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CBD vs. CBDa

CBD vs. CBDa: What’s the Difference?

Source: Daintri

Cannabidiol (CBD), the popular non-psychoactive component of the cannabis plant, has been gaining a lot of attention in recent years due to its tremendous therapeutic properties. Studies have proven that this chemical compound can have a significant positive impact on many functions of the human body including immunity, metabolism, mood, appetite, sleep, pain tolerance, and mental competence. It is the second-most prominent cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant (after its contrasting psychoactive component, THC), but what you may not know is that it exists as cannabidiolic acid (CBDa) first before it is processed and used for medical and health purposes – only then officially being labeled at CBD after undergoing degradation or decarboxylation (heating of raw cannabis).

With CBD becoming the most promising cannabinoid for medical research, CBDa has been overlooked in the past. Although, a new trend of juicing raw cannabis has brought CBDa back into the spotlight. Since CBD is derived from CBDa, there is a common misconception that they are the same chemical compound. In actuality, they differ from each other in a number of ways including chemical composition, working mechanism and health benefits.

If they are in fact two different chemical compounds, how does CBDa become CBD?

First, let us explain exactly what CBDa is, then what CBD is, as their own separate elements.

Found in fresh cannabis plants, CBDa is the acidic precursor to CBD. While it has some healing properties of its own, it is often processed so that it can provide more health benefits. CBDa will naturally become CBD as it undergoes degradation over time, but it can be transformed more quickly through decarboxylation. While this process of decarboxylation may sound complex, it is actually the simple act of heating cannabis materials, either through cooking, vaporizing or smoking. Depending on the amount of time or heat applied, decarboxylation may or may not completely turn CBDa into CBD. This means that the resultant chemical compound may still contain a trace amount of CBDa.

Differences Between CBDa and CBD

Chemical Composition

The chemical formulas for CBD and CBDa are C₂₁H₃₀O₂ and C₂₂H₃₀O₄ respectively. The former has a simpler chemical composition because of the absence of a carboxylic acid group, which is removed through decarboxylation. The removal of the carboxyl group turns the inactive components in CBDa into active components, thereby unlocking more therapeutic properties.

Working Mechanism

  • CBD and CBDa both have a positive impact on the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), which serves to regulate balance in immune response, cellular communication, metabolism, mood, and other bodily functions. While they do not interact directly with the main receptors of the ECS, they can both activate and inhibit other receptors to keep the body healthy.
  • In terms of “working mechanisms,” the main difference between CBD and CBDa lies in the types of receptors they influence:
    • CBD is known to react with adenosine, serotonin and vanilloid receptors to mediate pain, inflammation, anxiety, depression and other conditions.
    • CBD also inhibits the CPR55 receptor to improve bone density, blood pressure, and cancer-fighting abilities.
    • CBDa, on the other hand, works by blocking the activities of receptors responsible for causing inflammation, such as COX-1 and COX-2. By doing so, CBDa can reduce seizures, inflammation, and symptoms of diseases.

Researchers have found that CBD and CBDa provide the best results when they work together. This is especially true if the condition results from the improper regulation of multiple systems in the body. Recent studies showed that CBDa can also enhance the potency of CBD, allowing users to use a smaller amount to attain the same level of effectiveness.

Health benefits of CBD and CBDa

Both CBD and CBDa are suitable for healthcare use because they are non-psychoactive, meaning they do not make their users feel “high.” While they have several similar health benefits, these compounds are not entirely the same in terms of therapeutic effects. The process of decarboxylation activates certain dormant medicinal properties of CBDa, but it also results in the loss of beneficial cannabis oils called terpenes. Therefore, CBD does provide a wider range of health benefits but it does not offer as many terpene-related benefits as CBDa.

To date, CBD has been more extensively studied than CBDa. Researchers have found that CBD can help improve the general well-being of an individual, and is said to alleviate many health problems, including:

  • Inflammation
  • Pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Sleeping Difficulty
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Epilepsy
  • Diabetes
  • Heart Disease
  • Stroke
  • Cancer
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Acne
  • Addiction

Compared to its active counterpart, CBDa has gotten significantly less attention from research. As such, CBDa’s true potential is relatively unknown. However, experts have so far discovered that it can help treat a number of health conditions (some of them the same as CBD’s), including:

  • Bacterial Infection
  • Pain
  • Inflammation
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Seizure
  • Arthritis
  • Cancer
  • Anxiety
  • Psychotic Disorders

Despite their differences, both CBD and CBDa can be extremely beneficial to anyone’s health. Whether you wish to use these powerful compounds to treat a specific condition or to improve general health, it is important that you select products that are effective and safe.


CBDa is found in fresh, whole plant (or raw) cannabis. Over time, the substance breaks down through decarboxylation, transforming into CBD. It does this by removing the acid group of the molecule. CBDa is the parent molecule of CBD. Both CBD and CBDa have unique health benefits that keep the endocannabinoid system operating smoothly. For example, CBDa may not be as effective as CBD for inhibiting breast cancer cell proliferation, but it is more effective than CBD as a nausea and vomiting treatment.


  • CBD is a substance with a curative effect that can be used for a variety of complaints
  • CBDa is a strong variant of CBD containing a heightened value which results in a strengthened effect
  • CBD and CBDa are beneficial compounds both by themselves and when working together
  • CBD and CBDa contain no psychoactive substances, and therefore have no mind-altering effects