CBD vs. CBDA: What’s the Difference?


Lukas Barfield

April 16th, 2018

Policy


The cannabis industry is fraught with acronyms – such as THC to CBD – and technical vocabulary – such as phytocannabinoids. While these terms may be difficult to understand, it’s important for consumers and physicians to know about them to make the best decisions.

CBD vs. CBDA

Cannabidiolic acid, abbreviated CBDa, is one of the primary cannabinoids produced on the stems, leaves and flowers of some varieties of cannabis plants. In most cannabis varieties, THCa is the dominate cannabinoid. Only certain strains, like Cannatonic, AC/DC, Sour Tsunami and Harlequin, are high in CBDa. Hemp can also be a viable source of CBDa.

It is not until CBDa goes through the process of decarboxylation that the “a”, which stands for acid, disappears and the new compound can be called CBD, or activated CBD.

Decarboxylation is the process by which carbon dioxide and hydrogen are removed from CBDa, transforming it into CBD. This reaction can occur naturally as the plant ages from exposure to light and heat, but is more often accelerated by heating cannabis when processing or smoking high CBD cannabis varieties. Due to their similar chemical structure, CBDa and CBD have similar therapeutic effects, but there are some differences between the two molecules. The biggest difference between the two is the amount of research conducted on each cannabinoid.

Roles in the Body

Both compounds are similar in that they activate the endocannabinoid system, but far less is known about CBDa’s roll than CBD.

The endocannabinoid system is a group of cells in the body that promote balance or homeostasis. Although CBD and other cannabinoids were discovered in 1963 by Israeli researcher Dr. Ralph Mechoulam, it wasn’t until the 1990’s that scientists learned how cannabinoids worked in the body. When functioning properly the endocannabinoid system helps regulate digestion, mood, sleep, immune function, memory, pain, fertility and other key bodily functions. Both CBDa and CBD interact with the endocannabinoid system when treating many conditions, such as, Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Diabetes, MS, Epilepsy, and inflammatory conditions like Hepatitis C.

Despite being largely ignored up until recently, some studies have shown CBDa to have some anti-tumoral effects similar to its chemical cousin CBD.

In a study published in the Journal of Natural Medicines in 2012, Shuso Takeda of Hokuriku University in Japan found CBDa inhibited the growth of an aggressive form of breast cancer cells by suppressing a proto-oncogene called c-fos. The study found CBDa inhibited the growth of MDA-MB-231, a particular aggressive form of breast cancer. Scientists say more research is needed to discover the exact mechanisms responsible for the promising result. Unlike CBDa where there is little research into its ability to fight cancer, numerous studies have demonstrated CBD to be a powerful anti-cancer agent.

A promising avenue into CBD’s roll in fighting cancer looks at how CBD promotes apoptosis. Apoptosis is essentially the process of a cell self destructing. When apoptosis does not occur, cells divide out of control resulting in cancer. Several studies have shown CBD promotes apoptosis through a variety of pathways in the body. An Italian study found that a group of molecules called reactive oxygen species slowed the growth of cancer by limiting the amount of oxygen absorbed by the out of control cells. An Israeli study showed that CBD induced apoptosis by reducing inflammation in malignant brain tumors. There is also a wealth of research into CBD’s efficacy in treating many other conditions.

Another difference between CBDa and CBD is how they are consumed. Because CBDa is only found on raw cannabis flowers and leaves, CBDa is often ingested through juicing high CBD cannabis. Juicing raw cannabis is a popular method of ingesting medical cannabis. Patients often mix fruit with the cannabis to reduce bitterness, and because cannabis is a great source for phytonutrients and fiber, cannabis juice can go with almost any diet. Raw high CBD cannabis can be used in salads or other uncooked meals to deliver CBDa to a patient’s endocannabinoid system. Live resins, tinctures and nonactivated full plant extracts are other viable sources of CBDa. CBD is only available after decarboxylation occurs, so cannabis must be heated or burned to access the healing properties of CBD. Activated tinctures, lotions and nonactivated cannabis flower and extracts are popular CBD consumption methods.

 

About Lukas Barfield



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