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CBDA vs CBD: What is the Difference and Which is Better?

Catherine DeMuro
September 11, 2019

While investigating the health and wellness potential of CBD products, you likely discovered that cannabidiol (CBD) is just one of many non-intoxicating cannabinoids found in cannabis plants. While this observation is essentially correct, many people don’t realize that cannabis plants don’t directly synthesize CBD.

Cannabidiol is actually the byproduct of another plant-based cannabinoid, cannabidiolic acid, CBDA. Since CBD begins as CBDA, it is natural to wonder if one cannabinoid might be better than the other. Knowing the similarities and differences between these two cannabinoids could help you make an informed, confident purchasing decision.

What are Cannabinoids? 

Cannabinoids are lipids that transmit messages to the receptors of your Endocannabinoid System (ECS), the system that regulates nearly every function in your body.1

There are two types of cannabinoids your Endocannabinoid System responds to. The first type are the cannabinoids made in your body, your endocannabinoids. Your body makes two main endocannabinoids, anandamide and 2-AG. These cannabinoids are made as needed and quickly broken down by enzymes.

The second type of cannabinoids your body responds to are the plant-based cannabinoids found naturally in cannabis plants. Although cannabis plants contain more than 100 different phytocannabinoids, the two main cannabinoids in hemp extract are CBD and CBDA. Plant-based cannabinoids have a stronger, longer-lasting effect on your body than endocannabinoids.

What is CBD? 

CBD is the commonly used abbreviation for the cannabinoid cannabidiol, a plant-based cannabinoid (phytocannabinoid). CBD is the most abundant of the phytocannabinoids in hemp extract but is not produced in the plant itself. CBD is the neutral counterpart of cannabidiolic acid.2 CBDA converts to CBD when raw cannabis is exposed to heat or sunlight, a process known as decarboxylation. The decarboxylation process converts acidic compounds and “activates” the cannabinoid.3  

How CBD Works 

Ideally, your body would create all the neurotransmitters needed to keep your Endocannabinoid System functioning at optimal levels. Under the strain of illness, stress, or injury, your body may not be able to generate enough endocannabinoids to relay vital information to essential systems. If your body is not producing enough messengers to interact with your ECS receptors, communication can falter, and essential processes may not function efficiently.

CBD mimics the effects of the cannabinoids produced in your body to keep critical processes functioning harmoniously.4

What is CBDA? 

CBDA is the acidic precursor to CBD found in raw plant material, essentially CBD in its pre-evolved state. While CBDA was once considered an “inactive” cannabinoid, current research suggests CBD and CBDA have similar health and wellness potential.

Since CBDA is found abundantly in cannabis plants, some people consider CBDA to be the more natural of the two cannabinoids even though cannabinoids are not considered “active” unless they undergo decarboxylation. Juicing raw plants, medical marijuana in particular, is one of the most common methods of obtaining a product high in CBDA. Once dried, the plant is no longer suitable for juicing.5

How CBDA Works 

CBDA does not directly bind with endocannabinoid receptors but is believed to interact with the ECS by inhibiting the function of COX-2 enzymes and enhancing the function of serotonin-producing receptors. While CBDA is commonly found in raw cannabis, it can also be found in lesser amounts in full spectrum CBD tinctures, topicals, and CBD capsules.

How CBDA Differs from CBD

While CBD and CBDA are chemically similar, they are not interchangeable. CBDA converts to CBD during extraction and processing as temperatures rise, changing the molecular structure of the cannabinoid.  That makes CBD a byproduct of CBDA. CBD is easier for your body to utilize than CBDA.

While CBD is the predominant cannabinoid in full spectrum hemp products, the processes used to extract hemp oil do not convert all the available CBDA to CBD. CBDA is commonly found in small amounts in full spectrum products as a minor cannabinoid.

CBD and CBDA work together with the many other cannabinoids in full spectrum products and contribute to the Entourage Effect. The Entourage Effect explains how the inactive elements in cannabis combine to magnify and multiply the effects of individual plant components. It’s because of the Entourage Effect that many CBD users believe full spectrum products more potent than products made with pure CBD (CBD isolate).

Which Cannabinoid is Better?

When considering your cannabinoid options, it’s not quite fair to say that one cannabinoid is superior to the other, they each have unique potential. Each of the many plant elements in cannabis products works together synergistically to enhance the effects of the other. But if you were to find you had the option of selecting between a quality CBD tincture and a raw CBDA tincture, the CBD-dominant product would likely be the better option.

The processes used to extract hemp oil from the plant matter helps purify the extracted oil and ensure the final product is safe for consumption. Raw cannabis, whether sourced from hemp or marijuana, could contain any number of potential contaminants. For that reason alone, you may be more comfortable selecting a decarboxylated product, a product that is predominantly CBD.

Select Full-spectrum Hemp-Derived Products from a Reputable Source

While there has not been enough research to identify the function of every cannabinoid in hemp extract, there is an increasing interest in the similarities and differences between CBD and CBDA.

Decarboxylation converts cannabidiolic acid to its active form. Hemp-derived CBD products contain CBD and CBDA alongside trace amounts of numerous other cannabinoids, including CBDV, CBG, and CBC. While full spectrum hemp-derived products also contain trace amounts of THC and its precursor THCA, there is not enough THC to cause intoxication, even if you were to consume large quantities.

For a quality assortment of hemp-derived CBD products, visit CBDistillery™. CBDistillery™ relies on CO2 extraction, a food-safe extraction method that preserves the cannabinoid content of our naturally cultivated crops. All CBDistillery™ products are tested at an independent third-party facility to ensure the purity and potency of every item we offer.

  1. Biological Psychiatric Journal. H Lu and K Mackie. (2016 April 01) An Introduction to the Endogenous Cannabinoid System.
  2. Molecules. R Pavlovic et al. (2018 May 23) Quality Traits of “Cannabidiol Oils”: Cannabinoids Content, Terpene Fingerprint and Oxidation Stability of European Commercially Available Preparations.
  3. Project CBD. (2019) Decarboxylation.
  4. Physiology.org. A Lingresti et al. (2016 September 14) From Phytocannabinoids to Cannabinoid Receptors and Endocannabinoids: Pleiotropic Physiological and Pathological Roles Throughout Complex Pharmacology.
  5. Medical Jane. (2019) Introduction to Cannabis Juicing.

 

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