Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) may be the most commonly known phytocannabinoids derived from the cannabis plant, but they are far from the only ones! Compared to the other phytocannabinoids found in raw hemp, THC and CBD exist in tiny amounts. In fact, raw hemp contains more CBDA than it does CBD. So, what is CBDA?
CBDA is one of the hundreds of beneficial compounds in hemp. Here’s a closer look at what it is and what it does.
CBDA exists primarily in raw hemp or cannabis plants with high CBD content. Simply put, CBDA is the raw precursor to CBD. When exposed to heat, CBDA undergoes decarboxylation and becomes CBD.
As a carboxylic acid, CBDA contains a carboxyl group with one carbon, one hydrogen, and two oxygen atoms. When heated, the molecule breaks up into carbon dioxide and hydrogen, leaving behind CBD.
The majority of studies on CBDA and its potential benefits have been performed in preclinical, non-human trials. But the information about CBDA that currently exists, and the fact that GW Pharmaceuticals has filed two patents for using CBDA in medicine, suggests it may have significant therapeutic use. One of the GW patents relates to using CBDA for inflammatory skin diseases and the other relates to using CBDA and other cannabinoids to treat cancer.
Below are some of the diseases and conditions current research suggests CBDA may be able to help manage. Of course, more study is needed but these indications are promising.
CBD is well known to relieve and suppress nausea and vomiting. It is believed to exert this effect through indirect activation of the 5-HT1A serotonin receptors. CBDA also activates the 5-HT1A receptors.
In a study performed on rats, shrews, and mice, cannabidiolic acid was found to be extremely effective at reducing vomiting and anticipatory nausea, a condition that often accompanies chemotherapy treatments and for which there is no current cure. In fact, CBDA was found to be better at controlling nausea and vomiting than CBD! The study concludes, “Compared with cannabidiol, CBDA displays significantly greater potency at inhibiting vomiting in shrews and nausea in rats, and at enhancing 5-HT1A receptor activation.”
Interestingly enough, CBDA may not affect the endocannabinoid system the same way CBD does. It’s believed that CBDA acts on different enzymes and receptors than its decarboxylated cousin cannabidiol.
CBDA has been found to do is interact with cyclooxygenase enzymes (COX enzymes). Amongst other capabilities, these enzymes are responsible for producing prostaglandins which are lipid compounds that promote inflammation.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin and ibuprofen inhibit COX enzymes, which reduces inflammation and the sensation of pain. CBDA has selective inhibitory effects on the COX-2 enzyme, resulting in anti-inflammatory effects that are similar to those produced by NSAIDs.
CBD’s ability to potentially reduce anxiety has been widely discussed, and it’s possible that CBDA can help as well.
In one study, researchers examined the effect of THC, CBD, and CBDA on anxiety responses in rats. The rats were put in a light-dark emergence test, which is designed to measure anxiety responses as the rats move from a dark enclosure to a brightly lit enclosure. THC produced anxiety-like responses in the rats, while CBDA neither produced or reduced the rats’ anxiety during the test.
Then, the researchers applied a foot shock before the rats underwent the same light-dark emergence test. The foot shock enhanced the anxiety in the rats that had been pre-treated with THC as they underwent the emergence test. Contrastingly, the rats pre-treated with CBDA or CBD did not exhibit anxiety in response to the foot shocks when performing the same test.
This means that using CBDA and/or CBD could be beneficial in managing anxiety that’s linked to a specific trigger, like public speaking or even PTSD.
When it comes to depression, again, CBD’s potential effects are well known and researched compared to CBDA. Though, as mentioned above, CBDA impacts the 5-HT1A serotonin receptor, which helps to regulate mood in a similar way to antidepressants like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). What makes CBDA even more compelling as an antidepressant, is it’s especially 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.”
A 2018 study examined CBDA’s antidepressant qualities in two models of depression in rats. The researchers used cannabidiolic acid methyl ester, which is a synthetic compound with a similar structure to CBDA. By the end of the study, CBDA was found to reduce depression-like behaviors in the rat test subjects.
Once again, more research is required before any conclusions can be made. But, it’s reasonable to believe this will be an area of focus moving forward, and CBDA could have a bright future as an effective antidepressant.
GW Pharmaceuticals is the company that created Epidiolex, the FDA-approved epilepsy medication that contains CBD as an active ingredient. In order to gain approval for the medication, GW had to conduct research on using CBDA and CBD as an epilepsy treatment.
Their patented research concludes that CBD and CBDA should be considered serious candidates for seizure treatment. Interestingly, CBDA was shown to be better at reducing and preventing seizures, with the study concluding:
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 a 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.
There are studies available that suggest cannabinoids can hold major potential for the treatment of cancer, but CBDA has presented interesting results when it comes to fighting breast cancer, specifically.
Before getting into these results, it is important to note that these findings came from tests performed on cancer cells in a lab and not on any living creature, human or otherwise.
In a 2012 study, it was discovered that CBDA halted the migration of invasive and highly aggressive MDA-MB-231 human breast cancer cells. In another test from 2014, it was discovered that CBDA suppressed the expression of genes associated with breast cancer metastasis, the process by which cancer spreads rapidly and fatally to other parts of the body.
It is possible that after more research, CBDA could emerge as a valuable oncological treatment option.
There are a few different ways you can add CBDA to your supplement routine. But first, make sure it’s legal in your state for you to have or use medicinal or recreational cannabis and/or agricultural hemp. For your reference, here’s a breakdown of the different cannabis laws by state.
CBDA starts breaking down into CBD at relatively low temperatures, so it is important to use the raw cannabis or hemp plant as your source for CBDA. You’ll want to collect leaves, stems, and flower before they’re dried. So, if you can access these raw hemp or cannabis parts, store and treat them like any other herb. You can chop up the leaves and stems and add them to any number of sauces, smoothies, baking goods, or salads; don’t be afraid to get creative! But do keep in mind, CBDA starts to decarboxylate and break down into CBD at around 110℃, or 230℉, so be mindful of how much you’re heating your CBDA.
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. This is why a CBD oil product that also contains CBDA is likely to be your most convenient and accessible option. Much of the research mentioned above suggests that CBDA can increase the effectiveness of CBD through a mechanism referred to as the entourage effect. Because the CBDA and CBD work together to amplify each other’s effects, you likely don’t need to use as much of a product that combines the two to feel their full benefits. In the end, you save money and reap twice the rewards.
Brands like Endoca produce a line of CBD oil products made from raw hemp oil, meaning it also contains CBDA. In general, any product made from raw hemp or cannabis should contain CBDA (unless it’s a CBD isolate). Full-spectrum CBD oils may also contain CBDA and a range of other cannabinoids like CBG, CBN, THC, and THCA. But because full-spectrum CBD oils also contain THC, it is important, again, to understand the laws in your state. If you live in a state where THC isn’t fully legal, or you’d prefer not to consume THC, you can opt for a broad-spectrum CBD oil product, which contains all the cannabinoids of a full-spectrum product except THC.
Finally, while you’re shopping around for a CBDA product, only purchase from a reputable brand that third-party lab tests their products and posts the resulting Certificates of Analysis online. This level of transparency will enable you to know what cannabinoids are present in your product and at what concentration. Until the CBD, CBDA, and cannabis industry in general are more regulated, Certificates of Analysis are the only honest indicators of what good and bad ingredients make up your product of choice.
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