Are Hemp-Derived CBD Products Gluten Free?
It's a question being raised by an increasing number of people around the world: is it gluten-free? It's asked by athletes, those with celiacs disease, and health-conscious individuals. As CBD use increases, considering if a given hemp-derived product is gluten-free is important for millions of users across the world.
Luckily, the hemp plant is naturally free of gluten, but that doesn't mean that all CBD products are as well. There are important considerations based on the type of product and ingredients inside that you need to consider if you're looking for a gluten-free option.
What is Gluten and Why is it Often Avoided?
Gluten is a specific type of protein that is commonly found in grains like wheat, rye, barley, spelt, durum, semolina, farro, triticale, and kamut. Gluten is what gives dough it's stretchy and elastic consistency - it helps foods maintain their shape. Gluten is most commonly found in foods and drinks containing wheat, barley, and rye. Examples include bread, soup, pasta, cereal, beer, malt, and yeast.
There are three primary groups of people who choose to avoid gluten:
- Gluten allergy: this group experiences a severe immune response when gluten is consumed. Hives, rashes, itching, and swelling occur when exposed.
- Celiac disease: this common hereditary disease affects roughly 1% of the world population. When gluten is consumed by someone with the condition, the body's immune response attacks the small intestine lining. As a result, the villi (small fingerlike projections that line the small intestine) are damaged and nutrient absorption suffers as a result. Currently, the only treatment is a strict no-gluten diet.
- Gluten intolerance or sensitivity: this group may notice gastrointestinal issues when eating gluten-containing foods. These issues include diarrhea, bloating, gas, etc. There are currently no standardized tests to determine if a person is gluten intolerant, this must be self-identified through testing a gluten-free diet. The primary difference between this group and those with Celiac Disease is that the small intestine lining is not damaged when someone is intolerant or sensitive to gluten.
For those who don't have any gluten-related issues, it is common to think that gluten-free is just a fad. As you can see from the descriptions above, this couldn't be further from the truth. For those who fall into one of these 3 groups, avoiding gluten is an important, health-impacting decision.
Hemp Does Not Contain Gluten
CBD products are used by such a wide range of individuals, that the intersection with a gluten-free population is a guarantee. There are even stories of those with Celiac Disease seeking CBD specifically. Since hemp extract is a new ingredient for many, general knowledge on the plant and CBD products containing it's extract is not common.
If you're looking at CBD oil and wondering if it's gluten-free - the first thing to know is that the hemp plant is naturally free of gluten. While this is fantastic, it doesn't paint the whole picture. CBD products are produced using an extract from the hemp plant, but this extract is almost always combined with additional ingredients to create the end product.
What this means is that to find a gluten-free CBD product, you need to be looking at the entire ingredients list.
Gluten-Free CBD Products by Type
Since the CBD-rich hemp extract is gluten-free, looking at the other ingredients in a product is the key to determining if a product meets the definition. These products are commonly gluten-free:
- CBD isolate sold as a powder or slab will be naturally gluten-free as it contains no other ingredients except the CBD molecule.
- Tinctures, capsules, oils commonly include a hemp extract mixed with a carrier oil. The commonly used carrier oils are produced from plants that do not contain gluten. The big key is to avoid products with flavors or other additives.
- Salves, balms, and lotions which are applied to the skin may be at risk of containing gluten if they contain hordeum vulgare, triticum vulgare, or tocopherol acetate - all gluten-containing ingredients. That said, you can't absorb gluten through the skin, so the big risk is cross-contaminating foods you might touch after using these products or getting them in your eyes/mouth when applying.
- Vape products are generally pure and not a likely source of gluten contamination.
The two big product categories that are at-risk for gluten content are:
- Edible CBD products are the biggest at-risk category for gluten. Luckily if you're used to avoiding gluten, then a look a the labels of these products will be familiar and easy to determine.
- Drinks and drink mixes commonly have added ingredients and additives that can contain gluten.
What About Cross-Contamination?
Hemp products are sometimes processed in plants that also handle gluten-containing products. The plants can also be grown in close proximity to other gluten-containing plants. This means the chance of cross-contamination is present. That said, this is most common in the hemp seed industry, not in the hemp CBD industry.
Hemp seeds are grown as a source of protein and processed with other similar foods. As we've discussed in-depth, quality CBD products will be utilizing the flowering tops of the hemp plant during extraction, not the seeds. Most quality CBD growers and processors are working exclusively with hemp. That said, this is something to consider when choosing a product, and sometimes hempseed oil is used as a carrier.
Armed with this knowledge, be sure to read the label for each product you're choosing. Also, seek out high-quality brands, specifically, those who's products are manufactured in hemp-CBD exclusive facilities which lower the risk of cross-contamination.
Here at Big Sky Botanicals, our products do not contain gluten!