CBAs and CBD are two closely related compounds derived from the cannabis sativa plant. They are cannabinoids that work with the body's endocannabinoid system (ECS) to help bring it into balance by attaching themselves to various receptors in the body's ECS and turning certain functions on and off. There are currently more than 110 identified cannabinoids in cannabis plants. More are likely to be discovered as studies continue.
The ECS is a fairly recently discovered system that regulates homeostasis and health systems like mood, sleep, inflammation, stress, and more. It has existed in your body since before you were born and helps maintain balance at the cellular level. It is in all tissues and organs and it regulates the function of the immune, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, musculoskeletal, and nervous systems and thus has a profound influence on every aspect of your health.1
There are two primary receptors in the ECS, CB1, and CB2. Most cannabinoids mimic the body's natural endocannabinoids and bind to these two receptors to trigger potential health benefits. Cannabinoids in their acidic form, like CBDa, react with the ECS in different ways.
What is CBDa?
CBD is found in hemp plants. Cannabidiolic acid, otherwise known as CBDa, is derived from cannabigerolic acid (CBGa). CBGa is sometimes called the "mother of all cannabinoids" because three acids come from it when it breaks down and every cannabinoid comes from one of those three acids.2 In the hemp plant, CBG is converted to the three major cannabinoid precursor compounds:
- Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA)
- Cannabichromenic acid (CBCA)
It was first isolated from cannabis in 1955 and was the first discovered cannabinoid acid.
CBDa is the precursor of CBD, which is produced when CBDa is heated either by an external force or by sunlight in a process called decarboxylation. CBDa can also degrade into CBD over time. Many say that CBDa has human health benefits in its raw form as well when consumed as CBDa products like raw cannabis juice, raw CBDa oil, or raw cannabis topical creams and other non conventional consumption methods.
What are CBDa benefits?
CBDa has been studied far less than its offspring, CBD. But studies show that CBDa could be as promising as CBD. CBDA interacts with the endocannabinoid system by inhibiting the cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) enzyme. COX-2 enzymes are associated with inflammation after an injury or infection, so by blocking COX-2 enzymes, CBDA can relieve inflammation and associated pain. A study showed that in rats, CBDa affected levels of serotonin, a chemical that affects sleep, digestion, emotion, and motor skills.2 Further investment and more research are needed. Most research is preclinical, non-human studies.
CBDa benefits may affect:
- Mood and anxiety
- Resilience to stress
- Pain signaling
- Gut function
- Tissue recovery after exercise or injury3
CBDa absorbs more quickly than CBD does and studies have shown that it may be more potent. Unlike CBD, CBDa does not degrade the psychotropic effects of tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. 4
What is CBD?
Cannabidiol or CBD is one of more than 110 cannabinoids produced by cannabis plants, specifically the hemp plant. It is formed from heated or aged CBDa. CBD oil has been lauded for its potential benefits to health and well being and has been growing in popularity since its legality was asserted by the 2018 Far Bill. The Farm Bill was passed stating that cannabis plants that have less than 0.3 percent Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in them are legal and classified as hemp. Marijuana is any cannabis plant that exceeds that amount of THC. THC is a psychoactive compound that produces the "high" sensation when you consume marijuana in some form. The legal limit of 0.3 percent of THC in CBD is not enough to get you high.
CBD is used to bring certain systems in your body into homeostasis, or balance. CBD can affect mood, inflammation, pain from inflammation, and sleep issues, among other health problems. It and various cannabinoids are found in CBD oil. They all work together in the body's endocannabinoid system.
CBD comes in many forms. Full spectrum CBD is the closest you get to the plant; it contains CBD and all the related cannabinoids. You want all these cannabinoids in your CBD products because they work better together than they do in isolation-- this is called the "entourage effect."
Broad spectrum CBD is CBD that is missing varying numbers of cannabinoids, but always missing THC. Consumers often choose broad spectrum CBD because their job, school, or pastime requires regular drug testing. Drug tests don't test for CBD but they do for THC.
CBD isolate is pure CBD with no other cannabinoids involved. It comes in a white powder. You can take this powder sublingually or in an edible. It is also the preferred substance for dabbing, which vaporizes the CBD.
CBD comes in many forms including tinctures, edibles, and topicals.
CBDa vs CBD
CBDa is the chemical precursor to CBD. CBD is decarboxylated raw CBDa. Both products are gaining in popularity especially as new reports roll in about their effectiveness at creating certain health outcomes.
While CBD is more popular and has breached the mainstream market, knowledgeable consumers have started seeking out CBD in its raw form for its therapeutic potential.
CBDa is not typically found in any meaningful amount in CBD oil products because they're close to fully decarboxylated in order to release the THC. Your best bet is to read brands' lab reports to find out the level of CBDa vs CBD that are in their products.
There have been many more studies of CBD than CBDa, but the medical benefits of both still require further research.
CBDa does seem to have some special potential in the burgeoning cannabinoid industry. CBD is much better researched and more widely known than its parent. Both have therapeutic potential.
1) 3) 4) "Everything you need to know about CBDa." Healer. Accessed: 3 Feb. 2022. https://healer.com/cbda-guide/
2) "Cannabidiolic acid." Science Direct. Accessed: 4 Feb. 2022. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/chemistry/cannabidiolic-acid
2) Havelka, Jacqueline. "What is CBDa (cannabidiolic acid) & what are the benefits of this cannabinoid?" Leafly. Published 16 Sep. 2019. Accessed: 3 Feb. 2022. https://www.leafly.com/news/cbd/what-is-cbda-cannabidiolic-acid-marijuana-cannabinoid