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What is CBDa and what is it good for?

Most of us are familiar with CBD, or cannabidiol. Significant research has been focused on CBD and we have seen a boom in CBD products ad nauseam, with companies making CBD infused athletic wear, pillows, deodorant and even tampons. CBD’s therapeutic effects, however, have been well established in research and it has demonstrated efficacy with anxiety, depression, chronic pain, inflammation, seizures, sleep and nausea.1,2,3 

So, what is CBDa then?

Cannabidiolic acid or CBDa is the precursor to cannabidiol or CBD. Cannabis (or hemp) plants only make cannabinoids in their acidic forms (THCa, CBDa, CBGa, etc.). After the cannabis plant has been harvested, if it is exposed to prolonged sunlight or intense heat, cannabinoids go through a process known as decarboxylation where the acidic cannabinoids convert to their neutral forms (THC, CBD, CBG, etc.). For example, THCa must be converted to its neutral form (THC) for it to be euphoric.

100x higher affinity than CBD?

While research into CBDa is still in its infancy, some studies are showing that it is helpful in treating nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy, inflammation and cancer. 4,5,6 In addition to the therapeutic properties, CBDa has been shown to be more water soluble than CBD which means that our bodies may absorb it more efficiently than CBD. CBDa might even enhance the absorption of CBD7. More importantly, CBDa has been shown to have an affinity that is 100x higher than CBD at certain receptors in our body8. If CBDa is better absorbed by our bodies and has greater capacity to attach to important receptors – researchers, health care practitioners and their patients are all hoping that smaller amounts of CBDa can achieve symptom relief, thereby increasing accessibility and reducing potential side effects. Take the following case as an example.

CBDa and Sleep

As mentioned, studies have found CBD helpful for sleep. In one particular study, large doses of 175mg CBD daily were most effective for sleep1. Such a large dose can cost between $500-750 a month, depending on the quality of the CBD product. Since CBD is not covered by insurance, this can be cost prohibitive.

Recently a woman with a severe auto-immune condition was seeking help with pain, inflammation and sleep. After a thorough review of her health history, it was agreed that starting with a raw hemp flower infused oil containing mostly CBDa would potentially address multiple symptoms. Within 2 weeks, she was taking 17mg CBDa at night before bed. Prior to starting the CBDa tincture, she had trouble getting comfortable enough to fall asleep and when she did, her sleep was erratic. She found herself waking up every 2 hours during the night. After slowly increasing her dose over 2 weeks and reaching 17mg, she reported falling asleep comfortably and sleeping through the night for a full 8 hours. As a result of the improved sleep, she was able to begin exercising again and reports feeling more energetic during the day. 

In this case, a full night sleep was achieved with 1/10th of the dose found in the study with CBD. CBDa may be more appropriate in cases where higher doses of CBD have been shown to be effective. Beyond improving sleep, CBDa may be helpful with anxiety, depression, seizures, inflammation and chronic pain just like CBD but at much smaller doses. Each case is unique and it is always best to work with a knowledgeable healthcare professional who can direct you to the right cannabinoid profile.




  1. Shannon, S., Lewis, N., Lee, H., & Hughes, S. (2019). Cannabidiol in anxiety and sleep: a large case series. The Permanente Journal, 23:18-041. Doi:10.7812/TPP/18-041.
  2. National Academy of Sciences. Engineering Medicine. The health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids: the current state of evidence and recommendations for research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2017.
  3. Byars, T., Theisen, E., & Bolton, D. (2019). Using cannabis to treat cancer-related pain. Seminars in Oncology Nursing, 35: 300-309.
  4. A comparison of cannabidiolic acid with other treatments for anticipatory nausea using a rat model of contextually elicited conditioned gaping. Psychopharmacology, August 2014,
  7. Nahler, G., Jones, T.M., and Russo, E.B. (2019). Cannabidiol and contributions of major hemp phytocompounds to the “entourage effect”; possible mechanisms. Journal of Alternative Complement Integrative Medicine, 5(70).
  8. Russo, E.B. (2018). Cannabis therapeutics and the future of neurology. Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience, 12(51): 1-11.


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