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How to Spot Fake CBD Oil? 7 Signs to Look For

How to Spot Fake CBD Oil? 7 Signs to Look For

Fake CBD oil made national headlines in 2018 when fraudulent products caused a slew of health issues in Utah consumers.1 That was the same year the Farm bill that legalized CBD was passed. Since then, CBD products have positively flooded the market.

Fake CBD products aside, CBD’s legalization has been to our advantage. The potential benefits of cannabidiols are rich and varied, from fostering a better night’s sleep to supporting our overall wellness.2 

Respectable, legitimate companies offering high-quality, hemp-derived CBD products abound, and with products ranging from CBD gummies to CBD oil, there’s almost a guarantee you’ll find an avenue of delivery that’ll suit your preferences and lifestyle.

But there are just as many counterfeit CBD retailers out there. With fake CBD products lurking on the shelves, how can you tell what’s bogus and how do you know what to look for when buying CBD? Read on for 7 savvy ways to detect CBD oil imposters.

#1 Extravagant Medical Claims

CBD products containing less than 0.03% of THC are legal at the federal level, but only one CBD product has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).3

As the FDA themselves note, some CBD products loudly tout unproven, outrageous medical claims (our words, not theirs). 

If the CBD oil that’s languishing in your online cart insists it has the power to “cure” depression or “treat” anxiety, keep it there. Only prescription drugs can legally make medical claims, and declarations on supplements are prohibited by the FDA and the Federal Trade Commission. 

But how does this happen? The FDA does not regulate advertising on non-prescription supplements and CBD products.4 

To sum it up, the more outlandish the assertion, the warier you should be.

#2. …And Other Misrepresentations on the Label

When it comes to CBD products, there are three different types:

  • Full-spectrum CBD – This form of CBD features all of the parts of the hemp plant, including trace amounts (0.03% or less) of THC.

  • Broad-spectrum CBD – Broad-spectrum CBD also contains all of the constituents of the plant, with the exception of THC.

  • CBD isolate – A CBD isolate separates cannabidiols from the other parts of the hemp plant to give you pure CBD.

  • How to spot fake CBD oil comes down in part to these factors. 

    It would be inaccurate for a product to vow that it’s both full-spectrum and THC-free. Similarly, a full-spectrum CBD oil wouldn’t be colorless because plant materials are present. Instead, it would have a darker hue. A bona fide product will list the CBD type and its potency—and have the appearance to match it.

    #3 No Sight of a Certificate of Analysis (COA)

    One of the fastest ways to tell real CBD oil vs fake apart is the presence or lack of a Certificate of Analysis (COA). A COA demonstrates that the product has been audited by an objective third party for:

    • THC levels 
    • CBD concentrations
    • Contaminants, such as pesticides and heavy metals, which must be under a certain amount to pass 

    A COA also provides information on how the product was tested and includes the product batch number. No sign of a COA around? Consider it a red flag—it’s either a sign that the CBD oil is fake or that the CBD company is cutting corners wherever they can to make a profit. 

    This might translate to accidentally using an oil that contains bacteria and mold at best. At worst? Honestly, we don’t want to know. 

    #4 The Wrong Scent

    Genuine CBD oil carries notes of cannabis, an aroma most describe as “earthy.” 

    Sense (literally) something else? 

    Unless the CBD is purposefully made with a different compound, such as Peels’ citrus-derived CBD oil, you might have proof of an imitation right under your nose.

    #5 Too-Good-To-Be-True Cost

    There’s certainly nothing wrong with searching for a bargain. But a CBD oil that’s ridiculously underpriced may seem fishy because it is

    A quality product tends to be competitively priced because of the costs associated with producing a great product—namely, the specialized equipment required for extraction and the staff to manage it.5 Other factors that contribute to the price of CBD oil include:

    • The cost to grow hemp
    • Quality control
    • Testing

    You wouldn't consume almond milk that goes for 25 cents a gallon, now, would you?

    #6 A Surplus of Ingredients

    A shady retailer might mix a bunch of other stuff with CBD oil to stretch out their supply and turn a profit. A solid CBD oil will contain CBD and a carrier oil such as hemp seed oil (which is different from CBD oil), MCT oil, olive oil, or another quality carrier. 

    Step away from products that also contain:

    • Sweeteners
    • Preservatives
    • Thickeners

    #7 Clear or Plastic Packaging

    CBD oil—we mean, the authentic kind—is sold in airtight, dark-hued glass bottles to block light, prolong its shelf-life, preserve its potency, and prevent it from degrading, although there are others things to consider when it comes to how to store CBD oil. Plastic, on the other hand, is prone to breaking down, which could contaminate the oil. The label on the bottle should also include the oil’s expiration date.

    Is Fake CBD Oil Common?

    Counterfeit CBD oil is more prevalent than you might imagine (or not—we all know humans are notorious for capitalizing on trends). Data reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association discovered that:6

    • 40% of CBD products procured online do not contain the level of compounds they have featured on their labels
    • Approximately 26% of products featured higher concentrations than advertised 

    More recently, a 2020 study conducted by SC Laboratories and the United Cannabis Business Association (UCBA) examined the ingredients of 17 CBD samples obtained from unlicensed sellers in California. They found several shocking statistics, including:7

    • A significant portion of the products contained levels of THC high enough to cause, well, a high
    • 70% of the samples didn’t pass testing standards for either not containing hemp or for an abundance of contaminants

    Alarming, right? Here’s why.

    Why Should I Be Concerned About Fake CBD Oil?

    The unscrupulousness of a retailer that peddles fake CBD oil is disturbing enough, but using fraudulent oil could result in a number of scenarios. 

    A product that contains more THC than its label “assures” could cause you to fail a drug test. It could also induce intoxication (and at the worst possible time). 

    If the oil contains higher concentrations, you may inadvertently ingest more than intended. This could dial up the chances of experiencing adverse side effects, such as:8

    • Fatigue 
    • Diarrhea
    • Appetite and weight changes

    Alternatively, if the oil contains less CBD than promised or is made out of hemp seed oil but marketed as CBD, you may not experience the benefits that are specific to cannabidiols.9

    cbd oil without thc

    How Do I Find a Solid and Legit CBD Oil?

    All of this is not to say that every company that’s presently selling CBD oil is the equivalent of a modern-day snake oil salesman. But the onus of separating the wheat from the chaff is on you, the CBD users. To that end:

  • Select a trustworthy company – The CBD company you choose to buy from should have strict testing protocols with third-party evaluations performed by an ISO 17025-compliant laboratory. You can also check out this list of companies that have been approved by the U.S. Hemp Authority. Furthermore, they should be transparent about where their plants are grown and if their extraction processes meet Good Manufacturing Practices’ standards. If you're still uncertain if you’re getting what you’re paying for, let alone consuming it, consider dialing into the company’s customer service. With a fly-by-the-night retailer, you might not get anything but a dial tone. A sound retailer, however, will be happy to answer any questions you might have about their product.10

  • Look for a QR codeReputable retailers have an earnest desire to educate their CBD users and will include a QR code on their bottles that directs them to additional information, such as if the oil is full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, or a CBD isolate.

  • Choose a product that’s made with industrial hemp – Using a CBD oil that’s derived from industrial hemp isn’t a guarantee that it won’t contain THC, especially if you opt for a full-spectrum oil. That said, you’ll decrease your chances of consuming THC by going with an oil that’s not made with marijuana—or, if it's a disreputable retailer, who knows what.

  • Slash Your CBD Oil Concerns with PEELS

    No one likes duplicity, particularly when it comes to products that are meant to encourage health, balance, and vitality. And yet, the more popular CBD oil becomes, the more you might encounter forgeries.

    Instead, take any and all worries out of your purchasing decision with Peels CBD

    Our CBD oil is created from citrus peels to give you the wellness benefits of a stamp-approved CBD oil, only without even the slightest margin of error. Whether you are choosing between our CBD oil vs gummies, you can rest assured that our products are 100% THC-free and safe for use.

    Peels is the real deal. Come check us out to feel, taste, and experience the difference.


    1. CBS News. 52 people sickened by fake cbd oil in Utah.
    2. The Permanente Journal. Cannabidiol in anxiety and sleep: a large case study.
    3. What you need to know (and what we’re working to find out) about products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds, including cbd.
    4. ICLG. Pharmaceutical laws and regulations 2022.
    5. Real Simple. Why is cbd so expensive? Plus, how to be sure you’re buying from a safe supplier.
    6. Chicago Tribune. Why that cbd oil you just bought might be fake.
    7. Reader’s Digest. Warning signs a cbd product is fake.
    8. Healthline. 6 health benefits of cbd oil–and a look at side effects.
    9. Forbes. Hemp seed oil vs. cbd oil: what’s the difference?
    10. Forbes. How do you know if your cbd is legit? How Do You Know If Your CBD Is Legit? (