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What is in your "natural" CBD product?

Updated: Jul 21, 2020

We've all heard claims of benefit from CBD products, however many don't realize that cannabis (hemp & marijuana) absorbs heavy metals, and agricultural chemicals in soil such as pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. Many companies do not have processes and procedures in place that ensure their product is free from contaminants and is actually the concentration that is listed on the label. Don’t believe this is a real issue? Read on!

Consequences Due to Lack of Regulation

Due to a lack of regulation, hemp products have the potential for significant risks. Unfortunately, due to the phytoremediation properties of hemp, contaminants and formulation errors are common and often go unnoticed. For example, a recent study by Cornell University showed 10 out of 29 CBD products tested were within 10% of the concentration on the label.  That same study also showed that heavy metal contaminants were found in 4 out of 29 products.19 Stop and read that again – because it means that only 34% of the most popular CBD’s were even the correct concentration. Never mind those with contamination issues…Yikes!

Spoiler alert: these are some of the most popular pet CBD supplements on the market today. Most of them are sold locally to Cheshire – so you may want to pay attention.

Lack of regulation for CBD means that companies who are NOT members of the NASC are not required to test raw ingredients or finished products for contaminants or adequacy. Heavy metal contamination, poor sourcing, and/or formulation errors could potentially be a contributing factor to elevated liver function testing and other documented adverse effects relating to hemp & CBD use. This highlights the need to screen companies for adequate product testing and transparency. The reality is that a very small handful of companies can provide verification that their products are contaminant-free, or within concentrations listed on the label.

Ask Questions Verifying Quality:

When looking for a CBD product, or any supplement for yourself or your pets you must ask the following questions:

  • Are you a member of the NASC? (pets only)

  • Do you inbound test your raw and concentrated ingredients for contaminants such as heavy metals, fertilizers, and other agricultural chemicals?

  • Do you test your raw ingredients specifically active ingredients to ensure their concentrations are correct?

  • Do you source any ingredients from China?

    • Are you willing to provide certificates of origin?

    • Note that ingredients from China are not necessarily bad if they are responsibly sourced, and they are verifying quality and purity.

  • Do you complete an analysis of your final product to ensure the formulation is correct and ensure there are not any contamination issues? This is important to ensure that active ingredients match the label.

If companies are unwilling to transparently ask these questions or use the excuse of information being proprietary, I would strongly suggest that you find another brand. Not being transparent or testing products when it comes to ensuring safety is unacceptable. Brands that are not meeting these standards could potentially be poisoning the market for other companies who do their due diligence. As consumers, demand better.


CBD may have its benefits when well-sourced and formulated. While more research is needed, this is a common problem for a lot of supplements and pharmaceuticals on the market. Overall, the risk of adverse effects appears to be low, but consideration should be taken for those pets who may have liver problems.

Some veterinarians are well educated in the CBD landscape and available products, and some simply are not. If your vet is unable to provide information or recommend products it is ok to ask them for someone who can. Many reputable companies do have veterinarians and scientists on-staff that you or your veterinarian may also be able to speak to for more information.

As always, this is a rapidly evolving field. We expect to see changes as the FDA and AVMA begin to release more guidance and information in this area. We also will see more research regarding safety, efficacy, and other applications as time goes on. While it can be frustrating to see both advice and information change, remember this is a good thing and something you should embrace and support!

Did you miss part I, II, III of this series?


  1. Sawler J, Stout JM, Gardner KM, et al. The Genetic Structure of Marijuana and Hemp. PLoS ONE. 2015;10(8). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0133292

  2. Marijuana, the Second Trip. Revised Edition by Bloomquist, Edward R.: Good PAPERBACK | Earthlight Books. Accessed June 3, 2020.

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  5. Mackie K. Cannabinoid Receptors: Where They are and What They do. J Neuroendocrinol. 2008;20(s1):10-14. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2826.2008.01671.x

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  7. Levinsohn EA, Hill KP. Clinical uses of cannabis and cannabinoids in the United States. J Neurol Sci. 2020;411:116717. doi:10.1016/j.jns.2020.116717

  8. Mechanisms of CB1 receptor signaling: endocannabinoid modulation of synaptic strength | International Journal of Obesity. Accessed June 5, 2020.

  9. Commissioner O of the. FDA Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products, Including Cannabidiol (CBD). FDA. Published online March 10, 2020. Accessed June 4, 2020.

  10. Commissioner O of the. FDA Warns Companies Illegally Selling CBD Products to Treat Medical Conditions, Opioid Addiction. FDA. Published April 26, 2020. Accessed June 6, 2020.

  11. How CBD pet product brands avoid federal warnings. Accessed June 12, 2020.

  12. Drug Scheduling. Accessed June 6, 2020.

  13. AVMA weighs in at cannabis hearing. American Veterinary Medical Association. Accessed June 17, 2020.

  14. FAQs. NASC LIVE. Accessed June 13, 2020.

  15. Resnik DB. Beyond post-marketing research and MedWatch: Long-term studies of drug risks. Drug Des Devel Ther. 2007;1:1-5.

  16. Deabold KA, Schwark WS, Wolf L, Wakshlag JJ. Single-Dose Pharmacokinetics and Preliminary Safety Assessment with Use of CBD-Rich Hemp Nutraceutical in Healthy Dogs and Cats. Animals. 2019;9(10):832. doi:10.3390/ani9100832

  17. McGrath S, Bartner LR, Rao S, Kogan LR, Hellyer PW. A Report of Adverse Effects Associated With the Administration of Cannabidiol in Healthy Dogs. :5.

  18. Commissioner O of the. What You Need to Know (And What We’re Working to Find Out) About Products Containing Cannabis or Cannabis-derived Compounds, Including CBD. FDA. Published online March 3, 2020. Accessed June 12, 2020.

  19. Wakshlag JJ, Cital S, Eaton SJ, Prussin R, Hudalla C. Cannabinoid, Terpene, and Heavy Metal Analysis of 29 Over-the-Counter Commercial Veterinary Hemp Supplements. Vet Med Res Rep. 2020;11:45-55. doi:10.2147/VMRR.S248712

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