What is CBD oil, and why is it so expensive?
Following is a transcript of the video.
Narrator: Depending on who you ask, CBD oil can be a miracle cure, a snake-oil placebo, or something vague in between. This poorly regulated industry, which has boomed over the last three years, is a minefield for newcomers. Considering that manufacturers are unauthorized to make medical claims, how can one CBD oil cost $50, while another of the same volume costs $390? And are premium CBD oils justified for being so expensive?
Firstly, what is CBD?
Dani Gordon: CBD stands for cannabidiol. That’s the chemical name for one of the chemicals in the cannabis plant. The CBD oil that you’re seeing on shelves that consumers can buy without a prescription is actually from low-THC, the stuff that makes you high, varieties of the cannabis plant.
Narrator: CBD is a new and rapidly growing phenomenon, with sales tripling in the last three years. But the line between what consumers are using it for and what manufacturers can say to attract them is increasingly blurred.
Gordon: It can be used for a variety of purposes, things like inflammation, anxiety, stress, and it can also be used just to support general wellness. Now, the differentiating criteria between a medicine and a supplement is you cannot make a claim that it treats or cures a specific medically diagnosed disease. And that’s really important for companies to understand, because they can get their products pulled off the shelves, and they can also potentially sometimes unintentionally mislead consumers.
Narrator: But in the age of anxiety, it’s no surprise that CBD has become a hot ticket for manufacturers, who infuse all sorts of products with cannabidiol, shrewdly tapping into its perceived wellness benefits and bumping up the price of otherwise standard items, like gummies, sportswear, tampons, and even dog treats. But how do we assess the value of CBD oil, which is actually produced in two different ways?
Gordon: A full- or broad-spectrum product is made from the whole plant extract. They take the flower and they process it, and they come up with an extract that not only has CBD, but it has other plant chemicals, other cannabinoids, other terpenoids, other things in the plant that work together in this, what’s called this herbal synergy, this entourage effect. And what you get is greater than the sum of its parts.
Narrator: But some manufacturers process the extract even further into CBD isolate, a substance devoid of all other plant chemicals and labeled as “pure CBD.” But this isolate, which often features in expensive products, is generally considered to be less effective and cheaper to make.
Gordon: Some brands and some companies will put CBD isolate into a product and then brand it as a premium product, even though the cost of actually making it, because the cost of the isolate, is quite a lot lower than the cost of a full- or broad-spectrum CBD.
Narrator: But because of lax regulations in the industry, this fundamental difference in CBD oils is often disguised by manufacturers. The front of this premium $300 bottle, for example, does not display that it is, in fact, made from isolate.
Gordon: Sometimes you have to dig into the nitty-gritty of the ingredients. And sometimes you even have to, you might have to call the company and see what they’ve actually used. But in general, the labeling criteria are becoming a little bit stricter, so more and more consumers will be able to know what is a CBD isolate product and what comes from a full- or broad-spectrum source.
Narrator: These products can also be measured by the amount of cannabidiol in each bottle.
Gordon: What you really need to look for is the number of milligrams in the entire bottle, and then the number of milligrams of CBD per dose. And that’s really gonna tell you the bang for buck.
Narrator: But even high-dosage, full-spectrum CBD doesn’t have the approval from the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA says it “recognizes the significant public interest in cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds, particularly CBD. However, there are many unanswered questions about the science, safety, and quality of products containing CBD.”
More worryingly, lab tests conducted by the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis found that 62% of CBD products tested in the UK didn’t contain the cannabidiol content promised on the label. One product actually contained no CBD whatsoever.
CBD is shrouded in mystery and confusion for the consumer. On the one hand, a 2018 cross-sectional study of CBD users found that almost 62% “reported using CBD to treat a medical condition,” stating that CBD has “broad therapeutic value. But on the other hand, manufacturers cannot use the research data to make medical claims, leaving spokespeople in the unenviable position of having to promote their products to a certain demographic while avoiding endorsing the public’s perception of CBD.
Brett Heaps: So, what we’re not allowed to do with our products is make any medicinal claims, ’cause they’re not medical products. All our products that we sell are wellness products to improve sleeps and moods. We see CBD as a homeostasis product, which balances the levels in your body to get you into a normal state and balanced mind.
Narrator: Thankfully, despite the misconceptions, no matter what you use it for, there is a way to get a snapshot of the quality of CBD oil.
Gordon: You wanna look for a certificate of analysis. That means that that is a third-party-tested lab report. They test their product to make sure that it’s not contaminated, make sure it doesn’t have accidental THC levels above the allowed limit. Make sure it doesn’t have heavy metals in it. Make sure there’s no microbials, so, bacteria or fungus that can grow in these plants. No herbicides, pesticides, things you don’t want in it.
Narrator: So, why is it so expensive? The cost of producing CBD oil isn’t particularly high in relation to other large-scale crops. But there appears to be a premium on all cannabidiol, as revealed in this comparison of full-spec CBD, which shows that its prices grow pretty uniformly, according to the price per milligram in each bottle. With any wellness product with a global hype, high demand means high prices. Statistics show that sales of CBD will likely reach $1.8 billion in the next two years. But without regulation, medical research, and clear consumer knowledge, the human value of CBD oil will, for now, remain a matter of opinion.
CBD is a growing phenomenon, with sales tripling in the last three years. But manufacturers are forbidden to make medical claims on its effectiveness.
How to Tell If You’re Overpaying for CBD Oil
The notoriety of CBD, or cannabidiol, has grown tremendously over the last couple years, and so has the availability of CBD oils (and their prices). Many people who are getting into CBD start by asking the question: “How much does CBD oil cost?” But with so much variation in the industry, determining which products are truly worth the cost can be a challenge.
To simplify this process, Ashley Jordan Ferira, PhD, RDN, Senior Editor of Health & Wellness Strategy at Remedy Review, a CBD reviews site, compared the prices of popular CBD oil brands on the market—including Medterra, cbdMD, and Naternal—to pinpoint the average cost of CBD oil.
How much does CBD oil cost?
To determine the value, or cost per milligram of a CBD oil, divide the price of the product by the total mg of CBD. For example, a bottle of CBD oil that costs $120 and contains a total of 2,400 mg of CBD costs $0.05 per mg.
The price of a CBD tincture can vary across brands, but the average cost tends to land somewhere between $0.05 to $0.20 per mg of CBD. If you’re paying more than 20 cents per mg of CBD, you’re likely overpaying.
The best value CBD oils
The average prices of some leading brands are similar, but a few clear leaders emerge when we talk about value. Below, we’ve highlighted the most cost efficient products from three top brands to help you get the most for your money.
Each 1 ml serving of this full-spectrum product from Naternal contains 40 mg of cannabinoids, including CBD and trace amounts of THC (less than 0.3% by law), terpenes, and flavonoids from the cannabis plant, a.k.a. hemp.
To buy: Naternal Full Spectrum 1,200 mg CBD Oil, $40; naternal.com
This THC-free CBD oil tincture from Medterra provides 100 mg of CBD in each 1 ml serving.
To buy: Medterra CBD Isolate 3,000 mg Tincture, $135; medterracbd.com
This moderate strength product from cbdMD is THC-free and delivers 25 mg cannabinoids (including CBD) in each 1 ml serving. It’s available in natural, berry, orange, and mint flavors.
To buy: cbdMD Broad Spectrum 750 mg CBD Oil, $70; cbdMD.com
CBD oil price comparison
In the price comparison below, you can see the average cost per mg of CBD for 10 top brands, organized from lowest (i.e. best value) to highest.
- Average cost per mg CBD: $0.03
- CBD oil price range: $25–$60
- Average cost per mg CBD: $0.06
- CBD oil price range: $34.99–$132.99
- Average cost per mg CBD: $0.07
- CBD oil price range: $29.99–$339.99
- Average cost per mg CBD: $0.08
- CBD oil price range: $29–$260
- FAB CBD
- Average cost per mg CBD: $0.09
- CBD oil price range: $39–$129
- Average cost per mg CBD: $0.10
- CBD oil price range: $57.95–$115
- Charlotte’s Web
- Average cost per mg CBD: $0.11
- CBD oil price range: $39.99–$164.99
- Average cost per mg CBD: $0.12
- CBD oil price range: $89–$269
- NuLeaf Naturals
- Average cost per mg CBD: $0.12
- CBD oil price range: $38.50–$439
- Green Roads
- Average cost per mg CBD: $0.14
- CBD oil price range: $23.95–$342.50
Why do people pay so much for CBD oil?
The main draw towards CBD products stems from the compound’s many potential health benefits. People buy CBD products to help with inflammation and pain, anxiety and stress, and sleep quality. This is not a full list, but it does encompass some of the most common reasons people turn to CBD. Additionally, CBD oil rarely produces any negative side effects, which can be best avoided by proper dosage and administration.
It’s also worth noting that while many people enjoy using CBD oil as a part of their wellness routine, the Food and Drug Administration has only approved one CBD-based drug, known as Epidiolex. This means that mainstream hemp products, like CBD tinctures, have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to treat any disease. If you have a serious medical condition or take prescription medications, consult with your physician before buying CBD oil.
Factors that affect CBD oil prices
CBD oil seems like a pricier wellness supplement, but there’s a reason. Many additional manufacturing and quality control practices go into creating a trustworthy CBD oil that other dietary supplements do not require. Some factors that affect how much CBD oil costs include:
The origin of the hemp plant matters, and the best CBD companies source their industrial hemp from domestic farms. The most recent Farm Bill laws regulate standards for U.S. hemp cultivation, so American-grown hemp is the safest option for quality CBD oil. Organically or ethically-grown hemp will cost more as well, especially USDA-certified organic hemp that is more costly to grow.
Strength and type of CBD extract
While products with higher strengths or concentrations of CBD are more expensive, they also have better value. This is because they have a lower cost per mg of CBD. Similar to buying toilet paper in bulk to save money, you can save money in the long run if you opt for a strong CBD oil that will last for a longer period of time than less potent options.
The type of CBD product can affect the price as well. For example, a full-spectrum product may be priced differently than a CBD isolate or broad-spectrum product that has gone through additional distillation and purification processes to filter out plant compounds like THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). THC-free CBD oils are a good option for anyone who submits to regular drug testing, but full-spectrum CBD products may elicit an entourage effect that may be more effective in terms of elevating your general health and wellness.
Whether you’re buying CBD oils online or in-store, third-party lab testing is a must for all hemp-derived products. This process isn’t cheap, and more in-depth testing can cost more (which leads to a more costly end product). However, this external testing provides greater evidence of quality, safety, and transparency for the brand and its products.
Some CBD oil tinctures may contain premium ingredients like a USDA-certified organic MCT coconut oil or all-natural flavorings that can increase the price of the product. If you’re set on purchasing a truly organic CBD oil, the extra cost may be worth it.
Lastly, and perhaps the most obvious, factor affecting the price of CBD oil is discounts or coupons that may lower the overall cost of an order. Many of the CBD brands listed above offer first-time buyer discounts, as well as subscription or bundle-and-save options that can cut the price of CBD oil significantly.
Is CBD oil worth the cost?
If you’re looking to buy CBD oil online, there’s no doubt that there are plenty of hemp products to choose from. Apart from CBD oils, there’s also the option of varying application styles like CBD capsules, gummies, topical lotions, and much more.
With all this information to take into account, the CBD industry can seem like a confusing marketplace with an overwhelming number of hemp oils (and prices) to filter through. However, many consumers are flocking to CBD, and often use its potential health benefits as a way to justify the price tag.
So if you’re in the market for an all-natural plant extract with a lot of hype around its benefits, CBD oil may be worth the splurge. And you can still shop for high-quality products without breaking the bank.
Ashley Jordan Ferira, PhD, RDN is the Senior Editor of Health & Wellness Strategy at Remedy Review, an independent CBD reviews site. Dr. Ferira completed her PhD in Foods & Nutrition at The University of Georgia, where she researched the role of vitamin D in pediatric cardiometabolic disease. The products featured in this article were tested at ProVerde Laboratories in Milford, MA and Avazyme, Inc. in Durham, NC.
This content is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice; it is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before consuming or using any of the products mentioned on this site.
Sign up for our Health Shopping newsletter to get your daily dose of retail therapy with great deals handpicked by our editors — straight to your inbox.
Want to know how much CBD oil costs? Check out our guide to CBD prices and comparisons from the top 10 CBD oil brands, then determine which is right for you.