Know Your Medicine: CBDA

Cannabidiolic acid or CBDA is one of the non-intoxicating phytocannabinoids found in the raw unheated cannabis plant. CBGA, cannabigerolic acid, is the parent compound to both THCA and CBDA. As the cannabis flower matures, CBGA is converted to CBDA by the enzyme CBDA synthase, first discovered in 1996 by researchers in Japan. CBGA is also the parent compound to THCA, via the enzyme THCA synthase. Unfortunately, there is very little research on CBDA despite recent studies showing potent anti-inflammatory effects and anticancer potential.

CBDA is a potent anti-inflammatory, working by selectively inhibiting an enzyme in our bodies called COX-2. This enzyme is triggered when you experience injury or infection, and it produces compounds called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins promote inflammation, and although this is a natural response, it can be the source of significant pain and at times, cell destruction. CBDA reduces the production of prostaglandin by blocking the COX-2 enzyme.  Less prostaglandin equals less inflammation.  There is also a COX-1 enzyme, which when triggered, activates blood clotting and protection of the lining of the gut.

Scientists have long sought compounds that block COX-2 without blocking COX-1 — and CBDA does just that. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) work by blocking both COX enzymes — this is why they can cause side effects of bleeding, gut irritation, and ulcers. One particular NSAID, called celecoxib, is also a selective COX-2 inhibitor but has a long list of possible side effects including headaches, abdominal pain, indigestion, nausea, diarrhea, dizziness, insomnia, and more. There are no reports of these side effects with CBDA use. THCA, tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, the precursor to THC, also inhibits COX-2 but is much less potent than CBDA.

A fascinating experiment wherein volunteers ingested unheated cannabinoids (THCA and CBDA) along with heated cannabinoids (THC and CBD) found that ingesting unheated cannabinoids along with heated cannabinoids resulted in higher CBD plasma levels when compared to heated cannabinoids alone. Unfortunately, the mechanism of this effect is unknown. The authors of this study theorized that unheated cannabinoids “may beneficially affect the uptake and metabolism of CBD and other phytocannabinoids.”

Another study showed that CBDA inhibited highly invasive breast cancer cells (called MDA-MB-231 cells) from metastasizing. These cells are unresponsive to hormonal treatment and considered very difficult to treat. The researchers discovered that CBDA turned off the chemical signals that these particular cancer cells send to each other telling them to spread. Although this study was conducted in test tubes, not in animals or humans, it is quite promising and demands further investigation.   

Research also shows that CBDA is sporostatic (stops mold spores from reproducing) and antibacterial, although these properties have not been studied in humans.   

Patients are taking CBDA by either ingesting juice made from the flowers and leaves of the raw cannabis plant, using a chemovar that has CBD genetics such as AC/DC, Charlotte’s Web, Cannatonic, and others. CBDA is also available in a capsule containing raw ground flower and leaves or in the form of oil- or alcohol-based tinctures that are produced without heat.  

Dr. Raphael Mechoulam has described the plant cannabinoids as a “neglected pharmacological treasure trove.” We desperately need more research on these compounds, and with the promising results seen so far, CBDA should be at the top of the research list. Many common illnesses, including diabetes, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and others, are thought to be a result of chronic inflammation.  CBDA just may be Mother Nature’s cure for all that ails us.  


Sources:

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Kabelik, J., Z. Krejei, and F. Santavy. “Cannabis as a medicament.” Bull. Narc12.5 (1960).

Mechoulam, Raphael. “Plant cannabinoids: a neglected pharmacological treasure trove.” British journal of pharmacology 146.7 (2005): 913-915.

Radošević, A., M. Kupinić, and Lj Grlić. “Antibiotic activity of various types of Cannabis resin.” Nature 195.4845 (1962): 1007-1009.

Takeda, Shuso, et al. “Cannabidiolic acid as a selective cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitory component in cannabis.” Drug metabolism and disposition 36.9 (2008): 1917-1921.

Takeda, Shuso, et al. “Cannabidiolic acid, a major cannabinoid in fiber-type cannabis, is an inhibitor of MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cell migration.” Toxicology letters 214.3 (2012): 314-319.

Taura, Futoshi, Satoshi Morimoto, and Yukihiro Shoyama. “Purification and characterization of cannabidiolic-acid synthase from Cannabis sativa L. Biochemical analysis of a novel enzyme that catalyzes the oxidocyclization of cannabigerolic acid to cannabidiolic acid.” Journal of Biological Chemistry271.29 (1996): 17411-17416.

Ujváry, István, and Lumír Hanuš. “Human metabolites of cannabidiol: a review on their formation, biological activity, and relevance in therapy.” Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research 1.1 (2016): 90-101.

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