5 Ways to Identify Fake CBD Products

by | May 11, 2023 | Latest News | 1 comment

Searching online for cannabidiol (CBD) products you can trust can be overwhelming. A quick search on Google (at the time of writing) suggested over 330 million different pages and products to be explored. Yikes! Where to start?

For as many people who have shared that CBD products help them with a variety of conditions, from pain to muscle tremors, migraines, and anxiety, there are others who say they simply don’t work. While CBD may help some, it is not guaranteed to work for everyone. But it can be a valuable wellness supplement for many.

People who have not experienced any benefits from cannabidiol may not have chosen the best quality products. There are so many counterfeit CBD products and imports from other countries that do not have the same manufacturing or safety standards as we have in the United States.

If you want to try cannabidiol (CBD) as a wellness supplement, the first step is to make sure you can spot fake CBD oil and other products, such as topicals, capsules, and edibles. In this article, we’ll share some of the things you should watch out for when choosing the best CBD supplement for your needs.

Is Fake CBD Oil Common?

The problem with fake CBD supplements is not a new one. In fact, in 2017, Penn Medicine reported that nearly 70% of all CBD products available for sale online were mislabeled. The contents promised on the label did not match the ingredients in the product.

The month-long study of 84 randomly selected products by researchers at Penn Medicine revealed the following:

  • 44% of CBD products were under-labeled. The product contained a higher concentration of CBD than was indicated on the ingredient list or certificate of analysis.
  • 26% of CBD products were over-labeled. This means the label indicated a higher potency of cannabinoids and terpenes than were found in the product.
  • 30% of products contained inaccurate CBD potency but were within 10% of the amount listed on the label.

In 2020, another medical research study confirmed the inaccuracies in CBD product labeling. The report, “Medical Fraud, Mislabeling, Contamination: All Common in CBD Products,” was published in the Journal of Missouri State Medical Association.

This report highlights findings from several reputable studies, including the Food and Drug Administration, Johns Hopkins, and the National Institute of Health. All findings reveal that mislabeling is rampant among CBD products. And consumers need to be extra vigilant about evaluating ingredients and cannabidiol content before purchasing.

CBD products

5 Ways to Identify Fake CBD Products

Now that you know how rampant mislabeled or fake CBD products are, you can learn how to find real CBD oil and supplements to avoid fraudulent products.

1. Low Prices

We all like to find a good deal and stick to our budget. That means looking for the best prices on the things we need. But when it comes to cannabidiol (CBD) products, a surprisingly low price should be your first red flag.

Before a hemp plant is harvested, there are many steps and agricultural costs that go into producing hemp oil. Agricultural hemp is typically grown outside, which means extra work to propagate the crops.

The next step involves harvesting and processing CBD isolate. Then manufacturing the final product and packaging it. There are also testing and safety inspection costs too. Creating a high-quality CBD product costs quite a lot.

An impossibly low-cost product is almost always a sign of poor quality CBD, which will offer little wellness benefits for you. And some may actually harm your health.

2. Visual Signs of Fake or Poor Quality CBD Oil

Lakewater that is healthy is not crystal clear. There will always be a tint of blue or green that indicates nutrients and life in the water. Nutrients are not transparent, and neither should CBD oil have a transparent visual appearance.

If you do not know much about CBD oil, you may think that a clear fluid is an indication of purity or organic compounds. That is not the case. The oil should never be completely clear. Even if the label claims the ingredients are organic, with potent cannabinoids and extracts, trust your eyes instead.

Consider completely clear oil to be a fake CBD oil warning sign. Healthy carrier oils (that the CBD isolate is mixed with) will also have a slight coloration. Some CBD oils are also colored vibrantly green or blue.

That can indicate that artificial colors were used to make the product appear more clinical. Where chances are, the CBD oil companies are pulling a fast one, selling a product with very low potential wellness benefits.

3. High CBD Dosages

Fake CBD oils and consumable products will advertise high cannabinoid ratios. Sometimes the total content listed on the label doesn’t even add up mathematically. The average suggested serving, or dose is rarely more than 7 milligrams. So, how does this bottle of CBD oil provide 10,000 mg of cannabidiol?

Most bottles of CBD oil contain 300 mg to 1000 mg. Look up the information about the suggested serving size, and divide the cannabidiol milligrams to determine if that number makes sense. Often, it does not (but consumers may not pause to catch that error).

When fake CBD oil companies want to sell a product, they will label it with a huge potency amount. It sells more bottles if it looks like there is more cannabidiol content. Don’t be fooled by the bad math and mislabeling.

Filler Oils

4. Clear Bottles vs. Amber or Non-Transparent Packaging

This sign might be the easiest to detect when you are trying to determine whether a CBD product is safe to use. If you are looking at CBD oils or tinctures, does the brand provide the product in a clear bottle? If so, don’t buy it.

Cannabidiol is light-sensitive, and valuable cannabinoids begin to break down when they are exposed to UV light. If the bottle is clear or transparent, it does not provide any protection against the degradation of cannabinoids, terpenes, and nutrients.

High-quality CBD oil companies make sure to package their products correctly. That means in black or tinted dark amber bottles. Some companies sell CBD oil in white bottles that are not transparent. That is also okay, as it helps protect the ingredients from dissolving due to light exposure.

Some CBD edibles are sold in clear plastic bottles. However, the cannabinoid content in edibles is processed differently and degrades more solely than CBD oil. Always store your CBD supplements in a room temperature-controlled area without direct sunlight to preserve more of the valuable nutrients.

5. Health Claims About CBD as a Cure

You know the adage that says, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t? That definitely applies to cannabidiol (CBD) products. And there are some important things you should know about health claims regarding CBD.

First, it is illegal to make claims that any supplement will cure a condition. Even your doctor, who knows your health history, cannot guarantee something will work. Your body and health conditions are complex and unique. A blanket statement that a CBD oil or hemp extract will solve your problems is not only inaccurate, but it is also dangerous.

Let’s assume that you purchase a fake CBD product that claims to resolve a serious health condition you have. Maybe you believe it will work (and it could). However, some people may believe so strongly in the power of a nutritional supplement that they forgo other important steps to protect their health, such as regularly consulting with their doctor, taking prescription drugs, or making lifestyle changes (such as diet and exercise) which could help.

Every year the Food and Drug Administration sends letters to cannabidiol (CBD) brands that are making false health claims. The letters warn them of legal action that can be taken against manufacturers that do not follow consumer protection laws. And those that willfully mislead consumers by making false promises.

Until the FDA further regulates CBD products to better test and approve safe products, the onus is on consumers to do the research. Educate yourself on any nutritional supplement, and don’t trust claims that CBD can cure any condition.

Cannabidiol has many potential wellness applications supported by clinical human and animal studies worldwide. But don’t trust every CBD product you see available for sale in a store or online without checking for a certificate of analysis COA to verify ingredients.

CBD Production

Look Out for Ingredients That Can Be Toxic in High Quantities

Sometimes CBD supplements and topicals have bonus ingredients in the form of natural extracts, minerals, vitamins, and nutrients. Most of the time, these extra ingredients result in added potential wellness benefits. But sometimes, they can actually negate or reduce the effectiveness of cannabidiol.

Some bonus nutrients may be fine for most people, but if you have an allergy, you need to carefully read the label before you purchase or use CBD. Remember, not every CBD product is inspected for food safety (few are). And you have to be a detective and do a little digging to make sure the product you choose is a safe option for you.

Large Quantities of Essential Oils

If it is an organic product and it has some essential oil content, is it safe to consume? Many CBD topicals include ingredients like eucalyptus or peppermint oil because they have antiseptic properties. Or bergamot oil (citrus) which is known in alternative medicine to help with mood and anxiety.

Essential oils also smell good and can help ease anxiety with aromatherapeutic benefits. So you may find them in hygiene products that are CBD infused, such as bath bombs, oils, or body wash.

But consuming essential oils in large quantities can be toxic. A CBD consumable product (tincture, capsule, tablet, or edible) should not have high quantities of essential oils. They can do more harm than good to your health.


Popularized by the keto diet, MCT (medium-chain triglyceride) oil contains fats called triglycerides. They can be healthy for you but may cause uncomfortable side effects if consumed in large quantities.

Both MCT oil and powder can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. It can also lead to problems with fatty liver. The recommended maximum intake for MCT oil is up to 100 mL per day. However, many people limit their intake to 10 mL per meal to avoid unpleasant side effects. Check your CBD supplement to ensure you are not taking more than the RDA.

Grapefruit and Seville Orange Extracts

Some citrus fruits like grapefruit and Seville oranges have a naturally occurring chemical called furanocoumarins. It can interfere with proteins in the digestive tract. Both types of fruit can also conflict with prescription cholesterol and hypertension (high blood pressure) medications. They may also create health risks by impacting medications used to treat heart arrhythmia and bacterial infections.

Fruits like grapefruit and Seville oranges contain furanocoumarins, a chemical that interferes with proteins in the gut that process medications. The common medicines impacted include some for lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, treating heart arrhythmia, and treating infections.

Pesticides and Mycotoxins

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fake CBD products present a significant risk to human health. Consumers should know that other ingredients, such as pesticides, heavy metals, fungi, and bacteria, may also be in the product.

The CDC issued this warning in 2021 about adverse effects and health hazards from fake CBD oils and other products. Mycotoxin is a compound produced by certain types of fungus. There may be small quantities of Mycotoxin in consumable hemp products. Check the COA (certificate of analysis and third-party lab testing) to make sure toxic compounds that may be present are low in quantities and determined safe for human consumption.

Heavy Metals in CBD Products

You may be wondering how any amount of heavy metals finds its way into fake CBD oil. In December 2022, there was a clinical study published in The Science of Total Environment that discussed testing of CBD oils and other products for the presence of heavy metals.

The findings of the study reported that:

  • Heavy metals (Pb, Cd, As, Hg) and phthalates were found in many CBD oils and products that exceeded safe consumption levels, posing a threat to human health.
  • Only 42% of CBD products tested fell within 10% (greater or less than) of what was listed on the labels for specific heavy metals.
  • Edible CBD products tested were noted to have more low-level heavy metal and phthalate contamination.
  • Heavy metals and phthalates cancel out most of the potential wellness benefits offered by cannabidiol (CBD) supplements.

Almost all CBD products available to American consumers are sourced from agricultural hemp. The hemp plant is very good at drawing nutrients from the soil in large quantities. If hemp is harvested from agricultural soil that is contaminated by heavy metals, the toxins will be drawn into the plant and are not completely filtered in processing.

Fake CBD products may not provide a certificate of analysis (COA) with full disclosure of all the ingredients. And in some cases, fake COAs are also provided to consumers, with no third-party testing at all. In some cases, agricultural hemp may pass safety standards; however, the carrier oil may be impure and contain heavy metals.

Heavy metals are carcinogenic. In large amounts (which can build in the body over time), the toxicity can cause fatigue and brain, lung, liver, and kidney damage. Heavy metals are also free radicals that can damage cell health and contribute to cancer and other chronic diseases.

COA CBD Lab Testing

How Are CBD Products Tested?

Cannabidiol or CBD extracted from hemp should be third-party tested for consumer safety. Only reputable manufacturers engage in third-party testing to provide certificates of analysis (COAs) to their customers.

Would it surprise you to learn that right now, in the United States, third-party testing is not legally required? Pretty shocking, right? Companies that sell fake CBD products know they are not required to pay for third-party testing because the FDA has only recently started to regulate products. After the 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp-derived products.

Since CBD companies are not required right not to provide COAs for their products, a good place to start is to consider only products that have been third-party tested. And remember to check out the laboratory to make sure it is not a fake COA for the product you choose.

How to Make Sure You Get Quality Product?

Follow these steps to make sure you are purchasing a quality cannabidiol (CBD) product to help you reach your wellness goals.

  • Look for product reviews on Google, Facebook, and other locations. Read what people are saying about the quality of CBD oils and other products available from the manufacturer.
  • Check the ingredient list and potency. Does the math add up?
  • Review the certificate of analysis. Remember to do a little research and ensure that the COA is authentic, from a valid source and third-party testing laboratory. It should have a batch test number, complete ingredients, date of testing, and contact information for the 3PL that evaluated the product.
  • Skip products that are priced far too inexpensively. If the cost seems much lower than other products, consider that it make be low quality and fake CBD oil. If you want to get a discount on your CBD products, look for auto-ship deals. When you subscribe to auto-ship programs, you are usually provided a significant discount that will help you reduce the cost of your supplements.
  • Double-check that the THC content is within legal limits. Remember, only hemp-derived CBD is legal to purchase, possess and use. And the products must contain 0.30% or less THC to be legal. Any product with more than that potency level is considered marijuana and illegal to purchase or possess in many states.
  • If the product claims to be organic, look for the USDA-certified organic seal. This is a special designation for products that have been tested and confirmed as organic.

If you find a product you really like that works for you, be sure to recommend it to family and friends. These days it can be hard to find quality supplements you can trust. They will appreciate the guidance to help them make an informed choice.

About DocCBD Products

Our cannabidiol products are third-party tested. DocCBD knows it is important to be transparent about the ingredients in the wellness products we sell. Browse the information page on our DocCBD products, and you will find a link to the certificate of analysis.

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1 Comment

  1. Temp eMail

    This was beautiful Admin. Thank you for your reflections.


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