total package
  • mg/g - milligrams per gram
  • mg/p - milligrams per piece (common on gummies)
  • ml - milliliters, often used on liquids like CBD oils
  • LOQ - limit of quantitation (the smallest amount detectable by lab equipment)
  • B/LOQ - below limit of quantitation
  • LOD - limit of detection
  • N/D - not detected 
  • Action level - the level at which a substance is considered harmful or toxic. (anything below is considered safe.)
  • cfu - colony forming unit

Cannabinoid Profile

This section could contain a chart, a bar graph, a pie chart, or some other representation of the data. Many reports have the same info in multiple formats to reach people who process it differently. In any case, it’s all the same info.

This first section of the report is the good stuff. It is going to tell you how much of each cannabinoid was found. If the product claims to have 1,000 mg of CBD, it’ll get verified here. If it claims to be THC-free or below the legal threshold of .03%, this is where you’ll find it. Pay attention.

Some of the following sections may be on the report, and some may not. But just in case they’re included, here is what each potential section means.


Terpenes are aromatic compounds found in cannabis sativa plants that contribute to the entourage effect. While more than 100 have been identified thus far, they may or may not be in your CBD product.

Pesticide Analysis

Because CBD is derived from plants, it’s important to know if any pesticide residue may be present in your product. Finding a company that sources the CBD from a reputable farm with quality growth practices will matter when it comes to the pesticides used.

Heavy Metals Analysis

Heavy metals that could be toxic are tested for in CBD products. These could include arsenic, mercury, lead, and more. Usually, these are measured in parts per billion (PPB) and should be so low they are either listed as ND (not detectable) or B/LOQ (below limit of quantitation.)

Residual Solvents Analysis

Residual solvents are the byproducts of the extraction process, removing the cannabinoids and/or terpenes and other compounds from the plant and making them usable. Even using natural extraction processes, residuals may be present. Just like with heavy metals, levels should be ND, B/LOQ, or under the action level.

Microbiological or Microbial Analysis

The third-party lab may also test for microbes or bacteria that could be present and potentially harmful. These include e.Coli, salmonella, mold, and more. Generally, these are expressed in cfus and should always be either below the threshold or, in a pass/fail, a pass. If they fail, the product should never make it to the consumer.

Why COAs Matter

Phew, you made it. That’s a whole lot of science, especially when all you want to know is if you have a quality CBD productfrom a reputable, trustworthy company. The COA is going to tell you exactly that. They should be easy to find and readily available, either listed on the company’s website or using a QR code on the product box.

If the COA is easy to find, if it’s user-friendly and easy to search by either product or batch number, you’re probably in pretty good hands. It means the company is doing third-party testing and making the data available to its customers. In other words, they have nothing to hide. And if a company’s product isn’t being regulated, it’s up to you to know if you’re getting what a company claims you are. 

Never settle for crap CBD products from a shady company. Don’t compromise. IGNITE your life.