CBD vs. CBDA: What’s the Difference?

  • CBD

The world of supplements is replete with acronyms. If you’ve been keeping up with this niche for a while, you know that CBD is one of the most common ones.

Standing for cannabidiol, CBD is a chemical compound derived from the Cannabid sativa plant. You may already be familiar with CBD, as it’s widely available in tinctures, edibles, tablets and other forms. This supplement is used help soothe a variety of conditions from acne to anxiety. 

Yet, have you heard of cannabidiolic acid, or CBDA?

Today, we’re breaking down the differences in CBD vs. CBDA, helping you understand the nuances between the two. Read on to discover how they’re alike, what sets them apart and how to use each to your advantage.

What Is CBD?

Before we dive into the ways that CBD and CBDA are different from one another, let’s first discuss what each one encompasses, starting with CBD.

In recent years, CBD has skyrocketed in popularity as researchers and users alike discover its powerful therapeutic qualities. Well-known as the major non-psychoactive compound in cannabis, it’s been used to help alleviate a range of physical and neurological conditions. 

Many people use CBD oil in oils and edibles to impart a feeling of calm and relaxation. Yet, while it can help you feel more laid-back after a long day, CBD will not get you high. In this way, it differs from another well-known cannabis compound, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.

What Is CBDA?

In short, CBDA is the precursor to CBD. Though it shows promise in early clinical trials, it has yet to gain as much attention or buzz in the public, though industry experts predict this will soon change. 

How is it developed?

To understand the process, it helps to understand how all cannabinoids found in cannabis and hemp are developed. In the very beginning, they all start out as cannabigerolic acid, or CBGA. This compound is known in the scientific community as “the mother of all cannabinoids”.

From there, each strain of cannabis features unique plant enzymes that go to work on CBGA. When they do, they convert it into some combination of the three compounds known to be precursors to cannabinoids. These include:

  • Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA)
  • Cannabichromenic acid (CBCA)
  • Cannabidiolic acid (CBDA)

The natural compound of CBDA was not isolated until 1996. Available in substantial quantities in raw cannabis, it’s considered to be a relatively recent discovery.

Transforming CBDA to CBD

A process called thermal decarboxylation is behind the transformation of CBDA into CBD as we know it today. During this process, the CBDA moleule is dried or exposed to heat. This creates a reaction that causes the molecule to lose its acidic carboxyl group. 

There are two main ways that thermal decarboxylation can occur. 

If you smoke or vape cannabis, this heat transfer is quick and the transformation happens almost immediately. Still, you don’t necessarily need a direct heat source to catalyze it. If you allow the plant material to remain at room temperature for a long enough time, this degradation will slowly occur on its own.

However, most of us aren’t willing to allow such substances to remain untouched long enough for the switch to happen naturally. As such, most people who consume cannabis miss out on the properties of CBDA. As soon as they light the cannabis material, they trigger it to convert from its “raw” form into CBD.

CBD vs. CBDA: Distinctions to Know

Now that we’ve covered how both CBDA and CBD are produced, where do their similarities begin and end?

First, both compounds are considered to be cannabinoids. There are more than 100 cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, and they’re also located within the human body. Your endocrine system uses cannabinoids to regulate your normal bodily functions. 

Moreover, both CBD and CBDA are non-intoxicating. Unlike THC, they will not get you high. Now that we’ve shared these general similarities, let’s break down a few of the key differences between the two.

How Do You Consume CBD?

You can consume CBD in a variety of different ways. Some of the most common methods include:

  • Inhalation (smoking or vaping)
  • Topical application (lotions, creams, balms)
  • Sublingual (drops under tongue)
  • Ingestion (edibles)

As you research products, be sure to look for full-spectrum or broad-spectrum CBD oil to make sure you’re getting the maximum health benefits. 

Our Full Spectrum CBD in MCT Oil contains all of the cannabinoids present in the cannabis plant, including THC. If you’re looking for a type of CBD oil that does not contain THC, then stick to broad-spectrum varieties. Our Broad Spectrum CBD in MCT Oil allows you to enjoy the plant’s naturally occurring oils, but with no worry about getting high. 

How Do You Consume CBDA?

This knowledge begs the question: How can you consume CBDA? If it’s lost as soon as you heat up cannabis, smoking and vaping are usually out. Instead, the answer lies in finding different and unconventional methods of consumption. 

For example, you can find CBDA creams and lotions that allow you to enjoy the experience topically. You can also find tinctures that work similarly to CBD tinctures, where a few drops under your tongue can offer the feeling you crave. There are also CBDA capsules available for convenience and travel.

Then, there’s the raw cannabis juicing trend.

As its name implies, this involves juicing the cannabis leaves as you would any other leafy green. When added to other fresh ingredients such as apples, celery, spinach, and bananas, it blends in well and still packs a powerful punch. This keeps heat from coming into contact with the CBDA, which prevents it from transforming into CBD.

Therapeutic Benefits of CBD

The therapeutic benefits of CBD are widely reported. It has been shown to help ease the symptoms of many health issues, including:

  • Chronic pain and inflammation
  • Stress and burnout
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Acne and skin conditions
  • Cancer-related symptoms (nausea, vommiting, pain)
  • Neurological disorders (multiple sclerosis, epilepsy)
  • Heart and circulatory conditions

As more research is performed on CBD, it’s also being analyzed as a prospective solution to help treat other conditions. Some of the most promising applications include support for mental disorders (e.g. schizophrenia), substance abuse treatment, diabetes prevention, and more.

Therapeutic Benefits of CBDA

With CBD readily available, why would someone want to go to such great lengths to get access to CBDA? Are there properties that the latter possess that the former does not?

For a long time, this exact question stumped researchers, too. This is because CBDA has long been regarded as being pharmacologically inactive. While CBD directly affects a user’s endocannabinoid system, studies showed that this transformation was limited to decarboxylated forms of the compound.

For this reason, most research into cannabinoids has centered around THC and CBD, rather than their raw forms (THCA and CBDA). 

However, recent new findings have challenged the idea that CBDA isn’t as potent as CBD. Back in 2008, researchers took a closer look at the molecular structure of CBDA. When they did, they found that in was similar in nature to the structure found in many common nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen.

Anti-Inflammatory Effects

With this data, the same researchers began to test a hypothesis: If CBDA’s molecular structure was similar to NSAIDs, could it work in much the same way that they did? In other words, could it help with pain and inflammation?

In their studies, they discovered that the answer was affirmative. In fact, CBDA contains the same COX-2 inhibitor that gives NSAID’s their anti-inflammatory power.

This is another important way that it differs from other cannabinoids, which bind to the brain’s CB1 or CB2 receptors. While CB1 receptors are found throughout the human body, CB2 receptors are mostly concentrated in the immune system and gastrointestinal system. On the other hand, cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) enzymes are primarily found at the sites of inflammation. 

If you suffer an injury or infection, these enzymes are present in higher quantities. As such, any substance that acts as a COX-2 inhibitor can help relieve both the pain and inflammation associated with such trauma. 

Better Sleep and Peace of Mind

Another one of the most exciting CBDA benefits? Researchers have also found that CBDA can affect your levels of serotonin. This is a chemical that your nerve cells produce to help facilitate signaling between cells. Serotonin is essential for the healthy processing of a variety of human functions, including:

  • Sleeping
  • Eating
  • Digesting
  • Emotional processing
  • Motor skills 

In the future, could you reach for a CBDA tincture to help you drift off into dreamland? While CBDA sleep benefits and other applications are still being studied, early rodent tests and similar experiments have proven successful. 

Help For Nausea and Anxiety

Another potential application for CBDA could be to help treat symptoms of nausea and anxiety. As these conditions tend to occur alongside one another, finding a supplement that could target both would be especially promising. 

In one 2013 study, researchers found that CBDA easily attached to a specific serotonin receptor in the brain that is associated with anti-nausea and anti-anxiety effects. In fact, it was 1,000 times more capable of binding to this receptor than CBD. It’s important to note, however, that this effect was only monitored when CBDA was administered alongside a low dose of the anti-nausea drug ondansetron (OND), which is usually given to chemotherapy patients. 

Why this connection? There are various experiences that can cause your body to rid itself of essential serotonin. Two of these are radiation and chemotherapy. These specific stressors can catalyze both nausea and vomiting, and are especially prevalent in cancer patients.

While there are certain medications that can help quell vomiting, nausea can be more difficult to control and keep at bay. Moving forward, this is one area of CBDA research that could prove truly transformative. Scientists have already found that CBDA can positively affect the 5-HT serotonin-producing receptors in your body and increase neuronal activity. This could offer remarkable support for chemotherapy-induced nausea/vomiting, or CINV.

Stabilizing CBDA: Encouraging Research

Though it’s helpful to know that CBDA does contain therapeutic benefits, it hasn’t been widely accepted as a clinical treatment for one primary reason. As discussed above, this compound will undergo eventual decarboxylation when left at room temperature. As such, this compound is too unstable to store and distribute in its raw form. 

Interestingly, there is new research developing out from the same team that first synthesized THC and CBD. These cannabis scientists are studying a new way to transform and synthesize CBDA into a compound that is more stable. This compound, they explain, will better retain the therapeutic benefits that CBDA contains.

How will it work? These researchers have found a way to stabilize CBDA by converting it into what’s known as a cannabidiolic acid methyl ester, or HU-580. So far, studies have been limited to animal models, and early results are hopeful.

For instance, one study found that when used to help ease symptoms of depression, the new compound was still able to help calm anxious behavior as CBDA usually does. The only difference? It was now chemically stable as opposed to its original form, making it easier to store and use as a clinical drug.

Shop Our Full Collection of CBD Products Today

As more interest grows around the CBD vs. CBDA debate, this attention is encouraging researchers to take a closer look at both compounds. This is encouraging and exciting news, and it could open up a wide realm of possible applications.

While more research needs to be performed to understand the full scope of CBDA’s benefits and uses, CBD remains a stable and reliable supplement. Whether you use it to shake off the stress from the day, sleep better at night, or help calm your anxious feelings, we’ve got the full- and broad-spectrum oils you need.

Feel free to shop our online collection. If you have any questions or want to learn more about any of our products, feel free to contact our team.


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