What is CBDa (cannabidiolic acid) & what are the benefits?

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What is CBDa (cannabidiolic acid) & what are the benefits?


Have you heard of CBDa? When it comes to cannabinoids found in hemp, you’re likely most familiar with CBD (cannabidiol), and its effects and possible benefits of use. But you should also familiarize yourself with CBDa, the botanical precursor of CBD.

CBDa, short for cannabidiolic acid, is a cannabinoid that is found most abundantly in fresh raw cannabis and hemp. First isolated in 1996, CBDa gradually transforms into CBD once the plant has been harvested and the compound is exposed to heat. 

While CBDa clearly has a close natural relationship with CBD, CBDa has its own distinct differences and unique benefits because of the way it influences your body’s systems. CBDa has a more direct effect upon the receptors it interacts with than CBD does, allowing for a more direct exchange of information and nutrients.

CBDa is already quietly demonstrating intriguing natural benefits on its own. Don’t be surprised if this now lesser-recognized cannabinoid soon plays a starring role in supplements and health products!

In this article, we’ll dive into CBDa and discuss its benefits, how it interacts with the body’s receptors, its relationship and differences to CBD, and the types of CBDa products that are out there if you’re looking to experience it for yourself.

CBDa vs CBD what’s the difference?

CBDa and CBD are both cannabinoids, a class of chemical compounds produced by the cannabis plant. There are more than 100 cannabinoids so far identified in the hemp plant, and their concentrations vary depending on the variety of plant and whether the plant’s materials have undergone any type of processing.

CBDa is the acidic precursor to CBD. Cannabinoids go through major transformations over time, such as when they are harvested, aged, or exposed to heat. In fresh hemp, cannabinoids are found in the form of acids and they are considered inactive. This is the case with tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCa), cannabigerolic acid (CBGa), cannabichromenic acid (CBCa), and of course, CBDa.

Acidic cannabinoids like CBDa have an added carboxyl ring attached to their molecular chain. In order to get to CBD and other active cannabinoids, these acidic forms need to be decarboxylated, a process that heats the cannabinoids to change their molecular structure so that they give off their carboxyl group as carbon dioxide and water vapor.

Decarboxylation occurs naturally over time as a harvested hemp plant ages. It also occurs when the plant material is purposely heated. It’s through this process that the acidic form of CBD (CBDa) is converted into active CBD. Most of the hemp oil products available today have undergone this decarboxylation process to activate the cannabinoids.

As plant-derived cannabinoids, both CBD and CBDa have a molecular structure that allows them to interact with and influence a major regulatory system in the body. However, acidic forms of cannabinoids like CBDa affect the body in very different ways than the decarboxylated forms of cannabinoids, like CBD, do.

With that said, it’s important to point out that, like CBD, CBDa is non-intoxicating, which means when consumed it doesn’t elicit any type of euphoric side effects or sensations. If you’re looking to use the cannabinoids everyday as part of your routine, know that you can enjoy both CBD and CBDa at any time of day without the worry of temporary psychoactive response.

Potential Benefits of CBDa?

So now that you know the difference between CBDa and CBD, let’s answer what’s likely to be your next question– how does CBDa work? What are the effects of CBDa and the potential benefits of CBDa?

Like CBD and the other more than 100 cannabinoids in hemp, cannabidiolic acid (CBDa) interacts with your body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), a biochemical communication network that’s responsible for maintaining balance. Cannabinoids like CBDa stimulate the endocannabinoid system by interacting with cannabinoid receptors — CB1 receptors and CB2 receptors — located on cells throughout the central nervous system, immune system, and more.

CBDa has a more direct affinity for cannabinoid receptors than CBD does. While CBD acts indirectly on receptors as an allosteric modulator, CBDa has a more direct lock-and-key effect upon cannabinoid receptors, similar to the way cannabinoids like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabinol (CBN), and cannabigerol (CBG) do. This means there is a more direct exchange of information and nutrients.

Some studies have shown that CBDa effects on the endocannabinoid system support central nervous system relaxation. There is also evidence that CBDa interaction with receptors inhibits an enzyme called cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2 enzyme). COX-2 enzymes are involved in the inflammatory response. CBDa may prove to be a natural way to support COX-2 inhibitors, which are a subclass of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as Ibuprofen, that are used to manage inflammation and other issues.

CBDa also has a more direct effect upon 5HT1a receptors, also commonly called Serotonin receptors, which as their name suggests produce a key hormone known as Serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that enables communication between brain cells and other nervous cells. It impacts the entire body, including being responsible for regulating mood and feelings of well-being, digestion, sleep, and more. CBDa’s influence on 5-HT receptors suggest that the cannabinoid may support the use of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI), medications commonly prescribed to increase levels of serotonin in the brain.

The pharmacology benefits of CBDa are only just beginning to be fully understood. Research into CBDa is not as robust as more prominent cannabinoids like CBD, and it’s important to note that CBDa isn’t approved by the European Medicines Evaluation Agency or the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, early studies reveal promising natural health benefits, including potential medical use effects on breast cancer cells, epilepsy, and more.

How to use CBDa?

how to use CBDa

If you were to juice raw hemp, you would be able to consume a generous serving of CBDa. That’s not an option for many, but fret not– there are options available if you’re interested in experiencing the natural benefits of CBDa!

To enjoy acidic form cannabinoids like CBDa, you’ll want to look for full spectrum or broad spectrum raw hemp oils or tinctures that have been kept in their natural state. These raw hemp oils present the plant materials, like CBDa, as they are found in the live hemp plant. You may also be able to find hemp topicals infused with raw hemp oil and thus CBDa.

Just as you should when shopping for CBD products, it’s important to find a manufacturer or raw hemp oil that you can trust. Make sure that the manufacturer has in place quality control standards and that the raw hemp oil has been verified for safety and quality by a third-party, independent lab.

As you set out to find hemp oil with CBDa, keep in mind that this raw form is more difficult for product formulators to work with in developing finished products than CBD oil, making them somewhat unique.

Types of Cannabinoids & how they compare

While CBD has rightfully garnered widespread attention for its natural balancing properties so far, CBDa is starting to emerge into the spotlight. As you’ve learned today, it’s for good reason! CBDa, the precursor of CBD, has its own unique properties and benefits that can be helpful for the human body.

But the marvelous hemp plant offers many more wonderful cannabinoids that can support a healthier life. Some such compounds include cannabigerol (CBG) and cannabinol (CBN), both of which are now being used because of their own unique natural benefits. 

There is much more to learn about these cannabinoids! If you are curious about these compounds and what to learn more, check out our educational article on CBG, our article exploring CBN, and our article comparing the differences between CBN, CBG, and CBD.

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