Understanding CBDa: The Precursor to CBD

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the most highly recognized compounds of hemp. CBD shows potential as a treatment for numerous diseases and it has caught the attention of both researchers and the public. CBD is not the most prevalent compound in hemp, however.


The CBD compound starts as CBDa (cannabidiolic acid), the most prominent cannabinoid in the hemp plant.


That’s right: if you were to pick a hemp leaf off the stem, it would contain much more CBDa than CBD. 

The availability of CBDa prompts the question: does CBDa provide any benefit? While CBDa was once written off as just the precursor to CBD, researchers are now finding CBDa could be an active compound. Science is just beginning to dive into the potential of CBDa, but initial findings are intriguing.  

As a reminder, all studies involving CBDa are preclinical, meaning they carried out on cell cultures or animals. As of date, there have not been human studies on CBDa


Pre-Clinical Studies Involving CBDa  

CBDa and Epilepsy 

GW Pharma, a leading developer of cannabinoid-based pharmaceuticals, has several patents on CBDa. Based on pre-clinical results, the pharmaceutical company believes CBDa should be further explored as a pharmaceutical drug. 

One such patent relates to CBDa in the treatment of epilepsy. In an animal study, CBDa produced significant anti-convulsant effects that, in some cases, were even more effective than CBD. The data also showed a ratio of CBD to CBDa could prevent, even treat, epilepsy. The findings warrant further research. 

In the patent, GW Pharma explains CBDa is more bioavailable than CBD; therefore, it is likely a lower dose of CBDa will be required when treating the same disease with CBD. This also means CBDa may act more quickly than CBD. 

CBDa and Inflammation 

In a 2008 study, CBDa was found to selectively inhibit cyclooxygenase (COX)-2 activity, similar to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen. Put simply, COX-2 is an enzyme responsible for a number of inflammation responses in the body. Effectively inhibiting COX-2 activity would reduce the enzyme’s ability to synthesize pro-inflammatory compounds. More studies are needed to determine if CBDa can effectively reduce inflammation via inhibition of COX-2 activity. 

CBDa and Nausea 

There is convincing evidence CBD helps to suppress nausea and vomiting. One study sought to evaluate the ability of CBDa to do the same. In animal models, CBDa “showed promise as a treatment for nausea and vomiting.” In some cases, CBDa was more effective than CBD in reducing these symptoms. 

THC is known to effectively combat nausea; however, some may find the intoxicating side effect unappealing. CBDa may be a promising alternative for those with diseases where nausea and vomiting are common side effects.


CBDa and the Process of Decarboxylation 

Through a process called decarboxylation, CBDa is converted to CBD. During decarboxylation, heat and/or ageing removes a carboxyl group from the CBDa compound, transforming CBDa to CBD. This can occur naturally (with sunlight and time) or through manufacturing. As of now, CBDa is still largely considered inactive and most CBD products are decarboxylated. So how can we consume CBDa? 

The raw hemp plant is rich in CBDa. Juicing the hemp leaf has become a popular option for consuming CBDa and other compounds of the raw plant. Additionally, consuming whole plant extracts may provide a small amount of CBDa. A certificate of analysis (COA) will determine the levels of CBDa in an extract.


The Future of CBDa 

The cannabis plant contains over 85 cannabinoids. However, cannabinoid research is limited due to the schedule I substance of cannabis. While there is no one “best” cannabinoid, emphasis has been placed on CBD and THC due to the compounds’ therapeutic potential. As laws are changed and resources are increased, we expect to find more thorough research of minor cannabinoids such as CBDa. 

The preliminary research into CBDa is promising but great strides are to be made before CBDa becomes a common wellness supplement. As of now, the industry will reflect the research. As more evidence is released, more emphasis will be placed on CBDa.


Do you have any additional questions on CBDa? Do you have a preparation method for raw hemp? Leave a comment below!

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