The mature buds of the Cannabis sativa plant are home to hundreds of different compounds. Researchers continue to discover new cannabinoids all the time, so it should come as no surprise if you’re unfamiliar with some of the unique compounds cannabis contains.
While you might not have heard of CBGVA, this cannabinoid has impressive properties that shouldn’t be overlooked. In this guide, we’ll explore the history of CBGVA, consider its potential uses, and provide you with the latest information on the best ways to use this rare cannabinoid.
What is CBGVA?
Cannabigerovarinic acid (CBGVA) is the carboxylic acid precursor of cannabigerovarin (CBGV). During the maturation process of Cannabis sativa, this plant’s buds produce a wide variety of carboxylic acids, and CBGVA and cannabigerolic acid (CBGA) are among the first acids produced.
Unlike CBD, THC, and other stable cannabinoids, carboxylic acid cannabinoid precursors are characterized by their carboxyl groups, which are unstable molecular structures that transform when exposed to heat. Raw Cannabis sativa flower contains carboxylic acids instead of stable cannabinoids, and these acids are then transformed into stable cannabinoids via a process called decarboxylation.
Both CBGVA and CBGA are considered to be “stem cell” cannabinoids since they transform into the carboxylic acid precursors of other cannabinoids via enzymatic processes. In the case of CBGA, this carboxylic acid can transform into CBDA, THCA, or other acidic cannabinoid precursors depending on the enzymes to which it is exposed. CBGVA, on the other hand, transforms into precursors of varin cannabinoids such as CBDVA, THCVA, and CBCVA.
While similar enough to normal cannabinoids to be considered homologous, varin cannabinoids have smaller carbon side chains. Normal cannabinoids have carbon side chains consisting of five carbon atoms, but the side chains contained within varin cannabinoids only have three carbon atoms. This difference is small, but it is enough to make varin cannabinoids, such as THCV, fully distinct from normal cannabinoids, such as THC, in terms of chemical structure and effects.
Research into varin cannabinoids is far more limited than research into normal cannabinoids, but cannabis scientists remain curious about the potential therapeutic value of these cannabinoid analogs. Since CBGVA can transform into the carboxylic acid precursors of THCV, CBDV, and other varin cannabinoids, it is a critical point of research into both the potential benefits of these cannabinoid analogs and inquiries into the synthesization of varin cannabinoids.
History of CBGVA research
CBGVA was first isolated from Cannabis sativa in 1977 by Japanese researchers. This cannabinoid acid was isolated at the same time as THCVA, CBDVA, and CBCVA, but during that era, the international cannabis science community had no idea that CBGVA was the direct precursor of other varin cannabinoid acids.
In 1996, however, it was discovered that CBGA is the precursor of THCA, CBDA, and other non-varin carboxylic acid cannabinoid precursors, and it wasn’t long before researchers confirmed that CBGVA was the precursor of the varin cannabinoid carboxylic acids. With this discovery, CBGVA assumed a new position of prominence within international cannabinoid research, but nonetheless, very few studies have been conducted into the properties and effects of this varin cannabinoid precursor.
This lack of research can largely be attributed to the fact that varin cannabinoids, in general, have not been very heavily researched. Out of all the varin cannabinoids, THCV has been researched more than any other, and this cannabinoid has received increased attention mainly due to the potential that it might provide similar effects to THC while being less intoxicating.
Other varin cannabinoids, however, such as CBDV and CBGV, do not appear to have effects that significantly differ from those of their conventional cannabinoid counterparts. Varin cannabinoids undeniably have different chemical structures than conventional cannabinoids, but researchers have not noted many significant differences between the pharmacokinetics of varin and conventional forms of non-intoxicating cannabinoids.
At this stage, the unique effects that non-intoxicating varin cannabinoids may provide are supported almost entirely by anecdotal evidence. To more fully establish the usefulness of varin cannabinoids in contrast to conventional cannabinoids, more research will need to be conducted, but such research is unlikely to be justified since the differences between varin and conventional cannabinoids are considered to be minimal.
What is CBGVA currently used for?
At present, CBGVA is not widely used in the production of consumer products. In our research, we were only able to find one supplier of bulk CBGVA, and we were not able to find any consumer products containing this rare and poorly researched varin cannabinoid precursor.
The primary current use of CBGVA is most likely research into the synthesization of THCV and other varin cannabinoids. Currently, CBGA, the precursor of many conventional cannabinoids, is under intensive scientific scrutiny due to its potential role in recombinant cannabinoid production. Researchers have successfully derived CBGA from genetically modified yeast, potentially opening the door to mass-scale bioidentical cannabinoid synthesis in laboratory settings.
If the example of CBGA is any indication, researchers are most likely also currently engaging in efforts to derive recombinant CBGVA from yeast. However, the market for THCV is many orders of magnitude smaller than the THC market, and the CBDV and CBGV markets are even smaller. Therefore, there is considerably less incentive for researchers to crack the recombinant CBGVA code than there is to mass-produce CBGA for the purpose of synthesizing THC or CBD.
It’s worth noting that converting CBGVA is presently the only way to produce rare cannabinoids like CBDV and CBCV. While Cannabis sativa strains that are high in THCV have already been developed, there are currently no strains that contain high concentrations of CBDV or CBCV, so brands seeking to develop products based on these varin cannabinoids must use CBGVA as a precursor.
CBGVA is also, obviously, the precursor of CBGV, and this stable cannabinoid has received a limited degree of attention recently due to unsubstantiated claims that it increases the effects of THC. What we do know about CBGV, however, is that it has been researched for both its anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects. As an important, if minor, component of most strains of Cannabis sativa, CBGV may also contribute to the entourage effect, so it wouldn’t be too surprising if this varin cannabinoid improved the effects of THC, CBD, or even CBG.
What might CBGVA be used for in the future?
As time goes by, it’s likely that varin cannabinoids will increase in popularity primarily due to the existence of THCV. Cannabis users everywhere are always searching for the next great hemp experience, and the unique properties to THCV will likely continue to make this cannabinoid an increasingly relevant THC competitor.
While THCV offers similar effects to those provided by THC, it is significantly less intoxicating, and it may even be less addictive. Many THC users enjoy this cannabinoid’s psychotropic effects, but they’d rather avoid THC’s most notable side effects. THCV may end up providing a reasonable alternative to THC with significantly diminished psychoactive properties—think “THC Lite.”
Of course, if THCV becomes popular, then pharmaceutical companies will leap at any chance to synthesize this cannabinoid. While it’s possible to grow high-quality hemp that’s free from toxins, deriving cannabinoids via Cannabis sativa cultivation is inherently inefficient, and Big Pharma would prefer to synthesize any cannabinoid that reaches a significant degree of popularity.
To synthesize THCV using the currently dominant yeast-based method, it would first be necessary to synthesize CBGVA. From there, this recombinant carboxylic acid would, theoretically, be enzymatically converted into THCVA, which would then be decarboxylated into THCV.
It’s also possible that CBGVA and CBGV will become popular based on their own merits. However, this popularity is unlikely to arrive before this varin cannabinoid precursor becomes well-known as the chemical “middle-man” used in the process of synthesizing THCV and CBDV.
Adding another layer of complexity, the global cannabinoid industry will need to attain significantly greater maturity before demand for synthesized THCV, CBDV, and other varin cannabinoids reaches notable proportions. At present, even the process of synthesizing THC, the world’s most popular cannabinoid, remains in its infancy, so it’s unlikely that CBGVA will become a household name within the next five years.
What are the best ways to use CBGVA?
Using CBGVA is currently highly challenging. While Asian landrace cannabis strains have reasonably high quantities of this cannabinoid, the concentrations of CBGVA these cultivars contain do not usually exceed 1%. Since cannabis researchers are now aware of the potential benefits of CBGVA, it’s likely that strains have been bred that contain higher concentrations of this critical carboxylic acid precursor to varin cannabinoids, but these Cannabis sativa strains are not yet available to the general public.
At present, the only way to use CBGVA is to purchase this carboxylic acid in bulk from a cannabinoid supplier. From there, you can combine your CBGVA with a carrier oil and consume it in the form of a tincture or capsule. If you apply heat to your DIY CBGVA product, however, this carboxylic acid will transform into CBGV, which has a different chemical structure and (assumedly) different effects. Therefore, do not attempt to vape, smoke, or cook your CBGVA.
CBGVA deserves more research
It’s lamentable how little we know about CBGVA. While this carboxylic acid appears to be the key to learning more about THCV, CBDV, and even CBGV, the relative lack of popularity of varin cannabinoids in comparison to their conventional counterparts is holding CBGVA research back.
In time, varin cannabinoids may reach equal status with conventional cannabinoids as we learn more about the unique properties of these Cannabis sativa compounds. When this day comes, CBGVA will surely take on a level of importance equal to the relevance of CBGA to conventional cannabinoids.Until then, however, we’ll simply need to call on cannabis researchers to look more closely at the unique properties of CBGVA and expand our knowledge of this intriguing cannabis compound. Learn more about cannabinoids and all things cannabis at the Shared Secrets blog.