When considering the potency of a CBD oil product, most people believe it’s all about the strength of the cannabidiol (CBD) in the product. Certainly, CBD strength is a significant factor—if there’s not enough, it won’t absorb in the bloodstream for the sought-after effects.

But when discussing potency, what we’re really talking about is efficacy, aren’t we? And that involves a lot more than CBD strength. Both formulation and delivery are important factors and then, how well the CBD interacts with your endocannabinoid system (ECS).

In this article, we’ll discuss what you need to know about strength, potency, and the factors that contribute to a CBD oil’s efficacy. First, let’s do a quick review of what CBD oil is.

What Is CBD Oil?

CBD oil comes in four types: isolate, distillate, broad-spectrum, and full spectrum. Each type contains cannabidiol and an oil carrier. The oil carrier is a kind of healthy fat, most commonly cold-pressed hemp seed oil, but can be coconut oil, olive oil, or grapeseed oil.

CBD isolate has only these two ingredients. The kind of oil and amount of CBD can vary, but it’s the purest kind of CBD oil—around 99% CBD crystal suspended in oil.

Distillation is an extraction process that separates and refines cannabinoids at a molecular level. It begins with crude extraction and then refines from there to remove more and more plant compounds until there is roughly 80% CBD. The remaining amount of the extraction will consist of traces of terpenes, minor cannabinoids, and other plant compounds.

Broad-spectrum is the term created to describe full spectrum CBD that has had the THC removed. You may also see it expressed as ‘THC Free’ on a label.

Full-spectrum CBD oil is extracted to preserve the greatest range of beneficial cannabinoids (including THC), terpenes, flavonoids, and other phytonutrients. In the U.S., full-spectrum CBD oil is legal as long as it contains .3% or less THC.

How Is CBD Oil Strength Measured?

The label may tell you the percentage of the CBD in your oil, but that isn’t strength. This reflects more the purity of the CBD in the product. You need to know how much CBD, in milligrams, is in the bottle, so you can divide that by the amount you take to see how much CBD is in your dose.

According to Adie Rae, a cannabis researcher at Legacy Health, for high-potency CBD oil you need at least 35 milligrams per serving. If you are taking an isolate, or pure CBD product, the highest mg/ml amount is going to be the most potent and the most cost-effective.

CBD oil on its own requires higher strength to produce the intended effects and according to Dr. Alex Capano, chief science officer for Ananda Health, “Dosing for CBD is highly individualized and depends on many factors, including personal endocannabinoid tone and why you are using CBD.”

When it comes to full or broad-spectrum CBD oil, potency has more to do with a CBD oil’s efficacy than its strength, which has to do with the formulation. Full-spectrum CBD oil is believed to be more effective at lower doses than CBD isolate because of what experts call “the entourage effect.”

When different cannabinoids like CBD, THC, CBG, CBC, THCV, CBN, and whole-plant players like terpenes and cannaflavins are presented together, they work synergistically to optimize relief and well-being.

Initial research strongly suggests that cannabis plant compounds interact synergistically with receptors in the ECS. A 2017 study demonstrated that low doses of THC:CBD have the potential to treat neuropathic pain in mice. Dr. Ethan Russo has conducted studies that suggest both cannabinoid-cannabinoid synergistic interactions and cannabinoid-terpenoid interactions exist.

Delivery Format Can Affect CBD Oil Potency

When swallowed, CBD has poor bioavailability. If your CBD oil does not absorb into your bloodstream very well, its strength will not matter, and potency goes out the window. You can gulp dozens of mg/ml, but it will only absorb up to a certain amount.

The way around this is the delivery format. Tinctures that can be taken sublingually (under your tongue for 30-60 seconds) will enter your bloodstream through glands in your mouth, bypassing your gut and your liver, where the majority of CBD oil is obliterated or ushered out like waste.

Liposomal CBD, like Puffin Hemp, is a powerhouse of potency. Liposomes are little healthy fat bubbles that bypass the dangerous environment of the gut and liver and deliver CBD into the bloodstream at a much higher rate than regular CBD. You can take a lot less liposomal CBD than regular CBD and have much more effective results because liposomal full spectrum CBD has been designed to be efficient.

If you only need a baseline of CBD (we recommend Ananda Hemp Full Spectrum Softgels) for overall preventative health and wellbeing, swallowing a high-quality CBD oil daily is fine. But if you need potency, you have to think sublingual tincture or liposomal CBD oil.

Quality Can Affect CBD Oil Potency

Whatever a label says, quality matters most. There are several things to keep in mind when shopping for a CBD oil.

It’s important to know where the hemp was sourced because hemp is a bio-accumulator, which means it cleans out soil by leaching impurities from it. The hemp plant can literally be used to purify the soil.

You should always have proof your product was tested. Make sure it has a certificate of analysis (COA, which should be available either with the product or on the manufacturer’s or seller’s website.

Mislabeling can be a problem, which is another reason to confirm there is a COA for your product. In a 2018 study on the effects of artisanal CBD for the treatment of epilepsy, researchers stated that a key concern and challenge to their results was the variability that mislabeled CBD products introduced.

Good brands will make all of this information, their practices, processes and the source of their ingredients available. Their team will have backgrounds in science, hemp experience, and food-manufacturing know-how.

The Takeaway About CBD Oil Potency

Remember to look for a full-spectrum CBD oil in tincture form, which goes under the tongue or a liposomal form that you swallow. Always choose a high-quality product you can verify yourself.