How Do You Read A COA?

If you use hemp or cannabis products, you might have heard of a COA or Certificate of Analysis. Understanding a certificate of analysis is important as a consumer to ensure you are using quality products. Let’s take a deeper look at what a COA is and the importance of them in the hemp and cannabis industries.

What is a COA?

A COA is short for Certificate of Analysis. It’s an important report for cannabis and hemp products to verify quality and safety. The COA reveals the chemical makeup of the product and confirms the levels of cannabinoids, microbial content, terpenes, and even chemicals like heavy metals and pesticides.

For consumers, a COA tells them that the contents advertised within the product have been tested and verified by a third-party source, and they can verify the product is free of harmful contaminants, such as heavy metals or pesticides.

For manufacturers, having a COA can help build trust with consumers. People appreciate and value transparency because it shows you have nothing to hide. A COA will also help detect if unwanted chemicals or ingredients appear in the product, helping to ensure you have a safe and compliant product.

What is in a COA?

The COA can generally be found on the company’s website, though some companies have an option to scan a QR code on the package with a smartphone to reveal the COA. The COA holds a lot of valuable information. Here is what you will find on a COA:

Cannabinoid Profile

The COA will show what cannabinoids are present in the product, and how much of the cannabinoid is present. This helps consumers to better know how the cannabinoid-based product will affect them. For example, a more dominant CBD product will be great for daytime use and mood support, while a CBN dominant strain would be ideal to reach for to get a good night’s sleep.

Terpene Profile

Terpenes are natural aromatic oils from cannabis and hemp plants that alter the taste and smell of the product. Additionally, they have an array of therapeutic benefits, helping to determine what experience the consumer will have. For example, the terpene myrcene is a great ally for individuals with pain, delivering deep relief to the muscles and body when ingested. Terpenes are typically listed on a COA as parts per million (PPM), if the company test for them.

Microbial Profile

A COA will also check for yeast, mold, and other microbial contaminants, such as E Coli or salmonella. Ingesting these contaminants long term can cause damage to various areas in the body. It is crucial to know as a consumer that the product you are taking, most likely to benefit your health and wellness, are free of contaminants.

Pesticide Profile

Pesticides can be harmful to humans when ingested. When growing hemp or cannabis, often pesticides are used, needing remediation to rid the product of pesticides, unless the plants are grown organically. A COA will show a pass or fail where pesticides are listed.

Residual Solvents

Traditional extraction methods typically utilize harmful solvents, such as butane or ethanol, when extracting cannabinoids from the hemp and cannabis plants. Though there are remediation efforts to rid the final product of volatile solvents, some can remain causing health problems to those who consume. It is important to verify the product has passed and is free of these solvents.

Important terms to know

COAs can sometimes be difficult to read, but these are important terms for you to know.

  • LoQ – This means Limit of Quantification. It’s the smallest amount the test will quantify.
  • LoD – Stands for Level of Detection, the smallest amount the test can detect.
  • ND – None detected
  • NT – Not Tested
  • CFU – Colony-forming units (for microbes)

Tips when reading a COA

Here are a few things to keep in mind when reading a COA:

  1. Look at the COA Header to make sure the manufacturer used a third party to analyze the products.
  2. Check to see if the COA is recent.
  3. Check that the information on the COA, regarding terpenes and cannabinoids, matches the label information.

A COA is an important factor when purchasing hemp or cannabis products. All companies should provide an easily accessible COA, to help you as a consumer ensure you are getting the quality products you expect and deserve.