Deciphering FLOW: Your Ultimate Guide to Ensuring Quality in CBD Products

close up of a dropper and bottle with a CBD molecule

In the world of CBD, quality assurance is crucial. With an ever-growing market, consumers are inundated with a variety of CBD products, all claiming to offer the best therapeutic benefits. But how can you differentiate between high-quality and lower-quality CBD products? Enter the FLOW criteria, a comprehensive framework designed to help consumers, regulators, and producers ensure the quality and safety of CBD products. In this post, we will delve into the FLOW criteria, discover who created it, and understand what this acronym stands for.

What is FLOW?

FLOW is an acronym that represents a set of four essential criteria for evaluating and assuring the quality of CBD products. It was created by the Cannabis Nurse Approved (CNA) organization. CNA is a reputable entity in the cannabis industry, dedicated to promoting patient well-being and advocating for the responsible use of cannabis-based products. Founded by registered nurses who understand the nuances of patient care, CNA is a trustworthy source when it comes to cannabis-related information.

F – Whole Flower

The first letter in the FLOW criteria stands for “Whole Flower.” But what does Whole Flower mean when it comes to CBD products? Whole Flower CBD products are those that utilize the entire flower of the hemp plant, preserving its natural integrity and balance. Often, due to cost and availability, only certain parts of the hemp plant, such as the stems and stalks, are used for oil extraction. However, it’s crucial to note that without the whole flower being included, the product lacks the abundant cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes found in the flowers.

An essential aspect of Whole Flower CBD production is the use of organic, food-grade ethanol for extraction. This choice is significant as it aids in retaining the full spectrum of cannabinoids, flavonoids, terpenes, and essential fatty acids naturally present in the flower. In contrast, certain extraction methods, like CO2 extraction, can potentially strip away these valuable components, compromising the product’s quality and holistic benefits.

L – Lab Tested

The second criterion in the FLOW framework is “Lab Tested.” To ensure the safety and quality of CBD products, it’s imperative that they undergo rigorous testing by independent, accredited laboratories. These tests verify the product’s cannabinoid content, check for the presence of contaminants, and confirm that it meets safety standards.

Lab testing plays a pivotal role in ensuring transparency and providing peace of mind to consumers, especially those who are already dealing with health issues. It empowers individuals to make well-informed choices when considering CBD products for their well-being. To safeguard the health of patients, particularly those who are unwell, it is crucial to scrutinize CBD products for a Certificate of Analysis (COA) issued by a reputable third-party laboratory. This comprehensive COA should not only verify the product’s cannabinoid profile, confirming its alignment with label claims, but also screen rigorously for potential contaminants, including pesticides, microbes, heavy metals, and residual solvents. Such thorough testing is essential to prevent already sick patients from being exposed to harmful toxins that could exacerbate their existing health challenges.

Additionally, when available, terpene tests can offer valuable insights into predicting a product’s therapeutic benefits, further enhancing the consumer’s ability to make informed decisions. Terpenes play a crucial role in both the product’s aroma and its potential therapeutic effects. These compounds offer a wide array of unique benefits, enhancing the overall CBD experience. Common terpenes found in CBD products include Myrcene, known for its sedative qualities and potential to reduce inflammation; Limonene, which uplifts mood and provides stress relief; Pinene, promoting focus and alertness while potentially offering anti-inflammatory effects; Linalool, with calming properties aiding anxiety and stress reduction; Caryophyllene, exhibiting anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties; Humulene, known for appetite suppression and potential antibacterial effects; Terpinolene, offering a calming and sedative effect; Bisabolol, beneficial for skin health and inflammation reduction; Eucalyptol, potentially supporting respiratory health and sinus relief; and Terpineol, providing relaxation and stress relief. These terpenes, when present in CBD products, contribute to their therapeutic benefits and overall user experience. It’s essential to consider their concentration and interactions with other cannabinoids for a tailored CBD experience.

O – Organic and Non-GMO

The third criterion in the FLOW criteria is “Organic and Non-GMO.” CBD products derived from organically grown hemp and produced without the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are generally considered superior in terms of purity and quality. Organic farming practices minimize the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, promoting a cleaner and more sustainable product.

When choosing a CBD product, check for organic certifications and non-GMO labels. These certifications are a testament to the manufacturer’s commitment to producing high-quality, environmentally friendly CBD products.

W – Whole Plant

The final criterion, “Whole Plant,” is crucial for ensuring that CBD products meet the highest standards of quality and safety. Whole Plant CBD products utilize all parts of the hemp plant, not just the flower. This approach ensures that the full spectrum of beneficial compounds, including cannabinoids, terpenes, and nutrients, is retained, providing a more comprehensive CBD experience. Once again, the use of food-grade ethanol extraction is pivotal in this process, as it helps preserve all parts of the plant and ensures that the valuable components remain intact, contributing to the product’s holistic quality and effectiveness. Whole plant extractions done in food-grade ethanol retain most of the hundreds of components present in the hemp plant, keeping them largely unchanged in the end product. Conversely, CO2 processing captures roughly a dozen compounds, including isolated cannabinoids and terpenes, while isolate products consist of only a single compound, typically one cannabinoid.

In addition, it’s essential to consider the legal and regulatory landscape in your specific region. Regulations surrounding CBD can vary widely from one place to another, so be sure to purchase products that comply with local laws and guidelines.

Why FLOW Matters

Understanding and applying the FLOW criteria when selecting CBD products can make a significant difference in your overall CBD experience. By choosing products that are Whole Flower, Lab Tested, Organic and Non-GMO, and Whole Plant, you are more likely to:

  • Receive Maximum Benefits: Whole Flower and Whole Plant products preserve the full spectrum of cannabinoids and terpenes, potentially enhancing therapeutic benefits.
  • Ensure Safety: Lab testing ensures that the product is free from harmful contaminants and accurately labeled.
  • Promote Environmental Sustainability: Organic and Non-GMO products contribute to a healthier planet.
  • Support Responsible Industry Practices: Purchasing from well-regulated companies encourages industry accountability and responsible business practices.

The FLOW criteria, created by the Cannabis Nurse Approved organization, represent a valuable framework for evaluating and selecting high-quality CBD products. By adhering to the principles of Whole Flower, Lab Tested, Organic and Non-GMO, and Whole Plant products, consumers can make informed choices, ensuring their safety and maximizing the potential therapeutic benefits of CBD. When shopping for CBD products, remember to look for these key criteria, as they serve as a reliable compass in the often confusing and rapidly evolving CBD market. Your health and well-being deserve nothing less than the best, and FLOW helps you achieve just that.

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