Is CBD Gluten-Free?
If you’re living gluten-free, you may be wondering, “Is there gluten in CBD products?” The answer isn’t a simple yes or no.
CBD products are growing in popularity and are available in national retail outlets, including Target and Whole Foods (may not be available in all states) and even pet stores such as Petco. Unfortunately, because the CBD industry is not currently regulated, it is hard to know what is in the products or whether they are – or are not – gluten-free.
What is CBD?
CBD is short for Cannabidiol, a chemical compound, known as a cannabinoid, that is found in the Cannabis sativa plant. The cannabis plant contains over 100 identified cannabinoids including Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the molecule that creates an intoxicated or “high” feeling in humans.
CBD can come in a number of forms:
- Topicals – creams, lotions, ointments, balms, and salves, applied to the surface of the skin
- Oil or Tincture – extracts in a carrier substance, taken internally
- Capsule or Tablet – processed extracts, taken internally
- Smokeables – minimally processed dried plant material that is combusted or warmed and inhaled
- Edibles and Drinkables – food or drink infused with CBD extract
Many companies producing CBD products may be misinterpreting the 2018 Farm Bill and assuming all uses of CBD are legal. Anyone interested in the legalities surrounding CBD should refer to the FDA website.
In terms of CBD topicals, to comply with federal rulings, the CBD must be extracted solely from hemp plants. Hemp plants are a variation of the Cannabis sativa plant – some call it a “sister plant” – a low resin plant specially cultivated to contain negligible amounts of THC. In order to be sold legally in the United States outside of a cannabis dispensary, a product must contain less than 0.3% of THC. The product should not make any claims that it can “affect the structure or function of the body, or to diagnose, cure, mitigate, treat or prevent disease”, or it may be classified as a drug that falls under FDA oversight.
Something to note as you’re shopping for CBD: You may have seen products on the market that say they contain hemp seed oil or hemp seed extract. While they may be marketed as “cannabis” or suggest they contain CBD, they do not. Any product using hemp seeds or hemp seed derivatives do not contain any CBD or THC.
Is CBD naturally gluten-free?
As a plant, hemp is naturally gluten-free. Because it is an agricultural crop, hemp could come into contact with gluten at any point from growing to harvesting, shipping, storing or processing, like any other agricultural product.
The hemp plant is a phytoextractor and phyto-accumulator, meaning that it pulls heavy metals from the earth and can hold onto them in its parts. Extractions from hemp plants need to be processed in a way that removes heavy metals and other contaminants, but this is not always the case.
While CBD product manufacturers are not required to get their products tested, savvy companies pay the extra money to invest in third-party lab testing to verify the purity of their products (free from pesticides, mold, fungus, heavy metals and other contaminants) and the accuracy of the concentration of CBD printed on the product label. Current lab testing for CBD products does not include testing for gluten.
If a CBD company is claiming that their product is gluten-free, deciding to buy and use that product becomes a matter of whether you trust the source and the seller.
CBD can be processed in several different ways with different compositions after processing. The three main compositions of CBD extracts are:
Full spectrum – whole plant extractions that include all cannabinoids including CBD and small or trace amounts of THC
Broad spectrum – whole plant extractions where the THC has been removed but CBD and other cannabinoids remain
Isolate – a more thorough extraction and distillation process that isolates the CBD from the rest of the plant matter
The risk of gluten being present in a CBD product can depend on how the hemp was processed and handled and what other ingredients were added during manufacturing.
What is in a CBD topical?
CBD topicals could potentially contain gluten. If a CBD product is labeled gluten-free, there are currently no regulations or checks to ensure the claim is accurate. Note that CBD topical products are not covered by the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCPA) and are not obligated to follow gluten-free labeling regulations. As of Summer 2021, there is no governmental agency overseeing the quality or compliance of CBD product manufacturing.
Most CBD topicals contain ingredients other than CBD, such as a carrier substance like an oil. Companies also add other plant extracts, such as lavender, peppermint, turmeric, and arnica, to enhance effectiveness. They may also contain emulsifiers, binders, preservatives, or even active ingredients to increase absorption. Check ingredients listed on CBD product labels to make sure you don’t have a known allergy or sensitivity to any of the added ingredients.
Can CBD be certified gluten-free?
In terms of gluten in CBD topicals, gluten is not absorbed through the skin. Check out our article 5 Facts About Gluten-Free Skin Care and our Educational Bulletin Body/Beauty Products and Supplements.
If you’d prefer a gluten-free CBD topical product, start by looking for a gluten-free statement on the label. Then do your homework: Get to know the source and seller of the product you’d like to buy and research customer and third-party reviews. Also look for a gluten-free certification mark, something that should start appearing more and more over time.
Currently, GFCO can legally certify CBD topical products such as creams, lotions, balms, salves, shampoos, conditioners, and cosmetics. GFCO’s certification process involves more than simply testing the finished product for gluten; auditing processes and inspecting facilities ensures products are made safely gluten-free.
As of the end of 2020, GFCO cannot certify any CBD foods, beverages, or supplements including oils, capsules or tablets, edibles, and drinkables. GFCO will not be able to certify those products until the FDA clearly allows hemp-derived CBD ingestible products to be manufactured and sold.
As more CBD companies realize the value of certifying their products’ gluten-free status to gain consumer trust, you’ll see the GFCO certification mark on CBD topical product labels. If you have concerns about gluten content in any CBD product, use the same steps you would use when examining other products that you apply or ingest: Research the manufacturer and carefully read the labels and ingredient lists.
The information on this website is for educational purposes only. Consult your healthcare team when considering this information. GIG acknowledges that the legality of CBD is currently undetermined. GFCO does not currently certify CBD products.
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