How To Read a COA

Brie Lowrey

If you’ve ever bought a CBD product, you’ve probably come across a COA (Certificate Of Analysis) or a lab result. Of course, you’re not handed a sheet with the test results on it once you’ve bought your product, but if you scan the QR code on your product, lab results will show up. If your product doesn’t have this or you don’t have access to lab results… RUN THE OTHER WAY. Seriously - if you are buying a quality and safe product from a reliable brand or retailer, there will always be a COA available to you. 

What is a COA?

A COA, also known as a Certificate of Analysis, is a document of test results for CBD, THC, and other cannabinoid products. COAs are usually done through third party testing. Think of it as a product’s nutritional facts. It can also be labeled as “lab results”. 

You’re probably thinking about all of the different types of products there are out there. Yes, there are a ton of various products, but when it boils down to the ingredients in products, it ends up being a bit more simple than what you think. Different brands may look a little different from one another, so this is more of a guide for you to learn how to read various types of COAs on your own and what to look for, specifically. 

Where To Find a COA

As I stated previously, every brand and every product is different. That means that the COA may be found in different places. The infographic below shows a few of the places you can find a COA. 

There are 3 common places you may find your product’s lab results, including on a company's website and on our website's product page. It can also be found on the product itself - if there is a QR code on your product, you can scan it and it will send you to the lab results for that specific product and batch. This is the best way to get the most updated lab results for your product. 

If you can’t find the COA on your own, contact the brand or retailer, they should have the updated lab results or should be able to find them quickly.

What Does a COA Test? 

A Certificate of Analysis (COA) looks for and tests quite a few items in the product that are related to quality and safety. Below is what each lab test should include in their testing: 

  • All cannabinoids present
  • Weight percentage of the cannabinoids
  • Concentration of cannabinoids in milligrams per gram
  • Terpenes present
  • Heavy metal analysis
  • Pesticide analysis

Why It’s Important to Know

If you’re not about to skip this section, I’m a little worried for you. Kidding - kind of. In all honesty, we should be looking at lab and test results for anything we are putting in or on our bodies. While I’m not about to look at what’s in Cheez-Its or how many bug legs are allowed in each chocolate bar (please do not Google this, I beg you), I definitely look at (or at least skim) the lab results of the products that contain cannabinoids. 

Reading through CBD/THC product lab results is important for a number of reasons. In case you still need convincing, here’s a short list of why you should make time to skim through COAs: 

  • Ensure you’re getting a good quality and effective product.
  • Check the potency of cannabinoids to dose properly for your own tolerance level.
  • See what terpenes are in the product. 
  • Check for the absence of toxic materials in your product. 
  • Check for ingredients that you may have an allergy to.
  • Make sure the product isn’t expired and the lab results are up to date. 

It doesn’t take a ton of time to check through the important things, so let’s move on to how to read these lab results!

For more information on how to buy quality products, read our blog on the Top 5 Things to Look For When Buying CBD here

How to Read a COA

Reading a COA doesn’t have to be hard and you don’t even have to know how to read the whole thing. I’ll walk you through what you need to look for and pay attention to when it comes to reading the lab results for your product. I’ve included an infographic to help you through each step.

As you’re looking through the COA of your product, you may notice that there are multiple pages. Everything you need to ensure your product is of good quality is on the first page, the rest of the pages break down the results of the test.  

*Remember - COAs may not look the same across all brands and products, so look for the things listed below. Things should be in about the same area shown below.

  1. Up-To-Date Basic Information: First things first, make sure you see the name of the brand your product is from and the name of the lab it was sent to. This will be at the top of the COA. Then check the name of the sample to make sure it matches your product. Also, the date that the lab results were completed should be up to date, or have at least been tested within the last year. 
  2. Heavy Metals/Pesticides: This part should be pretty straight forward and most lab results make it pretty simple. Look for words such as “Heavy Metals”, “Mycotoxins”, “Pesticides”, “Residual Solvents”, "Listeria Monocyogenes”, and “Pathogenic”. Under or next to these words your report should say “Passed” or “ND”, which means your product is safe and no toxins are to be found. 
  3. Cannabinoid Content: Next, check for the cannabinoids that are present in your product. This will help further personalize your experience because you will know exactly how much of each cannabinoid is in your product. This shows the cannabinoid milligram per gram. This may not translate to exactly the percentage in the product due to other additives, so be sure to read the label carefully or look for the COA where it may describe content per gummy, milliliter or other unit of measure.
  4. Terpenes Profile: Looking at what kind of terpenes are in your product can be very beneficial. Terpenes are the things that give effects and flavors to the product. So, seeing the terpenes and doing a bit of your own research can help you personalize your experience even more. Read some of our blogs on terpenes here, here, and here.

Below I’ve included an infographic of the acronyms commonly seen in COAs. Read more on LOD and LOQ on COAs here.

What if You Can’t Find a COA? 

If you can’t find the lab results at all and the brand/retailer can’t help you, you should find another brand and retailer to work with. For all of the products we carry, the COAs will be on the page you found your product. If, for some reason, it’s out of date or you can’t find it, contact us and we will help you find the up to date lab results!

How To Read a COA
Making sure a CBD or THC product is a good quality product doesn't have to be out of your hands! Learn how to read your product's lab results!
The Green Dragon CBD
CBD Products from Top Brands, CBD Education
The Green Dragon CBD
How To Read a COA
February 16, 2024
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