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What Is CBDa? How Is It Different From CBD?

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If you've browsed CBD products online or in stores, you may have noticed that some bottles list "CBDa" or "raw extracts" on the label instead of just "CBD."

But what is CBDa, and how is it different from CBD?

CBDa stands for cannabidiolic acid, and it's the precursor molecule to CBD (cannabidiol) derived from the cannabis plant.

In the raw hemp plant, CBDa is the most abundant cannabinoid—many people find the raw cannabis plant's lack of CBD surprising, but all cannabinoids first exist in an acidic form. We get THC and CBD through the decarboxylation of THCa and CBDa.

While most of the research on cannabinoids has been heavily focused on THC and CBD, there is some early evidence to suggest CBDa has its unique advantages, which is why we're seeing a rising trend in minimally processed hemp extracts.

Here's everything public research has on CBDa benefits and more.

Key Takeaways CBDa Vs CBD:

  • CBDa stands for cannabidiolic acid and it's the raw form of CBD found abundantly in hemp plants.
  • CBDa transforms into CBD through decarboxylation (application of heat) which breaks off the carboxylic acid chain on the molecule.
  • CBDa interacts with the endocannabinoid system, just like THC and CBD, but their molecular structure may affect how these compounds exert their effects.
  • CBDa may be more effective than CBD for certain applications observed in animal studies for supporting nausea symptoms, stress, inflammation, and seizures. However, more research is needed on humans to understand their potential medical applications.
  • While CBDa is new to the scene, it shows a lot of potential as a staple cannabinoid.

What's The Difference: CBDa Vs. CBD?

CBD is the abbreviation for cannabidiol, while CBDa stands for cannabidiolic acid—both cannabinoid compounds are derived from the resin glands of cannabis Sativa plants.

CBDa is found on raw cannabis flowers, and CBD is the product of CBDa undergoing decarboxylation, which is essentially a fancy word for "applying heat." This can happen naturally from the sun's heat or during the hemp extraction process.

Decarboxylation breaks off the carboxylic acid group from the molecule, leaving behind CBD, changing the molecular structure of the cannabinoid, and altering its effects on the body.

[Insert a molecule structure comparison]

Because CBD doesn't have psychoactive effects, the differences in how CBD and CBDa make you feel aren't noticeable.

In a comparison, THC and THCa (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) have very noticeable differences in experiences.

Consuming large amounts of raw marijuana—abundant in THCa—will not intoxicate. To get high from marijuana, the THCa molecule must undergo decarboxylation (cooking, smoking, vaping) to release the carboxylic acid chain that allows it to bind to receptors that influence mood and perception.

How Does CBDa Work In The Body's Endocannabinoid System?

blood, cells, red

Because CBDa is the precursor for CBD, it shouldn't be a surprise that these molecules work similarly to one another— both cannabinoids interact in the body's endocannabinoid system.

The endocannabinoid system (ECS)is a group of receptors and ligands (endocannabinoids) found throughout the body.

The ECS is involved in various functions, including pain management, immune response, mood regulation, and energy metabolism.

Cannabis plant cannabinoids are similar to endocannabinoids that the body naturally produces, which bind to cannabinoid receptors and help maintain many systems' homeostasis (balance).

Unlike THC, CBD and CBDa don't have an affinity to CB1 or CB2 receptors. Instead, CBD and cannabidiolic acid have been observed to inhibit the COX enzymes associated with inflammation from injury and infection [1].

CBDa has also been shown to interact with the 5-HT1a-serotonin receptors [2]. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter involved in various functions, including regulating mood, appetite, nausea centers, and sleep.

What Are The Potential Health Benefits Of CBDa?

Humans have used cannabis plants as medicine for hundreds of years and continue to use them as a gentle and natural panacea.

Many people swear that raw cannabis juice is a wellness elixir. And now, you'll find CBD brands offering raw hemp plant extracts to take advantage of the chemical precursor compounds.

THC and CBD research has overshadowed much of the research in this space. Compared to CBD, CBDa has been relatively understudied. However, that may be changing as scientists begin to explore the potential therapeutic properties of raw cannabis and its compounds.

So far, research suggests that CBDa may have potent anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain-relieving) effects. It's also being investigated as a possible treatment for cancer in animal subjects. Still, it's important to keep in mind that most of this research is in its early stages. So while CBDa may hold promise as a medication, more clinical trials are needed to confirm its efficacy.

Let's look at some of the more current research on the benefits of CBDa.

CBDa Shows Promise To Support Pain & Inflammation

Many people reach for the cannabis Sativa plant as a gentle and natural way to support pain.

One of the investigated reasons cannabinoids such as CBD and THC may help with pain is their inhibition of the COX-2 enzyme, which plays a critical role in controlling the inflammation caused by disease and injury [3]. This is the same target enzyme for many over-the-counter drugs like aspirin and acetaminophen to treat inflammation.

It's important to underscore that the research in this space is still in its preliminary stages, and there are no FDA-approved cannabidiolic acid-based products or pharmaceuticals for pain and inflammation.

CBDa May Help With Nausea & Vomiting

CBDa is a cannabinoid that has shown promise in treating nausea and vomiting in animal studies [4].

Unlike THC, CBDa does not produce psychoactive effects, making it a promising therapy for those who do not wish to experience the high associated with cannabis use.

Animal studies have shown that CBDa effectively suppresses nausea and vomiting symptoms even in low doses in combination with THC through its interactions at the 5-HT1A receptor [4].

More research is needed to confirm the efficacy of CBDa in humans, but the preliminary evidence is encouraging.

CBDa May Support Mood & Stress

Murine-model studies suggest that CBDa has a greater affinity to the 5-HT1A receptor than CBD, making it more potent [5].

Serotonin is one of the critical neurotransmitters involved in mood regulation, and the 5-HT1A receptor is often engaged in the anti-anxiety effects of antidepressants.

In this recent study, rats subjected to stress showed reduced anxiety and improved mood after being given CBDa. Control rats who were not under stressful conditions did not show any mood changes.

CBDa May Inhibit Cellular Entry of SARS-CoV-2

This is the latest cannabis news that went viral.

Research at Oregon State University found that raw cannabinoids, specifically CBDa and CBGa, have the potential to bind to the spike protein of the coronavirus, blocking viral entry and replication cycle [6].

This research on CBDa's benefits in preventing the spread of COVID-19 was conducted in test tubes and computer run simulations—the human immune response is much more complex and may not reflect the same positive outcome. Still, it is considered a significant body of research in the cannabis and scientific community.

CBDa And Anti-Cancer Research

Recent studies conducted in Japan and the United States have shown that cannabidiolic acid (CBDa) may positively affect cancer cells. The study was conducted using cancer cells cultured outside the body [7].

While experiments conducted in Petri dishes are no comparison to human clinical trials, the cannabinoid did show some positive effects against a highly invasive form of breast cancer.

Specifically, the CBDa treatment seemed to prevent the migration of breast cancer cells. If further studies confirm these findings, it's possible that CBDa could be used as part of a treatment plan to prevent the spread of cancer.

Is CBDa Better Than CBD?

There currently isn't enough evidence on the benefits of CBDa in human clinical trials to make a definitive claim that one is better than the other.

CBD is the most well-known cannabinoid, and as a result, most of the research focuses on this compound. However, that doesn't mean that CBDa is inferior to CBD. For one, CBDa isn't as stable as a compound as CBD.

UV exposure and heat will transform CBDa into CBD, which is likely why it's not as easily accessible to purchase.

For a long time, only those growing cannabis plants had access to raw flowers to leverage the potential health benefits of CBDa, but that's quickly changing with modern hemp extraction methods.

The current investigations show that cannabidiolic acid (CBDa) is possibly just as, if not more effective, towards supporting mood, nausea, and healthy inflammation levels than CBD and THC.

Some people find that they get better results from using products that contain CBDa. Cannabinoids can affect individuals differently depending on their genetics and lifestyle. This means one person may respond well to CBD, and another may find CBDa more effective. As a result, it's essential to experiment with different cannabinoids to see which one works best for you.

How Do People Use Raw Cannabis?

smoothie, fruit, blend

People use cannabis in many ways, and the most popular is smoking or vaping cannabis plants. However, this will decarboxylate the heat-sensitive compounds, transforming CBDa into CBD.

Juicing raw cannabis flowers has become a favored method to create a wellness elixir taken as a shot or added to smoothies. And with CBDa becoming more popular, you can now find raw cannabinoid extracts and CBDa products available such as CBDa oils, topicals, and edibles.

To preserve the CBDa in hemp, manufacturers use specialized extraction methods without heat. These methods help to ensure that the final product contains a high concentration of CBDa.

For a genuine CBDa product, always reference the third-party lab tests before purchasing it.

How to Make Your Own CBDa Oil

Making CBDa oils at home is straightforward, only requiring a few ingredients, but you need time—at least several weeks for the best results.

You'll need access to high-quality raw hemp flowers and carrier oil. The best carrier oils are MCT coconut oil, hemp seed oil, and olive oil.

If you've ever made your own CBD oil before this process will look very similar, the only step missing is heat. Remember, heat will convert CBDa into CBD.

To make your own CBDa oil, simply grind up your hemp flowers to increase their surface area contact and mix it with your chosen carrier oil in an air-tight glass jar in a 1:1 ratio of flower to carrier oil. It would be best if you used an amber-colored jar to protect the cannabinoids from UV exposure.

Once you've mixed everything together screw on the lid tightly and store it in a dark cabinet for three weeks, checking in on it every few days to shake up the jar. The cannabinoids are fat-soluble and will bind to the fat particles of the oil.

After three weeks, you can strain the hemp flower from the oil and store it in a cool, dry place for up to 6 months.

Do not use this mixture for cooking or baking. You can take it sublingually (under the tongue), add it to smoothies, or create a salad dressing—tip, it's a light and refreshing addition to citrus-based dressings.

How To Store CBDa Oil

Properly storing your CBDa oil is essential to preserving its freshness and potency.

Make sure to keep your oil in a cool, dark place—sunlight and heat can cause the CBDa to turn into CBD or degrade. Second, if you're not planning on using the oil right away, be sure to tightly seal the bottle to prevent oxygen from getting in. With a little bit of care, you can enjoy your CBDa oil for months.

What Should I Look For When Buying CBDa Oil?

When it comes to buying CBDa oil, there are a few things you should keep in mind to make sure you're getting a dependable product. First of all, always buy from a reputable brand in the CBD space —this will ensure that the hemp and additional ingredients are of high quality and that the extraction methods are clean.

Secondly, always refer to lab tests for purity and potency to give you an indication of just how strong the oil is, and whether or not it contains any contaminants.

The certificate of analysis should read that the CBDa content is at least 60% of the total profile of the hemp extract.

Avoid products that are for smoking—we've come across CBDa products for use in vapes, which doesn't make sense because as soon as you expose the cannabinoid to heat, raw CBDa becomes regular CBD. This isn't a bad thing as you're still getting the benefits of CBD, but you've likely paid a higher price tag for this product because CBDa extraction is a much more complex and labor-intensive process.

An often overlooked step in shopping for CBDa products is checking the manufacture date.

Decarboxylation occurs quickly with heat exposure, but it can also take place over time with oxidation. If the CBDa product has been sitting on the manufacturer's shelf for a while, it may degrade the quality of the product overall.

With these factors in mind, you can be sure that you're getting the best possible product available on the market.

Is CBDa Legal?

It's not news that the cannabis plant has a troubled legal history. Marijuana plants still remain federally illegal and are listed as a Schedule I substance. However, some states have legalized it for recreational use and medical programs, recognizing its safety and potential benefits.

In 2018, the US government passed the Farm Bill, which permitted the production and sale of hemp plants and their derivatives, including CBD and CBDa as long as their source contains less than 0.3% THC.

CBDa can be found in both varieties of cannabis plants, so always make sure you're purchasing legal raw hemp flowers.

Is CBDa Safe? What Are The Potential Side Effects?

CBDa is considered safe and well-tolerated in most people. The biggest concern would be allergies to the terpenes in the raw cannabis flower. Those who are sensitive to essential oils or tend to have seasonal allergies may want to test out a small sample of a raw cannabis product on an area of the skin before taking a full dose to ensure there's no allergic reaction.

The body processes cannabinoids through the liver, which means taking cannabinoids alongside medications can potentially risk high levels of medication in your system.

Always check with your doctor to ensure using cannabis products is appropriate for your situation. CBDa-rich products are available as oils, capsules, and tinctures.

The Takeaway: Understanding CBDa Vs CBD

CBD and CBDa are both cannabinoids, which are compounds found in the cannabis plant. CBDa is the raw version of the CBD molecule with a carboxylic acid chain. When exposed to heat, the bond of the carboxylic acid chain breaks off and we're left with CBD.

Both compounds interact in the body's endocannabinoid system and several other unique receptor sites to support one's overall health.

CBD is the most well-known cannabinoid, and it's been the subject of much research. However, more interest is now growing in CBDa, and we can expect to see more products containing this compound on the market. So far, it's too early to say which one is better than the other. Both CBD and CBDa have potential therapeutic benefits, but they also have different effects on the body.

To date, most CBDa research is preclinical animal studies with a lot of promising results that may lead to human trials.

Be wary of any brands over-promising on the potential benefits of their CBDa products—The FDA is cracking down on brands stating medical benefits for their cannabis products, and while many people find that cannabinoids have supported their wellness, it should not replace the advice of your doctor.

Resources:

  1. Fitzpatrick, F. A. (2004). Cyclooxygenase enzymes: regulation and function. Current pharmaceutical design, 10(6), 577-588.
  2. Bolognini, D., Rock, E. M., Cluny, N. L., Cascio, M. G., Limebeer, C. L., Duncan, M., ... & Pertwee, R. G. (2013). Cannabidiolic acid prevents vomiting in S uncus murinus and nausea‐induced behaviour in rats by enhancing 5‐HT1A receptor activation. British journal of pharmacology, 168(6), 1456-1470.
  3. Takeda, S., Misawa, K., Yamamoto, I., & Watanabe, K. (2008). Cannabidiolic acid as a selective cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitory component in cannabis. Drug Metabolism and Disposition, 36(9), 1917-1921.
  4. Bolognini, D., Rock, E. M., Cluny, N. L., Cascio, M. G., Limebeer, C. L., Duncan, M., ... & Pertwee, R. G. (2013). Cannabidiolic acid prevents vomiting in S uncus murinus and nausea‐induced behaviour in rats by enhancing 5‐HT1A receptor activation. British journal of pharmacology, 168(6), 1456-1470.
  5. Rock, E. M., Limebeer, C. L., Petrie, G. N., Williams, L. A., Mechoulam, R., & Parker, L. A. (2017). Effect of prior foot shock stress and Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol, cannabidiolic acid, and cannabidiol on anxiety-like responding in the light-dark emergence test in rats. Psychopharmacology, 234(14), 2207-2217.
  6. van Breemen, R. B., Muchiri, R. N., Bates, T. A., Weinstein, J. B., Leier, H. C., Farley, S., & Tafesse, F. G. (2022). Cannabinoids Block Cellular Entry of SARS-CoV-2 and the Emerging Variants. Journal of natural products.
  7. Takeda, S., Okajima, S., Miyoshi, H., Yoshida, K., Okamoto, Y., Okada, T., ... & Aramaki, H. (2012). Cannabidiolic acid, a major cannabinoid in fiber-type cannabis, is an inhibitor of MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cell migration. Toxicology letters, 214(3), 314-319.

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