There are well over 100 separate cannabinoids found in hemp, all with varying levels of chemical similarities between them. CBD may be the most famous of these compounds, but it will often still be mistaken for its many fellow cannabinoids.
THC is perhaps the most common offender, being the psychoactive compound that causes the sensation of being “high” in unrefined cannabis products.
Many people new to the world of CBD have often mistaken this effect as both being caused by CBD and being the reason that so many people use CBD at all.
This confusion stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of the role that CBD plays in the human body.
It isn’t just THC though; many other hemp-derived compounds suffer from this case of mistaken attributes.
One cannabinoid that seems to be gaining more recognition every year - and in turn is being more often mistaken with CBD - is the confusingly named CBDA.
So, CBD vs CBDA: what's the difference?
Where Does CBDA Come From?
CBDA (Cannabidolic Acid) is a derivative of the hemp plant just the same as CBD. It is found in the same areas of the plant and can be extracted using similar methods.
It is more closely related to CBD than many people realise, as CBDA is what is known as a precursor compound.
When subjected to the right conditions CBDA will go through a process called decarboxylation. This involves losing those elements of its chemical make-up that give it its acidic state.
Decarboxylation can be triggered by a range of different things, from intense heat and combustion to an overexposure of light, to even just a slow degradation that comes from leaving distilled CBDA at room temperature.
The compound that remains after this process is what we know as conventional CBD.
All CBD originally comes from CBDA. This decarboxylation process is extremely easy to trigger; a helpful factor for producing CBD, but less-than-helpful when it comes to securing stable extracts of CBDA.
This is one of the key reasons why you don’t see that much CBDA on the market today.
Why CBD Is On Top
CBD is currently more widely used than CBDA, both in the UK and around the world. As we’ve stated a large factor of this comes from the inherent instability of CBDA.
It reacts to things like light and heat similarly to the how CBD does, though to a far greater degree. Whereas CBD can lose some of its effectiveness when exposed to these conditions, CBDA will shift into an entirely different chemical compound.
Trying to build a product around something that so easily breaks down is exceedingly difficult.
In comparison CBD is a much more stable ingredient to work with, backed up by a long history of active use.
CBD is something we have had direct access to for many decades, allowing us to develop better strains of hemp and better extraction methods to tailor CBD to our preferred uses.
We can easily access many different forms of CBD, from pure CBD isolate to broad and full-spectrum CBD, and are able to enhance them with the addition of compounds like terpenes.
Our understanding of CBD has allowed us to infuse it into a wide range of commercially available products; from classic CBD oils, CBD gummies and CBD edibles to CBD vape juices for vaping devices, CBD skincare for direct application, and high-concentration CBD extracts.
CBDA, being both acidic and so much more unstable, could not be infused into so wide a range of products this effectively.
We understand CBD very well thanks largely to it’s straightforward effects. CBD interacts with the human body in a clear and easy to understand way, directly binding with the endocannabinoid system.
In comparison the effects of CBDA are far less straightforward, having no significant impact on the endocannabinoid system. All of these reasons help us to understand why CBD is so much more popular than its acidic predecessor.
The Potential Of CBDA
Although in its natural state CBDA suffers from various issues, the compound itself does have a lot of potential. One of the reasons it is gaining more attention is due to a particular breakthrough in improving its stability.
Efforts to increase the longevity of CBDA and limit the effects of decarboxylation have resulted in the production of several commercially viable CBDA products, including capsules, tinctures and topicals.
These efforts came from a desire to further understand the potential uses of CBDA. Although studies are ongoing and no results have yet been credibly confirmed, initial reports suggest that CBDA may find use as an anti-inflammatory and anti-nausea product.
Once again, we must stress that these results are not confirmed and further studies are needed. If they do prove successful however, this could give CBDA a practical application despite its lack of effect on the endocannabinoid system.
It should also be noted that the traditional method for extracting CBDA, juicing hemp, is a straightforward process that avoids any kind of chemical or solvent additive.
This means that CBDA offers a potentially easier, more organic option for cannabinoid dosing. However, this simplicity could be counteracted by the aforementioned methods of increasing stability, which may involve the use of other chemicals.
Some users of CBDA have claimed that it contributes to the entourage effect. If this is true, and the efforts to ensure its stability find continued success, then we may soon find CBDA included in broad and full-spectrum products to support CBD in the same way that other cannabinoids do.
In all CBDA has several potential uses that seem to warrant further investigation, hence these studies and the efforts to develop it into a viable product.
We cannot comment as to the future of CBDA in this sense but, between the rising interest and relative success in developing its longevity, it is certainly something we will be keeping our eye on.
CBDA & UK Law
Whether or not it can find success as a practical product, this is all irrelevant if CBDA is not a legal substance.
Although UK law has a history of being heavy-handed when it comes to cannabinoid regulation, it seems that CBDA has benefitted from a recent updating of the law.
CBDA exists under similar legislative regulations as CBD; namely, it is an entirely legal substance so long as it contains no more than trace concentrations of THC.
By lacking any effect on the endocannabinoid system CBDA has seen less commercial popularity, but is still available in the UK to a limited extent. It can be found in various retailers across the nation and online, sold almost exclusively as a “healthy living” supplement.
This does mean that it will likely fall under the soon-to-be-enforced Novel Foods regulations, so there’s a chance that we will see those few items disappear for a little while.
If the potential of CBDA comes to the full however, there is every chance that the next few years could see a wave of CBDA products sweep into that gap in the market.
CBDA and CBD are closely related and yet very different, sharing similar chemical properties but having vastly different effects.
CBDA as a precursor substance is inherently unstable, a factor that has held back both our understanding of it and our ability to use it in commercially viable products, but that is beginning to change.
The inherent interest around CBDA as a substance has encouraged research and study that is starting to pay off. Efforts to increase its stability are proving their worth, giving us the first inklings of widely available CBDA being potentially on the horizon.
The studies into its effects are yielding fascinating results too, suggesting a range of possible uses for this compound that was once considered relatively useless for human beings.
CBDA may technically always come before CBD, but in the terms of its potential it is a new force in the CBD world. So much remains uncertain around it, with its effects still unconfirmed and even these efforts to increase its longevity still being in their early stages.
As a compound however it is full of potential. The next few years will tell if CBDA finds its place in the market, whether it can rise above its inherent limitations, and where exactly the question of CBDA vs CBD will take us.