CBDA To CBD Conversion
Posted on November 12th, 2020
CBD (cannabidiol) and CBDA (cannabidiolic acid) are two of the most abundant chemical compounds coming from the hemp and cannabis plants. CBD underwent extensive research for its therapeutic potential. Many studies demonstrate its ability to treat inflammation, epilepsy, anxiety, mood disorders, and other physical and psychiatric conditions.
In comparison, CBDA hasn’t attracted nearly as much attention as CBD from the scientific community, the media, and the public. This is despite it being the precursor to the formation of CBD and even showing some promise in early clinical research.
However, a new trend of juicing raw cannabis and the labeling of CBD and CBDA combinations in cannabis oils has propelled CBDA into the spotlight. Many people are wondering what exactly is the deal with the compound and what makes it different. If you have come across a product with a label claiming to contain CBDA and you’re wondering what it is, you are in the right place.
Raw Hemp Plant Naturally Contains More CBDA
In its natural state, the hemp plant contains over 85 active cannabinoids. When processing the plant, it is entirely possible to remove and reduce these cannabinoids’ presence. The final product will contain one cannabinoid or all of the available cannabinoids depending on the technique. Environmental factors like air, heat, and light can also affect what cannabinoids will ultimately be present in the plant.
Nonetheless, it may be surprising to know that raw hemp plant actually contains very little CBD. In fact, it instead contains CBDA in abundant quantities. Its actual ratio is about 95% CBDA to 5% CBD at the most. Through a process known as decarboxylation, CBDA heats up to denature its acidic form. This produces “activated” CBD. Thus, it is entirely possible for CBDA to naturally convert to CBD only through exposure to heat and air.
CBDA to CBD Conversion: What is Decarboxylation?
Before we define the term, let’s start from the beginning. All the major cannabinoids found in the hemp and cannabis plants begin their life as cannabigerolic acid (CBGA). Thus, said compound is, for all intents and purposes, the mother of all cannabinoids.
From there, certain plant enzymes distinct to every form of cannabis strain will transform the CBGA. The compound then becomes one of the three main cannabinoid precursor compounds:
- Cannabidiolic acid (CBDA)
- Cannabichromenic acid (CBCA)
- Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA)
The letter “A” tagged on to the end of these compounds represents their carboxylic acid group. Each compound needs to break down further to become their respective cannabinoids – CBD, CBC, and THC.
Decarboxylation refers to the exposure of cannabis to heat to break down the acidic precursor compounds. Time and heat are critical factors in decarboxylation. The heat causes the precursor molecules to lose their acidic carboxyl group. The conversion process can happen instantly, like when the hemp material is smoked or vaporized. Alternatively, via a slow degradation over time by storing the hemp plant material for extended periods at room temperatures.
Thus, smoking or vaping the plant material will produce an immediate CBDA to CBD conversion, giving you the “active” cannabinoids instantly.
Other Decarboxylation Cannabinoid Conversions
CBD is not the only product of conversions that the acidic precursor compounds produce. There are a couple of more substances that derive from the same or similar processes. Here are some:
This is another popular cannabinoid, which is actually a degraded form of THC. With additional decarboxylation, the “active” form of THC converts into CBD. However, in most cases, decarbing THC happens unintentionally. A flower left stored improperly for extended periods (a few years even) begins to acquire more sedating effects. This is because of the higher presence of CBN. This cannabinoid is especially famous for treating conditions like insomnia because it is such a potent sedative agent.
This is another interesting cannabinoid. Have you ever wondered why edibles with high THC content tend to get people more intoxicated even with the smallest amounts? 11-Hydroxy-THC is why. 11-Hydroxy-THC is not a compound that the cannabis plant naturally produces. When a person ingests THC, the compound converts within their digestive system into 11-Hydroxy-THC. The compound is very potent and is actually considered even more intoxicating than regular THC. As such, you need to be careful with edibles. Fortunately, CBD is non-intoxicating, and CBD edibles from hemp won’t carry the risk of this conversion due to low THC.
All in all, despite CBDA being abundant in raw cannabis, most users are not actually exposed to much CBDA. Considering that CBDA often converts from its raw form into CBD through most consumption methods. If you’re looking to consume CBDA, you have to look into some more unconventional consumption methods. Those include tinctures, topical creams, or even joining in on the raw cannabis juice trend.
Keep in mind that the CBDA to CBD conversion is not always perfect. This could a result of the decarboxylation process not being able to convert all of the acids to a neutral state. That sometimes happens because other compounds formed due to deterioration or partial evaporation of the cannabinoids.
Could CBDA be More Than Just a Precursor to CBDA?
Naturally, CBDA is quite an unstable compound. Evidenced by its gradual decarboxylation process (CBDA to CBD conversion) that occurs even at room temperature. For this reason, no researcher considered it a viable option for clinical treatments.
Currently, there has been far less research on CBDA compared to CBD. Moreover, most studies are at the pre-clinical stage, which means that they use animal subjects and cell cultures. In these studies, observations pointed towards CBDA’s effectiveness in treating epilepsy, nausea, and inflammation. The results were significant enough to warrant further research, which is still underway.
Just as CBD, CBDA is non-intoxicating. However, the body uses CBDA quite differently than CBD. Research suggests that CBDA may actually not interact with the endocannabinoid system at all. Instead, it affects other enzymes and non-endocannabinoid related receptors.
The Potential Uses of CBDA
Why would anyone want to go to great lengths to get a dose of CBDA? What exactly does CBDA, the raw precursor compound, offer that CBD itself doesn’t?
Well, CBDA and other precursor forms of cannabinoids do not qualify as pharmacologically active compounds. This points to the fact that they usually don’t interact with the endocannabinoid system as the rest of the decarboxylated forms do. More studies, therefore, focused on the effects of THC and CBD instead of THCA and CBDA. New research is challenging this idea.
CBDA As Anti-Inflammatory
In 2008, researchers noted that before CBDA to CBD conversion occurs, the molecular structure of CBDA is similar to some nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). The team went on to investigate the potential of CBDA as an anti-inflammatory agent. They found out that the CBDA exhibited the same behavior of COX-2 inhibitor, which enable NSAIDs to treat inflammation.
CBDA As Anxiolytic and Anti-Nausea
There’s also potential for CBDA to work as a powerful treatment for anxiety and nausea. A study conducted in 2013 found CBDA to be 1000x more potent than CBD when it comes to binding to some specific serotonin receptors linked to anti-anxiety and anti-nausea effects. This was especially the case when ingested alongside a low dose of ondansetron – an anti-nausea drug used in chemotherapy patients.
The Future Of CBDA
New research from a cannabis research scientist named Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, who first synthesized CBD and THC, is also quite promising. While speaking at CannMed 2019 conference in California, he announced that his research team found a way to transform the unstable form of CBDA into a more stable state, thereby retaining the therapeutic potential of CBDA.
According to him, they tool the unstable acid molecules of the cannabis plant. Then, synthesized them to produce a more consistent and stable form. They are looking to research that form into new therapies across a wide variety of medical applications. From disorders of the central nervous system to inflammation and much more.
His team worked to stabilize CBDA by converting it into a methyl-ester derivative, referred to as cannabidiolic acid methyl ester. They tested the new compound for depression on animals. The team established that the compound still maintains its capacity to reduce behaviors linked to anxiety. The compound also remained chemically stable enough for use as a clinical drug.
Additionally, Dr. Raphael claims that they came up with several delivery mechanisms for the compound. Those include topical applications, tablets, and others, in an effort to facilitate several approaches.
CBDA To CBD Conversion – The Takeaway
Researchers only thought of CBDA as simply the precursor compound for the more famous CBD cannabinoid for too long. That is no longer the case. Attention brought to the hints of specific potential benefits that might surpass some of CBD changed this.
The understanding of the decarboxylation process and ways to circumvent it play a crucial part in this. For too long treated as a simple means to an end, the findings point out that we’ve been missing out on CBDA. That is no longer the case anymore. Research is well underway to get to the bottom of what other incredible benefits this elusive compound holds for us.