CBD Science: The Difference Between CBD and CBDA

CBD info

Both CBD and CBDA are cannabinoids, unique compounds that form in hemp and cannabis plants. CBD is considered the most promising cannabinoid for medicinal purposes, and as such, CBDA has been left behind a bit. However, the trend for cannabis leaf shakes has brought attention back to CBDA, and now many people are wondering what the difference between the two is.


First of all, it is important to understand the natural relationship between these two cannabinoids. CBDA is found in raw plant matter and is the acid precursor to “active” CBD. Both CBDA and CBD first develop in cannabis plants in the form of the cannabinoid CBGA. Once an enzyme arrives, CBDA synthase converts CBGA to CBDA. At this point, CBD is formed from CBDA through the decarboxylation process, which involves applying heat to remove the carboxyl group. The decarboxylation process can occur instantly, such as when steaming or cooking; it can also occur more slowly over time, when plant matter is allowed to settle. (source CBD51)

The differences between CBDA and CBD

It is essential to make it clear that both CBDA and CBD are not psychotropic, will not get you high or impair your mental processes. Although CBDA is considered primarily inactive and therefore auxiliary to CBD, it may have interesting potential in its own right. Like CBD and other cannabinoids, CBDA is believed to exhibit anti-proliferative and anti-inflammatory traits, among others. Even so, the CBDA still lacks the wealth of research that is accumulating in favor of CBD. The anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, anxiolytic, antiproliferative, and antioxidant functions of CBD make it a versatile cannabinoid that is gaining traction in many industries related to health and wellness. So where does CBDA fit in?

Key Research on CBDA

nausea and vomiting

Despite being labeled “pharmacologically inactive,” CBDA has shown potent effects against nausea and vomiting in the laboratory. A 2013 study in animal models looked at not only CBDA’s ability to reduce these symptoms, but also its potential to enhance 5-HT1A receptor activation.

The results were encouraging; the researchers noted that “compared to cannabidiol, CBDA shows significantly greater potency in inhibiting vomiting in shrews and nausea in rats.” Furthermore, they concluded that CBDA worked better in activating the 5-HT1A receptor, as well as showing potential to treat nausea.

• Inflammation

There is a lot of literature on the anti-inflammatory benefits of CBD, including a good number of high-quality studies on the cannabinoid. CBDA could also be a good candidate for reducing inflammation. In fact, CBDA was shown to be even more competent than THC at blocking COX-2, an enzyme that is produced as a result of inflammation. In addition, the “carboxylic acid moiety” of CBDA (the “A”) was determined to be crucial in the cannabinoid’s role as a selective COX-2 inhibitor.

• Breast cancer

As for breast cancer and CBDA, research in this field is very underdeveloped, not to mention a highly controversial topic. For example, Dr. Sean McAllister, a highly prolific scientist in the field of cannabinoid research, found that THC and CBD appeared to inhibit and kill cancer cells. He also found that “compared to CBD, CBDA had negligible effects in the cell viability assay against multiple cancers. So we were never very interested in the molecule.”

This is supported by a study referenced by Dr. McAllister, entitled “Antitumor activity of plant cannabinoids with emphasis on the effect of cannabidiol on human breast carcinoma.” The study found that among all cannabinoids (including THC, CBG, and CBC), CBD was the most potent in fighting breast cancer, while CBDA was the least effective.

On the other hand, a 2012 study at Hokuriku University found that CBDA inhibits breast cancer cell migration in a form of aggressive breast cancer. But the conclusions drawn from this investigation are by no means conclusive.

CBDA is not a bit player

fight cancerIt is clear that despite any shortcomings in the research, CBDA displays qualities other than CBD that make it a very interesting compound. Even so, both cannabinoids maintain a relationship that requires further analysis and experimentation. As more cannabinoids come to light, it is critical to distinguish the individual traits of each, as well as how they all interact as a complete phytochemical complex.

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