CBD University

What Does THC-Free Really Mean?

Understand what “THC free” actually means, how to find the highest quality CBD products, and how we are playing our part to set standards.

Out of the more than 100 different chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant, CBD and THC are the most well-known. And while we’re not anti-THC (the one that gets you high), there are important reasons why our hemp-derived CBD products are THC free. But what does THC free really mean? 

Colloquially, we think THC-free means there’s no THC, right? Isn’t that what “free” means? Well, yes and no. We wanted to dive deeper into the term “free” and define what it really means for the CBD industry and how we are playing our part to set standards.

The term “THC free” is to technically say there is no “quantifiable” or “detectable” amount of THC in the product—it does not mean there is absolutely 0% THC. This is true for any broad-spectrum CBD product on the market given CBD is derived from plants along with many other plant constituents including other cannabinoids like THC. Chemistry and the quality of lab equipment can help provide a more accurate meaning to “THC Free” while at the same time justify why it’s a fair term to use for certain CBD products.

There are two metrics that help define the parameters for testing THC. First, the Limit of Detection (LOD), is the ability to distinguish the thing you’re trying to test for–in this case THC – from other things around it like other cannabinoids, plant matter, terpenes, minerals, etc. The second is the Limit of Quantification (LOQ) which is the field of view–even if you can distinguish the THC from other matter, without putting every square inch of the hemp plant into the testing machine, we can only test for what we sample. 

The detection and quantification limits are determined based on a few things:

1. Quality of lab equipment

How accurate is the machine doing the detecting? Think about an Italian imported espresso machine vs Mr. Coffee machine bought on Amazon for $19.99 – which one will pull a more complex tasting espresso?

2. Lab expertise

Those who’ve done this before and have the skills can discern one compound from another. Think about who would be able to ensure that the Italian espresso machine was used the proper way? A 25-year barista veteran at an artisanal coffee house or a high schooler working at a convenience store?

3. Acceptable accuracy

Determining the detection limit itself takes into account time, cost, and consumers’ interest. How important is it that the barista is inspecting every single coffee bean by hand before grinding? At some point, time, cost, and customer demand play a role in how detailed one must go.

At Sagely Naturals, it was important for us to find an experienced lab that could test as low as possible. We are able to test at such low and accurate levels in the industry to ensure “THC Free” with every batch given the quality of lab equipment and routine methods at our accredited analytical testing lab Eurofins Scientific. 

On our Certificate of Analyses (COAs), we’ve indicated in the “Results” column “less than 0.00250%” which is our limit of quantification (LOQ) for THC. This means the amount of THC is less than 25 parts per million (ppm). To put that in context using our coffee analogy, one bean out of 40,000–effectively zero. And this is just the testing limit, we know that the levels of THC are even less than 25ppm.  

When looking at other CBD products that advertise “THC Free” it’s very important to dig into the Certificate of Analyses and ensure they define the actual LOQ for THC. If a Certificate of Analysis says “N/D” which means “Non-Detect” instead of an actual number (e.g. 0.02% or 1mg or 100ppm), it should disclose what the actual minimum threshold they are considering non-detectable. Is it 25ppm, 100ppm? 500ppm? Without disclosing the LOQ, you don’t actually know how low they are testing the THC.

The moral of the story is that when it comes to finding CBD products made from high-quality hemp that you can trust there are simply no shortcuts. And while it can be a head-spinning experience trying to compare all the options, you simply cannot put a price on your peace of mind that what you are using to support your wellbeing meets the highest standards possible.

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