Hemp is a miraculous plant that's been used for thousands of years to heal the mind, body, and soul. This medicinal herb is rich in biologically active compounds, including over 120 different cannabinoids, that act together in perfect synergy.
One of the most abundant cannabinoids in living, breathing hemp is cannabidiolic acid (CBDa). While cannabidiol (CBD) has become a popular wellness buzzword, CBDa is often overlooked. However, this raw precursor to CBD is a powerful, non-psychoactive cannabinoid that offers unique therapeutic benefits.
There's much more to the hemp plant and organic hemp extract than CBD. Continue reading as we explore the original plant molecule — CBDa — and what happens to this parent compound during the manufacturing process.
Before discussing CBDa, it helps to understand the hierarchy of compounds in living hemp and CBGa, or cannabigerolic acid. Often referred to as the 'mother of all cannabinoids,' CBGa is the origin of all cannabinoids.
Within the living hemp plant, CBGa interacts with enzymes to become the three major cannabinoid precursor compounds:
- Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCa)
- Cannabichromenic acid (CBCa)
- Cannabidiolic acid (CBDa)
When hemp is exposed to sunlight or heat, these acidic precursors begin to change. During a process called decarboxylation, the cannabinoids lose their acid groups, and they become their neutral counterparts — THC, CBC, and CBD.
Decarboxylation can happen instantly as you smoke or cook hemp or during the manufacturing process, but it can also occur gradually when the harvested plant matter is left at room temperature.
In essence, CBD is a processed end-product found in organic hemp extract, while CBDa is a natural, unadulterated cannabinoid found in living hemp.
The manufacturing of organic hemp extract
The steps involved in turning raw hemp into organic hemp extract are lengthy and complex. The living hemp plant is subject to a punishing series of harsh and damaging treatments to turn it into a shelf-ready product.
Harvesting and drying
The first step is harvesting the living plants. For hemp to be harvested correctly, the conditions must be optimal, meaning dry and without excessive humidity or rain.
Large-scale hemp harvesting typically involves a type of combine harvester that collects the leaves and flowers. It separates them from the stems which are used for their fiber. As soon as hemp plants leave the soil, they begin to degrade.
The next step is to dry the hemp in a temperature- and humidity-controlled environment, ready to extract the oil.
Manufacturers then subject the hemp to a series of extraction techniques involving toxic solvents like hexane, butane, isopropyl alcohol, or carbon dioxide gas. These harsh chemicals strip away the delicate cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other compounds from the plant material.
Although widely considered safe, solvent residues aren't always fully eliminated by evaporation. In addition, extraction practices leave ample room for error, and a steep learning curve is involved. If mistakes are made during these complex operations, they can be difficult to correct and may compromise the final product.
Additionally, using intense solvents like ethanol means that the plant's chlorophyll may also be extracted, which can give the final product a bitter, unpleasant taste.
The oil that results from extraction may be impure, so many manufacturers choose to use winterization to purify the organic hemp extract further.
It involves combining the extract with 200 proof alcohol and stirring vigorously until thoroughly combined. The contaminants coagulate, and the mixture is placed in a deep freezer. It's then filtered to remove the fats, waxes, and lipids, while the CBD oil remains with the alcohol solution. The alcohol is then evaporated away, leaving the organic hemp oil.
The negative effects on CBDa
CBDa is a delicate and sensitive cannabinoid, so it's no surprise that this standard manufacturing process has a profound negative effect on its final concentration in mass-produced organic hemp oils. As a result, the overwhelming majority of CBD oils on the market are dead, and very little vital CBDa remains.
But there is a different way. At Nesas Hemp, we use a unique extraction technique that conserves the perfect balance of the living hemp plant.
We don't use toxic solvents or harsh chemicals. Instead, we use a gentler, more natural method that preserves the full range of beneficial compounds. The result is a truly living organic hemp extract rich in powerful CBDa and other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. Our CBDa oil is a true full-spectrum CBD oil containing a full complement of natural, therapeutic compounds, just as nature intended.