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Few people understand the CBD industry quite like Empower BodyCare founder and CEO Trista Okel. She began crafting DIY CBD topicals in 2004, hoping to help her mother find relief. Her formulations earned a loyal following and she founded Empower BodyCare in 2013. Over the course of her career, Trista has witnessed CBD gradually rise to mainstream popularity.

  • A 2019 Gallup poll found 14% of Americans use CBD products.
  • Another Gallup poll found four in 10 Americans believe CBD should be over-the-counter, and one-third believe it has several benefits.
  • SingleCare’s April 2020 survey found 45% of current CBD users increased their use of CBD since the coronavirus pandemic. More than a quarter say they are stocking up due to potential shortages.

Trista’s deep knowledge and experience has earned her reputation as an expert in her field. She has helped to dispel myths about the cannabinoid, improve awareness and further normalization with Empower BodyCare’s CBD-infused topical products.

Here, Trista discusses her perspective on the industry, what to look for in a CBD product and her hopes for the future.

You’ve been making CBD products since 2004 – longer than most. In what ways have you seen the industry change?

While we still have a way to go in terms of regulation, I think improved awareness has been a step in the right direction. In 2004, people barely talked about CBD. When they did, it was often in connection to another cannabinoid, THC. Because of this connection, CBD was frequently associated with the “high” you can get from the THC in cannabis. People didn’t realize the immense potential of CBD – alongside the dozens other naturally occurring chemical compounds in the plant. While THC certainly has its own value, the cannabis plant offers so much more.

The 2018 Farm Bill certainly helped expand the CBD industry and increase awareness. Today, more people are willing to try CBD products and incorporate them into their everyday routines. People realize it isn’t some scary drug – it’s a naturally occurring chemical compound that can seriously improve lives. They’re seeing CBD on the shelves at the grocery store. Their grandmas and bosses are using it. There has been an immense shift in our society’s perception.

Unfortunately, a side-effect of the 2018 Farm Bill – which legalized hemp cultivation and the transfer of hemp-based products across state lines for commercial purposes – was an explosion of illegitimate CBD companies. In 2019, the FDA shut down many companies because of illegal marketing claims. More recently, the FDA found numerous CBD products with incorrect labeling. This isn’t only wasting consumers’ money who think they’re buying a legitimate CBD product, but it also impedes the industry’s progress.

What are some persistent myths about CBD you wish would disappear?

A number-one misconception I’ve heard is CBD is intoxicating. This is untrue – THC, not CBD, is the compound that makes you feel “high.” This is because CBD doesn’t activate the CB1 receptor in the brain. On top of that, topicals generally do not cause intoxication because they’re interacting with receptors and enzymes in the skin, rather than the endocannabinoid system.

Of course, another myth is that CBD is some sort of panacea. While CBD is great for a lot of things, it’s not a magical cure. At the same time, there’s been some incredible research on CBD’s possibilities. I’m eager to see what other findings emerge in the coming years. I have a feeling more people will see CBD as an integral part of their wellness – just as you might take a daily vitamin or supplement.

Say I’m a new CBD customer. What should I look for when shopping for products?

First off, whether you’re brand-new to CBD or you’ve been using it for years, I urge everyone to do their due diligence when shopping for CBD. Ensure you’re getting effective, quality products that contain CBD as advertised.

To start, you’ll want to examine the product packaging: Where is the amount of CBD listed? How about CBD per dose? Where is the expiration date? Review the ingredient list, too. CBD shouldn’t top the list, as companies are required to list ingredients by volume. Because CBD is measured in milligrams, it’s unlikely to be the highest-volume ingredient.

Next, you’ll want to check for a Certificate of Analysis. These are official test results issued by a third-party lab. The batch number and CBD potency should match what is printed on the package. There should also be test results for more than one sample. It’s impossible to know how homogenous the product is without at least two, preferably three samples taken from each batch of product. You should also check for contaminants like heavy metals, pesticides, or left-over solvents from some extraction processes.

You can do additional research to find out where the company is sourcing hemp, what kind of extraction process they’re using and where they get other ingredients. This research can help you find the best possible product to suit your needs.

What would you like to see change in the CBD industry in the next few years?

I would love to see more standardized oversight for hemp businesses. Right now, it’s a bit of a Wild West and it’s up to individual companies to make responsible choices. By setting a high bar for sourcing and production methods, consumers get a better product and the industry is increasingly legitimized.

In addition, historically disenfranchised groups, like BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities, have a harder time breaking into the CBD industry. As of now, the industry is still dominated by straight, white men. There needs to be more opportunity for groups that have been disproportionately impacted by harmful policies and the War on Drugs. I feel super fortunate that Empower, as an LGBTQ+ and women-owned company, has seen such success. I hope we can help pave the way for other underrepresented entrepreneurs and a more equitable future.

What processes and partners set Empower BodyCare apart from the crowd?

I’m personally passionate about quality, and that’s why I’m still deeply involved in the sourcing and manufacturing processes at our company. We always want to make sure everything is up to our company’s high standards, from the essential oils that we’re using to the CBD oil and carrier oils. We’re proud to partner with one of the first USDA-certified organic hemp farms in the country, East Fork Cultivars. Additionally, we work with Columbia Labs for our batch-specific lab reports. They’re among the most experienced testing facilities when it comes to cosmetics and topicals, with over 20 years of experience.

I founded Empower BodyCare with a mission to help others. That impetus truly hasn’t changed. I’m proud to continue educating people on hemp-based alternatives and pushing for a positive future for the industry.

Explore Empower BodyCare products here.