Methodology: Choosing the Best CBD Oil
To choose the best CBD oils, the Forbes Health editorial team analyzed data on more than 100 CBD oil products that are:
- Made from plants grown in the U.S.
- Have a certificate of analysis (COA) confirming the absence of pesticides, heavy metals and molds
- Are third-party tested by ISO 17025-compliant laboratories
We then ranked CBD oils based on price, potency, dietary friendliness and flavor options available. (Dietary friendliness means we assessed the quality of the carrier oil used and whether the product is vegan-friendly and/or gluten-free.)
We considered a standard serving size to be 1 milliliter of CBD oil unless otherwise specified by a product’s label. We evaluated 30-milliliter bottles when possible to keep all data comparable.
What Is CBD Oil?
Cannabidiol (CBD) oil is a supplement derived from the cannabis sativa plant. Once CBD is extracted from the plant, it’s mixed with a carrier oil—often olive, coconut or medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil—to create CBD oil, which is then consumed orally.
How Does CBD Oil Work?
CBD works through the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a cell-signaling system. The ECS is made up of cannabinoids produced by the body naturally, receptors that respond to those cannabinoids and enzymes that help break them down and put them to use. When you consume CBD oil, your body responds the same way it does to its natural cannabinoids.
Research suggests the ECS plays a role in several physiological processes, including appetite, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, fertility, immune functions, memory, neuroprotection and pain modulation. People who consume CBD oil products often report relief for a variety of ailments, from anxiety to chronic pain.
How to Choose a CBD Oil
Because CBD oil is considered a dietary supplement and isn’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), consumers need to do their own research to ensure the quality of the product they choose to try. Here are a few criteria to consider when shopping for CBD oil:
U.S. sourcing. The FDA doesn’t regulate CBD oil products specifically, but it does regulate the cannabis sativa plants grown on U.S. soil, requiring that they contain no more than 0.3% THC by dry weight. (THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the most well-known psychoactive compound found in the cannabis sativa plant, and some states have yet to legalize it due to its mind-altering effects.) Buying CBD oil sourced in the U.S. ensures the product you’re using meets these legal requirements.
Third-party testing. By sending samples of a product to an independent and accredited laboratory for testing, a company can ensure safety and security standards are being met, which is important for supplements like CBD oil.
Certificate of Analysis (COA) availability. This document is supplied by the third-party laboratory to confirm whether the CBD product meets the specifications advertised on its label. It also acknowledges any presence of pesticides, heavy metals or molds, which can be harmful to human health. Look for a CBD brand that transparently provides COAs for their products on their website.
How to Use CBD Oil
Experts advise newcomers to start with a low dose of CBD oil, such as 25 milligrams a day, and gradually increase their dose to a level that provides the desired effects. It’s best to navigate this process under the guidance of a qualified physician, as reactions to CBD can vary per person.
For CBD oil to take effect, it must first be digested in a process called first-pass digestion. Preliminary research suggests consuming CBD oil with high-fat foods may increase CBD’s bioavailability, but further human trials are needed.
What Strength CBD Oil is Right for Me?
There’s no standard dose or potency when it comes to taking CBD oil. Effects vary from person to person and depend on the type of CBD used, as well as other factors, such as height, weight and metabolic function. Furthermore, the effective dose of CBD oil may change based on the intended use—for example, whether it’s being used to support sleep, improve pain levels or reduce anxiety. More research is needed to determine standard effective doses and potencies of CBD oil.
For consumers new to CBD oil, experts recommend beginning with a low potency and small dose and exploring individual results from there.
CBD Oil Uses in the U.S.
The majority (60%) of U.S. adults have tried a CBD product before, according to a recent Forbes Health survey of 2,000 U.S. adults conducted by OnePoll. What’s more, 55% of those who reported trying it said they use CBD oils and tinctures specifically.
When asked why they use CBD, respondents reported a variety of reasons—mainly to reduce stress (62%), relieve pain (60%), improve sleep quality (58%), alleviate anxiety (51%) and follow a doctor’s advice (48%). Across the survey’s sample size, 60% of respondents believe CBD has medicinal benefits.
Types of CBD Oil
Most CBD oil products fall in one of three categories: Full spectrum, broad spectrum and isolate.
Full-spectrum CBD products contain all extracts of the cannabis sativa plant—CBD, terpenes, flavonoids, essential oils and other cannabinoids present in the plant. In the legal variety of cannabis sativa, THC concentrations naturally remain less than 0.3% by dry weight, so there are trace amounts, but not enough to create THC’s well-known intoxicating effects.
Broad-spectrum CBD products also contain all extracts of the cannabis sativa plant, with the exception of the trace amount of THC. Many broad-spectrum CBD products list that they contain either less than 0.01% THC by dry weight or are completely THC-free.
Also known as pure CBD, isolate is harvested from the cannabis sativa plant using extraction methods that leave all other components of the plant behind. CBD isolate products should contain pure CBD and, therefore, contain zero trace of THC.
Potential Health Benefits and Side Effects of CBD Oil
Research suggests taking CBD oil may have promising health benefits, including managing anxiety and depression symptoms, decreasing pain levels, supporting sleep and enhancing overall well-being. One 2021 study examining real-world data from a cannabis clinic in Canada found CBD to be most effective among a patient population with moderate to severe symptoms. A CBD pharmaceutical called Epidiolex is approved by the FDA to treat certain severe seizure disorders as well.
While consuming CBD oil has potential benefits, a few side effects may cause discomfort for CBD users. Potential side effects include sleepiness, gastrointestinal issues like diarrhea and mood shifts toward irritability, according to the FDA.
If you’re taking any prescription drugs, supplements or over-the-counter medications, consult with your health care provider before taking CBD oil to avoid the risk of potential drug interactions. The FDA also cautions against using CBD oil while pregnant or breastfeeding.
CBD Oil Cost
The cost of CBD oil varies widely based on quality, potency and brand. For example, the Forbes Health editorial team examined nearly 150 CBD oils with a wide range of potencies that range in price from $.78 per serving to $4.17 per serving, with an average cost of $2.32 per serving.
Regardless of your budget, always consider whether the product you’re interested in has been third-party laboratory tested and comes with a COA to ensure both quality and safety.
What to Look for in CBD Oil Companies
First and foremost, reputable CBD oil companies submit their products to third-party laboratories for testing and make the resulting certificates of analysis (COAs) easily available to consumers. In terms of quality, look for companies that use organic, non-GMO, U.S.-grown hemp to manufacture their oils.
A Google search of a company or product may also bring up helpful reviews from third-party websites like TrustPilot, and you can always take a look at the company’s Better Business Bureau (BBB) profile for more information. If you’re unsure about a CBD oil company’s trustworthiness or reputation, speak with a cannabis provider for company and product recommendations.
Where Can You Purchase CBD Oil?
CBD oil is widely available in specialty retail stores and online, depending on where you live. Purchasing CBD oil online may come with certain benefits, such as the ability to request a digital COA for a specific product and read online reviews. Our Best CBD Oil of 2023 list exclusively includes products that have been third-party tested for quality and potency and may be a great place to start your search for the perfect CBD oil.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is CBD oil legal?
As of 2023, CBD that comes from hemp (a type of cannabis sativa plant) that produces no more than 0.3% THC by dry weight is considered legal at the federal level. State laws vary, so it’s best to confirm any rules and regulations that apply to your area with your local and state legislation.
Is CBD oil safe?
The FDA reports it’s only seen limited data regarding the safety of CBD. Anyone interested in consuming CBD in any form should first consult with their healthcare provider and be aware of potential risks associated with using CBD products, including liver injury, drug interactions and male reproductive toxicity.
Who should use CBD oil?
A growing body of research suggests CBD oil can benefit people with:
- Epilepsy syndromes
- Opioid addiction
- Neurodegenerative disorders and diseases
- Unmanageable chronic pain
- Diabetic complications
Talk to your healthcare provider to learn more about whether CBD oil could be beneficial for you.
How much CBD oil should I take?
The amount of CBD oil an individual should take varies based on the potency of the oil, the type of CBD it uses and desired effects. What’s more, CBD oil effects and absorption rates depend on additional factors, such as a person’s body weight, height and individual metabolism.
Experts generally recommend starting with a low dose and potency and building from there to find the ideal CBD oil dose for you.
What is CBD oil good for?
Scientific research shows CBD oil may have a positive effect on pain levels, anxiety and depression symptoms, sleep, seizure disorders and other conditions. If you’re interested in taking CBD oil to help with a specific health or wellness concern, speak with a provider knowledgeable in CBD about whether CBD oil is a good option for you.
Should I take CBD oil with or without food?
In short, the jury is still out on whether CBD is best paired with food or consumed on its own. Preliminary evidence suggests taking CBD oil with high-fat foods may enhance its absorption and bioavailability, but further research is necessary.
How Much THC is in CBD Oil?
The amount of THC in CBD oil varies depending on the type of CBD used: CBD isolate, broad-spectrum CBD or full-spectrum CBD. Of the three, full-spectrum CBD oil is likely to contain the highest amount of THC, but its contents should remain under the federal limit of .3% by dry weight. CBD isolate contains strictly CBD while broad-spectrum CBD contains additional cannabinoids found in the hemp plant but not THC.
Can CBD oil impact the results of a drug test?
Standard drug tests don’t screen for CBD because it’s not an intoxicating substance, nor is it an illegal controlled substance. However, some CBD products contain trace amounts of THC, which can affect the results of a drug test.
Information provided on Forbes Health is for educational purposes only. Your health and wellness is unique to you, and the products and services we review may not be right for your circumstances. We do not offer individual medical advice, diagnosis or treatment plans. For personal advice, please consult with a medical professional.
Forbes Health adheres to strict editorial integrity standards. To the best of our knowledge, all content is accurate as of the date posted, though offers contained herein may no longer be available. The opinions expressed are the author’s alone and have not been provided, approved or otherwise endorsed by our advertisers.
Alena is a professional writer, editor and manager with a lifelong passion for helping others live well. She is also a registered yoga teacher (RYT-200) and a functional medicine certified health coach. She brings more than a decade of media experience to Forbes Health, with a keen focus on building content strategy, ensuring top content quality and empowering readers to make the best health and wellness decisions for themselves.
Dr. Bindiya Gandhi is a double board-certified integrative and family medicine physician with expertise in functional and holistic medicine. She is the medical director at Revive Atlanta MD, a comprehensive clinic focused on total body healing, including decreasing inflammation, improving hormonal imbalance, helping women get pregnant, weight loss resistance, chronic stress, gut health and more. She has been featured on The Daily Mail, Fox5 Atlanta, CBS46, 11Alive, wsbtv, Popsugar, mindbodygreen, The Washington Post, well+good, Vogue, Parade, Livestrong, HuffPost and more.