At Herb Reviews, we aim to produce reviews that give you insightful information into products that you’re considering for purchase. Although we are knowledgeable about the CBD industry, we take the approach of a customer when we write our reviews.
We aim to use a product in the same way that you will. That way, we are able to preempt any problems you may have or say with confidence that an item is worth buying.
We have a systematic approach and follow strict guidelines for each item to make it as fair as possible. Here, we’ve broken down each stage of our process so you can see how we decide what to write and how we apply our rating system.
Which Products to Review
We aim to present honest, informative reviews about the best CBD in the UK. This starts by finding those that are selling well from each of the main product types. We try to keep a balance of information about every kind of CBD product, these include:
Some of the items we review, we buy, this is because we are interested in how they perform. With others, a manufacturer or retailer will approach us and offer to send us the product. At this point, we make it clear that we are happy to accept the product but that all reviews will be our honest opinion and based on our experience.
Most genuine companies are pleased with this because they believe in their products, but some have turned us down or requested to edit a review before it is published. In this situation, we cancel the review and return any products we’ve already received. Herb Reviews we will not be compromised by disguising advertorials as independent reviews. There are enough of these already and these only help the retailer, not the consumer.
As the CBD market progresses, there are often innovations and new products that catch our attention. Whether a company approaches us or not, we will select products to purchase to ensure that Herb Reviews always has recent, relevant content.
Testing and Reviewing Process
Our detailed reviews are designed to give a genuine reflection of the quality of each product. To do this, we have a step by step process which helps us to learn everything we can about each item:
1. Products Arrive in the Post
When it first arrives, we familiarise ourselves with the product. We look at the packaging and any extra information that comes with it. Our first impressions are always included in the review introduction because each brand presents its product and sets information out in different ways.
The colour or style of a packet tells us little about the quality of the item inside, but it can give an indication about the brand and what they consider as important.
The minimum we would expect to see on most CBD product labels, or packaging is:
- An amount of CBD or other cannabinoids
If the label says 300mg of CBD, then the product should contain 300mg, not 250mg CBD and 50mg CBDa.
Some lists of ingredients are better than others. For example, if we’re reviewing capsules, the items used to make the capsule shell should be included. Unfortunately, sometimes they aren’t.
- Warnings, information and recommended daily amount
The cannabis trades association have a useful list that their members must use to ensure that their labelling is compliant. We use it as a guide to ensure that the labelling is up to a high standard.
- Certifications and awards
If a product has an official organic certification or is a member of an industry body, you should find the official logo included on the packaging. There is often also a code that will help you to verify that the award is genuine.
- Directions of use
This is an essential section on all labels because some products may be used by people new to CBD. Some brands keep it brief, but others make sure that their customers have every step of the process spelt out.
- Other useful information
Many brands like their bottles and tubs to have a minimalist look. To do this and provide the relevant information, they often include a box or extra packaging that can deliver more useful details. Sometimes they use this to their customers’ benefit and add additional information. This could be anything from a web address that can be used to find lab certificates to extra safety or storage instructions.
We make notes on all these points, and they go towards the first paragraph of the review to add to the overall impression we are building up. The packaging is an ideal way for brands to communicate that they have produced a quality product, that they can provide customers with the information they need and that they are transparent about their processes and safety procedures.
2. First Impressions and Photographs
The first task with any new CBD item is to take the pictures that we use to illustrate the review. We usually take some of the unopened product and then open it up to photograph the oil, balm or capsules.
As with anyone, when we open a product, it’s with a sense of anticipation. During the process of photographing it, we regularly take notes. When it comes to open it up, there are some key points that we jot down:
- Is the bottle, tub, tube or jar sealed properly?
- Is there a child-safe cap?
- What does the product look like? Some CBD products come in opaque or dark glass containers, so this is often the first time we get to see it. With most items, we’re looking for any cloudiness or contamination. Some products that have been made with isolate and not high-quality full-spectrum extracts can separate out, so it’s necessary to note if that’s occurred.
- What does it smell like?
- Does it reseal securely?
- Has it leaked? During the first inspection, some oils already find a way to get around the lid and if the bottle is poorly designed, they continue to leak.
3. The Two Week Trial
Although we get a lot of information from the first few uses of each item, you never honestly know what a customer will experience until you’ve used it long term. Every item we receive gets used for at least two weeks or until the product runs out. At this point, it just becomes part of our day to day lives, but there are few guidelines that we always stick to:
- Make detailed notes of the first measure taken
It depends what the product is but with oils or capsules; we try to get an accurate representation of the flavour. If it’s an oil it is held under the tongue, but we will also place it on the tongue to get the full flavour. If it’s a soft gel capsule, we will break it open and taste the oil inside. For capsules filled with powder, we break them open and photograph the powder but don’t taste it.
- Follow the recommended amount for one week
As we recommend to others, we stick rigorously to the recommended amount until we’re used to the product.
- Take at least one measure in the morning and one in the evening
We follow the directions on the packet, and some are specific about when to take it. If it isn’t, we use it once first thing in the morning and a second time at 5 pm.
- Slowly increase the amount or frequency of applications for the second week
This allows us to get a sense of how potent the product it is and how effective it is at promoting health and wellbeing. During this week, we also start a regular double strength amount one hour before the reviewer goes to bed.
- Carry it in a pocket or bag
If we want to stick to taking a product two or three times a day, it often needs to be taken on the go. This way, we get to see if the container will leak or is difficult to use out and about.
- Note the results
It’s hard for anyone to tell precisely how a supplement affects them because there are so many other factors affecting their health daily. To try and get as accurate an impression of the results as possible, we take regular notes throughout the two weeks. Then when we go over them later, we can compare the effects to what else was happening at the time. This isn’t foolproof, but it does give us some indication as to how the product has worked for us. However, in the review, we always make sure to remind our readers that CBD affects every person differently.
4. Company Research
During the two weeks, at some point, we conduct detailed research on the company who produced the product. We start on their web page and open several vital pages:
- About us – This usually tells the story of the company and sometimes includes details on how they make the product.
- Product pages – We look at their whole range and then focus in on the product we’re reviewing.
- Lab certificates – We include the details of these in our review, but we also look at how easily they can be found, how much information they provide and how easy they are to understand.
- Awards and certification – We look for evidence of organic certification or details to back up any other claims.
- Independent customer reviews – We look for customer reviews on other sites or forums. Although we don’t include this information in the final review, it adds to the overall impression of the company. We start by looking at Trustpilot and then look for mentions of the brand on Yelp or Reddit.
5. Writing the Review
After the two weeks, it’s time to put everything together and write the review. We compile all the information we’ve collected and the product together. We then write the review and reference everything that we’ve discovered.
How We Choose the Best Brands
During the review process, our brand research and experience with the product allows us to decide if we would recommend the product. In some situations, it’s clear that they make high-quality products to a high standard and follow all label and safety requirements. At other times it’s evident that we can’t endorse them because they don’t meet our standards.
However, it’s more common that the product is good, but there are some pieces of information missing or details the company haven’t made clear. In these cases, you will see in the review summary and pros and cons that we highlight what we think and some suggestions for what could be improved.
To come to these decisions, we look carefully at all the brand information available, on the packaging and accompanying paperwork, on their website and independent review sites. When we do this, we are looking for some specific pieces of information:
- The age and experience of the company
This often has no bearing on the quality of the product, but it’s background information that adds context to the review.
This means that they’ve committed to following a set of industry standards. Because, currently, the CBD industry is unregulated, these groups have set standards to create their own form of regulation. Whilst they aren’t yet strict enough or enforced robustly enough it is generally a positive that the business wants to show some level of ethical trading.
- Details about how and where they source their hemp
The more open a company is about where they get their raw materials from and how they treat it, the better. This type of information is a useful demonstration of how transparent a company is about its practices.
- Information on how the hemp is extracted
Supercritical CO2 extraction is the gold standard in the industry. Some brands use other methods to a high standard, but customers should always be allowed to consider how a product is produced before they buy it.
- Where the final product is manufactured
All hemp used in CBD products sold in the UK is imported, but some brands ship it in and complete the manufacturing in the UK. This means that the final product has only had to travel a short way to get to you.
- How big are the batch sizes
Companies that produce their products in small batches can ensure that they are selling the latest one. It means that you know that it’s been made recently and not been sat in a warehouse for months or years.
- How many certificates are available on the site
Some companies allow you to see one certificate per product. It’s great that you can see evidence that tests are conducted, but it’s unlikely that it relates to the batch you’ve just bought. Now, more companies like Endoca and Hempura are keeping detailed databases of every certificate. This way, you can find the one that relates to the batch you’ve purchased.
With all this information, we can write a clear brand description in our review, but it also allows us to decide to what extent we will recommend their products. Any of these details we discover, we include in our review. If we don’t find it, we also highlight it so that you can make an informed decision about where to buy from.
How We Award Scores
In every review we publish, we include an overall rating out of 10. This is an average taken from the scores given to each of five review sections:
- Third-party lab results
- Ease of use
- Potency effectiveness
- Value for money
To make our scoring fair, we have clear criteria on how a product could score 10 for each one:
Third-party Lab Results
To achieve a full score for third-party lab results, we must see:
- The certificates are linked on the product page or easy to find from the main menu.
- A certificate is available for every batch of the product.
- The certificate includes a cannabinoid profile, a terpene profile and a screening of contaminants.
- The amount of CBD found in the analysis must be equal to or greater than that stated on the product label.
- The amount of THC found by the analysis must be less than the UK legal limit of 1mg per container.
- The cannabinoid profile should show traces of other cannabinoids to verify claims of ‘full-spectrum’ or ‘broad-spectrum’.
- If the label says ‘THC-free’ or makes any other claims about the amount of THC, this must be verified by the lab results.
Ease of Use
To achieve a 10 out of 10 for ease of use we would expect to see:
- A child-safe cap (if appropriate to the type of product)
- Clear details on how to use the product and a recommended daily amount
- An easy to use, accurate, method of application
- A leakproof container
- The product should be easy to use at home or on the go
When it comes to taste, we try to be as objective as possible. We also bear in mind that an oil or capsule with an unpleasant taste may still be an effective supplement.
To score ten, the product must:
- Be pleasant to hold under the tongue for at least 60 seconds
- Have a smooth consistency with no graininess or residue.
- Have no bitter aftertaste
- Be palatable for those who don’t like a strong hemp flavour
When we review topical CBD products, this section becomes ‘fragrance’.
To score a 10 for fragrance, a balm, cream or lotion must:
- Have a delightful smell.
- Not be overpowering or unpleasant after application.
- Have no odd or unpleasant smells that remain after the initial scent.
- Be considered to have a smell that is appropriate for the use of the product.
Potency / Effectiveness
Because CBD affects everyone differently, we stick to these points as closely as possible to maintain consistency. The product gets a 10 out of 10 for potency/effectiveness if:
- The recommended amount produces a noticeable sensation of relaxation.
- Across two weeks, there is an improvement in symptoms like tension headaches, stress and anxiety. If the product is topically applied CBD, it should noticeably perform the action on the label. For example, if it is a nourishing lotion, then the skin should appear visibly nourished.
- The reviewer notices an improvement in focus during the day.
- Following the large evening amount taken in the second week, the reviewer falls asleep within two hours. This must also be a significant improvement from the previous week. Or, a similarly potent effect relevant to the product type.
Value for Money
Products that score highly for value for money are not those with low prices but those who provide a customer experience that appears to represent greater value than the cost of the item. The scores we give for the other sections indicate that the product is of high quality and are used to score this rating.
To be awarded a ten, the product must:
- Score at least a 9 for third-party lab results.
- Score at least a 9 for ease of use.
- Score at least a 5 for taste- this lower rating is because bitter oils can still represent excellent value.
- Score at least 9 for potency/effectiveness.
- Be proven to represent excellent value in an anecdotal report by the reviewer.
Scoring less than 10
To ensure that products that score less than ten are measured against the same criteria, they are compared to the scores given to previous products. For example, if the reviewer believes that the taste of a product should be awarded a five, it is compared to other products that scored five to see if the experience was similar. This way, we aim to give every product a fair treatment and keep our scores relevant.
Everyone’s experience with CBD is unique to them; however, by making our reviewing procedure clear and systematic, we aim to produce information that is useful to all consumers. While we cannot tell you exactly how a supplement will work for you, the rigorous account of our own experience is designed to help you make informed purchasing decisions.