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CBDa Vs. CBD: What's The Difference?

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You may have noticed a surge in hemp plant cannabinoid products lately. In addition to CBD, brands are releasing specialized cannabinoids such as CBG, CBN, and CBDa or raw hemp extracts.

CBDa isn't a typo—it's a cannabinoid found abundantly in growing hemp plant flowers, and it's the precursor compound to CBD or cannabidiol—the main ingredient in CBD products to support the endocannabinoid system.

So, what exactly is the difference between the two molecules, what are their benefits, and how do you use them?

We'll dive into all of these questions and more right here.

Key Takeaways:

  • CBDa and CBD are naturally occurring compounds found in the cannabis plant.
  • When cannabis is heated (through smoking or vaporization), the CBDa converts to CBD. Some people believe that CBDa has its own set of potential health benefits, including pain relief and anti-nausea effects. However, more research is needed to confirm these claims.
  • Until recently, CBDa was difficult to come by unless you grew your own hemp plants. Now, you can find CBDa and other raw hemp extracts in the form of gummies, oils, and raw juices.
  • To keep CBDa in this state, it must not be exposed to heat—smoking or cooking with any CBDa products or improper storage will convert CBDa into CBD.
  • Cannabinoids can affect individuals differently, so it's worth experimenting with other cannabinoids like CBDa, CBG, and CBN alongside CBD to see what works best for your lifestyle.
  • Always reference the third-party lab test to see the concentration of cannabinoids and their safety profile.

What Is A Cannabinoid?

Cannabinoids are a diverse class of compounds that act on cannabinoid receptors in the body.

Cannabinoid receptors are part of the endocannabinoid system, which is involved in a variety of physiological processes including appetite, pain sensation, mood, and memory.

The cannabis plant is abundant in cannabinoids (phytocannabinoids)—the most popular being tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol, but the body also naturally produces cannabinoids called endocannabinoids that send signals throughout the system to maintain homeostasis (balance).

When cannabinoids bind to cannabinoid receptors, they activate or inhibit various physiological processes.

The effects of cannabinoids depend on the type of receptor they bind to, as well as the location of that receptor in the body. For example, activation of CB1 receptors in the brain can lead to psychoactive effects, while activation of CB2 receptors primarily affects the immune system.

There is currently a great deal of interest in the potential therapeutic applications of cannabinoids.

Research on cannabinoids is ongoing, and scientists are still working to understand all of the potential benefits and risks of these compounds.

What Is A Raw Cannabinoid?

A raw cannabinoid refers to a phytocannabinoid that hasn't been processed or exposed to heat. They're essentially existing in their most natural state. They're called cannabinoid acids.

The hemp plant is home to over a hundred cannabinoids that all start out as CBGa or cannabigerolic acid, nicknamed the "stem cell cannabinoid" or "the mother cannabinoid." As the plant matures, CBGa transforms into CBDa, THCa, CBCa, and many other minor cannabinoids.

CBD products are typically produced through extraction methods like supercritical CO2 extraction or liquid chromatography.

In terms of effects, raw cannabinoids and hemp extracts are both believed to offer potential health benefits like pain relief and reduced inflammation. However, some research suggests that raw cannabinoids have some unique health benefits of their own (we'll get into this).

What's CBD?

CBD stands for cannabidiol—it's the most abundant compound in hemp extracts. Unlike its more famous cousin THC, CBD isn't known for causing psychoactive effects.

Instead, it's lauded for its potential health benefits, which range from reducing anxiety to alleviating pain.

CBD is typically consumed in the form of an oil, tincture, or capsule, and its effects can vary depending on the dosage and method of delivery.

For instance, sublingual CBD oil is absorbed into the bloodstream more quickly than capsules, which makes it ideal for those seeking fast relief. However you choose to take it, CBD is a relatively safe compound with few side effects.

While CBD products are quickly becoming a household wellness staple for many people, you may be surprised to learn that the hemp plant doesn't actually produce large quantities of CBD on its own.

CBD exists naturally as CBDa. In order to turn CBDa into CBD, the compound must undergo a process called decarboxylation.

This involves heating the compound, which causes the carboxylic acid group to break off and be released as carbon dioxide.

The resulting compound is CBD.

Decarboxylation is an important process for making CBD products, as it "activates" the compound and is said to make it more bioavailable—but now researchers are beginning to rethink whether this activation is needed at all.

The concept of "activating" a cannabinoid from heat exposure is much more evident with THCa and THC.

Cannabis users will know that consuming raw marijuana plants doesn't produce psychoactive effects. This is because there's very little THC in the raw form. In order to get THC, you need to break off the acidic carboxyl group in THCa, which alters the shape of the molecule, so that it binds to CB1 receptors in the central nervous system to illicit intoxicating effects.

What's CBDa?

Cannabidiolic acid is the raw, unheated precursor cannabinoid to CBD.

The "a" in CBDa stands for the acidic carboxyl group on the molecular structure, which breaks off when exposed to heat.

You may have also heard of CBDa referred to as raw hemp extract.

CBDA isn't as well known because raw cannabis plants are rarely consumed. Smoking or processing the cannabis buds exposes the compounds to thermal decarboxylation, transforming the compound into CBD.

Both CBDa and CBD are non-intoxicating compounds that have been found to support the body's endocannabinoid system.

As more CBDA research emerges, scientists are finding that you don't need to heat CBDA to reap its benefits and that CBDA shows promise to support a wide range of therapeutic benefits such as resistance to MRSA and potentially inhibiting viral infection from COVID-19, but more research in this space is needed [1].

What's CBDA Good For?

Like THC and CBD, CBDa interacts with the body's ECS as a phytocannabinoid to produce a range of benefits. As the natural form of CBD, early research suggests that it has similar effects on the body as an anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and neuroprotectant [2].

Thanks to the unique molecular shape the carboxylic acid group lends to CBDa. Studies show that CBDa acts as a COX2 inhibitor to support healthy inflammation, and pain relief from headaches or arthritis symptoms, and it may interact with serotonin production to support mood stabilization and help with nausea and vomiting more effectively than CBD can [3].

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How Are CBD and CBDA Different From Each Other?

Cannabigerolic acid and cannabidiol both are cannabis plant-derived chemical compounds that interact with the body's endocannabinoid system—CBDA comes from raw plants, while CBD is made from CBDA undergoing decarboxylation.

Most of the research available on cannabinoids heavily focuses on CBD and THC—but they first exist in their acidic forms.

The scientific community once believed that in order to reap the benefits of cannabis, the acidic cannabinoids must first transform, breaking off the carboxylic acid chain to interact with the endocannabinoid system—but that doesn't seem to be the case.

CBDa appears to have its own set of unique benefits when consumed in this form, which is why raw cannabis juice and raw hemp extracts are becoming more popular.

Still, the availability of CBDa products is limited.

This is because it's very difficult to extract raw hemp extracts from the plant material and maintain high doses. CBDAaand other acidic cannabinoids aren't as shelf-stable, which means it takes expensive equipment and precision to maintain the quality of the product.

Using CBDa and other acidic forms of cannabinoids also means there are some limitations to consumption. In order to keep CBDa in its (close to) original state—it must be consumed raw. You won't find CBDa smokable or capable products as exposure to heat will transform the chemical compound into CBD.

CBDa vs CBD: Which Should You Use?

Both CBD and CBDa are proving to have unique wellness benefits. As we know, cannabinoids can affect individuals differently depending on their genetics and lifestyle.

There are some people who say that CBD

There is some early evidence to show that CBDa might be more useful than CBD in specific use cases such as anti-nausea and mood support.

CBDa Benefits

Despite being a relatively unknown cannabinoid, CBDa is showing plenty of promise in the medical world.

Preliminary research in the lab suggests that CBDa may be helpful in five distinct therapeutic areas. These include anti-cancer, anti-viral, inflammation support, mood disorders, and nausea. One study showed that CBDa was able to inhibit the growth of various breast cancer cells [3]. Another study found that CBDa was able to increase the production of ceramide in cells, which helps to block viral entry and replication [4]. Ceramide is also known to have anti-inflammatory and pro-apoptotic properties.

Since CBDa has shown potential benefits for a variety of conditions, more research is needed to better understand its mechanisms of action and therapeutic potential. However, the preliminary data is promising and suggests that CBDa could be a valuable addition to the medical cannabis world.

How To Find CBDA or CBD Oil For Yourself

Up until very recently, only cannabis growers had access to CBDa, but with further investment into the world of cannabis compounds, CBDa products are becoming more abundant. Since smoking or vaping CBDa isn't a possible option, the most common way to use CBDa is with tincture oils, which closely resemble popular CBD oils, but are made with raw hemp extracts instead.

First, look for a product that is third-party tested and made from high-quality organic ingredients. The third-party lab tests should show you the CBDa content, and other minor cannabinoids and terpenes present. CBDa should be the most abundant cannabinoid.

Second, choose an oil that is full-spectrum or broad-spectrum, as this will ensure that you're getting the most benefit from the plant compounds.

Finally, make sure to do your research and only buy from a reputable brand. By following these simple tips, you can be sure that you're getting the best possible CBDa oil for your needs.

How To Use CBDA And Other Raw Cannabis Extracts

If you got ahold of some CBDa oil, you would use it the same way as your CBD tincture. The best method for fast absorption is to apply the drops under your tongue (sublingual) and hold them there for 30 seconds before swallowing.

Under the tongue is a mucous membrane lined with micro-capillaries which allows the active compounds to enter the bloodstream much faster than through the digestive tract.

Because CBDA oil is a lot more volatile than CBD, it's prone to degradation from heat and UV exposure, so you want to store them in a cool, dry, and dark environment and use your bottle within 45 days of opening to avoid decreasing the potency of the product.

While CBDa oils are a popular option, you can also find CBDa hemp flowers. This is a hemp flower that's been harvested and lightly cured to preserve a higher concentration of CBDa and other acidic forms of cannabinoids so that it doesn't transform into CBD.

To make the best use of CBDa flower, use it raw. Some people enjoy making raw cannabis juice or blending it with their smoothies—the key is to keep the hemp flower raw to preserve the cannabinoid acids.

Is CBDa Found In Weed?

CBDa is found in raw marijuana flowers in small quantities. The most abundant raw cannabinoid in weed is tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCa).

If you've bought weed, chances are you're looking to experience the psychoactive effects. In which case, you'll need to expose THCa to heat to break off the acid chain to get THC.

The Takeaway: What Is The Difference Between CBDa and CBD

For the uninitiated, CBD and CBDa might seem like two interchangeable terms. But for those in the know, there is a big difference between the two compounds. CBDa, or cannabidiolic acid, is a raw, unheated form of CBD that is found in the cannabis plant.

When exposed to heat, CBDa converts to CBD. This process is called decarboxylation, and it is what allows CBD to interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system.

As more research emerges about the potential wellness benefits of CBDa and other acidic forms of cannabinoids, we can expect to see more raw hemp products hit the market. If you're interested in trying CBDa for yourself, make sure you shop with reputable retailers who can provide you with hemp sourcing transparency and third-party lab tests to ensure the quality of the product.

Some people have been finding that CBDa works best for overall mood support and to quell nausea symptoms better than CBD.

But with that being said, cannabinoids can affect individuals differently. The best way to see how CBDa oil or CBD oil will affect you is to try them for yourself.

Start with low doses and work your way up to allow your endocannabinoid system to adjust to the supplementation.


What is CBDa?

CBDa stands for cannabidiolic acid, which is the cannabinoid precursor to CBD. When a cannabis plant is cut, dried, and heated, CBDa converts into CBD. Acidic cannabinoids may have unique interactions in the body that may make them more suitable for certain applications than their activated counterparts.

What is CBDa Good For?

Preliminary research in the lab suggests that CBDa may be helpful in five distinct therapeutic areas. These include anti-cancer, anti-viral, inflammation support, mood disorders, and nausea. On top of that, early research on CBDa suggest that the raw cannabis was able to halt the migration of highly invasive breast cancer cells cultured in Petri dishes.

What is the Difference between CBD and CBDa?

CBD is the most well-known cannabinoid, thanks to its widely publicized research on its potential medicinal benefits. CBDa, on the other hand, is a less well-known cannabinoid that is starting to gain attention for its potential health benefits. CBD is more stable than CBDa, meaning it won't degrade as quickly when exposed to light or heat and this is because UV exposure and heat will transform CBDa into CBD.

How should you take CBDa?

The best way to take CBDa is orally, using CBDa and other acidic forms of cannabinoids also means there are some limitations to consumption. In order to keep CBDa in its (close to) original state—it must be consumed raw. You won't find CBDa smokable or capable products as exposure to heat will transform the chemical compound into CBD.

Is CBDA better than CBD for Anxiety?

There is growing evidence that CBD and CBDA have many similarities, but they exert their effects in the body through different mechanisms. While CBD has shown potential as a therapeutic option for anxiety, CBDA has demonstrated antidepressant-like effects and may aid in improving sleep. The choice between CBDA and CBD ultimately comes down to personal experience, desired effects, and preference.

Do CBD or CBDA Oil work for Sleep?

Both CBD and CBDA oil may have potential benefits for sleep. CBD oil is known to relax muscles, relieve pain, and minimize anxiety, promoting a state of relaxation that may aid in achieving a restful sleep. While CBDa oil can decrease tension, anxiety, and potential nausea, which may also contribute to better sleep quality.


  1. Brown, J. D., & Goodin, A. J. (2022). Will Cannabis or Cannabinoids Protect You from SARS-CoV-2 Infection or Treat COVID-19?. Medical Cannabis and Cannabinoids, 5(1), 1-4.Chicago
  2. Formato, M., Crescente, G., Scognamiglio, M., Fiorentino, A., Pecoraro, M. T., Piccolella, S., ... & Pacifico, S. (2020). (‒)-Cannabidiolic acid, a still overlooked bioactive compound: An introductory review and preliminary research. Molecules, 25(11), 2638.
  3. Takeda, S., Okazaki, H., Ikeda, E., Abe, S., Yoshioka, Y., Watanabe, K., & Aramaki, H. (2014). Down-regulation of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) by cannabidiolic acid in human breast cancer cells. The Journal of Toxicological Sciences, 39(5), 711-716.
  4. van Breemen, R. B., Muchiri, R. N., Bates, T. A., Weinstein, J. B., Leier, H. C., Farley, S., & Tafesse, F. G. (2022). Cannabinoids block cellular entry of SARS-CoV-2 and the emerging variants. Journal of natural products, 85(1), 176-184.
Jan Brandrup

M.Eng Electrical & Mechanical Jan Brandrup is a Denmark born leader who has actualized multiple of his entrepreneurial businesses to success. Committed to excellent standards of functional craftsmanship, his work spans globally from Scandinavia to South Africa, Turkey, Russia, the Middle Eas...

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