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CBDA vs CBD: The Differences Explained

Written By Andy Papilion Aug 2nd 2022
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For decades, most research exploring the potential benefits of cannabis focused on the most abundant of the many cannabinoids in marijuana and hemp, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). Although CBD is just one of more than 100 non-intoxicating cannabinoids in hemp extract, minor cannabinoids like CBG, CBN, and THC were considered little more than supporting players. Their acidic counterparts were essentially ignored (Formato et al., 2020).

Although you'll still find more than a few (outdated) sources suggesting CBDA is simply an "inactive" form of CBD, a substance of little value in its raw form, current research tells an entirely different story. Today, a growing body of evidence suggests CBDA could be just as beneficial as CBD. However, the cannabinoids affect the body in different ways. Once you understand their individual contributions, it's easy to see why so many people feel CBDA and CBD work even better together.

How Is CBDA Different From CBD?

CBDA and CBD have similar origins, a lineage linked to an entirely different cannabinoid, CBGA (cannabigerolic acid). CBGA is the first cannabinoid produced in cannabis plants and often called the "stem cell" or "mother" of all cannabinoids. As crops mature, an enzymatic reaction converts CBGA to THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid), CBCA (cannabichromenic acid), and CBDA (cannabidiolic acid). Over time, heat and sunlight convert CBGA to CBG, THCA to THC, CBCA to CBC, and CBDA to CBD (Toth et al., 2021). As CBD concentrations increase, CBDA levels decline.


While the origins of CBD and its acidic form (CBDA) are similar, their composition and structure are somewhat different. CBDA contains a carboxyl group with one carbon, one hydrogen, and two oxygen atoms. Temperatures utilized during extraction processes and distillation cause decarboxylation, the process that converts CBDA to CBD. Decarboxylation alters the molecular structure of CBDA by converting carboxylic acid to carbon dioxide and hydrogen. That conversion activates the cannabinoid and maximizes the CBD concentrations in hemp extract. Preserving CBDA levels requires keeping temperatures below 230°F (Schmidt, 2020).

How Does CBD Affect the Body?

CBD affects the body by interacting with multiple molecular targets, including the receptors of its largest regulatory system, the endocannabinoid system (ECS). This complex network of chemical messengers and their corresponding receptors (CB1 & CB2) helps regulate nearly every essential function, from moods, emotions, and sleep cycle regulation to immune system function and muscle movement. Many cannabis researchers believe CBD supports ECS function in a way that helps maintain essential balance (homeostasis) (Sallaberry & Astern, 2018).   


Based on the feedback of nearly 2000 survey respondents, most CBD users report positive results using our hemp-derived CBD tinctures, topicals, capsules, and gummies for relaxation, better sleep, and pain, stiffness, and inflammation after physical activity. An impressive 88% of our survey participants also claim CBD helps with mild or temporary anxiety, and most prefer the results of using CBD over yoga (79%) and meditation (82%), activities often recommended to manage the impact of stress. The cannabinoid is generally well-tolerated and has an impressively low risk of adverse effects (Chesney et al., 2020).

How Does CBDA Affect the Body?

CBDA does not interact with ECS receptors, which could explain (at least in part) why cannabis researchers initially considered the cannabinoid "inactive." Instead, cannabidiolic acid has a strong impact on the serotonin system receptors (5-HT1A). Serotonin is a neurotransmitter essential for metabolic function, sleep cycle regulation, emotional equilibrium, and more (Jonnakuty et al., 2008). Research suggests CBDA's impact on serotonin system receptors could also help inhibit COX-2 (cyclooxygenase-2) enzymes. COX-2 produces the hormone-like substances (prostaglandins) linked to the type of inflammation and discomfort caused by injury or infection (Adelizzi, 1999).  


Although CBDA and CBD interact with important chemical receptors in different ways, cannabis researchers believe the trace amounts of CBDA in full spectrum CBD oil help maximize overall potency by contributing to an "entourage" effect, a theory used to explain how the many minor cannabinoids and plant terpenes work together to maximize the properties of each component (Nahler et al., 2019). Preliminary investigations suggest that some benefits of CBDA are more robust than CBD's (Rock et al., 2017), and the cannabinoid could also help improve the "absorption and retention" of its more popular offspring (Wakshlag et al., 2020).

CBD or CBDA? Which Option Is Best for Me?

Now that you have a better understanding of how the CBD and CBDA in hemp plants affect your body, you might naturally wonder which cannabinoid might be best. If so, you may find it helpful to know you don't have to choose between them. Instead, consider their overall concentrations. Full spectrum CBD tinctures, capsules, topicals, and gummies have ample amounts of CBD and may have trace amounts of CBDA. CBD-dominant hemp-derived products are a great way to experience the many potential benefits of daily ECS support.


If you're more interested in fine-tuning your CBD experience with enhanced concentrations of CBDA, CBDistillery® Raw Synergy CBDA + CBD Oil Tincture is the better option. Our CBDA +CBD Oil Tincture gives you 500mg of CBDA and 500mg of CBD in every 30ml bottle, an amount that breaks down to 17mg of each cannabinoid per (1ml) serving. As the CBD supports ECS function in a way that helps maintain essential balance, the CBDA contributes to an enhanced entourage effect. We think you'll also appreciate the robust terpene profile and "raw" hemp flavor.

Discover Why So Many People Choose CBDistillery®

Not all that long ago, CBD users had fewer products to choose from. There were only three main types of hemp-derived CBD, acidic cannabinoids were undervalued, and products with more than trace amounts of minor cannabinoids weren't an option. But thanks to advances in extraction technology, a better understanding of individual cannabinoid contributions, and evolving consumer interests, today's CBD users have the option of selecting products made with enhanced concentrations of CBG, CBN, THC, and CBDA, the tinctures, capsules, gummies, and drink mixes featured in our Synergy Collection.


At CBDistillery®, we're committed to providing high-quality, reasonably priced CBD and the information people need to make informed decisions about hemp-derived cannabinoids. To learn more, visit CBDistillery® to download our Ultimate CBD User Guide. If you could benefit from the health and wellness potential of hemp-derived CBD but aren't quite sure where to start, consider taking our CBD Quiz or setting up a personal consultation with an expert. CBDistillery® products are third-party tested and backed by a no-risk satisfaction guarantee.


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Chesney E, Oliver D, et al. (2020). Adverse Effects of Cannabidiol: A Systemic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials. 45(11) Neuropsychopharmacology 1799-1806. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41386-020-0667-2

Formato M, Crescente G, et al. (2020) Cannabidiolic Acid, a Still Overlooked Bioactive Compound: An Introductory Review and Clinical Research. 25(11) Molecules 2638. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules25112638

Jonnakuty C, Gragnoli C. (2008) What Do We Know About Serotonin? 217(2) J Cell Physiol 301-06. https://doi.org/10.1002/jcp.21533

Nahler, G, Jones T, et al. (2019) Cannabidiol and Contributions of Major Hemp Phytocompounds to the "Entourage Effect"; Possible Mechanisms. J Altern Complement Integr Med 70(5) PDF download

Rock E, Limebeer C, et al. (2017) Effect of Prior Foot Shock Stress and Δ9- Tetrahydrocannabinol, Cannabidolic Acid, and Cannabidiol of Anxiety-Like Symptoms in Light-Dark Emergence Test in Rats. 234, Psychopharmacology 2207-17. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-017-4626-5

Sallaberry C, Astern L. (2018) The Endocannabinoid System, Our Universal Regulator. 34(6) JYI 48-55. https://www.jyi.org/2018-june/2018/6/1/the-endocannabinoid-system-our-universal-regulator

Schmidt E. (2020) A Guide to CBDA: Should You Sell CBDA Hemp and Cannabis? ACS Laboratory.

Toth J, Smart L, et al. (2021) Limited Effect of Environmental Stress on Cannabinoid Profiles in High-Cannabidiol Hemp (Cannabis Sativa L.) 13(10) GCB-Bioenergy 1666-74. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/17571707

Wakshlag J, Schwark W, et al. (2020) Pharmacokinetics of Cannabidiol, Cannabidiolic Acid, Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol, Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid and Related Metabolites in Canine Serum After Dosing with Three Oral Forms of Hemp Extract. 7, Front Vet Sci 505. https://doi.org/10.3389/fvets.2020.00505