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Updated on August 22, 2022

CBD vs CBDa — What Differences Are There Between These Powerful Cannabinoids?

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At long last, the world is opening its eyes to the beauty and power of hemp and its multiple health-nurturing compounds. Humans have used this versatile gift from nature for centuries as food, fuel, fabric, and, of course, medicine. But, in the early 20th century, it seems people forgot about hemp's healing potential and demonized it alongside its intoxicating cousin, marijuana.

Only recently has science begun to catch up and validate what many cultures have known all along — hemp is a veritable powerhouse when it comes to supporting human health

One of these hemp compounds, cannabidiol (CBD), has become a wellness phenomenon, with people using it to support everything from sleep and anxiety relief to pain management.

And while CBD has been the star of the show until now, there's another cannabinoid worthy of attention — cannabidiolic acid (CBDa). But how do these compounds compare? Continue reading as we consider CBD vs CBDa.

What is CBDa?

Hemp contains over 120 different cannabinoids, with CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) being the most well-known. However, these cannabinoids exist primarily in acidic form while inside the living plant. For example, THCa is the acidic precursor to THC, cannabichromene acid (CBCa) is the acidic form of CBC, and CBDa is the acidic form of CBD.

CBDa is found in abundance in fresh, vital hemp. However, when manufacturers harvest the plants, they subject them to a harsh drying and curing process. These measures transform most CBDa into CBD in a process called thermal decarboxylation that causes CBDa molecules to lose their acidic carboxyl groups.

Before this transformation happens, CBDa is first formed from the parent of all cannabinoids — cannabigerolic acid (CBGa). CBGa is produced in the tiny, hairlike structures (trichomes) of the hemp plant, and the enzymes unique to each strain of cannabis plant convert it into the three major acidic cannabinoid precursor compounds — THCa, CBCa, and CBDa — as the plant matures.

Because CBDa forms CBD, this parent compound has many of the same potential therapeutic benefits. However, research suggests that CBDa may be more effective in some applications and has some unique effects.

CBD vs CBDa in the body

Both CBD and CBDa are non-intoxicating, meaning they won't produce the 'high' commonly associated with THC. This difference stems from the fact that CBD and CBDa interact with the body differently.

Your body has an incredible cell-signaling system — the endocannabinoid system or ECS. All animals have and ECS, completely independent of cannabis use and it consists of endocannabinoids (your body's own cannabinoids), cannabinoid receptors, and enzymes.

Endocannabinoids and their receptors are found throughout your entire body — in your brain, spinal cord, organs, tissues, and skin. The ECS helps maintain homeostasis or balance in the body by regulating a wide variety of critical functions, including inflammation, pain, appetite, mood, and sleep.

Cannabinoids like CBD and CBDa interact with the ECS through its receptors, which is how they exert their therapeutic effects.


As family compounds, CBD and CBDa share many properties. Often, CBDa and the other acidic forms of cannabinoids are not considered pharmacologically active as they don't affect the ECS in the same way as their decarboxylated forms. As a result, most research focuses on the effects of CBD rather than CBDa. However, more insightful research is now beginning to challenge this idea.

Here's what we know so far about some of the unique properties of CBDa:

  • Your body absorbs CBDa up to 11 times more effectively than CBD when taken by mouth.
  • Although both CBDa and CBD have anti-inflammatory properties, they may act through different mechanisms in the body. It seems that CBDa decreases the activity of an enzyme called COX-2, which is responsible for increasing inflammation.
  • According to some animal models of nausea, anxiety, pain, inflammation, and seizures, CBDa may be more potent than CBD. Further research is needed, but at this stage, it appears that CBDa may be more effective than CBD at lower doses.

Thankfully, science is moving toward a greater understanding of hemp, and further high-quality research will help confirm the potential benefits of CBDa.

Choose living CBDa

When considering CBD vs CBDa, remember that CBDa is a living compound. It’s an incredibly promising cannabinoid with a range of potential therapeutic benefits that stem from the beauty of raw, living hemp.

Nature designed hemp with every molecule in perfect harmony. When you choose CBDa oil, you're getting the purest, most abundant form of this beneficial cannabinoid, just as the Earth intended.

Want to Learn More?

  1. Hemp Extract for Athletes
  2. Why your Hemp Oil Should Taste Like…Hemp!
  3. Why is Soil Quality Critical to CBD?

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