What Is Cannabidiolic Acid, or CBDA? How Is It Different Than CBD?
In the you-learn-something-new-every-day department, although hemp and CBD oil are becoming much more mainstream as a result of the recent changes in federal laws, most people aren’t aware the fact that hemp does not naturally produce cannabidiol, aka CBD.
Wait. What? Nearly every mainstream news media outlet says that CBD comes from hemp. How can they all be wrong?
The answer is that hemp produces a molecule called CBDA which is the precursor to CBD. To create CBD, the CBDA produced in the resinous flowers of the cannabis plant must be heated either during the process of extraction and refinement, or through cooking, smoking, or vaping CBD oil.
To produce raw CBDA, you either have to run fresh hemp flowers through a juice extractor, or you have to use a cold solvent such as ethanol to extract the plant’s essential oils. And any process used to refine further the raw material must happen at low temperatures.
When CBDA is heated to approximately 270°F, a chemical reaction takes place which releases some of its carbon atoms turning it into CBD. This process is called decarboxylation. This reaction also occurs naturally in the flowers when exposed to sunlight or when cured, but there is still very little actual CBD in a cured hemp flower. If you want CBD, you’ll have to cook it, vaporize it, or smoke it.
So, what’s the actual difference between the two compounds aside from chemical structure? And how are they similar?
How Are CBD and CBDA Alike?
CBD and CBDA are highly similar molecules. For example, both compounds are known to possess anti-inflammatory and anti-proliferative properties. However, very little research has been done on CBDA as compared to CBD.
Some of the conditions for which both CBDA and CBD are being studied include the pain, anxiety, inflammation, and nausea. And CBDA might even have medicinal benefits in the treatment of tumors and the prevention of cancer.
While CBD has been demonstrated in the lab to have anti-tumor properties, there is little research into the effects of CBDA on tumors. However, in a study done in 2012, the data suggested that CBDA inhibited cell growth in an aggressive form of breast cancer. Another study showed a reduction in metastasis (spreading) of certain breast cancer cells. And still another study found that CBDA inhibits genes involved in the spread of breast cancer cells.
What’s The Difference Between CBD and CBDA?
When CBDA is converted to CBD it becomes more stable and better able to interact with the human endocannabinoid system. CBD is more similar to our own naturally produced human endocannabinoids than CBDA. And, consequently, its effects are also not identical.
In some ways, CBDA may be superior to CBD. For example, in one study done on animals, CBDA proved to be more effective than CBD at reducing vomiting.
However, in other ways, CBDA seems to be inferior to CBD in its efficacy at treating certain conditions. For example, in one research report on a study which compared the effects of CBD and CBDA, researchers wrote, “compared to CBD, CBDA had negligible effects in cell viability assay against multiple cancers. We therefore never took a great interest in the molecule.”
And authors in another research report claimed that of all the cannabinoids CBD was the most potent at fighting breast cancer, whereas CBDA was the least potent.
Interestingly, studies suggest that in cases where CBDA has similar medicinal benefits to CBD, less CBDA is needed to get the same therapeutic effect compared to CBD.
As we mentioned, there has been much less research into the efficacy of CBDA than there has with CBD. To fully grasp the potential of each compound, much more research is needed. Over time, little by little we’ll uncover the secrets of cannabinoids such as CBD and their acidic forebearers such as CBDA.