CBD Potency Testing

CBD Potency Testing

Hemp comprises more than 500 naturally-occurring compounds, of which more than 40 known cannabinoids are present, with only 8 occurring at higher than trace levels. And between field and finished product, potential contaminants — both naturally-occurring and those introduced during processing, may be introduced.

The best way to have a high level of confidence in the purity and potency of your CBD raw materials and consumer-ready products is through appropriate lab testing. Potency testing ensures that every CBD product, from raw extracts to consumer-ready tablets and tinctures, is pure and guaranteed bioactive, with no detectable contaminants.

While CBD is the main bioactive cannabinoid and you want to know precise levels of CBD, potency testing also gives you essential information about the presence of cannabinoids, terpenes, and other related compounds that are synergistic to CBD, boosting its effectiveness through what is known as the entourage effect.

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There are several laboratory techniques for testing potency and each has its advantages and limitations. Laboratory testing can reveal finely detailed information that gives you a finely-grained accounting of your CBD including such details as the maturity of the plants at the time of harvest all the way to the degree of care taken to preserve delicate cannabinoids during processing. Here we discuss some of the most commonly used methods for testing CBD potency.

High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC)

Known for its accurate, reliable results, HPLC is considered the industry gold standard. HPLC enables the various component compounds in a product sample to be separated out according to each compound’s unique light absorption “fingerprint”. Once the compounds are separated their concentrations can be measured. In terms of CBD potency, this tells us the proportionate amount of CBD relative to each compound individually and all of the compounds present in the sample collectively.

Things to Know About CBD Potency TestingHPLC is an effective yet simple procedure in that it requires just a few readily available and relatively inexpensive materials, making it a highly economical testing option. HPLC is somewhat less precise than other methods. When it is performed to procedural standards using the best quality materials it produces reliable results to within three decimal points of accuracy.


Portable HPLC kits are available and offer the convenience of on-the-spot testing, thereby providing the ability to measure CBD potency in the field where the hemp plant is growing, as well as ensure that the THC level is within federally mandated limits of under 0.3%, and it gives the grower the ability to easily determine the optimal harvest time when CBD levels are at their peak. Portable HPLC kits can also be used to test every batch of CBD extracts and manufactured products, including edibles and liquids, before they ship out to the consumer or distributor. They are a worthwhile investment for any CBD grower, manufacturer, or white labeler who desires the control and flexibility of being able to conduct accurate independent measurements of purity and potency at any point in the production process.

Mass Spectrometry (MS)

Particularly useful for detecting the presence of pesticides; heavy metals, such as lead, mercury, and arsenic; and residual solvents used in processing hemp. Mass spectrometry identifies compounds by measuring their mass-to-charge ratio. It is the preferred method of identifying cannabinoids and is often combined with gas chromatography (GC-MS) to obtain the best of both methods. GC-MS offers an advantage over HPLC in that it has the capability to measure molecules that are thousands of times smaller than is possible with HPLC.


Gas Chromatography (GC)

This process is a technique within mass spectrometry that is particularly useful for determining the relative amounts of cannabinoids and analyzing volatile substances, such as terpenes and solvents. It

In a GC test, the sample is first dissolved and then the components are separated and identified by passing them through a gas. Each of the component molecules will have a particular and unique affinity for the gas so as the gas moves through the tube, the molecules become separated.

However, GC requires the sample to be heated, which destroys the structure of acidic cannabinoids (though it leaves neutral cannabinoids unaltered), making them undetectable. GC also renders some pesticides undetectable from the heating process3, so if your CBD is not derived from organic hemp, or if you simply want to take every precaution to assure that your CBD is pesticide-free this process may not provide the results you seek.


Real-time Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR)

This test uses a method of copying DNA segments in order to identify and quantify them. PCR provides information about not just the species but the strain or strains of CBD present in your sample. PCR can also determine the number of individual terpenes present as well as identify the presence of contaminants such as bacteria, mold, fungus, and yeast3.  And, if you need results fast, this test can be completed in under an hour.


Want to Become a Partner?

Click here to become a distributor or inquire about how UBIX can assist with developing your CBD products.