Reviewed by Alissa B Daschbach MA BS MH
CBDa, or cannabidiolic acid, is where all CBD comes from. Nonetheless, this rare compound is less known than its final form, cannabidiol. In this guide, learn what CBDa is, what special benefits it might offer, and how to choose the best CBDa products.
What is CBDa?
Scientists have identified cannabidiolic acid or CBDa as the substance in hemp that decarboxylates into CBD. CBDa is the carboxylic acid precursor of the non-intoxicating hemp cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD). A carboxylic acid is a molecular compound that loses its acidity in the presence of oxygen. All cannabinoids start off as carboxylic acids that stabilize into their final forms via a process of oxidation (when oxygen removes the acidic carboxylic group). This process is known as decarboxylation.
CBDa isn’t the beginning of the hemp story, though. Before it even becomes CBDa, any molecule that will one day be CBD must come from the parent molecule CBGa, cannabigerolic acid. CBGa is sometimes called the “stem cell cannabinoid because it is the origin point of popular cannabinoids like CBD, THC, and CBD. CBGa transforms into CBDa when it is exposed to a natural enzyme that cannabis expresses toward the end of its maturation cycle.
Research into CBDa indicates that this acidic cannabinoid precursor may have unique benefits that significantly boost its value.
What is CBDa made from?
The carboxylic acid CBDa is generally extracted directly from hemp flowers that have not gone through decarboxylation or enzymatically converted from CBGa. CBDa is not regularly synthesized since it is abundant in all CBD-rich forms of hemp and is easy to convert from CBGa found in the flowers.
Extracting CBDa from hemp without decarboxylating it is a relatively tricky process that requires expertise in the technique.
How is CBDa different from CBD?
CBDa and CBD are more similar than they are different. These two molecules are only a single chemical bond apart, after all, and CBDa converts into CBD quite easily especially when heated.
Nonetheless, scientists have elucidated minor, yet significant, differences between CBD and CBDa. These differences may one day become meaningful as an increasing number of CBD-related therapies are being investigated for conditions affected by very specific chemical channels in the body and brain.
Does CBDa turn into CBD?
Yes, CBDa naturally decarboxylates into CBD under stress conditions such as excessive heat or light. For example, when exposed to temperatures exceeding 245° F¹, CBDa decarboxylates to form CBD. CBDa can also turn into CBD when exposed to UV light or other sources of oxidative stress. In its final form, CBD becomes more stable but exhibits an altered chemical structure.
Is CBDa more effective than CBD?
Researchers believe CBDa could be more effective than CBD for specific conditions. There is not enough conclusive evidence about either CBDa or CBD to make any assumptions regarding the medical utility of either cannabinoid. At present, pharmaceutical companies have not produced any CBDa-based drugs, indicating there is currently insufficient evidence to identify how CBDa might be concretely useful in ways that CBD is not.
Can you take CBDa and CBD together?
There is no evidence suggesting CBDa and CBD should not be consumed at the same time.
If you find a good way to ingest CBDa and CBD at the same time, you might trigger the entourage effect², a form of cannabinoid synergy scientists believe may unlock hidden potency in hemp compounds. One excellent way to consume CBD and CBDa at the same time is in the form of a capsule in which the CBD is pre-converted. The heat in your digestive tract is insufficient to convert CBDa into CBD, allowing your body to absorb both unique hemp compounds at once.
What are the effects of CBDa?
There is not enough scientific evidence to determine expectations regarding the experienced effects of CBDa. Anecdotal evidence produced by CBDa consumers online, however, seems to indicate that the effects of CBDa closely mirror those of CBD. CBDa is sometimes described as being more potent than CBD, but it is just as common to find the two cannabinoids described as offering similar levels of potency.
What are the benefits of CBDa?
We may not know enough about the effects of CBDa to make any definitive conclusions, but that doesn’t mean scientists haven’t learned anything at all about this cannabinoid precursor. Let’s recap some of the most interesting research that has been conducted into cannabidiolic acid so far:
Is CBDa good for pain?
If you haven’t heard anything else about CBDa, you might have come across rumors that this precursor to CBD has up to 100 times the affinity at your 5-HT receptors than its final form. It all stems from a 2018 paper by Dr. Ethan Russo³ that details the current status of CBDa research. Since your 5-HT receptors govern neuropathic pain, one of the two major types of pain, it’s reasonable to expect that CBDa will continue to be included in research into cannabinoids and pain in the future.
Is CBDa anti-inflammatory?
In the human body, inflammation is largely regulated by the “vanilloid” or TRP receptors, and significant research has been invested into the relationship between these critical neuroreceptors and CBD. Research into CBDa and your TRP receptors4 , though, is less promising, indicating that CBDa is unlikely to be investigated significantly as an anti-inflammatory substance in the future.
Is CBDa good for sleep?
A limited amount of preliminary research5 has been conducted into the ability of stabilized CBDa analogs to help with sleep. However, there is not enough conclusive evidence about this CBD precursor to say whether it’s worthy of the intensive degree of research that has been conducted into the usefulness of CBD for sleep.6
Is CBDa good for anxiety?
The brain’s HT receptors appear to play a significant role in anxiety7 , so it wouldn’t be surprising to see CBDa included in future studies into the usefulness of cannabinoids for anxiety disorders. Preliminary research comparing the usefulness of CBD versus CBDa for reducing certain anxiety-related behaviors8 is inconclusive.
Let’s finish up with some answers to common CBDa questions:
1. Does CBDa get you high?
No, CBDa is like CBD in that it does not get you high. In general, the effects of acidic cannabinoid precursors are very similar to the effects of their stable cannabinoid counterparts.
2. Does CBDa have any side effects?
We don’t have enough data to determine if the side effect profile of CBDa varies significantly from that of CBD. Anecdotal evidence indicates that the side effects of CBDa are likely mild, though, and the most common side effects of CBD (namely dry mouth, tiredness, and low blood pressure) are also notably mild.
3. What does CBDa do to your body?
From what we understand so far, CBDa appears to operate very similarly to CBD in the human body. It appears to interact with roughly the same group of neuroreceptors, but compared to CBD, CBDa may have more affinity for some receptors and less for others. Scientists are very intrigued, for instance, by CBDa’s apparently enhanced activity at your 5-HT receptors, but scientists are disappointed by this carboxylic acid’s weak activity at TRP ligand receptors.
4. How fast does CBDa work?
Preliminary research suggests that the bioavailability of CBDa may be higher than that of CBD, so you might experience the onset of effects more quickly with CBDa regardless of how you take it. The activation time of any cannabinoid is throttled, though, by the method you use to ingest it.
Inhaled cannabinoids activate the fastest (30-60 seconds), and topicals also kick in pretty quickly at the area of application (3-10 minutes). Orally ingested cannabinoids, though, take considerably longer (30-45 minutes) to activate.
5. Where can I buy CBDa near me?
CBDa products are now widely available online. This acidic precursor to CBD is commonly sold in bulk, and it is also formulated into finished products like tinctures, topicals, and capsules. Less stable and harder to produce than CBD, CBDa extract is usually only available in isolate form. You can use CBDa isolate to make practically any type of product, however.
6. What kinds of wholesale CBDa products are there?
CBDa can be formulated into practically any conceivable type of finished product. Capsules, tinctures, and gummies are among the most popular, but CBDa topicals are gaining ground in the alternative skincare community. Note that CBDa naturally converts to CBD when heated, so inhalable CBDa products aren’t currently viable.
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