CBDa: Cannabidiolic Acid


CBD is pretty well known of these days. If you missed out on hearing what it’s all about click here. But the cannabis plant has over 500 wonderful and exciting compounds beyond CBD including flavonoids, terpenoids and all 10 omega fatty acids, each with their own unique and various effects.[1] Through processes such as curing, heating or oxidisation, some of these compounds are lost or transform into different compounds.

Take CBD’s precursor, Cannabidiolic acid. Imagine a hemp plant, fresh out of the ground in its raw, unadulterated and unheated form. It is helpful to think of it more like a vegetable that can be blitzed into a juice or smoothie or processed into a powdered substance. This leafy plant would contain THCa (Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) and CBDa (Cannabidiolic acid) in amounts dependent on the particular strain. These compounds are the precursors to THC and CBD. When exposed to heat THCa breaks down into THC, and CBDa breaks down to CBD.

The raw cannabis plant is rich in the acidic form of the famous THC and CBD compounds and they carry their own unique benefits. THCa is non-psychoactive unlike its descendant, therefore in its raw form we are able to consume much more of this vital food source without the intoxicating psychoactive effects of THC. But let’s focus on some of the exciting things that scientists have discovered about Cannabidiolic acid or CBDa.


Preliminary studies show that CBDa activates our serotonin producing 5-HT receptors at much smaller doses than the related compound CBD. Activation of the serotonin receptors may be useful in treating nausea and vomiting.[2] CBD has been shown to have an anti-anxiety effect as well as having antidepressant properties, but CBDa is able to have these same effects at much smaller doses.[3]


CBDa has also been shown be effective at preventing the spread of highly aggressive breast cancer cells. In one study CBDa inhibited the migration of MDA-MB-231 cells, suggesting it could be used to reduce metastasis in other cancers also.[4]


This cannabinoid may also reduce the production of cyclooxygenase (COX) which is an inflammation associated enzyme. The COX-2 component is involved in the creation of tumours, the promotion of tissue invasion by tumours and the prevention of natural apoptosis (cell death).[5] This makes the COX-2 enzyme a target in many anti-cancer treatments.[6] The evidence of CBDa’s suppressant effects on the COX-2 enzyme may therefore be significant for many health reasons.[7] In another study, CBDa was found to inhibit the COX-1 enzyme but not COX-2.[8] CBDa is less researched than other cannabinoids such as CBD or THC and as such there is sometimes contradictory evidence which could be due to individual differences in method or the source material used. The effect of cannabinoids such as CBDa on the COX enzyme is significant for [many inflammatory diseases of which there are several. Human wellness/inflammation]


More research needs to be done but there is no doubt that CBDa has a variety of benefits including acting as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-convulsant, as well as having pain-relieving and anti-cancer effects. GW Pharmaceuticals has also patented the isolated CBDa compound for use as an anti-epileptic drug in conjunction with CBD due to its anti-seizure effects.[9] We know that hemp is a superfood, should we be embracing the plant as a leafy green vegetable, a dietary essential with powerful preventative properties, as opposed to just a medicinal drug able to treat disease already in motion? There are many who advocate the power of eating raw cannabis plant matter, and the facts are starting to reflect the anecdotal evidence!



[1] UCLA Health ‘Cannabis and its Compounds’ accessed at https://www.uclahealth.org/cannabis/cannabis-and-its-compounds

[2] Bolognini, D. et al. ‘Cannabidiolic acid prevents vomiting in Suncus murinus and nausea-induced behaviour in rats by enhancing 5-HT1A receptor activation’ (2013, British Journal of Pharmacology) available at https://doi:10.1111/bph.12043 accessed July 2019.

[3] Shbiro, L. et al. ‘Anti-depressant-like effects of cannabidiol and cannabidiolic acid in genetic rat models of depression’ (2017, European Neuropsychopharmacology) available at https://doi:10.1016/s0924-977x(17)31426-8 accessed July 2019.

[4] Takeda, S. et al. ‘Cannabidiolic acid-mediated selective down-regulation of c-fos in highly aggressive breast cancer MDA-MB-231 cells: possible involvement of its down-regulation in the abrogation of aggressiveness’ (2017, Journal of Natural Medicines) available at https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11418-016-1030-0 accessed July 2019.

[5] Liu, B., Liyan, Q. and Shigui, Y. ‘Cyclooxygenase-2 promotes tumor growth and suppresses tumor immunity’ (2015, Cancer Cell International) available at https://doi.org/10.1186/s12935-015-0260-7 accessed July 2019.

[6] Subbaramaiah, K., & Dannenberg, A. J. ‘Cyclooxygenase 2: a molecular target for cancer prevention and treatment. Trends in Pharmacological Sciences’ (2003, TRENDS in Pharmacological Sciences) available at https://doi.org/10.1016/S0165-6147(02)00043-3 accessed July 2019.

[7] Takeda, S. et al. ‘Down-regulation of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) by cannabidiolic acid in human breast cancer cells’ (2014, The Journal of Toxicological Sciences) available at https://doi:10.2131/jts.39.711 accessed July 2019.

[8] Ruhaak, L. R. et al. ‘Evaluation of the Cyclooxygenase Inhibiting Effects of Six Major Cannabinoids Isolated from Cannabis sativa’ (2011, Biological & Pharmaceutical Bulletin) available at https://doi:10.1248/bpb.34.774 accessed July 2019.

[9] Stott, C., Jones, N., Williams, R. and Whalley B. ‘Use of cannabinoids in the treatment of epilepsy’ (2017) International Publication Number: WO 2017/025712

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  • Madi Grace
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