A Guide to CBDa: Should You Sell High CBDa Hemp and Cannabis?

Does CBDa protect against COVID?

  • What is CBDa?
  • Potential benefits
  • How does CBDa work?
  • CBDa products & strains
  • CBDa market
  • CBDa potency & testing

As a cannabis grower, manufacturer or processor you want to be one step ahead of trends in the marketplace. That means thinking beyond THC and CBD to consider the hundreds of additional healing compounds found in hemp and cannabis.

Today as customers begin to learn more about the plant’s therapeutic benefits, lesser known cannabinoids will soon become household names. So why not consider cannabidiolic acid (CBDa), which could rival CBD in its therapeutic value and strength?

Here we review the benefits, the science, and the market opportunities so you can make an informed decision about selling high CBDa hemp or cannabis products.

What is CBDa?

CBDa is one of the over 100 chemical compounds produced by cannabis and hemp plants. It is best known as the acidic precursor to cannabidiol (CBD), which breaks down into CBD through heat and light exposure.

Up until recently, scientists didn’t think CBDa could survive the process of digestion nor did they consider it to have medicinal value. But as it turns out CBDa has powerful therapeutic benefits in its own right.

What are the Reported Benefits of CBDa?

Breast Cancer

A 2012 study published in Toxicology Letters Journal reported for the first time that CBDa could potentially halt breast cancer cell migration. This was also one of the first studies ever to investigate whether or not CBDa itself was biologically active.

In 2014, a second study published by the Journal of Toxicological Sciences found that CBDa inhibited the inflammatory enzyme in breast cancer that is also responsible for metastasis (spreading) of cancer cells. This enzyme, COX-2 is found in nearly half of all breast cancer cases.


Due to its ability to target COX-2, CBDa displays vast anti-inflammatory properties across a variety of ailments such as injuries, pain, breast cancer and inflammatory diseases. CBDa may also provide a natural alternative to common nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs known as NSAIDS, which also work by targeting COX-2.

While patients take NSAIDs to effectively treat common issues like arthritis, menstruation, osteoarthritis, and even sports injuries, some also exhibit higher risks of strokes and heart attacks. Further research is needed on all the conditions mentioned above, but current data indicate CBDa may offer hope for relief--without dangerous side effects.

Nausea and Vomiting

Nausea and vomiting are major problems for patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment and most medications fall short of relief. Many protocols only effectively prevent vomiting without relieving patients of the distressful, constant feeling of nausea. Fortunately, research shows that CBDa like CBD also exhibits anti-nausea properties.

In fact, some studies suggest that CBDa could be more effective than CBD, because it’s more readily broken down by the body.

An animal study conducted by the British Journal of Pharmacology showed that CBDa displayed significantly greater potency than CBD at inhibiting nausea through activating the 5-HT (1A) serotonin receptor. But more research is needed, especially in humans to confirm this conclusion.


Through the mechanism of activating 5-HT serotonin receptors, CBDa may also be an effective anti-convulsive, anti-seizures agent. In 2018, Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience journal published a review of medical cannabis evidence. In its report, the authors noted that CBDa exhibited a 100-fold greater affinity for 5-HT (1A) receptors than CBD.

CBD is a well-known and proven anti-seizure agent. In fact, it was used to create the first cannabis-derived prescription drug (Epidiolex) ever to be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (US FDA). As part of the approval process, the drug’s manufacturer GW Pharmaceuticals also had to study the effects of CBDa. Through this process, the study concluded that high potency CBDa alone serves as an effective treatment for epilepsy.

Mental Health

Though in its infancy, some research indicates that CBDa may ease depression through the same affinity for the 5-HT (1A) serotonin receptor. A recent animal study from Israel indicated that oral CBDa could be a potent medication for treating depression. While human clinical research is needed, some scientists surmise that CBDa could work in the same way that pharmaceutical serotonin uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) treat mental illness today.

**All information above is based on the latest in vitro and in vivo studies. The research is just beginning and all potential benefits must be proven through future human clinical trials. It is our hope that relaxed hemp regulations and future legalization of cannabis will offer a greater wealth of research to substantiate these suggested therapeutic qualities.

Does CBDa Protect Against COVID?

Researchers from Oregon State University and the Oregon Health & Science recently found that CBDa, and CBGa inhibit Covid from entering cells. Additionally, the cannabinoids significantly reduce the spread once infection occurs.

In fact, the study found that CBDa and CBGa reduced Covid spread by 50%! While extremely interesting findings, the study doesn’t indicate that doctors and patients should replace their medical protocols with hemp extracts any time soon.

Here are a few caveats and considerations.

CBDa is Not the Same as CBD, and CBGa is Not the Same as CBG

So, before you start chugging CBD oil or popping extra CBD gummies, remember that CBDa and CBGa are the acidic precursors, or raw forms, of the popular cannabinoids you see in the market. While they share similar properties with CBD and CBG, CBDa and CBGa appear to be more potent than their counterparts, have different therapeutic effects, and appear in insufficient quantities in most extracts you see on shelves.

Why? Typically, cannabinoids are extracted using a heated process, which destroys CBDa and converts it into CBD.In the words of Nesa’s Hemp founder: “CBDA is the plant’s original version. It’s the mother of CBD.”

To ensure you’re getting the acidic forms, look for raw hemp via cold-pressed oils, tinctures, natural cannabis juice, and topical creams.

The Study was Performed in a Laboratory, In Vitro

In vitro studies are what we call “interesting.” They provide a baseline of proof that guides scientists toward future research. But future research must involve in vivo studies on mice and eventually on humans. So this Oregon study is a starting point for a very long series of experiments before anyone can confidently make conclusions.

Dosage Matters

Study authors indicated that they needed high CBGa and CBDa doses to achieve clinically significant results. While it’s unclear what “high” means in terms of potency, it’s clear that most hemp oils on the market contain deficient levels of these acidic precursor cannabinoids. Raw hemp products have much higher levels. However, it’s unclear if any market products meet the required therapeutic threshold.

All that said, raw hemp products containing CBDa and CBGa can benefit your whole-body wellness because they preserve the plant’s natural components. Additionally, they’re typically produced without heat or harsh solvents, making them high-quality craft innovations. So, Covid aside, you may want to consider adding these raw hemp compounds into your daily regime.

How Does CBDa Work?


CBDa is the acidic chemical precursor to CBD that has a slightly different atomic profile. Mistakenly, many people assume that CBD is a more therapeutically active compound, but that may be because CBD is so much more well known. However, the reality is that CBDa is actually more biologically active and readily absorbed by the body.

Recent data also shows that CBDa can actually help the body to metabolize CBD better and that ingesting CBDa can reduce the amount of CBD required to achieve the same result. The problem is that CBDa is a volatile cannabinoid that easily converts to CBD as the plant ages or becomes exposed to heat. That means CBDa must be ingested much differently than CBD in order to preserve its atomic profile.

How Does CBDa Occur?

More specifically CBDa consists of one carbon, one hydrogen and two oxygen atoms, which break up and transform into carbon dioxide and hydrogen. This process can occur through heating or naturally over time--albeit much slower--as a result of light and oxygen exposure.

Can CBDa Get You High?

No chance. Like CBD, CBDa has no psychoactive effects, which means it will not affect your cognitive or physical performance. That means CBDa represents a major opportunity to produce more natural therapeutic products that will have broad consumer appeal.

How Does CBDa Work in the Body?

Like THC, CBD and other cannabinoids, CBDa exerts therapeutic effects through interaction with chemical receptors that make up the Endocannabinoid System (ECS). This system is involved in regulating a wide range of our body’s functions that are vital for optimal health.

While most cannabinoids bind directly to the ECS’s two primary chemical receptors, CBDa communicates differently. CBDa has very little direct interaction with the main CB1 and CB2 receptors. Instead, CBDa works with the ECS by inhibiting the COX-2 enzyme we mentioned earlier--the one associated with inflammation and breast cancer metastasis.

CBDa Products

What Type of CBDa Products are Available?

CBDa is mostly found in raw smokable hemp because it has an extremely low boiling point and generally cannot withstand the heat that is used in the normal extraction process. According to a 2016 study by Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research journal, CBDa begins to break down into CBD at 230°F, a relatively low temperature. Due to the fact that CBDa is highly unstable, customers will need to use a special temperature controlled vape to ensure that it remains intact during inhalation.

CBDa can also be found in a few select brands of oils, tinctures and distillates. Oil products are made from raw, unprocessed hemp while distillates may be extracted from frozen hemp flower. The best way for customers to ingest these products is through processes that don’t involve heat. Rather than smoking or cooking with these oils or distillates, the best methods are those that don’t require heat.

<CBDa products>

Are There High CBDa Strains?

Yes! According to Marijuana Break, any hemp or cannabis variety that contains high levels of CBD will also contain high levels of CBDa. That is, until the flower is heated past CBDa’s boiling point and transforms into CBD.

Some of the more famous strains which test high in CBD (and thus high CBDa) include:

What are CBDa Crystals?

CBDa crystals are natural crystalline products that are carefully extracted from hemp or cannabis plants with little to no heat. They are nearly 100% pure and free of THC and odors. CBDa crystals look like powdered sugar and can be melted under the tongue, sprinkled in smokeable flower or mixed with topicals and tinctures.

CBDa crystals may also be used as a dietary supplement by mixing it in smoothies or juices. One unique product is Heart the Hemp’s solventless CBDa crystal powder, which also includes natural terpenes, sugars and lipids.

Is CBDa Water Soluble?

Cannabinoids (including CBDa) are not naturally water soluble. However, through a mechanical process that does not require heat, CBDa molecules can be broken up into small enough particles to dissolve evenly in water. This process is called nano emulsion, and can be achieved through high pressure equipment, or even sound waves (more on that in our recent blog). In fact, companies like Cannabis Science are already creating water soluble CBDa powders, which can be formulated in a wide variety of cannabis beverage products.

How Do I Extract CBDa?

Like other unstable acidic cannabinoids, CBDa must be carefully extracted to preserve its structural integrity. Standard solvents like ethanol can be used, but this process can be tricky, according to lab equipment producer Cat Scientific. But it is possible to extract CBDa.

The best method for the greatest yield is through cold-process extraction from the fresh plant. Dry ice extraction is another effective method. The resulting solution must be stored in a cool, dark place to preserve its CBDa potency.

The CBDa Market

Is CBDa Legal?

CBDa is not a schedule controlled substance. That means it’s 100% legal in the U.S. as long as it’s derived from hemp and tested safe. CBDa from marijuana, however is not legal.

What is the Market Price for CBDa?

Currently market pricing for CBDa isolates, extracts and flower is not readily available through online market research companies. However, we can assume that high CBDa strains hover around the same price point as high CBD strains due the fact that the two cannabinoids are inextricably linked (anchor link to this reference above).

As of November 2019, the CBD market price is about $1.81 per % CBD per pound. This is one of the lowest cost wholesale cannabinoids available today.

CBDa Potency & Testing

How is CBDa Potency Measured?

CBDa is measured through potency tests similar to the way that CBD, THC and other cannabinoids are detected. The difference is that laboratories must pay careful attention to the fact that these samples cannot undergo extreme heat processing.

At ACS Laboratory, we use Ultra High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) machinery to measure CBDa extracts with precision. HPLC is the preferred instrument for these products due to its ability to test samples at room temperature without requiring heat, which changes the potency results.

Why Should I Test for CBDa?

The industry is just beginning to understand the potential of CBDa, especially for conditions such as breast cancer, nausea, and vomiting. But research shows that CBDa has many similar qualities as CBD, a compound that customers already understand very well.

Although CBDa is not as famous as CBD, initial research suggests that it has a number of beneficial effects on human health that may be even more potent than CBD. That means that potential to market CBDa as a complementary or replacement product to CBD is limitless.

In the meantime, customers still need to know how much CBDa is in your products so they can determine how to best ingest them for maximum results. As mentioned, CBDa cannot withstand high temperature smoking or baking. Customers will need to add high CBDa strains to smoothies (for example), or use a specialized vape.

When you test for CBDa potency, you empower customers with the knowledge to get the greatest benefits from your products.

At ACS Laboratory, we test hemp and cannabis products for CBDa because of its individual healing qualities and its ability to enhance the body’s processing of CBD. On its own, CBDa has the incredible potential to ease inflammation, anxiety and nausea while targeting seizures and improving mental health.

Customers need to know how much CBDa their product contains and they need to feel confident that label information is accurate. That’s why it’s vital to obtain a verified certificate of analysis (COA) from a DEA and ISO/IEC 17025:2017 accredited laboratory like ACS. We’re confident that precise CBDa potency tests are vital for brands to successfully market their products in an increasingly competitive industry.

Contact ACS today to learn more or schedule a potency test. We deliver precise results within 3-5 days.

The Cannabinoids Guide

This complete cannabinoid guide covers major and minor cannabinoids, how they work in the body, and highlights the top compounds brands and operators must test for today.
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The Cannabinoid Guide

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