by Tom Russell May 14, 2024


Cannabidiolic acid (CBDa) is the chemical precursor to cannabidiol (CBD) in cannabis plants. For decades it’s been seen as an inactive stepping stone in the process to create CBD, but now scientists have found that it can interact with systems in our bodies and produce benefits of its own. Studies show that it may interact with serotonin / GABA receptors and prostaglandin releasing enzymes.

What is CBDa and how is it different to CBD?

Cannabidiolic acid (CBDa) and cannabidiol (CBD) are both cannabinoids found in plants of the Cannabis Sativa L. species. They contain over a hundred cannabinoids which they produce during their lifetime through a series of chemical reactions. Most cannabinoids come in two main forms: the acid form and the ‘active’ form. The acid forms of cannabinoids are unstable and over time, or if exposed to heat, they decarboxylate (remove the acid molecule) to become active.


However, during the lifecycle of the plants other reactions occur that transform cannabinoids into different types. For example, Cannabigerolic acid (CBGa) is among the first to be present in the plant and is often referred to as ‘the mother of all cannabinoids’. As the young plants develop, CBGa is changed to produce the main three acidic cannabinoids, one of which is CBDa. If the plant matter is heated, an acidic carboxyl group of atoms is lost from the CBDa molecule and it becomes CBD.

Most raw cannabis plant material contains very little CBD unless it’s been left for a long time or exposed to heat. As a result, in most commercial CBD oil production processes, the raw material is heated to convert the CBDa into CBD. The process is rarely 100% successful, so most CBD products contain a large amount of CBD and a smaller amount of CBDa.

As scientists have published their findings about CBDa, brands who produce hemp products have seen its potential as a food supplement. Consequently, now you’re more likely to see CBDa mentioned on the label of CBD products. You may see ‘CBD + CBDa’ or even ‘raw’ hemp oils that contain more CBDa and less CBD.

Does CBDa provide different benefits to CBD?

Yes, CBDa produces different benefits to CBD because it interacts with systems in your body in different ways:

Cyclooxygenase enzymes - CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system by blocking the enzymes that breakdown the endocannabinoid anandamide. Anandamide is an essential signalling molecule that regulates and balances many body systems. By blocking these enzymes, CBD raises the levels of anandamide, allowing your ECS to restore any imbalances in your body more quickly.

CBDa benefits

CBDa doesn’t bind with the same enzymes; instead, it interacts with the cyclooxygenase enzyme known as COX-2. These enzymes are responsible for producing the chemical prostaglandins.

Recent theories suggest that if CBD is blocking the first set of anandamide-metabolising enzymes, COX-2 provides an alternate pathway to break down anandamide. If both CBD and CBDa are present, both pathways are blocked and your anandamide levels are even more likely to increase, adding to the amount that can build up for use elsewhere in your body.

Serotonin / GABA receptors - Some studies have also found that CBDa is more effective than CBD at activating the 5-HT1A receptors that interact with serotonin. When activating serotonin and GABA receptors with CBD and CBDa, the combined modulation of GABA and serotonin systems may produce harmonising effects that support wellbeing.

While both CBD and CBDa can do this, studies have shown that in this area, the effect of CBDa is much more significant.

Taking CBDa and CBD together

While CBDa should be viewed as a useful cannabinoid in its own right, most of the effects it produces appear to work well alongside those of CBD. There are several ways you can consume both:

  • Raw hemp oils – These are oils that have been made without the use of heat. Because no decarboxylation takes place, they usually contain higher levels of other cannabinoids including CBDa and slightly less CBD.
  • Full-spectrum products – These contain all the cannabinoids present in the hemp plant, including CBD, CBDa and THC. Usually, they’re CBD-rich with only traces of everything else.
  • Broad-spectrum products – These contain all the cannabinoids from the hemp plant except for THC. As with full-spectrum products, the most abundant cannabinoid is CBD.
  • Taking hemp tea alongside CBD products – Hemp tea is made from raw hemp flowers, leaves, stems and seeds. It’s usually dried and milled so it can be easily infused with hot water to make a tasty brew. Because it’s had minimal processing and no decarboxylation it’s rich in CBDa and contains no CBD. Most teas range between 1% CBDa and 4% CBDa. If you already take CBD products regularly, adding hemp tea to your routine provides an excellent additional source of CBDa.


Despite recent research expanding our understanding of the potential benefits of CBDa, CBD still remains the best option in terms of overall general effects. However, CBDa has a lot to offer and works particularly well when used as a companion cannabinoid and taken with CBD. Many products, like those made with full or broad-spectrum extracts, already have a useful blend of the two but if you want to top up on CBDa adding a cup of hemp tea to your day is a great way to start.

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Tom Russell
Tom Russell


Tom Russell writes extensively about CBD oil and other groundbreaking food supplements. He and his wife share their home with two daughters and a lifetime’s collection of books.

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