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What is a COA and How Do I Read It?

05/16/2021
by David Bray

If you use CBD, it’s important that you trust the brand and the product. After all, the last thing you’d want to do is throw your money away on a CBD tincture that isn’t what it says it is. That’s where a COA comes in. Here’s everything you need to know about CBD COAs and how to read them.

What Does COA Stand For, and What Is It?

COA stands for “Certificate of Analysis.” It’s a document, usually produced by an accredited 3rd-party testing lab, that gives you the nitty-gritty details about a cannabis or CBD product. Different COAs might have different information on them, but nearly all of them show the cannabinoid profile – in other words, how much CBD, THC and other compounds are in the product. Some COAs will also show the results of a microbiology screening, terpene analysis, heavy metals analysis, or other quality control tests. COAs may also be called “lab reports.”

Why Is a COA Important?

A COA is important for any tincture or CBD product that you consume regularly. CBD topicals may also have a COA, though the analysis is most important for the products that you ingest.

A COA is important to the manufacturer as a part of the quality control process. They send their product to an independent 3rd-party lab to make sure that their product has the correct levels of CBD and other compounds while also remaining free of microbes, heavy metals, and other contaminants. A COA will also show whether the product is under the legal limit of 0.3% THC, allowing it to be sold as a CBD product.

It’s important to you as the consumer because it can give you the truth about the CBD product you’re using. If a company does not make their COA available, they aren’t trustworthy. If they do make their COA available and you can verify it by contacting the 3rd-party lab who conducted it, then you can trust the statements made on the COA. The CBD potency should meet or exceed the label claims, and the results for THC content and contaminants should be very low or nonexistent.

Sometimes, you can learn extra details about a cannabis strain by looking at its COA. If a terpene analysis was conducted on dry herb or a full-spectrum product, you can find out what terpenes are prominent. This isn’t always necessary, but it is a cool way to get to know the strain’s aromas, flavors, and therapeutic effects. 

Where Can I Find a Product’s COA?

When buying a CBD product online, the Certificate of Analysis is often available on the manufacturer’s website. Check for a section on the manufacturer’s website called “Lab Reports” or “Third Party Testing.” For example – CBDfx is a popular, reputable brand with a great directory of all their products’ COAs.

Do not hesitate to reach out to the company you’re buying the product from, or the brand who manufactured the product, and ask for a COA. If they cannot provide one, you may want to think twice about using the product.

How Should I Read a Certificate of Analysis?

  • Make sure it was done by an accredited, 3rd-party laboratory – not the manufacturer’s own facility. This ensures that the tests are accurate and unbiased. For further confirmation, you can contact the laboratory to verify the results firsthand.
  • Check the dates listed at the top of the COA: was the product tested recently? The more recent the COA, the better, as it shows that the manufacturer is consistently re-testing their products.
  • Ensure that the CBD content meets or exceeds that which is listed on the label. Sometimes this is listed by percentage, while other times you may have to do some basic math to figure it out. Different COAs may list things differently. Some even have helpful graphs or charts to make it easy to see the chemical composition of the product.