The Many Potential Benefits of Cannabidiolic Acid (CBDA)
CBDA is like the raw, “before” version of CBD. Although they’re similar in structure, CBDA may actually offer stronger benefits than CBD.
Written by Cathy Rozyczko
Edited by Jason Brett on
September 27, 2021
Of the many phytocannabinoids found in cannabis plants, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are likely the most well-known.
That's why you may be surprised to learn that hemp plants don't synthesize these cannabinoids in large amounts.
Unprocessed industrial hemp contains more cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) than cannabidiol. With increasing focus on some of the many lesser-known cannabinoids found in industrial hemp, many people have been curious about the effects of CBDA and the potential natural benefits.
What Is Cannabidiolic Acid (CBDA)?
CBDA exists primarily in raw, unprocessed industrial hemp and cannabis strains with high CBD content. As a carboxylic acid, CBDA contains a carboxyl group with one carbon, one hydrogen, and two oxygen atoms.
Exposure to heat initiates a process called decarboxylation that converts the carboxylic acid into carbon dioxide and hydrogen, the chemical composition of CBD.
Simply put, CBDA is the acidic form, the precursor, of CBD just as tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) is the precursor of THC.
What Are the Benefits of CBDA?
Like the research investigating the therapeutic potential of CBD, THC, and other cannabinoids found naturally in hemp, most of the evidence supporting the therapeutic potential of cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) is based on preclinical, non-human trials.
However, at least two patents have been filed based on preliminary studies. Of the two patents filed by GW Pharmaceuticals, one relates to using CBDA for inflammatory skin diseases, the other to using CBDA and other cannabinoids to treat chronic illness.
While current research shows that CBDA is considerably less stable than CBD, preliminary investigations also show that CBDA is the more potent of the two cannabinoids.
Listed below are some of the many health issues current research suggests might benefit from the therapeutic potential of CBDA. Although far more study is needed, early indications are promising.
CBDA for Nausea and Vomiting
CBD is well known for its potential to relieve and suppress nausea and vomiting, an effect current research suggests is achieved through the cannabinoid's indirect activation of the 5-HT1A serotonin receptors.
CBDA is shown to activate the 5-HT1A receptors much in the same way, but the effects appear to be more pronounced.
That conclusion is based on the results of an animal study investigating the impact of CBD and CBDA. Published in the British Journal of Pharmacology, researchers found cannabidiolic acid extremely effective at reducing motion and toxin-induced vomiting.
Investigators also found CBDA helpful for controlling the symptoms of treatment-resistant anticipatory nausea, a condition that often accompanies chemotherapy treatment.
In fact, CBDA was found to be better at controlling nausea and vomiting than CBD!
At the conclusion of the report, researchers noted that, “Compared with cannabidiol, CBDA displays significantly greater potency at inhibiting vomiting in shrews and nausea in rats, and at enhancing 5-HT1A receptor activation.” For nausea and vomiting, the cannabinoid appears more potent before decarboxylation, aka before it is converted to CBD with heat.
CBDA for Inflammation
CBDA and CBD both work by interacting with the receptors of the endocannabinoid system (ECS), the largest regulatory system in the body. While both cannabinoids influence key cannabinoid receptors, CBDA and CBD do not appear to interact within this system in the same way. Researchers believe CBDA affects different enzymes and non-ECS receptors than its decarboxylated cousin cannabidiol.
CBDA is shown to interact with cyclooxygenase enzymes (COX enzymes). Among other capabilities, these enzymes are responsible for producing prostaglandins, lipid compounds that promote inflammation.
CBDA has selective inhibitory effects on the production of COX-2 enzymes, an effect similar to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin and ibuprofen. The inhibitory effects of CBDA were shown to be considerably more potent than CBD and THC; cannabinoids also recognized for the potent anti-inflammatory properties.
CBDA for Anxiety
Current research shows that cannabidiol and cannabidiolic acid could also have a considerable impact on the symptoms of anxiety and depression. Although much of the research investigating the anxiolytic potential of plant-based cannabinoids has focused on cannabidiol, studies comparing the effects of CBD and CBDA are quite revealing.
To determine the effects of CBD, THC, and CBDA on anxiety responses, researchers conducted a light-dark emergence test on rats, an experiment designed to measure anxiety responses as the animals move from darkness to a brightly lit enclosure.
During the first phase of the study, THC produced anxiety-like symptoms in test subjects. CBDA and CBD did not increase or decrease anxiety symptoms during this phase of the investigation.
However, the second phase of the investigation involved adding a shock to the foot as the animals underwent the same light emergence test. While the foot shock intensified the anxiety in rats pretreated with THC, the animals receiving CBD or CBDA did not exhibit evidence of increased anxiety in response to the additional stressor.
Researchers concluded that the anxiolytic effects of CBD and CBDA might require the presence of a stressor, suggesting both cannabinoids show potential for managing anxiety linked to a specific trigger, like public speaking or PTSD.
CBDA for Depression
CBD and CBDA also showed similarly favorable results for the symptoms of depression in animal studies. Although the effects of CBD for the symptoms of depression have been more extensively researched than the effects of CBDA, preliminary investigations show that both cannabinoids have a strong affinity for a certain receptor responsible for regulating moods and emotions, the 5-HT1A serotonin receptor.
Research shows that CBD and CBDA work much like a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), a type of medication often prescribed to help alleviate the symptoms of depression.
But what many believe makes cannabidiolic acid far more compelling as an antidepressant is its exceptionally strong affinity for the 5-HT1A receptors, with one review stating, “CBDA demonstrates 100-fold greater affinity for the 5-HT1A receptor…as compared to CBD.”
Evidence is equally compelling for a synthetic compound with a similar structure. During a 2018 study, researchers examined CBDA’s antidepressant properties in animal studies investigating two models of depression. In place of plant-derived CBDA, investigators used cannabidiolic acid methyl ester, a synthetic version of the cannabinoid.
By the end of the study, this synthetic form of CBDA reduced depression-like behaviors in test subjects. While more research is needed to confirm preliminary results, current evidence suggests CBDA shows considerable promise as a natural antidepressant.
CBDA for Epilepsy
Researchers have long been investigating the antiseizure potential of cannabis plants. That research eventually led to the first FDA-approved medication utilizing CBD as its active ingredient, Epidiolex. To achieve FDA approval for the cannabinoid-based medication for the treatment of epilepsy, GW Pharmaceuticals was required to conduct a considerable amount of research using CBDA and CBD as potential treatment options.
Their patented research concluded that CBD and CBDA should be considered serious candidates for seizure treatment. While CBD was the cannabinoid that received approval as an active ingredient in the antiseizure medication, you may find it interesting to know that CBDA was shown to be better at reducing and preventing seizures than CBD, with researchers concluding that:
“CBDA has anticonvulsant effects in a mammalian model of epilepsy and is effective in treating generalised seizures, more particularly, tonic-clonic seizures. Indeed, this compound appears more effective than CBD in many of the parameters tested.”
Because CBDA has greater bioavailability, it takes less time and effort for the body to metabolize it. The idea is this: CBDA could produce a rapid onset, while CBD will produce a sustained result. It will be interesting to see where additional research leads.
How Do You Use CBDA?
CBDA is most abundant in raw, unprocessed hemp. Because decarboxylation— the process that breaks down CBDA— begins at relatively low temperatures, finding and storing your own CBDA from raw cannabis or hemp can be tricky if you're not a grower, or don't have those sorts of connections.
If you do have access to raw hemp oil, you'll want to collect the leaves, stems, and flowers before they've dried. Raw, chopped hemp can be added to any number of sauces, smoothies, baked goods, and salads, so don't be afraid to get creative!
But as you experiment, keep in mind that CBDA starts to decarboxylate and break down into CBD at temperatures around 110℃, or 230℉, so be mindful of how much heat you apply.
First, make sure it's legal to use medicinal or recreational cannabis and/or agricultural hemp in your state. For your reference, here's a breakdown of the different cannabis laws by state.
Finding the Right CBDA Product for Your Needs
Once you've determined which cannabinoid products are legal in your area, you may be pleased to know that full spectrum and broad spectrum hemp oil products also contain trace amounts of CBDA.
Plus, CBDA products with 0.3% THC or less are legal in all 50 states!
Research shows that even in small quantities, the CBDA in hemp-derived products contributes to the therapeutic potential of the extracted oil through an intriguing mechanism known as the entourage effect, a phenomenon unique to cannabis that explains how the additional cannabinoids and plant terpenes interact to magnify and multiply the effect of each plant element.
Because the CBDA and CBD in your product work together to amplify each other's effects, you are likely to be able to use less product than if you were using a single cannabinoid on its own (CBD isolate).
Where to Buy CBDA
Any product made from raw cannabis should contain CBDA. If you're looking for CBDA sourced from industrial hemp, you'll want to find a company offering extracts that have not been subjected to extreme heat.
Since Endoca produces a line of hemp-derived products made from raw hemp oil, their full spectrum CBD oil is likely to contain considerably more CBDA than equivalent products from most other companies.
But while considering your options, it's important to know that full spectrum CBD oil also contains a wide range of potentially beneficial cannabinoids, including CBG, CBN, and THC, the cannabinoid responsible for the psychoactive effects cannabis is known for.
Although hemp does not synthesize enough THC to cause intoxication, there are trace amounts (0.3% or less). That means if you want absolutely 0% THC in your CBD products, you'll likely appreciate the option of using broad spectrum CBD. Broad spectrum CBD oil products contain all the cannabinoids found in full spectrum extracts, except the THC.
Finally, as you're shopping for hemp-derived CBD products, keep in mind that purity and potency have a significant impact on your results. That's why you should purchase hemp oil products from a reputable brand that posts the Certificate of Analysis for each of their products aka their third-party test results.
This level of transparency will enable you to know what cannabinoids are present in your product and at what concentration. Until the cannabinoid industry is more regulated, Certificates of Analysis remain the most reliable indicator of product quality.
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