What Is CBDA?

The cannabis plant has a lot of different compounds in it. While the industry mostly focuses on CBD and THC, there are dozens of other cannabinoids and terpenes found in cannabis that may have therapeutic benefits. Learning more about these minor cannabinoids helps us better understand the full medicinal potential of cannabis. 

Recently, we’ve discussed THCA, the precursor to THC and the mother of all cannabinoids CBG. Continuing with our theme of exploring lesser-known cannabinoids, today, we set our sights on CBDA, the acidic precursor to the non-intoxicating cannabinoid CBD. 

What Is CBDA?

CBDA molecule

There are three major lines of acidic cannabinoid precursors—THCA, CBCA, and CBDA. Each of these lines begins as cannabigerolic acid (CBGA). As the cannabis plant dries and cures, it releases various enzymes which break down the CBGA into THCA, CBCA, CBDA, or CBG neutral.

CBDA stands for cannabidiolic acid, and like other acidic forms of cannabinoids, CBDA can eventually convert to regular CBD neutral through a process called decarboxylation.

Is CBDA Legal? 

is cbda legal in my state?

The laws and regulations around cannabis-derived compounds are complicated and often contradictory. When it comes to CBDA, the cannabinoid may be legal depending on where in the country you’re located and what kind of cannabis plant it came from. 

Three years ago, the 2018 Farm Bill federally legalized hemp and hemp-derived compounds. The bill defines hemp as any cannabis plant that contains less than 0.3% delta 9 THC per dry weight. So, as long as the CBDA in question came from a hemp plant with less than 0.3% THC, it’s federally legal. When it comes to state law, CBDA is legal to possess in all fifty states. However, regulations regarding its sale will be state dependent

Does CBDA Get You High? 

cbda will not get you high

While preliminary research suggests that CBDA may have several practical uses, recreational cannabis users will likely want to look elsewhere to catch a buzz. Like CBD, CBDA doesn’t induce any intoxicating effects and leave users feeling stoned. 

However, because its use doesn’t result in intoxication, CBDA has high potential as a medicinal compound for patients who want to use cannabis therapeutically, but who don’t necessarily want to get high. 


CBDA vs CBD molecule

CBD begins as CBDA. After the cannabis plant is exposed to heat and UV light, it undergoes a process known as decarboxylation. This is the same process required to “activate” the THC in raw cannabis flower before it can be effectively used to make edibles. If you’re smoking or vaping a strain with a high CBDA percentage, the heat from the lighter or vape device will decarboxylate the flower, automatically converting the CBDA into CBD. 


THCA molecule and CBDA molecule

While both CBDA and THCA stem from CBGA, the two compounds have dramatically different effects when consumed by humans. Most glaringly, strains with high THCA can be intoxicating depending on how they’re used since the decarboxylation process will convert the THCA into THC. While THCA tincture or edibles will never be intoxicating, inhalation intake methods have the potential to decarboxylate the cannabis.

Interestingly, THCA decarboxylates faster than CBDA. This means that it’s theoretically possible to convert THCA into THC while keeping the CBDA in its acidic form in a single bud. However, this would be extremely hard to do outside of laboratory conditions. 

Potential CBDA Benefits 

Aside from its potential to convert into CBD, a compound known for its potential medicinal uses, studies suggest that CBDA may have therapeutic benefits even before it’s decarboxylated. 

One 2013 study found that CBDA reduced nausea in rodents by enhancing serotonin receptor 5-HT1A activation significantly more effectively than regular CBD neutral.

The enzyme COX-2 plays a role in the body’s natural inflammatory response to stress or injury. Too much of this inflammation can lead to chronic pain conditions like arthritis, so over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen work by inhibiting the COX-2 enzyme. One 2008 study found that CBDA functions as a COX-2 inhibitor, which means it has potential anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects, without the long-term negative side effects of NSAIDs like ibuprofen.

Extremely early research using breast cancer cells in petri dishes determined that CBDA may have the potential to prevent cancer cells from migrating. According to the study, “CBDA offers potential therapeutic modality in the abrogation of cancer cell migration, including aggressive breast cancers.”

Currently, almost none of the research into the medicinal benefits of CBDA has reached the clinical trial stage. However, the early studies we do have are incredibly promising. Hopefully, as anti-cannabis laws continue to dissipate and research into CBDA continues, scientists will be able to confirm these preliminary findings.