What’s The Difference Between CBDA and CBD?

The health and wellness industry has been captivated by the CBD craze for the better part of the last decade.

It has continuously made headlines with positive stories all over the country, becoming the media and internet’s ultimate buzzword.

You would be forgiven for thinking it’s the only important cannabinoid in the cannabis plant.

But as you research deeper into the benefits of the now-legal hemp plant, it’s more likely that you will stumble into other cannabinoids such as CBN, CBG, CBC, and compounds, such as terpenes and flavonoids that equally contribute to its much-touted benefits.

CBDA or cannabidiolic acid in full is one of the essential cannabinoids that have not been given the time of day by the media and researchers.

But this may soon change as new trends, such as juicing raw cannabis, are slowly catching on.

In this article, we shine the spotlight on CBDA, its benefits, the difference with CBD, and which one you should use.

What is CBDA?

CBDA is short for Cannabidiolic acid, one of the 100+ cannabinoids that occur naturally in the cannabis Sativa (hemp) plant. As the name suggests, CBDA is very closely related to CBD.

To understand better what cannabidiolic acid is, we have to go further back in the chain to CBGA, “the mother of all cannabinoids.” Brace yourself for a quick biology lesson.

All the major cannabinoids present in hemp first occur as cannabigerolic acid or CBGA.

From there, plant enzymes convert it into three of the major precursor compounds, cannabidiolic acid (CBDA), tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), and cannabichronic acid (CBCA).

The three can then be converted further to more neutral cannabinoids that we know. THCA to THC, the primary psychotropic compound in cannabis, CBCA to CBC, and CBDA to CBD. This is a process of decarboxylation.

CBDA was initially thought to be inactive, which would probably explain why researchers and the media have shunned it.

But after the 2018 Farm Bill was signed into law, legalizing hemp in the United States, more information about the cannabinoid is coming to light.

CBDA, like Cannabidiol, has its wellness benefits.

However, despite being abundant in the hemp plant, most end users are not exposed to CBDA. This is because most consumption methods involve heating, which converts it to CBD.

To enjoy CBDA, you have to take the hemp extract raw.

This option is not available to most users as they only get processed CBD oil, with most CBDA already converted.

However, a few processors are selling products extracted from raw hemp, with all the cannabinoids still intact.

These extracts may contain CBDA in its original form.

Decarboxylation – Turning CBDA to CBD

CBDA occurs as a carboxylic acid, which means it contains a carboxyl group (COOH) comprising one carbon, two oxygen, and one hydrogen atoms.

When it goes through decarboxylation, it loses the carboxyl group, and what remains is the neutral CBD compound.

Decarboxylation can occur instantly, when heat is applied to the cannabis material, like during vaping, smoking, or cooking.

It can also take place when the plant material is left to sit for some period at room temperature.

The process of decarboxylation by slow degradation is, however, extremely slow, which brings us to the next question; what is CBD?

CBD, or Cannabidiol in full, is the second most prevalent active cannabinoid in the cannabis plant. It’s the descendant of cannabidiolic acid and is the most abundant non-psychoactive cannabinoid in industrial hemp.

Unlike THC, both CBD and its precursor CBDA don’t cause psychotropic effects, or the ‘high’ marijuana is known for.

Instead, they have a calming effect on our bodies, and it seems that they promote a sense of wellbeing and the ability to improve mood.

The Difference Between CBDA and CBD

Although CBDA is considered to be the parent molecule for CBD, they have differences in their molecular arrangement, how they naturally occur, and how they interact with our bodies.

Here are some of the differences;

CBDA contains A COOH Group

As we already mentioned before, CBDA contains a carboxyl group that is removed by decarboxylation, converting it to CBD.

This is the main difference between the two cannabinoids, although their molecular formulas are very similar.


CBDA has a higher bioavailability than CBD.

The body can, therefore, metabolize it quicker and with less effort.

Bioavailability refers to the percentage of the administered dose that reaches the bloodstream.

How They Work In The Body  

Does CBDA interact with the ECS? The two compounds, albeit very close, have very different working mechanisms. CBD, like most cannabinoids, delivers its effects by interacting with the cannabinoid receptors of the ECS.

The ECS, or endocannabinoid system, is a complex system that is responsible for maintaining homeostasis (balance) in the body. This includes functions such as mood, appetite, coordination, and memory.

By interacting with the receptors, CBD can influence how the body reacts to stimuli or how the body cells communicate.

CBDA, on the other hand, doesn’t interact with the ECS’s primary receptors. But that doesn’t mean it is inactive. Instead, studies show that CBDA delivers its effects by inhibiting the COX-2 enzyme; the enzyme is associated with inflammation.

Another study suggests that CBDA has a superior binding affinity for the 5HT1A serotonin receptors than CBD.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter associated with happiness and wellbeing; this suggests CBDA may have a greater impact on mood than CBD.

It Occurs Naturally In The Plant  

CBDA occurs more abundantly than CBD in the raw plant; it has to undergo decarboxylation to turn into CBD.

This doesn’t mean that CBD isn’t naturally present in the raw plant. It is, but in lower amounts than its acidic precursor.

Good news, CBDA is legal in the United States as long as it comes from hemp with 0.3% THC content or less.

The 2018 Farm Bill legalized the farming, sale, and use of industrial hemp, as a whole, derivatives and all its compounds.

However, as it is with CBD, it is classified as a food supplement and not a medicine.

It’s, therefore, not strictly regulated.

Ensure you do enough research before buying CBDA products to ensure they are safe and of high quality.

CBDA vs. CBD – Which Should I Use?

CBDA has several therapeutic benefits to our bodies, just like CBD. However, we are still learning about this cannabinoid, and there is no enough research on its effects available yet.

There is, however, a decent amount of research on Cannabidiol.

Going by what we know about the two cannabinoids, it makes more sense to choose CBD.

But CBDA has some positives on its side too. One, it is cleaner than CBD as it occurs naturally in the raw plant and doesn’t require intricate processes to extract it. This means there is no risk of solvents or other dangerous residues.

Take Away – CBDA vs. CBD

The hemp plant has hundreds of compounds that may be beneficial to our health and wellness.

However, there is a lot we still don’t know about some of them. Out of the hundreds of cannabinoids that occur naturally, only a few are thoroughly studied.

CBDA is a precursor to CBD. It occurs more abundantly and works differently than the more popular Cannabidiol.

Some studies even suggest it may be more effective than CBD in some areas.

However, the answer to which is better is hard to tell, but based on the available research studies, CBD might be more effective. This could be true, or it may just be better studied than CBDA.   

Both cannabinoids are likely to work, so your great worry should be getting either of the compounds from a reputable CBD company.

If you have any questions regarding CBDA, CBD, or any other cannabinoid, feel free to contact us today.

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