CBD vs. CBDa: What’s the Difference?

We’re slowly starting to learn more and more about the cannabis plant and its components like CBD, THC, and CBG. It’s been a long road, and while researchers are continuously looking into various aspects of cannabis use for both recreational and medicinal purposes, it will still be some time until we have some conclusive results. The increasing popularity of cannabis has even led to further investigation into what exactly is in the plant. Most people know about THC and CBD, but have you ever heard of CBDa?

Cannabidiolic acid (CBDa) is one of the primary cannabinoids that is produced in the leaves, stems, and flowers of certain varieties of the cannabis plant. In most cannabis varieties, the dominant cannabinoid is THCa. But some strains, like AC/DC, Harlequin, and Cannatonic, have high levels of CBDa. Hemp is also often a viable source of CBDa.

CBDa is the acid precursor of CBD. When the cannabis plant grows, it produces THCa and CBDa, not THC and CBD. But they’re all unique compounds formed within the plant. CBD has largely been seen as the most promising of these cannabinoids for medical purposes, and as a result, CBDa has fallen to the wayside. However, a new trend of raw juicing cannabis leaves seems to have brought CBDa back into the limelight. Now, many people are left wondering what the difference is between CBD and CBDa. Let’s take a closer look.

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The Relationship Between CBD and CBDa

First off, it’s important to understand the natural relationship that exists between CBD and CBDa. CBDa is the acid precursor to “active” CBD, and it’s found in raw plant material. Both CBD and CBDa are first developed in the cannabis plant as the cannabinoid CBGa. When an available enzyme is present, the CBDa synthase converts the CBGa into CBDa.

Next, the CBDa is transformed into CBD through a process known as decarboxylation. Decarboxylation involves applying heat to remove the carboxyl group. The process can happen instantly, like when cooking or vaporizing, or it can occur more slowly over time as the plant matter is left to sit.

It’s not until the CBDa goes through the process of decarboxylation that the “a” (acid) disappears, and the new compound known as CBD is formed. Both CBD and CBDa are non-psychoactive, meaning that they won’t get you high or impair the thought process. While CBDa is primarily seen as being inactive and therefore ancillary to CBD, research suggests that it could have some compelling potential of its own. Like CBD, CBDa is also thought to have anti-inflammatory and antiproliferative properties, among others. But, the overwhelming amount of research mounting in favor of CBD has yet to spill over into the domain of CBDa.

Due to their chemical structure, CBD and CBDa have similar therapeutic benefits, but there are a few key differences between the two molecules. However, the biggest difference between the two is the volume of research that has been conducted on each cannabinoid.

Roles in the Body

CBD and CBDa are similar in that they both activate the endocannabinoid system (ECS), but far less is known about the role CBDa plays in comparison to CBD.

The ECS is a group of cells found in the body that promotes balance or homeostasis. Although cannabinoids were first discovered in 1963 by Israeli researcher Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, scientists only started to learn about how they work in the body in the 1990s. When functioning properly, the ECS helps to regulate digestion, sleep, immune system, pain, memory, and mood, along with other key bodily functions. CBD and CBDa both interact with the ECS when treating conditions like Alzheimer’s, diabetes, Parkinson’s Disease, MS, and epilepsy, among a host of other medical ailments.

CBD works in the ECS of the body and brain. The system contains cells with receptors that send messages along different chains of cells. Cannabis works with two receptors: CB1 and CB2. While these receptors are present all over the body, the CB1 receptors are more dominant in the brain and central nervous system.

As you may already know, THC binds with CB1 receptors to control their activity. This typically occurs in control centers, which is why THC has psychoactive effects and influences several functions, including memory and coordination.

On the other hand, CBD works differently. It doesn’t bind to receptors, but rather indirectly impacts them. CBDa is thought to work in a similar way. But it’s viewed as “cleaner,” meaning that there’s no solvents, toxic residue, or combustion involved.

Although being pretty much ignored up until now, some studies suggest that CBDa has some anti-tumoral effects that are similar to its chemical cousin CBD.

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Another key difference between CBD and CBDa is how they are consumed. Since CBDa is only found on raw cannabis leaves and flowers, it’s often ingested through juicing high CBD forms of cannabis. This is one of the most popular ways to ingest medical cannabis.

Patients often mix their cannabis with fruits to reduce bitterness. Furthermore, because cannabis is a great source of fiber and phytonutrients, cannabis juice fits in with just about any diet. Raw, high-CBD cannabis can be added to salads or other uncooked meals to deliver the CBDa to a patient’s ECS. Other viable sources of CBDa include; tinctures, resin, topicals, and non-activated full plant extracts.

Ultimately, you can consume CBDa in any way that you would use any other non-decarboxylated cannabis, like adding it to a smoothie or your yogurt or blending with fruit juice. It can be very bitter, so many people like to add sugar or another sweetener.

Although there is a variety of CBDa products that exist, it may be difficult to find them. The majority of products on the market are decarboxylated to produce THC and CBD and thus contain very little THCa or CBDa. And even when a product does contain CBDa, it’s often a minor ingredient of the product and not clearly labeled.

Hopefully, if more research is conducted on CBDa and demonstrates positive results, we will see an increase in these products on the market.

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CBD vs. CBDa: Which is Best for You?

Is CBD better than CBDa, or vice versa? It depends on what effects you’re looking for. Individuals who suffer from autism, fibromyalgia, Multiple Sclerosis, ALS, and neurological pain have reported a significant decrease in their symptoms after adding CBDa to their treatment regime. This improvement happened within days to weeks, and when they stopped taking the CBDa, symptoms seemed to return.

CBD and CBDa both tend to ease different ailments in the body. CBD is typically better for immediate relief of nausea, acute pain, and appetite. CBDa appears to be more effective in the long-term treatment of chronic conditions, such as inflammation and insomnia. This is because raw cannabinoids (CBDa) interact with different enzymes and receptors in the body compared to active cannabinoids.

However, it’s important to remember that research on CBDa is still very limited. The above information is based on some of the very few studies that have been done on CBDa.

Final Thoughts on CBDa

CBDa is the acid precursor of CBD and was therefore seen as being an “inactive” cannabinoid for years. All acidic forms of natural cannabinoids were thought to be “inactive,” meaning that they have very little benefit. So with CBDa viewed as not having much value, less research was conducted, and thus CBD became the dominant cannabinoid of choice due to it being active.

Currently, there is still information very little available on the properties of CBDa when compared to CBD, but the studies that have been done have found some promising results. For instance, it’s thought to have both antiproliferative and anti-inflammatory traits, along with a few other benefits.

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