CBDVA (Cannabidivarinic Acid) Guide

Published September 17, 2020
CBDVA (Cannabidivarinic Acid) Guide - Secret Nature

We’re all familiar with CBD, and at this point, intrepid explorers of all things cannabis have most likely familiarized themselves with CBDA and CBDV as well. The acronym “CBDVA,” however, might be one letter too long for even the most knowledgeable of hemp experts, which is why we’ve set out to explain what CBDVA is, what it does, and why it’s important in this guide. Read on to learn all about CBDVA and the current and potential future uses of this unique cannabis-derived substance.

What is CBDVA?

Cannabidivarinic acid (CBDVA) is the carboxylic acid precursor of cannabidivarin (CBDV), a close chemical relative to cannabidiol (CBD). All of these substances originate in Cannabis sativa, and CBDVA, CBDV, and CBD share more similarities than differences. CBDVA is not the same thing as CBD, however, and it’s the unique properties of this cannabinoid acid that have garnered the most attention.

To fully understand what CBDVA is, we’ll need to start with an overview of where cannabinoids come from. Cannabinoids like CBD don’t start out in their final forms. Instead, they originate as carboxylic acids, which are characterized by their carboxyl groups. These groups consist of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, and they are relatively unstable.

One of the first carboxylic acids that develops as Cannabis sativa flower matures is cannabigerolic acid (CBGA), which is essentially the same thing as cannabigerol (CBG) but with a carboxyl group attached. In certain strains of cannabis, another carboxylic acid develops at the same time as CBGA: cannabigerovarinic acid (CBGVA), which is the same as CBGA aside from containing two fewer carbon atoms in its side chain.

CBGA and CBGVA can be considered the “stem cells” of all the cannabinoids found in Cannabis sativa. When exposed to certain enzymes, CBGA might change into THCA, CBDA, CBCA, or other carboxylic acid cannabinoid precursors. CBGVA, for its part, transforms into the “varin” counterparts of common carboxylic acid cannabinoid precursors such as CBDVA or THCVA.

Varin carboxylic acids inherit their shorter carbon side chains from CBGVA, and these three-atom side chains persist even when varin carboxylic acids decarboxylate into their final cannabinoid forms. As a result, varin cannabinoids, such as CBDV, are slightly yet distinctly different from their conventional cannabinoid counterparts. CBDV is, therefore, considered to be a homolog of CBD, which means it is very similar to CBD but not similar enough to be a cut-and-dry analog.

When exposed to relatively low heat, CBDVA loses its carboxyl group via a process called decarboxylation and becomes CBDV. Without CBDVA, there would be no CBDV, and the international cannabis research community is gradually starting to recognize the unique potential benefits this varin form of CBD might offer.

History of CBDVA research

Japanese researchers discovered CBDVA in 1977 along with THCVA, CBGVA, and cannabichromevarinic acid (CBCVA). At the time, the “stem cell” relationship between CBGVA and the other varin cannabinoid carboxylic acid precursors was unknown, and the researchers who made this discovery simply lumped CBGVA, THCVA, CBCVA, and CBDVA into the same category.

In 1988, CBDVA was included in a review of compounds in Cannabis sativa that might show anticonvulsant activity. Until around 2010, however, CBDVA essentially flew under the radar as cannabis scientists focused more heavily on CBD, and, to a lesser degree, CBDVA’s final form, CBDV.

Rewinding to 1996, however, we find the first faint indication that CBDVA might take a more prominent role in cannabinoid research, albeit indirectly. It was this year that researchers discovered that CBGA was the chemical precursor of CBDA, THCA, and other non-varin carboxylic acid cannabinoid precursors. As a result, researchers were able to infer that CBGVA was also the original form of varin cannabinoid precursors.

Over the next two decades, cannabis scientists worked frantically to reconcile this discovery with the clear and present demand for lab-synthesized cannabinoids. In 2017, this unprecedented research initiative bore fruit when scientists announced that they had successfully created CBGA using genetically modified yeast.

Just last year, another team of scientists reported that they had managed to produce both THCVA and CBDVA using nothing more than GMO yeast and cannabis enzymes. This research proves that CBDVA remains a prime target of international cannabinoid research, and interest in this varin cannabinoid will only continue to rise as it becomes easier to produce CBDVA in ways that do not involve the cannabis plant.

What is CBDVA currently used for?

At present, the primary use of CBDVA is as a carboxylic acid precursor in synthesized CBDV research. It is currently impossible to synthesize CBDV in its decarboxylated form, so it’s necessary to produce CBDVA first and then decarboxylate it into CBDV.

CBDVA is also sometimes included in research into the benefits of non-psychoactive cannabinoids for certain conditions, such as a 2020 review of the evidence that covered the potential neuroprotective properties of more than a dozen cannabinoids. In some cases, CBDVA is pulled into studies concerning the potential anticonvulsant effects of CBDV, which is currently a hot topic within the cannabinoid science community. Given the success of CBD-based anticonvulsant drugs like Epidiolex, researchers are naturally keen to determine if CBDV, and, to a lesser degree, CBDVA, are equally useful for this purpose.

Starting in 2012, cannabis scientists have conducted a series of animal studies designed to determine the anticonvulsant properties of CBDV. Researchers have also sought to determine the benefits of CBDV for digestive inflammation, brain atrophy, and other conditions.

Due to its similarity to CBDV, it’s only natural to include CBDVA in cannabinoid research initiatives. At this time, however, there are no consumer products with high concentrations of CBDVA, and use of this cannabinoid acid remains highly limited.

What might CBDVA be used for in the future?

It’s likely that CBDVA will continue to play a critical role in efforts to synthesize CBDV using yeast. While CBDV is nowhere near as popular as CBD, scientists remain interested in the ways that the benefits of these two cannabinoids might overlap, and they’re especially keen to discover any potential unique benefits that CBDV might offer. We don’t have enough data to make specific assumptions at this point, but it’s entirely possible that CBDV might be better for certain digestive disorders than CBD, and CBDV may even hold the keys to overcoming CBD tolerance in patients with intractable forms of epilepsy.

The moment that the unique benefits of CBDV become more clearly articulated, an avalanche of funding will pour into efforts to synthesize this varin cannabinoid. From the perspective of the global pharmaceutical industry, the cannabinoid market is currently held back by the inherent inefficiency of Cannabis sativa plant cultivation. Ongoing cannabinoid synthesization efforts are focused squarely on THC and CBD, but any cannabinoid that reaches a certain level of popularity will become a ripe target for synthesization.

As the chemical precursor to CBDV, CBDVA will also continue to play a role in any setting in which CBDV is used. Even if the goal of CBDV-rich cannabis production is to harvest the final form of this cannabinoid, every CBDV molecule starts its existence as CBDVA, and even synthetic CBDV begins life in its carboxylic acid form.

What are the best ways to use CBDVA?

Methods of using CBDVA are currently highly limited. In our research, we were only able to find one supplier of bulk CBDVA concentrate, and pricing for this rare carboxylic acid remains quite high. If you are intent on trying the effects of CBDVA without combining it with any other cannabinoids, you can purchase bulk CBDVA and include it in DIY hemp products such as capsules or tinctures.

As you prepare your own CBDVA products, however, just make sure to avoid heating this carboxylic acid above approximately 100° C. If you heat CBDVA above this temperature, it will decarboxylate into CBDV, so vaping and smoking this carboxylic acid are off the menu.

If you’re content with trying CBDV in its decarboxylated form, however, a wide variety of CBDV products are available on the market. From vape cartridges to topicals, CBDV is becoming an increasingly common component of hemp products.

You can also enjoy CBDVA in conjunction with other cannabinoids by trying raw cannabis juicing. As an increasing number of hemp users have discovered the unique benefits of carboxylic acid cannabinoid precursors like CBDA and THCA, this consumption method has come to the fore as one of the best ways to enjoy cannabis without applying heat.

There aren’t currently any Cannabis sativa strains that contain CBDV as their dominant cannabinoid, but a wide variety of cannabis strains contain this cannabinoid in concentrations of around 1%. Since CBDV is in its carboxylic acid form when contained in raw cannabis flower, finding cannabis buds with the highest available concentrations of CBDV and juicing them is a creative way to get a general idea of the benefits that this rare cannabinoid might offer.

CBDVA is the key to discovering CBDV

There’s still a lot we don’t know about CBDV, but what we’ve learned so far is highly promising. When it comes to potential anticonvulsant benefits, scientists are just as interested in CBDV as they are in CBD, and since research has revealed that CBDA has a much higher affinity for your brain’s 5-HT1A receptors than CBD, it’s entirely possible that CBDVA might have its own unique benefits just waiting to be discovered.

Whether it’s in the form of accelerating efforts to synthesize CBDV in a lab or ongoing attempts to breed CBDV-rich cannabis, CBDVA will certainly continue to play a role in our understanding of varin cannabinoids and the unique benefits they offer. Visit the Shared Secrets blog to read more entries in our in-depth investigation into the history and benefits of cannabinoids.
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