CBDA: What Is It & What Are Its Benefits?
Most hemp-derived tinctures sold in department stores, specialty shops, and through online merchants feature various concentrations of cannabidiol, the cannabinoid most people know as CBD. Although CBD is the most abundant of the many cannabinoids in hemp extract, cannabidiol is not (technically) produced by the plant.
CBD is the “activated” form of an entirely different cannabinoid, CBDA. Once you know what CBDA is, how it works, and its many potential benefits, it’s easy to see why so many CBD users are adding our Raw Synergy CBDA+CBD Oil Tincture to their daily routine.
What Is a Cannabinoid?
Cannabinoids are compounds that essentially function as neurotransmitters. They help relay urgent signals to several molecular targets, including the receptors of the largest regulatory system in your body, your endocannabinoid system (ECS). There are two types of cannabinoid messengers the ECS responds to:
- Endocannabinoids produced naturally by the body on demand (anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol), and
- Phytocannabinoids, the plant-derived cannabinoids in hemp and marijuana such as CBD and THC (Marzo & Piscitelli, 2015).
The communication between your ECS messengers and their corresponding receptors helps regulate nearly every crucial process in your body, including immune system function, sleep cycle regulation, stress responses, and muscle movement (Pracher et al., 2008). Although the research is ongoing, many scientists believe plant-sourced cannabinoids help support ECS function in a way that helps maintain homeostasis. (Sallaberry & Astern, 2018).
What Is CBDA?
Hemp-derived CBDA is just one of many “minor” cannabinoids in the oil extracted from the plant’s stems, stalks, and flowers. But it’s not the first to emerge as crops begin to grow. That distinction belongs to the “mother” or “stem cell” of all cannabinoids, cannabigerolic acid (CBGA). As industrial hemp plants mature, natural plant enzymes convert CBGA to THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid), CBCA (cannabichromenic acid), and CBDA (cannabidiolic acid). Low levels of decarboxylation occur naturally with plant exposure to heat and sunlight converting sCBGA to CBG, CBCA to CBC, THCA to THC, and CBDA to CBD. Decarboxylation occurs at a higher rate when the oil is extracted from the plant matter and distilled, extracted hemp oils typical contains high concentrations of CBD, but only trace amounts of CBDA (generally at levels not detected by lab analysis) (Cai et al., 2020).
The process that converts the acidic form of a cannabinoid to its active form is called decarboxylation. CBD manufacturers often speed up decarboxylation by heating plant extracts to specific temperatures to maximize CBD concentrations. Preserving CBDA concentrations requires care and precision to ensure temperatures during extraction processes and product manufacturing remain below 230°F (Schmidt, 2020). Although researchers once considered the acidic form of CBD rather unremarkable, current investigations tell a different story.
How CBDA Works
While CBDA and CBD have similar origins, they work quite differently. Heating plant extracts to speed decarboxylation alters CBDA’s molecular structure in a way that allows the cannabinoid to interact with your ECS receptors through multiple pathways.
Instead, this raw form of CBD has a direct impact on the receptors influencing your serotonin system (5-HT1A). Your body relies on serotonin to help regulate moods and emotions, metabolic function, sleep cycles, energy levels, and more (Jonnakuty et al., 2008). While most full spectrum (and broad spectrum) products contain small amounts of CBDA, there are many reasons to consider using a tincture made with enhanced concentrations of this intriguing “raw” cannabinoid.
What Are the Benefits of CBDA?
The small amounts of CBDA typically found in most full spectrum CBD tinctures, capsules, topicals, and gummies contribute to an “entourage effect,” a phenomenon unique to cannabis often used to explain why so many CBD users feel the effects of full spectrum and broad spectrum products are more potent than similar options made with CBD isolate. Researchers credit the combined impact of the plant’s many additional cannabinoids and terpenes for maximizing the contributions of each component (Nahler et al., 2019).
CBDA’s influence over serotonin receptors helps fine-tune the overall effect of hemp-derived CBD oil by inhibiting the function of COX-2 enzymes (Takeda et al., 2009). COX-2 (cyclooxygenase-2) produces prostaglandins, hormone-like substances linked to the type of pain and inflammation commonly associated with injury or infection (Adelizzi, 1999).
CBDA Use Cases: What the Research Shows
Like CBD, most evidence supporting the use of CBDA is based on lab results, a small number of clinical trials, and the testimony of current users reporting favorable results. Until recently, there were relatively few studies delving into the possible benefits of CBDA compared to its more popular offspring, but the tides are turning.
Over the past few years, researchers have conducted several studies investigating the cannabinoid’s possible benefits for an impressive number of health concerns (Formato et al., 2020). While there’s still too little data from these preliminary studies to consider any test results conclusive, many researchers (and CBD users) find the following examples of some of CBDA’s possible benefits quite promising.
Possible Benefits for Discomfort After Physical Activity
Pain, stiffness, and inflammation after physical activity are often caused by microscopic injuries to over-worked muscles. That damage triggers an immune system response that helps clear cellular debris and initiates repairs (Cheung & Hume, 2003), processes regulated by ECS function. Although CBDA does not interact with ECS receptors, researchers believe its impact on COX-2 could inhibit the breakdown of anandamide (Yang et al., 2008). Often called the “bliss molecule,” this ECS messenger plays a vital role in numerous functions, including transmitting impulses between nerve cells, inflammatory responses, and the perception of pleasure and pain (Self, 1999).
Potential Benefits for Moods and Emotions
In a 2018 publication of Behavioural Brain Research, investigators credited CBDA’s impact on serotonin receptors for its potentially positive effects on emotional regulation and feelings of overall wellbeing. (Hen-Shoval et al., 2018). That favorable impact on serotonin receptors also appears to suggest the cannabinoid could be similarly beneficial for the physical, mental, and emotional impact of stress and (temporary) anxiety. In animal models, researchers concluded that CBDA had properties statistically more impactful than the effects of CBD or THC (Rock et al., 2017).
A Positive Influence on Bioavailability
Bioavailability is a term used to explain the differences between the amount of any active substance utilized by your body compared to the amount introduced into your system. When bioavailability is low, less of any substance you ingest is utilized. In a small-scale crossover study, researchers concluded that CBDA is easier for your system to utilize and more bioavailable than CBD. (Pellesi et al., 2018). In animal models, current evidence suggests CBDA (and THCA) could also help improve the “absorption and retention” of CBD (Wakshlag et al., 2020).
Is CBDA Legal?
For decades, hemp cultivation was strictly prohibited. Once pilot programs investigating the agricultural viability of reviving the hemp industry proved successful, our government officially removed federal restrictions on hemp cultivation and hemp-derived CBD products. However, legalization was left to state discretion. In all but a few states, products made with CBDA and other hemp-derived cannabinoids are legal and unrestricted.