JULY '20

How to Read a Certificate of Analysis

Just like packaged foods and vitamin supplements, not all hemp oils are created equal. The key to knowing what's in the tincture or salve you're using is to read the Certificate of Analysis (COA).


Health-conscious people are easy to spot at the grocery store. They're the ones pausing in the aisles to read the ingredients and nutritional values of the products they're buying. Foods packed with high fructose corn syrup are out. Minimally processed foods with beneficial nutrients are in.

When it comes to selecting the best hemp-based wellness products, you should exercise the same judgment. Just like packaged foods and vitamin supplements, not all hemp oils are created equal. The key to knowing what's in the tincture or salve you're using is to read the Certificate of Analysis (COA). If the manufacturer doesn't make this information readily available, that's reason enough to steer clear.

The Certificate of Analysis provides a breakdown of the cannabinoids and contaminants (or lack thereof) in hemp oil products. This lab report lets you verify that the product contents match what is advertised and can help protect your health and safety. Some companies, like Simple ChangesTM, include a QR code on all their product labels, which can be scanned with any smartphone to open the COA for the specific batch ("lot") of ingredients used in that product. Other manufacturers post the lab report on their website, or will make it available upon request by the consumer.

Of course, having access to the Certificate of Analysis does little good if you don't know how to read it. Here are four key things to look for when reviewing the COA for a hemp oil product:

  1. Third-Party Testing. The integrity of the data can come into question when the same company selling the product is vouching for its quality. Although some manufacturers do their lab testing in-house, a third-party laboratory test helps ensure there is no bias in the report and provides greater transparency to the consumer.
  2. Cannabinoid Profile. Full-spectrum hemp oil products must contain more than just CBD. The Certificate of Analysis should indicate at least small amounts of other cannabinoids, such as CBG, CBC, and/or CBN. You should also verify that the cannabinoid levels match the labeling; for example, 1oz (30ml) of liquid hemp extract with an advertised 750mg of cannabinoids should contain 25mg (750/30 = 25) of cannabinoids per milliliter. In addition, double-check that the oil contains less than 0.3% THC, to ensure that there are no psychoactive side effects. Anything above this level is classified as marijuana, which is not legal in every state.
  3. Pesticide and Microbial Analysis. Just like buying organic produce that is free of pesticides, choosing organically grown hemp can help you avoid adding toxins to your body or skin. The COA for organic hemp oil will include a section listing the levels of pesticides commonly used in farming, and should indicate that they were not detected (N/D), below the level of detection (B/LOD), or below the level of quantification (B/LOQ) to confirm the purity of the product. Similarly, the Microbial Analysis section of the report will indicate the detection or absence of dangerous microorganisms, like E.coli or salmonella, to confirm that oral products are safe to consume.
  4. Heavy Metal Analysis. Mercury, lead, and other heavy metals are harmful to the body. Check this section of the COA to ensure that no the lab did not detect significant levels of heavy metals that could result from the extraction process during manufacturing. As with the pesticide and microbial sections, look for N/D, B/LOQ or B/LOD readings, or another indication that the levels detected are below the allowed safety limit.

As state and federal regulators strive to stay on top of the booming cannabis industry, consumers carry an extra burden of doing their due diligence when purchasing any hemp oil product. At Simple Changes, we monitor all of our products "from soil to oil" and empower customers by providing a QR code for the COA on all product labels. The lab reports also are posted with the product descriptions on our website. If you have any questions about any of our products, we invite you to contact us using the form at the bottom of our homepage.