Posted on December 9th, 2020

It’s only been a few years since CBD (cannabidiol) and medicinal marijuana made their splashy debut on the mainstream market, and already it’s hard to imagine a health and wellness industry without them. CBD has quickly eclipsed its psychoactive cousin THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) by offering gentler, more compelling potential benefits for almost everything from anxiety to chronic pain management. But while THC and CBD are the most popular cannabinoids, in recent years, scientists and researchers are discovering that THC and CBD are not the only cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. Thanks to industry tinkerers and devoted growers and scientists, consumers are learning about other wonderful cannabinoids such as THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) and CBDA (cannabidiolic acid). These promise even more benefits coming from the long-misunderstood cannabis plant. So what is THCA? What about CBDA? And how do they compare with THC and CBD, respectively?

What Is THCA?

Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) is a cannabinoid abundant in the cannabis plant, especially marijuana plants. It is no coincidence that the acronyms THC and THCA share the first three letters. Studies have shown that THCA is a precursor form of THC. Meaning that tetrahydrocannabinolic acid effectively converts into THC when activated through a process referred to as decarboxylation.


Even if you don’t know much about the cannabis or CBD world, chances are you’ve heard of THC. Tetrahydrocannabinol is the chemical compound responsible for the ‘high,’ intoxicating, or euphoric effects of cannabis use. And yet, if you decided to chew on freshly picked leaves of a high-THC cannabis strain, no matter how much you ingest, you wouldn’t get ‘high’!

The truth is fresh or raw cannabis leaves contain virtually zero THC – or, at least, not in the form people imagine. Instead, cannabis leaves contain an abundance of THCA, which is then ‘activated’ through a natural or artificial decarboxylation process to become THC.

Decarboxylation is the term used to refer to the process through which cannabinoid acids, namely THCA and CBDA, lose their carbonyl group to form new compounds.

Properties Of THCA:

  • Weak activator of cannabinoid receptors
  • Non-psychoactive
  • Naturally occurs in raw cannabis/marijuana plants

Properties Of THC:

  • Exerts psychoactive or ‘high’ effects
  • Strong activator of CB1 cannabinoid receptors
  • Produced through decarboxylation

What Is CBDA?THCA vs CBDA - hemp leaves

CBDA or cannabidiolic acid is a natural compound produced by cannabis plants, and it is the cannabinoid precursor to CBD. Like THCA and THC, CBDA changes into CBD when ‘activated’ or ‘cured’ through the decarboxylation since the acidic compounds break down into new chemical compounds.

You’ll find an abundant quantity of CBDA in raw cannabis, particularly in hemp plants. You may also find CBDA in raw, unprocessed hemp products such as raw hemp oil.


While CBDA and CBD have similar chemical structure, there are several differences, including CBDA being a precursor cannabinoid to cannabidiol.

It’s also important to note here that CBDA works similarly to cannabidiol in the sense that CBDA doesn’t directly affect cannabinoid receptors of the endocannabinoid system. Instead, it realizes its effects by inhibiting COX-2 enzymes and stimulates the production of 5-hT receptors that have vital roles in the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS).

Like CBD, CBDA is non-intoxicating and won’t get you high.

THCA vs CBDA: Can You Get High From THCA Or CBDA?

No, THCA and CBDA are non-intoxicating – no matter how much you take, you won’t get high like you would with THC. So, how is this possible? Why does THC make you high, but THCA, CBDA, and CBD don’t?

THCA doesn’t have a psychoactive effect on users because its molecular structure is too bulky to bind with CB1 cannabinoid receptors in the body’s nervous system.

CBDA And CBD are non-psychoactive cannabinoids because they do not bind to CB1 receptors. In fact, some studies suggest that CBD has antipsychotic effects and can reduce the intoxicating effects of THC.

THCA vs CBDA: The Decarboxylation Process

Cannabidiolic acid and tetrahydrocannabinolic acid are highly unstable, which means exposure to heat can alter their chemical structures. Because of this instability, these compounds are susceptible to several methods of decarboxylation.

As mentioned before, decarboxylation of a chemical reaction eliminates a carboxyl group from the compound and releases carbon dioxide. Below are common ways through which weed or cannabis decarboxylate:


If the cannabis plant is harvested and dried for an extended period of time while exposed to the sun, its CBDA and THCA molecules will slowly convert to CBD and THC, respectively.

Room Temperature

Surprisingly, even leaving your weed lying around with a little light for a prolonged period can convert a good percentage of THCA and CBDA into THC and CBD, respectively. Though, this happens slower than when exposing it directly to sunlight.

Vaping and dabbing

Vaping CBD or weed involves inhaling vapor created by the vaping device; usually, the device will contain the product you want to take. Similarly, dabbing involves inhaling vaporized CBD or other cannabis products. Both of these processes involve heating up. The heat converts THCA and CBDA into tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabinoid, respectively.

Via Smoking

Smoking involves using a flame to smoke the dried or cured product. Smoking raw cannabis exposes THCA and CBDA to a high degree of heat in a short amount of time. As a result, there’s a rapid conversion of CBDA and THCA to CBD and THC, respectively.

By Cooking It

Cooking edibles activates cannabinoid acids. Cooking raw cannabis or adding it when making cooked edibles slowly converts THCA and CBDA to THC and CBD, respectively.

THCA vs CBDA: The Potential Benefits Of THCA And CBDA

Compared to THC and CBD, there are relatively few studies on the potential benefits of cannabinoid acids, specifically, THCA vs CBDA. But anecdotal evidence and preliminary research appear to suggest that these precursors could also offer an assortment of therapeutic benefits. Besides, current studies can serve as an indicator as to what to expect from these precursors forms.

The Potential Benefits of THCA:

Weight Loss

A recent 2020 research study conducted on mice test subjects suggests that THCA might help cut a few pounds. The study results showed that THCA reduced the test subject’s fat mass by interfacing with the PPARy receptor.

Anti-inflammatory Properties

THCA shows excellent potential for people living with condition like arthritis. A 2011 study printed in the Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin revealed that along with other cannabinoids, tetrahydrocannabinolic acid demonstrated anti-inflammatory properties

Neuroprotective Wffects

Could be useful for people with neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease.

Anti-Proliferation Properties

Tests on animal models have demonstrated the effectiveness of THCA in preventing the spread of prostate cancer cells.

Antiemetic Properties

THCA has been found useful in combatting appetite loss and nausea. A 2013 research study at the University of Guelph in Ontario in found that, researchers found that both CBDA and THCA demonstrated compelling results in reducing nausea in animal models, even more so than CBD and THC, respectively.

May Soothe Joints

THCA may help ease joint pain and soothe other parts of the body through its interaction with CB1 and PPARy receptors.

The Potential Benefits of CBDA:

Antiemetic Properties

Research findings published in 2012 in the British Journal of Pharmacology found that treating animal models with CBDA reduces nausea and vomiting in the test models.

Anti-inflammation Properties

Laboratory research done on cell cultures have shown that CBDA possesses anti-inflammatory properties. These properties relate to its ability to inhibit COX-2, an enzyme that plays a vital role in the development of pro-inflammatory compounds referred to as prostaglandins.

Anti-cancer Properties

A study from 2014 conducted by Takeda revealed that CBDA has the potential to suppress the growth of breast cancer cells effectively.

May Lower Anxiety and Stress

Although there’s no clear evidence to support the claims regarding CBDA’s potential benefit to lower anxiety, stress, and depression, anecdotal evidence has implied that CBDA could be a treatment for anxiety and depression.

THCA vs CBDA - CBDA isolate crystals

THCA vs CBDA – The Different Ways To Consume THCA And CBDA

There are many ways to enjoy your daily dose of THCA and CBDA, including several that involve consuming raw cannabis. For instance, you can press raw cannabis into your juice, add it to your morning or workout smoothies, you can even add a bit of it on top of your ocassional salads. Sometimes, it can have a bit of a bitter taste. So, if the taste doesn’t suit you and are now keen on dealing with it, add a sweetener.

If taking raw cannabis to get your daily dose of CBDA and THCA is not your cup of tea, you can get them in crystalline form. This type of cannabis concentrates mixes isolated CBDA or THCA content depending on what you want. If you swallow THCA or CBDA crystalline, you’re taking in CBDA and THCA and quite a lot of it. Remember, consuming THCA and CBDA should not involve any form of heating since exposure to heat will convert your THCA and CBDA to THC and CBD, respectively. You can also get capsules and tinctures of only THCA or CBDA. If you are looing to get a taste of either THCA or CBDA, do your homework first and look for a high-quality supplier with certified products.

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