You’ve heard of CBD, and you’re familiar with the amazing benefits this non-intoxicating cannabinoid provides. What if we were to tell you, however, that there was another Cannabis sativa compound that’s almost exactly the same as CBD while potentially offering further benefits?
Cannabidiolic acid (CBDa) is one of the most fascinating cannabis compounds currently on the market, and while this substance is very similar to CBD, there are significant differences between these two hemp constituents. In this guide, learn what CBDa is and how it compares to CBD, and brush up on the potential benefits of CBDa that science has identified.
What is CBDa?
Mature Cannabis sativa buds are home to more than 1,000 chemical compounds, and only a few of these compounds are cannabinoids. In addition to terpenes, flavonoids, and waxes, cannabis also contains a variety of carboxylic acids, which are compounds that contain carboxyl groups consisting of carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen atoms.
These acids are precursors of common cannabinoids, which means that they transform into cannabinoids when exposed to certain stimuli. THCA is, for instance, the chemical precursor of THC, and CBGA is the chemical precursor of cannabigerol (CBG). Following in this vein, CBDa is the chemical precursor of CBD, and it transforms into CBD via the process of decarboxylation.
CBDa decarboxylation occurs when outside stimuli remove the carboxyl groups from this cannabis compound, causing CBDa to transform to CBD. The CBDa decarboxylation process occurs when this acid is exposed to temperatures of 230° F or higher, which means that removing CBDa from Cannabis sativa flower is a very tricky process.
Since it appears that CBDa has benefits above and beyond those offered by CBD, however, putting in the extra work to extract this acid is worth it. For instance, a 2013 Canadian study suggested that CBDa may be 1,000 times more active at the brain’s 5-HT1A receptors than CBD, indicating that the acid form of this cannabinoid could be significantly more effective than CBD in treating conditions associated with this critical serotonin neuroreceptor.
Even when it is included in types of products that will naturally cause this acid to transform into CBD during use, such as vape pens, CBDa can be an indicator of high-quality extract. Since most types of hemp flower extraction and processing cause CBDa to transform into CBD, this acid can only be removed using heat-free extraction processes, such as cryogenic live resin extraction. In general, cryogenic extraction processes are superior since they preserve the terpenes and flavonoids present in Cannabis sativa flower, and live resin extraction is the most advanced form of cryogenic cannabis extraction that has been developed to date.
While it is unstable, CBDa has no chance of converting into an intoxicating substance. This cannabis acid can only convert to CBD, so even if it is exposed to enough heat to trigger the decarboxylation process, CBDa will not get you high or cause any types of effects that CBD does not also cause.
CBDa vs. CBD
CBDa is the acid form of CBD, and it naturally converts into CBD when exposed to temperatures exceeding 230° F. These two Cannabis sativa constituents are more similar than they are different both chemically and in terms of their effects.
Chemically, the only difference between CBDa and CBD is the fact that CBDa has an additional carboxyl group. The effects of CBDa and CBD are also highly similar even though scientists believe that CBDa may have much higher affinity for your brain’s 5-HT1A receptors than CBD.
One of the most notable differences between CBD and CBDa is the lack of research into CBDa that has been conducted so far. While hundreds of both clinical and preclinical studies have been conducted into the effects and potential benefits of CBD, hardly any research has been performed to determine the effects of CBDa.
For instance, there do not appear to be any clinical studies on the effects of CBDa on human subjects, so all of our conjecture on this cannabinoid is based on lab studies. Since CBD and CBDa are so similar, however, it’s likely that much of the research into cannabidiol also applies to cannabidiolic acid.
CBD and CBDa are both non-intoxicating, and neither Cannabis sativa compound appears to have any significant affinity for your brain’s CB1 and CB2 receptors, which are the primary components of the endocannabinoid system. Instead, CBDa’s affinity for the 5-HT1A receptors has been well-documented, and it’s likely that this cannabinoid also interacts with the nervous system’s TRP receptors, which are primary targets of CBD.
How does CBDa work in the body?
In the human body, CBDa seems to operate within the same channels of CBD. This cannabinoid displays high affinity for the 5-HT1A receptors, and it most likely interacts with other neurochemical mechanisms involved in the metabolism of CBD. The effects of CBDa will vary widely, however, depending on the method by which you ingest this cannabis acid.
When ingested orally, CBDa has low bioavailability since it is processed by your liver. While applying CBDa topically using a water-based formula offers high bioavailability, the effects of most topicals remain localized to the site of administration. Neither of these CBDa administration methods will provide remarkably potent effects.
CBDa can also be inhaled, but most cannabinoid pulmonary administration methods involve heating cannabis oils to temperatures that would cause CBDa to decarboxylate into CBD. Theoretically, it should be possible to administer CBDa using an oral spray similar to the mechanism used in asthma inhalers, but no such products are currently available on the market. Vaping or smoking CBDa provides the most potent effects even though this cannabinoid is converted into CBD during the process.
While significantly less research has been conducted into CBDa compared to CBD, it’s still possible to learn more about this Cannabis sativa compound from the limited studies that have been conducted into CBDa to date. Below is some information on the most compelling studies conducted into CBDa so far along with details on the potential benefits this body of research may imply:
Potential anti-nausea benefits
CBDa has been researched extensively for its potential anti-nausea and anti-emetic properties. While all of the studies conducted so far have involved animals instead of humans, scientists believe there is significant reason to suspect that CBDa may reduce nausea and prevent vomiting by activating the brain’s 5-HT1A receptors. Human studies are, however, needed to confirm these results.
Potential anti-cancer benefits
Multiple studies have been conducted into CBDa’s potential to fight breast cancer. While the preliminary results that have been submitted so far are promising, more research needs to be done to determine if cannabidiolic acid truly has anti-carcinogenic properties.
Potential pain benefits
Studies have been conducted to determine the effects of CBDa on both neuropathic and inflammatory pain, which are the two major forms of pain that you can experience. So far, the results of these pilot studies have not been corroborated by further research, so we’ll need to wait for more studies to be conducted before we can say for certain that CBDa helps with pain.
Potential anticonvulsant benefits
In the process of securing approval for their cannabidiol-based epilepsy drug, Epidiolex, GW Pharmaceuticals also investigated the antiepileptic effects of CBDa. According to the patent filed for Epidiolex, GW Pharmaceuticals found that CBDa showed promise as an anticonvulsant drug both alone and when combined with CBD.
Other potential benefits
Interestingly, a single study from 1976 found that CBDa may exert sporostatic effects, which means it might be useful in preventing fungal infections and preserving food. According to a recent animal study, CBDa might also reduce anxiety via its apparent activation of the 5-HT1A receptors.
Can CBDa get you high?
No, CBDa will not get you high. While the effects of CBDa might be more intense than those offered by CBD, neither Cannabis sativa compound will cause intoxication.
Is CBDa legal?
That all depends on where you source your CBDa. On its own, CBDa is not a controlled substance, and it is not regulated by the FDA. Therefore, sale and ownership of CBDa is not prohibited by any federal laws. CBDa derived from Cannabis sativa plants containing more than 0.3% THC may, however, be classified as a marijuana product, making it illegal in states that have not adopted recreational marijuana programs.
What types of CBDa products are available?
So far, a few different types of CBDa products have become available on the market. The majority of CBDa product types, however, do not offer significant bioavailability, which reduces their potency. In general, it’s better to inhale CBDa, so we’ll cover some information on the best inhalable CBDa products in this section.
Most types of CBD-rich hemp flower also contain some degree of CBDa. Unless CBD-rich hemp flower has been decarboxylated, which is unnecessary, it should contain significantly more CBDa than CBD. Most methods of using CBDa flower involve heating it until it decarboxylates, but the differences in the benefits provided by CBD compared to CBDa appear to be minimal.
CBDa vape cartridges
Vape cartridges are among the most convenient and effective hemp products on the market regardless of the Cannabis sativa compounds they contain. It’s true that the cannabidiolic acid present in CBDa vape carts decarboxylates into CBD during the vaping process, but this method of using CBDa still provides some of the highest bioavailability and most potent effects of any products containing CBD-type compounds.
Other CBDa products
As we mentioned earlier, it’s also possible to put CBDa in capsules, tinctures, creams, or other types of orally or topically ingested product types. None of these product types offers the degree of bioavailability provided by inhaled products, however, which makes them less useful if you want to make the most out of everything CBDa and CBD have to offer.
Why you should try CBDa today
As the form CBD takes before it is decarboxylated, CBDa represents the highest level of purity that can be reached within the CBD industry. While it’s often unavoidable, using extraction and processing methods that transform CBDa into CBD can reduce the overall quality of the resulting extract, which is why CBDa is associated with high-tech methods and utterly pure hemp extract.The more we learn, the clearer it becomes that cannabinoids are far from the only beneficial substances present in Cannabis sativa. Better understanding the benefits of cannabidiolic acid and the other chemical precursors of cannabinoids is critical to unlocking the mysteries of hemp, so try CBDa today to contribute your own anecdotal experience to the evolving conversation surrounding CBDa and the other intriguing acids that Cannabis sativa contains.