CBDA (Cannabidiolic Acid): Understanding this Hemp-Derived Cannabinoid

Jeff Yauck | November 25, 2020
cannabidiolic acid

In your relentless search on all things CBD-related, you might have come across a cannabinoid known as CBDA. These four letters stand for cannabidiolic acid.

Like CBD, this is a type of non-psychoactive phytocannabinoid. However, it has unique differences, both chemically and structurally, in comparison with CBD. 

Today, we take a brief look at the CBDA cannabinoid and discuss what exactly it does. We will also discuss research relating to CBDA – read on to find out all you need to know.

What is CBDA?

CBDA (Cannabidiolic acid) is a precursor to CBD. The cannabis plant produces all its cannabinoids in acid form; in fact, some say that all cannabinoids start out as acids in the form of CBGA. When a particular enzyme becomes available, CBGA converts into cannabidiolic acid, which later converts into CBD under specific conditions. In terms of the effects CBDA has on the body, there are suggestions the compound has a wealth of unique properties that are separate from those of CBD. Let’s take a look at some key potential CBDA benefits.

Potential CBDA Benefits

Scientists know a little bit about the health benefits of CBDA, but in general, specific research on the compound is still largely lacking. We know, for instance, that CBDA has the potential to lower inflammation. Inflammation is of course one of the key causes of pain, so it’s likely that CBDA holds potential as a practical pain-relieving compound.

What’s even more interesting is the potential physiological relationship of CBDA with CBD. Some suggest that oil tinctures containing both compounds would be far more effective than products that are limited just to CBD, or just to CBDA. Indeed, studies that have observed the phenomenon of the entourage effect seem to support this idea.

Interestingly, the dual-action use of a potential CBD/CBDA oil blend would likely only be effective for oral products. When CBDA is decarboxylated (heated), for example (i.e. if it were used in a vape device), the acid compound would change its chemical structure altogether, thereby altering its potential therapeutic effects.

CBDA Decarboxylation: Why Is It So Important?

All raw cannabis plant material must be heated, or decarboxylated (a chemical reaction that involves removal a carboxyl group) in order for cannabinoid acids to convert into their active form. According to a 2016 study in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, the CBDA decarboxylation temperature is ~110 degrees Celsius (230 degrees Fahrenheit). This is the approximate temperature in which CBDA will begin to break down into CBD. 

Decarboxylation is often said to activate cannabinoids, but the word “activate” isn’t entirely accurate. Cannabinoid acids like CBDA do influence the body by themselves – so they don’t necessarily need to be activated to work. However, upon decarboxylation cannabinoid acids alter their chemical structure, thereby changing the effects that they have on the ECS.

Recent Research on CBDA

Unfortunately, there is very little specific research on CBDA. Furthermore, the limited amount of research that has been carried out has been done primarily on rodent models. While animal lab studies are essential in the initial stages of research, human (clinical) studies are ultimately what’s necessary in order to determine the exact pharmacologic effect of a compound.

Of course, this is not to say that one should disregard all existing research on CBDA. The results thusfar are promising, and will hopefully lead to more reliable information in the future.

For example, one 2008 study about CBDA observed how the compound is remarkably similar in structure to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). According to the study, there may be potential for CBDA to act as an anti-inflammatory.

The study goes on to suggest that, rather than working directly with cannabinoid receptors, CBDA appears to work by inhibiting cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) enzymes. These are enzymes directly associated with the body’s inflammatory response. When CBDA inhibits COX-2 enzyme activity, inflammation appears to lessen.

Another important area of research involves CBDA and the 5-HT serotonin system. This system influences physiological processes relating to mood, behavior, depression, and more. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are common antidepressant drugs that work by preventing the reabsorption of serotonin, thereby increasing its quantity in the body and influencing things like low mood and depressive thoughts. Interestingly, an animal study from 2018 shows that CBDA also inhibits the reabsorption of serotonin, suggesting that it may hold similar properties in terms of its physiological effects. 

Additionally, a 2018 study published in the academic journal Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience observed that CBDA has a 100 times greater affinity for 5-HT receptors as compared to CBD. It’s also possible that CBDA has a higher bioavailability than CBD, meaning the body can absorb more of it at a time.

CBDA vs. CBD: What Are The Key Differences?

In the ongoing CBD vs CBDA argument, the key difference comes down to chemical structure in the form of a single carboxyl group, which is in fact common to most hemp-derived cannabinoids.

Most CBD users will probably already know what cannabinoids are. If you’re unsure, they are essentially the active compounds found in hemp – and there are hundreds of them.

Cannabinoids are unique to the cannabis plant family, hence their name. Scientists believe cannabinoids evolved to help the plant during growth and survival, and some even say they function to provide chemical protection for the plant.

CBD is of course one of the most well-known hemp-derived cannabinoids. It is non-psychoactive, and is known to provide a wide range of beneficial effects in humans.

What Is The Difference Between CBD And CBDA?

Regarding the specific difference between CBD and CBDA, both cannabinoids posses a unique ability to interact with the endocannabinoid system, which exists in all mammals (not just humans)

Interestingly enough, the human body makes its own cannabinoids, called endocannabinoids. (“Endo” means internal, so you can think of these as internal cannabinoids).

Plant-based phytocannabinoids like CBDA, CBD, and THC interact with receptors in the ECS to produce an astonishing range of health benefits. For example, you likely already know that THC binds with CB1 receptors in the brain and central nervous system to produce psychoactive, mind-altering effects.

Though CBD and CBDA are different in terms of their chemical structure, neither produce these types of psychoactive effects. In fact, both cannabinoids are entirely non-intoxicating, meaning they do not result in any form of a mind-altering high.

Summary On CBDA & Its Uses, Effects

Some manufacturers are already considering the production of specifically formulated CBDA oils. However, given their full-spectrum extraction from natural hemp, many high quality CBD products on the market today already contain CBDA, or cannabidiolic acid – even if it’s not specifically listed on the label.

Indeed, plenty of hemp-extracted supplements contain CBDA in the form of carboxylated CBD. While there aren’t (yet) any specific products that contain pure CBDA, this may be an avenue that brands consider and start to venture into in the future. Until then, CBDA can readily be found in the form of full-spectrum tinctures, as well as products like capsules and even topical salves.


Ultimately, it’s up to you which type of hemp-derived product you choose to use. Research on CBDA up to now has been minimal, so we can’t say for sure what the specific benefits of the cannabinoid may be for you personally. At this point, we’ll just have to watch this space; there’s no telling where CBDA research might take us, but one thing is certain – the future of hemp-derived cannabinoids looks very promising.



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