CBDa VS CBD: What is the difference?

Many people talk about the benefits of CBD but not many people know about CBDa. CBDa is the cannabinoid found in the raw version of the cannabis plant, before it is processed in any way. CBDa produces slightly different effects than CBD - but how? And hold up, could CBDa be actually better than CBD? 

CBDa vs CBD:what is the difference


What is CBDa and what is the difference between CBD?

CBDa is an acronym for cannabidiolic acid. It is found in the resin and trichomes of the raw cannabis plant. 

It is the acidic precursor of CBD. This means the cannabis plant in its natural state produces CBDa, which only becomes CBD once it's been heated.

CBDa turns to CBD when heated or aged

The process of converting CBDA to CBD is called decarboxylation.

CBDA is shown in studies to be much more potent than CBD

There are many similarities between CBD and CBDA, but one big difference is that CBDa has a much higher bioavailability than CBD (i.e. it’s much easier absorbed by the body). 

It is thought that this much higher bioavailability is why CBDA is shown in studies to be much stronger than CBD.

For example, in this study with rats, CBD demonstrated anti-nausea effects at 5mg while CBDA had anti-nausea effects at 1ug (.001) making that 5000 times stronger! 

Wow! Why aren’t we just using CBDa instead please tell?

Well a few reasons from what I have read:

  1. While CBDa was discovered way back in 1940, it was initially dismissed as not having medicinal properties. It is only in recent years that scientists are discovering its medicinal values.
  2. There are just not that many scientific clinical studies done on CBDa. The focus up to now has been on CBD. It’s only now we are turning our attention to CBDa, the raw precursor to CBD.
  3. CBDa does work slightly differently than CBD. It doesn’t interact with the endocannabinoid system in the same way as CBD does so whilst a lot of the benefits are similar, they are not the same. 


CBDA benefits

CBDa has multiple benefits at potentially much lower doses than CBD.

CBDa for reducing Inflammation

One of the most exciting effects of CBDa is its role in reducing inflammation. Inflammation is thought to be the root cause of most of the diseases we have today from arthritis to diabetes and even as far as cancer.

The traditional treatment of inflammation is medication such as anti-inflammatory non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDs). It is thought that these work by inhibiting enzymes called Cyclooxygenase-1 (COX-1) and Cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2)

NSAIDs over time can cause adverse effects such as gastrointestinal issues because of both the inhibiting of both the COX-1 and COX2 enzymes. However, if just the COX2 enzyme was inhibited then the same anti-inflammatory results would be seen, without the adverse side effects.

|| A COX2 only inhibiting drug, would be able to provide anti-inflammatory effects without the adverse side effects caused by COX1 inhibition

This is exactly how CBDa works. CBDa is a natural inhibitor of the COX2 enzyme, as seen in studies like this one

|| In summary, looking at the existing animal studies, we can surmise CBDa has equal anti-inflammatory benefits to common anti-inflammatory NSAIDs (like ibuprofen) without the potential damaging side effects.  



man in pain holding hands over face


CBDa for combating nausea and vomiting

CBDa is a great anti-nausea and anti-vomiting compound. In fact, according to a study in 2013 in the British Journal of Pharmacology, it was much more effective at reducing vomiting than CBD.

This is especially important for the treatment of acute and anticipatory nausea where patients are conditioned to feel unwell before an event. This is a very common side affect of chemotherapy patients. 

Currently benzodiazepines are typically used for this purpose - where possible side effects include addiction and withdrawal.

CBDa is an exciting new cannabinoid for potential treatment in this area.


CBDa for anxiety and depression 

Some studies have found that CBDa has almost 100 times the affinity for binding to the serotonin receptors than CBD. When activated, these receptors bind with serotonin making us feel better.  This is again in animal studies only. 

However, the potential for anxiety and depression has been spotted by pharmaceutical companies and GW pharma has filed a patent on CBDa for psychotic disorders.  This implies that they have found promising results in their trials regarding the effectiveness of CBDA in brain imbalances. .

There is a need for CBDa to be studied for its ability to produce anti-anxiety effects in human clinical trials.

Epilepsy (anti-convulsant)

In animal models, CBDa is shown to be much more effective at lower doses than CBD for its anti-convulsant effects. For example, in this study in 2019 (mice with Dravet syndrome), CBDA was effective at 10 mg/kg, 10 times less the dose than CBD.

There are other studies which show a lot of promise such as animal studies showing CBDa kill breast cancer cells and CBDa’s potential for hyperalgesia

Consuming CBDa 

How can you find a CBDa product? 

Often CBDa products are advertised as “raw form”, “raw hemp oil”, “raw cannabis” or just “CBD + CBDa” (if both cannabinoids are present).

CBDa should be consumed similarly - start slow, go low. 

Important to note that because CBDA is readily converted to CBD, it’s important CBDA products are kept in a fridge! 

CBDa or CBD: Which is better?

Well like all cannabinoids, the research is really suggesting that due cannabinoids work best synergistically together and not in isolation.

However finding a CBDa dominant oil would be a good idea for many of the reasons outlined above. CBDa is a great cannabinoid to have in your list of ingredients as it would seem you would need small doses and increase its effectiveness.