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I'm finding mislabeled hemp extracts all over the place: Wrong CBD numbers, bad science, counterfeits and more


(NaturalNews) I've just completed a six-month effort to develop a new analytical methodology for analyzing cannabidiols in hemp extracts. Soon, you'll see the methodology my science lab team developed, which quantitates high-concentration CBD and CBDA alongside low-concentration THC, CBN and CBG molecules found in hemp, all in a single analytical run.

This methodology is based on LC/MS-TOF instrumentation, which is an extremely powerful mass spec instrument with a very wide sensitivity range.

In developing this methodology, I've already begun to encounter false and misleading CBD content claims on some products in the marketplace. In the worst case we found, one very prominent hemp extract manufacturer was making a CBD claim which was over 500% higher than the actual CBD content found in their product.

On the good news side, we also found several CBD products which were very accurately labeled. One such product claimed to be 25% CBD, and that company provided testing documentation showing 24% CBD. The tests I carried out on the product at CWC Labs -- where I serve as the lab science director -- determined the CBD content to be a little over 26%. (These numbers are all within an acceptable range of slight measurement error.)


The biggest "ah-ha" from all this is the realization that many hemp extract manufacturers don't yet have a good handle on controlling the exact ratio of CBD (cannabidiol) vs. CBDA (cannabidiolic acid) in their products. CBDA, the carboxylated form of CBD, is what the hemp plant grows in its own tissues. When CBDA is heated, it "decarboxylates" into mostly CBD by shedding the carboxlyic acid branch of the CBDA molecule.

CBD is the molecule most people associate with treatments for seizures, epilepsy, nerve problems and so on, but CBDA has also been studied as a treatment for cancer and other conditions. Thus, both CBD and CBDA have unique therapeutic properties, according to my research.

So far, the whole hemp extract samples we've analyzed have relatively poor control over CBD vs. CBDA concentrations. While they may have a "total" concentration of, for example, 10% of the extract solution, it's difficult for manufacturers to control what portion of that 10% is CBD vs. CBDA. This is because CBDA decarboxylation can occur during processing, or even while the product is sitting on the shelf.

Based on all the chemistry I've learned on this subject, the reaction only works in one direction in the extract, by the way. CBDA "denatures" into CBD, but you cannot have CBD sitting on the shelf and expect it to generate CBDA. That's not the direction of the chemistry.

Some hemp extract companies sell products which they claim are "decarboxylated," meaning they have been exposed to a heat treatment in order to denature the CBDA and cause it to decompose into CBD. This heat process, by the way, does not require very high heat if you're willing to wait for a longer duration. Thus, there are "mild" ways to decarboxlyate hemp extracts, taking time and patience to achieve the end result.

THC, by the way, is automatically decarboxylated when cannabis is smoked. The heat of the combustion process achieves a near-instant decarboxylation during inhlation. Because THC is not psychoactive in its carboxylated form (THCA), this is obviously a very important feature of igniting and inhaling cannabis for those pursuing medical marijuana treatment avenues. (I don't deal with THC in my laboratory. Our focus is on non-psychoactive components only.)

So which brands can you really trust?

I'm not yet at the point in my research to have completed an industry-wide analysis of branded products. Such an effort would take many more months and would cost a considerable amount of money in time, resources and product samples. Frankly, I'm not even sure when I'm going to have time to conduct such an analysis, because I'm working on pesticides right now.

What I can tell you so far is that some CBD brands are NOT honest about their CBD content. I've seen this very clearly in the analytical testing. This probably shouldn't be a big surprise to informed people, as CBD extracts are typically sold at very high prices ($200+ per bottle) and therefore the profit potential for scammers and con artists is extremely high.

But it's actually more than just scammers behind all this. I've also discovered that almost nobody in the scientific community knows how to test hemp extracts with acceptable accuracy.

Bad science produces bad numbers

Most hemp analysis labs I've seen so far are using extremely inaccurate liquid chromatography (LC) methods, often with UV detection in a diode array. This LC-DAD approach to hemp analysis is fraught with enormous analytical pitfalls, including the ability to be easily fooled by counterfeit molecules that might appear to be CBD but are actually adulterants.

For example, LC analysis cannot measure the accurate molecular mass of compounds of interest. Various "peaks" in the chromatogram are "interpreted" by lab technicians to be CBD, or CBDA, or THC, etc. Yet these peaks are not proof of molecular identity. Counterfeit chemicals can co-elute with CBD, emerging from chromatography columns with the same retention times as CBD, creating the illusion that a product contains CBD when it really doesn't.

Only a mass spec analysis carried out in conjunction with liquid chromatography can tell you the truth about the molecule you're seeing. And by the way, most single quad or triple quad mass spec instruments lack the ppm resolution to really measure accurate mass to the degree needed for this application. For example, the accurate mass (M+H) of CBD is 315.2319, yet many single quad mass spec instruments can only detect masses at full integers such as "315." (The reason these numbers aren't 314 is because of the extra hydrogen achieved via ionization, hence the term "M+H".)

It also turns out that THC and CBD have the exact same molecular mass of 315.2319 (M+H). This means that separation of the molecules during chromatography is necessary to gather reliable retention times that cleanly separate the chromatography peaks. With good chemistry methods, it's straightforward to separate CBD and THC, providing clean peaks. The mass spec component confirms their molecular masses, and ion fragmentation in negative mode can also show different fragmentation "fingerprints" that further confirm the identities of the molecules.

Yet every time I talk to someone in the industry about all this, none of the other scientists seem to have any familiarity with all this because they've never taken it this far. They're still stuck in the stone age of hemp analysis, using LC-DAD instruments and being easily tricked by counterfeits and scam artists.

In fact, I don't know of anyone else on the planet who has developed an LC/MS-TOF method for accurate quantitation of hemp extracts along with confirmation of molecules to identify counterfeits. This is totally shocking to me, and it confirmed that the hemp industry is flying loose with its science and its compositional claims.

Truth be told, it is my belief that many hemp "science" labs have no freaking clue what they are doing, which is why they get wildly different results when analyzing the same substance multiple times. Even GC-MS analysis has enormous problems, too, such as the simple fact that CBDA is denatured into CBD during the gas phase transition of the GC analysis, thus creating completely wrong CBD quantitation results which don't represent the original composition in the liquid sample.

How to avoid getting ripped off

In terms of action items for consumers, I don't want people to get ripped off or tricked by counterfeiters or junk science purveyors. So I plan to either authenticate a couple of brands of CBD products or possibly launch my own label which will of course be authenticated for every production lot (I haven't decided the exact course of action yet).

My core intention is that I would like to help support honest hemp extract producers and help customers get the full value of what they think they're paying for. I think it's also important to expose the frauds and counterfeiters in the industry, although the FDA is also doing some of this work right now and issuing warning letters to products with inaccurate composition claims. (Sadly, the FDA won't tell us what lab methodology they are using, which means it's even possible the FDA could be WRONG about their analyses. Until I find out the FDA's method, I can't tell you if it's really legit. Sometimes even the FDA scientists aren't correct...)

Stay tuned to Natural News for more updates on the CBD front. I'll be publishing a science poster soon, followed by a number of scientific papers that we'll submit for consideration in various science journals. We've already achieved some really novel breakthroughs in CBD analysis, and like everything else, the more I learn, the more shocked I am at the inaccuracy I'm uncovering in the industry.

Buyer beware

BOTTOM LINE: Don't trust hemp extracts by default. Many producers are either:

1) Deliberately adulterating their products.
2) Engaged in really bad science that gives them the wrong numbers on their product composition.

I have a method right now that can tell the difference and provide FOUR levels of molecular confirmation with full quantitation. Those are:

1) Retention time
2) Accurate mass
3) Isotopic spread
4) Ion fragmentation

To my knowledge, nobody else in the world is doing this. If you know somebody who is, please ask them to get in touch with me so we can compare notes. I would like to bring more accurate science to the hemp industry so that hemp products can be accurately represented and achieve greater trust among consumers. But right now, there's too much "Wild West" wishy-washiness in the hemp industry for my comfort level.

Because "Look, dude! This amped up my brain like nothing else!" doesn't count as "science."

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About the author:Mike Adams (aka the "Health Ranger") is a best selling author (#1 best selling science book on Amazon.com) and a globally recognized scientific researcher in clean foods. He serves as the founding editor of NaturalNews.com and the lab science director of an internationally accredited (ISO 17025) analytical laboratory known as CWC Labs. There, he was awarded a Certificate of Excellence for achieving extremely high accuracy in the analysis of toxic elements in unknown water samples using ICP-MS instrumentation. Adams is also highly proficient in running liquid chromatography, ion chromatography and mass spectrometry time-of-flight analytical instrumentation.

Adams is a person of color whose ancestors include Africans and Native American Indians. He's also of Native American heritage, which he credits as inspiring his "Health Ranger" passion for protecting life and nature against the destruction caused by chemicals, heavy metals and other forms of pollution.

Adams is the founder and publisher of the open source science journal Natural Science Journal, the author of numerous peer-reviewed science papers published by the journal, and the author of the world's first book that published ICP-MS heavy metals analysis results for foods, dietary supplements, pet food, spices and fast food. The book is entitled Food Forensics and is published by BenBella Books.

In his laboratory research, Adams has made numerous food safety breakthroughs such as revealing rice protein products imported from Asia to be contaminated with toxic heavy metals like lead, cadmium and tungsten. Adams was the first food science researcher to document high levels of tungsten in superfoods. He also discovered over 11 ppm lead in imported mangosteen powder, and led an industry-wide voluntary agreement to limit heavy metals in rice protein products.

In addition to his lab work, Adams is also the (non-paid) executive director of the non-profit Consumer Wellness Center (CWC), an organization that redirects 100% of its donations receipts to grant programs that teach children and women how to grow their own food or vastly improve their nutrition. Through the non-profit CWC, Adams also launched Nutrition Rescue, a program that donates essential vitamins to people in need. Click here to see some of the CWC success stories.

With a background in science and software technology, Adams is the original founder of the email newsletter technology company known as Arial Software. Using his technical experience combined with his love for natural health, Adams developed and deployed the content management system currently driving NaturalNews.com. He also engineered the high-level statistical algorithms that power SCIENCE.naturalnews.com, a massive research resource featuring over 10 million scientific studies.

Adams is well known for his incredibly popular consumer activism video blowing the lid on fake blueberries used throughout the food supply. He has also exposed "strange fibers" found in Chicken McNuggets, fake academic credentials of so-called health "gurus," dangerous "detox" products imported as battery acid and sold for oral consumption, fake acai berry scams, the California raw milk raids, the vaccine research fraud revealed by industry whistleblowers and many other topics.

Adams has also helped defend the rights of home gardeners and protect the medical freedom rights of parents. Adams is widely recognized to have made a remarkable global impact on issues like GMOs, vaccines, nutrition therapies, human consciousness.

In addition to his activism, Adams is an accomplished musician who has released over a dozen popular songs covering a variety of activism topics.

Click here to read a more detailed bio on Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, at HealthRanger.com.

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