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 and does it have the therapeutic effects of CBD? Read on to learn more about this little-known compound.
What 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 that is amongst the missing — 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 reason for such a wet surface is that 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 113 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 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 removed from the product. This is done by either baking, lighting or heating up the cannabis trimmings.
Under intense heat, the trichomes break open and secrete oils. As a result, the rest of the CBDa dissipates. Adding pressure onto the plant causes a chemical reaction that creates the therapeutic 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.
Benefits of CBDa
CBD (and THC) get all the love from cannabis enthusiasts. However, as we mentioned there are 113 unique phytocannabinoids that give CBD products like full spectrum hemp oil the edge over other all-natural supplements. CBDa is one of those beneficial compounds. Let’s take a look at the little-known benefits of CBDa.
CBDa and Inflammation
While not as potent as CBD, CBDa has shown promise as an anti-inflammatory. Laboratory research with this cannabis-based acid found that CBDa is known as a COX-2 inhibitor. COX-2 is an enzyme that serves as a catalyst for pro-inflammatory cells.
In particular, COX-2 is fond of prostaglandins. These are hormones that are created, live and thrive in areas of infection. In fact, these culprits have such a habit of being the usual suspects that most NSAIDs are formulated to target prostaglandins.
The recurring presence of prostaglandins in the system made lead to chronic cases of inflammation. One of the most common conditions ties to these prostaglandins-led flare-ups is arthritis.
CBDa and Digestion
When it comes to digestive issues, this is one of the rare occasions where CBDa seems to have a better track record than CBD. A 2012 study was published in The British Journal of Pharmacology. The objective was to, “To evaluate the ability of cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) to reduce nausea and vomiting and enhance 5-HT1A receptor activation in animal models.”
During the experiment, scientists used lithium chloride to induce nausea, and ultimately vomiting, in mammals. Upon administering the CBDa, researchers noticed that the cannabis acids enhanced the activation of somatodendritic 5-HT1A receptors in the dorsal raphe nucleus.
This is a huge breakthrough in measuring the correlation between nausea-relief and CBDa. That’s because studies have confirmed when 5-HT1A receptors become activated, it reduces the presence of 5-HT in the system. The reason this is so important is that the 5-HT enzyme has a strong tie to inducing nausea in the forebrain regions.
Mental Health Issues
While there is still a lot of research to be done on CBDa, many studies are finding CBDa to be an effective additive to other phytochemicals used in treating mental health conditions. A lot of this has to do with the fact that cannabinoids have a positive effect on one another.
Studies have shown that phytocannabinoids have chemical reactions that strengthen their benefits and bioavailability within the system. This scientific phenomenon is known as the entourage effect.
While on its own CBDa hasn’t been shown to make a difference in mental health care, British pharmaceutical companies have added this cannabis acid to other cannabinoids in their antipsychosis formulas.
The other cannabinoids that seem to work the best with CBDa in creating a viable option for therapy in mental health patients include:
While CBDa does work well with others, you can still use it on its own for mild therapeutic benefits. However, it won’t have the same effect as when mixed with others. After all, teamwork makes the dream work.
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 CBD products one day.
Currently, high levels of CBDa are taken from companies that cultivate hemp for CBD products. From there, CBDa is 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, you can get your own hemp plant and 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 to incorporate 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 cause the trichomes to combust. As a result, it will activate the cannabinoids. One of those reactions will result in turning CBDa into CBD. On a further note, keep in mind that CBD will die off after 320 Degrees F.
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, including terpenes. Therefore, 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.