CBDA is one of the many compounds produced by cannabis.
Abundant in the living plants of CBD varieties, it is converted to the more familiar cannabinoid CBD over time and when exposed to heat.
Cannabinoids are compounds in cannabis that interact with our bodies to produce medical and recreational effects, from pain and stress relief to euphoria.
You’ve probably heard of CBD and THC; these are the most widely known cannabinoids, both originally derived from the precursor “parent” cannabinoid known as CBGA.
CBGA is converted into three main cannabinoid precursor compounds, depending on which plant enzymes are activated to direct the synthesis:
- The THCA
- The CBCA
- The CBDA
When decarboxylation occurs by exposing the cannabis plant to either heat or sunlight, CBDA is converted to CBD. In other words, CBDA is the raw form or predecessor of CBD.
These days, CBDA is commonly found in capsules, tinctures and creams. Many people consume even raw cannabis juice to get a daily dose of CBDA.
But what does the CBDA do and why is it important?
Possible medical benefits of CBDA
While most cannabinoids bind directly to CB1 or CB2 receptors, CBDA does not work in this way. Instead, CBDA interacts with the endocannabinoid system by inhibiting the enzyme cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2). COX-2 enzymes are associated with inflammation after injury or infection, so by blocking COX-2 enzymes, CBDA can relieve inflammation and associated pain.
In a study in mice, scientists found that CBDA affected levels of serotonin, a chemical produced by nerve cells to help with signalling between cells. Serotonin is vital for basic human functions such as motor skills, sleep, eating, digestion and emotions.
Certain stressors, including radiation and chemotherapy, trigger the body to release excess serotonin, causing nausea and vomiting. While vomiting can usually be controlled with medication, nausea is more difficult to control. Many cancer patients say that nausea causes much more discomfort than vomiting because the nausea is a constant sensation. In fact, one in five patients are considering stopping cancer treatment to avoid experiencing nausea.
Scientists have shown that CBDA can affect the body’s 5-HT serotonin production receptors, suggesting possible use of CBDA as a drug for nausea/vomiting caused by chemotherapy-induced nausea/vomiting (CINV) and other conditions that cause these symptoms. However, more research is needed.
The current survey for the CBDA
Scientists have been studying CBDA for about a decade.
A study in early 2008 examined the potential of CBDA as an anti-inflammatory agent by specifically studying its COX-2 inhibitor properties. The research team compared the molecular structures of CBDA with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) commonly used to treat inflammation and found their chemical structures remarkably similar. both are known to inhibit COX-2 receptors. This initial study showed that CBDA is a promising cannabinoid as a potential anti-inflammatory.
In the same way that it controls nausea, CBDA can also be a powerful anticonvulsant. In fact, scientists have shown that CBDA has 100 times the relationship with 5-HT receptors compared to CBD. one reason is that CBDA has greater bioavailability, so the body can metabolize the compound with less effort and in less time.
This same receptor affinity could also mean that CBDA could perhaps effectively combat depression. After all, CBDA works on 5-HT receptors in the same way as an antidepressant serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) drug.
To date, most studies on CBDA are preclinical non-human studies. While human trials are needed, some cannabis pharmaceutical companies such as the British company GW Pharmaceuticals are paving the way. GW Pharmaceuticals manufactures a pharmaceutical-grade CBD oil called Epidiolex, the first prescription drug made from hemp and is about to be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Interestingly, the FDA has required the company to not only conduct research on CBD but also to conduct research on the precursor, CBDA, and its own research shows that CBDA is even more effective in treating epilepsy. The company has also filed two other patents for medical use of CBDA: one for inflammatory skin conditions and the other for cancer treatment.
Although research on CBDA’s action on cancer to date has only been done in isolated cells, initial studies suggest that CBDA could stop the metastasis of a highly aggressive form of breast cancer known as MDA-MB-231.