Anyone who has passed third-grade science knows how the grow cycle works. All plants start as a seed. From there, atmospheric pressures (such as sunlight, water and soil), change the composition of the plant. As a result, the plant bursts into a full-blown crop. Voila! You have a completely new product.
Chemical compounds aren’t much different. After all, molecules are living beings just like plants. Cells are in a constant state of dividing into new cells. Every time a compound touches another compound, a new reaction occurs. In the end, a brand new cell with its own unique DNA may come from these reactions.
CBD is no different. In fact, CBD isn’t even CBD until the plant starts to die. Before CBD comes to fruition, it relies on another chemical compound to live its life. That phytochemical is CBDa. What is CBDa? How do you use it? Read on to learn more about this little-known compound.
What Exactly is CBDa?
Cannabis has a distinct scent. When it grows, its aromatic chemicals (terpenes) are very distinguishable. While these volatile compounds are clearly present, there’s one thing you won’t find — CBD.
As you touch any freshly trimmed plant, you will notice its texture is quite moist. When the cannabis plant is attached to the branches, the flowers are still soaking in the nutrients provided by the roots.
With the gate staying open, water draws up from the roots, up the stems and into the leaves through their stomata. From there, the sun (or grow room light) pulls the moisture out from the plant. This causes the water to evaporate into the air.
When the water is being sucked up to the atmosphere, this pressure causes the plant to produce a series of acids. When cannabis is in the “raw,” the most prevalent of those acids is one of the over 100 unique cannabinoids to hemp, cannabolic acid. However, it’s best known to the world as CBDa.
What Happens to CBDa?
Whenever a cannabis plant is trimmed, the stomata instinctually close up. The plant understands that it’s been removed from its nutritional supply. As a result, the flowers become stressed. They zap up as many of the nutrients they have stored inside as possible. This is why you may notice that cannabis plants are covered in sweat the moment they are trimmed.
As this biological process happens, it applies pressure onto the plant. Due to atmospheric pressure, it changes the chemical composition of the molecules present in the flowers. One of the most important processes to happen is that the acids present in the cannabis plant begin to break down.
When CBDa Becomes CBD
After you trim a cannabis plant, the next step is to dry it out (unless you’re making a concentrate, then you’d want to freeze it). While drying it out on a line in a dark room will indeed make your hemp no longer wet, it won’t activate the acids in the product.
As we keep drilling home, you need to apply pressure onto these plants. When this happens, it will change the chemical composition of the product. In the cannabis industry, this important step is known as decarboxylation.
During decarboxylation, the rest of the acids are changed. This is done by either baking, lighting or heating up the cannabis trimmings.
Under heat, the trichomes break open and secrete oils. As a result, the rest of the CBDa goes through a transformation. Adding pressure onto the plant causes a chemical reaction that creates the cannabinoid CBD. This process is not much different than the body metabolizing beta-carotene and turning it into Vitamin A. Decarboxylation uses pressure to take one compound and make a byproduct with a litany of other benefits.
How to Use CBDa
With the growing acceptance of medical cannabis, the demands for CBD product continues to rise. As a result, hemp is being used in far more products. Therefore, more hemp plants are going to be going through the decarboxylation process. Naturally, that means CBDa products may become as readily available as CBD products one day.
Currently, CBDa can be taken from companies that cultivate hemp for CBD products. From there, CBDa may be put into many products, much in the same way that CBD is used.
Some of the most popular products on the market to herald CBDa include:
- Salad dressings
- Cold sauces
However, if you grow your own hemp plants, you can enjoy the benefits of CBDa yourself. As the plant is drying out, there are many ways to incorporate these cannabinoid-rich flowers into your everyday routine. Some of these ideas include:
- Lightly steamed leaves
As you may have noticed, lightly steamed leaves are one of the options for incorporating CBDa-rich hemp into your meal plans. While a unique dish to try out, we must put a heavy emphasis on the whole “lightly steamed” thing.
Think back to our lesson on decarboxylation. You want to apply as little pressure to your hemp leaves as possible. Heating up your leaves, such as cooking them (or steaming too vigorously), will activate the cannabinoids. One of those reactions will result in turning CBDa into CBD.
Lastly, to store the hemp leaves for future CBDa use, be sure to refrigerate them. As soon as you trim the plant, it starts to die. Therefore, it will oxidize at a quicker rate. When this happens, valuable cannabinoids get lost in the atmosphere.
To counteract this, keep the leaves cold. While heat will cause a plant to change its chemical composition, the cold has a different effect. Cold weather slows down the movement of particles, so the integrity of the CBDa will remain intact longer.
With that being said, think of all the produce that has gone bad in your fridge. A trimmed hemp plant is a dying one, no matter where you store it. Therefore, it will lose potency with time. To thwart off this natural occurrence, try keeping your freshly-trimmed hemp in the crisper.
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Joy Smith is Joy Organics Co-founder and visionary. After her own life-changing experience with CBD, Joy started Joy Organics to create a line of sustainable and premium CBD products consumers could trust. Before founding Joy Organics, Joy worked as an itinerant speaker, traveling to over four continents to empower women across the globe.