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Is Your CBD Worth Your Hard-Earned Money? Decoding Certificates of Analysis (COA)

Written by: AtoZ Botanicals Staff



Time to read 7 min

Ever wondered if your CBD is worth the price tag?

With an industry booming like never before, there's a sea of products out there - and not all are created equal.

With more folks interested in CBD, it's important to pick the right products — ones that are strong, clean, and exactly what they claim to be. That's where the CBD Certificate of Analysis (COA) comes in, serving as your comprehensive guide to what's truly inside a CBD product. Deciphering a COA might initially appear daunting, but this blog post simplifies it, empowering you to navigate a COA like a pro.

With A to Z Botanicals, there's no more second-guessing: let’s learn how to spot quality, avoid pitfalls, and make informed decisions that give you the best bang for your buck.

What is a Certificate of Analysis (COA)?

A Certificate of Analysis (COA) is essentially a report card for CBD products. It's issued by an independent laboratory and provides a detailed breakdown of what's inside the product—everything from the concentration of CBD and other cannabinoids to the presence of any harmful contaminants like pesticides or heavy metals. 

Having a COA is crucial because it ensures the product you're using is safe, of high quality, and contains exactly what it claims to, giving you peace of mind and confidence in your choice of CBD products for your wellness routine.

Why Third-Party Lab Testing Matters

Third-party lab testing is a cornerstone of trust and transparency in the CBD industry. When we mention "independent labs," we're talking about laboratories that have no affiliation with the manufacturers or companies selling CBD products. This means the testing results are objective, unbiased, and reliable.

Independent labs not only measure the potency of CBD and other cannabinoids to ensure the product contains the exact amount advertised, but also screen for THC, the cannabis plant’s psychoactive compound.

This is especially important for those needing to avoid THC for personal, health, or legal reasons.

Third-party labs meticulously test for contaminants - pesticides, heavy metals, and microbiological substances like bacteria or mold - in CBD products. These tests ensure that harmful substances are either absent or below safe levels, safeguarding your health.

At A to Z Botanicals, we prioritize quality, safety, and transparency. We collaborate with trusted labs for stringent and regular testing of all product batches, thereby confirming their purity, potency, and safety. Not just a regulatory obligation, this rigorous process is crucial to our promise of reliable products.

We provide open access to all our Certificate of Analysis (COA) results, empowering you with the necessary knowledge for informed decisions about your CBD products

Understanding and Reading COA Parts

Here's a simplified guide to help you understand the main parts of a COA.

Cannabinoid Profile

This core section of the COA lists the concentrations of cannabinoids such as CBD, THC, CBG, and CBC. It reveals the product’s strength or potency.

How to Read: Look for high CBD levels for therapeutic benefits. Check THC content for legality (should be below 0.3%) and to avoid psychoactive effects. Other cannabinoids can suggest wider benefits due to the entourage effect.

Terpene Profile

Terpenes, the aromatic compounds found in hemp, contribute to the product’s scent and can affect its therapeutic properties. This section lists detected terpenes and their concentrations.

How to Read: Each terpene has unique effects, such as myrcene for relaxation or limonene for mood enhancement. Identifying terpenes helps predict the product's potential effects and aromas.

Contaminant Testing

This section of the test verifies the purity and safety of your CBD by checking for harmful substances like pesticides, heavy metals, microbes, mycotoxins, and residual solvents.


The COA should show that the CBD product in question has been tested for a range of pesticides. 
Ideally, these should be absent ("Not Detected"). Consuming pesticides, whether in CBD or another plant, can be harmful to your health causing reactions or long-term negative effects. Levels should be negligible or significantly below acceptable limits.

Heavy Metals: 

The COA should confirm that the product has been tested for heavy metals like lead, arsenic, mercury, and cadmium. Lead or mercury can accumulate in your body causing severe health problems. Choose products with no detectable metals or those with minuscule amounts that pose no harm.

Microbial Contaminants: 

Undesirable organisms like yeast, mold, E.Coli, and Salmonella can cause immediate illnesses such as gastrointestinal infections. Test results should confirm their absence in your product.

Residual Solvents: 

Chemicals used in the extraction process can linger in the product and can be harmful. The tests should indicate either their absence or presence in harmless quantities.

industrial hemp field


These are toxins produced by fungi, and the product should be tested to ensure these are not present.

What Those Safety Limits Mean:

Safety limits dictate acceptable contaminant levels in CBD. Each harmful substance has a maximum allowable limit that won't compromise health.

  • Low Levels: Minor contamination may not be alarming, but it's beneficial to be aware, particularly for frequent CBD users.

  • Near the Limit: If a product's contaminants are close to the limit, reconsider its use, especially if you're sensitive or plan on daily usage.

  • Exceeding the Limit: Avoid products surpassing safety limits. The potential health risks outweigh any benefits.

Additional COA Components

Product Potency: Confirms the amount of CBD and potentially other cannabinoids, helping gauge the product's strength and ensuring it matches advertised potency.

Batch or Lot Number: Links the COA to the specific product batch, ensuring relevance and accuracy.

Date of Testing: Recent testing dates reflect the current quality and safety of the product.

Accreditation of the Lab: Verifies the reliability of the testing facility and the credibility of the COA results.

How Do I Verify a COA?

Is the COA available legitimate? Here’s what to look for:

Check the Laboratory's Accreditation

Ensure that the COA was issued by a lab accredited in accordance with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). Specifically, look for ISO/IEC 17025:2017 accreditation, which is the international standard for testing and calibration laboratories. This accreditation means the lab has met rigorous standards for technical competence and quality management systems.

Cross-Verify the Batch Number

Every COA should include a batch number that corresponds to a specific production run of a product. Cross-verify this number with the one printed on your product's packaging. If they match, it's a good sign that the COA is authentic.

Check the Date of Test

Look at the date when the test was conducted. It should be relatively recent to ensure the results are still relevant to the product you're purchasing. If the test date is more than a year old, consider reaching out to the manufacturer for an updated report.

Review the Analyzed Compounds

The COA should provide detailed information about the analyzed compounds, including cannabinoids, terpenes, and potential contaminants. If the COA lacks this information, it might not be thorough or reliable.

Woman working in a lab

Confirm with the Lab

If you're still unsure about the COA's authenticity, don't hesitate to contact the laboratory directly. They should be able to confirm whether they tested the product and issued the COA.

Remember, a genuine COA is a mark of transparency from the CBD manufacturer. It shows they are committed to providing safe and high-quality products. Therefore, it's worth taking the time to verify the authenticity of a COA before purchasing a CBD product.

“If you don’t do what’s best for your body, you’re the one who comes up on the short end.”

- Julius Erving

What If a Product Doesn't Have a COA?

Using a CBD product without a Certificate of Analysis (COA) can put you at risk for:

  1. Unknown Ingredients : Without a COA, you won't know for certain what's in your CBD product. It could contain harmful substances like heavy metals, pesticides, or residual solvents from the extraction process.

  1. Inaccurate CBD Concentration : The product might not contain the amount of CBD advertised on the label. This can lead to ineffective dosing, which means you might not get the anticipated benefits from using the product.

  1. Presence of THC : If the product contains more THC (the psychoactive compound in cannabis) than allowed by law, you could unknowingly ingest it. This might lead to unexpected psychoactive effects and could have legal implications in some areas.

  1. Health Risks : Without a COA, you cannot confirm whether the product has been tested for microbial contaminants. Consuming a product with harmful bacteria or mold can pose serious health risks.

  1. Poor Quality : A missing COA often indicates a lack of transparency from the company, which could be a sign of poor quality control practices.

CBD oil tincture

The Takeaway: Shop for CBD with Confidence

It's time to take the reins of your CBD journey. You're now equipped with the knowledge to make informed decisions, ensuring every dollar spent brings value to your well-being. 

A COA is not just a technical document; it's your assurance of the product's safety, potency, and authenticity. Armed with the knowledge from this blog post, you are now equipped to interpret COAs, spot high-quality CBD products, avoid potential pitfalls, and make informed decisions.

Remember, your health and well-being deserve the best. So, next time you browse CBD products, don't forget to check its COA - you're not just investing money, you're investing in your health. When it comes to your wellness, there's no room for compromise.

Take the next step in your CBD journey with A to Z Botanicals today, where every product is a promise kept.

“When health is absent, wisdom cannot reveal itself, art cannot manifest, strength cannot fight, wealth becomes useless, and intelligence cannot be applied.”

– Herophilus

“When health is absent, wisdom cannot reveal itself, art cannot manifest, strength cannot fight, wealth becomes useless, and intelligence cannot be applied.”

– Herophilus

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