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CBDa is CBD’s lesser-known counterpart. In the past couple of years, it’s been getting some attention due to research showing it can block cellular entry of COVID-19.

While more research is needed to verify this, CBDa still has a lot of benefits to offer – not unlike CBD.

The main difference between the two cannabinoids is scientific: CBDa is the acid precursor to CBD – in other words, it is the cannabinoid that eventually becomes CBD when it’s heated (similar to how THCa gets converted to THC).

In this article, we’re going to make an in-depth comparison of CBDa and CBD: what they are, their benefits, how they’re used, and more.

CBDa vs. CBD: What Are They?

Before we get deeper into comparing CBDa and CBD, let’s take a moment to examine what they are.

What is CBDa?

Cannabidiolic acid (CBDa) is a cannabinoid that serves as the acid precursor to CBD. It’s been studied for use with nausea and COVID-19, among other issues.

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a cannabinoid that is derived from CBDa. It’s sometimes called the Swiss Army Knife of all cannabinoids because it can help with a variety of things, including sleep, anxiety, stress, and muscle, bone, and joint health.

CBDa vs. CBD: How They’re Made

Before, we told you that CBD is made from CBDa. But there’s more to the story.

CBDa (middle in the diagram below) actually has its roots in another cannabinoid, just as CBD does. This cannabinoid is CBGa (left), or cannabigerolic acid.

CBGa is the precursor to just about every cannabinoid in the hemp plant.

First, enzymes convert it to either THCa, CBCa, or CBDa.

Then, the CBDa is converted to CBD through a process called decarboxylation, in which the CBDa is heated and loses its acidic carboxyl group (the “a” in CBDa). With the acid gone, it becomes CBD.

In fact, what smokable prerolls contain isn’t CBD, but CBDa. When you light the preroll, the heat turns it into CBD.

In summary, the “difference” between how CBDa and CBD are made lies in where they fall in the order; CBGa is CBDa’s “parent” cannabinoid, while CBDa is CBD’s parent.

The Legality of CBDa vs. CBD

The legal status of CBDa and CBD are the same, as the legality of CBD implies the legality of CBDa, from which it’s made. Both cannabinoids, as with all hemp-derived cannabinoids, are federally legal.

However, some states have restricted CBD in various ways. Here’s a list of the states where it is legal to possess CBD, according to Buscher Law:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arkansas
  • California (no smokables)
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Georgia (no marketed THC)
  • Illinois
  • Indiana (no smokables)
  • Kentucky (no smokables)
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York (no smokables)
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina (no smokables)
  • South Dakota (no smokables)
  • Tennessee
  • Texas (no smokables)
  • Virginia
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

And, here’s a list of states where CBD (and thus, CBDa) is restricted in some way. Be sure to check with your state law for specific restrictions around possession and use.

  • Arizona
  • Delaware
  • Hawaii
  • Iowa
  • Idaho
  • Louisiana
  • Massachusetts
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • Pennsylvania
  • Utah

NOTE: This information concerns the possession of CBD and CBDa, not the sale of them.

CBDa vs. CBD: Benefits & Effects

CBD is well known for its wide range of effects, but there’s only very limited research on CBDa. However, here’s what we do know.

The Benefits of CBDa

CBDa and CBD are quite similar in terms of the benefits they render, but this study indicates that CBDa may be more effective than CBD for nausea.

CBDa has also been studied as a COVID preventative. Though the study demonstrated the ability of CBDa and other cannabinoid acids (e.g. CBCa) to block the entry of virus material into cells, it’s not enough to prove that CBDa is a cure – there is still benefit, however.

Does CBDa Make You High?

CBDa has a variety of relaxing benefits, but it is not psychoactive like Delta 8 or Delta 9 THC. If you’re looking for the benefits of hemp without the head high or drug testing concerns, it’s a great option.

The Benefits of CBD

CBD, on the other hand, has a long list of benefits that have been observed scientifically and anecdotally for years.

Common effects associated with CBD include a calming and balancing sensation on the mind and body, as well as an uplifted mood. CBD has also been shown to help restore and support natural bodily systems.

As a result, CBD is often used for sleep, stress, anxiety, mood, chronic pain, inflammation, erectile dysfunction, and menopause, among other things. It is not a treatment for any of these conditions, though.

A study from the National Institutes of Health states that “in pre-clinical studies, THC and CBD produce beneficial effects in chronic pain, anxiety, sleep, and inflammation.”

CBDa vs. CBD Side Effects

Like all cannabinoids, CBDa and CBD have negative side effects, just as they have benefits.

Not everyone will feel these side effects, and some will only feel a few of them. Others will feel all of them – it just depends on the person.

That being said, here are the side effects you may experience after taking CBDa:

  • Dry mouth
  • Drowsiness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Lightheadedness
  • Mild mood changes

And here are the potential side effects of CBD:

  • Dry mouth
  • Diarrhea
  • Reduced appetite
  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue

Common Use Cases of CBDa vs. CBD

We talked about the ways that CBDa and CBD are commonly used earlier, but we wanted to address some specific use cases that we often get asked about.

CBDa vs. CBD for Pain

This is a hard comparison to make because we don’t know enough about CBDa to say whether or not it’s better than CBD at addressing chronic pain.

However, we do know that CBDa can act as an inhibitor to the enzyme COX-2, as can many nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). This plays a role in reducing pain and inflammation.

CBD has also been shown to be a mild COX-2 inhibitor, but not to the degree that CBDa is. This may indicate that CBDa has a slight edge over CBD for pain.

Keep in mind that CBD also has mental benefits that many find soothing in the face of pain.

The bottom line: we can’t say with certainty that one cannabinoid is better than the other for addressing chronic pain.

CBDa vs. CBD for Anxiety

Both anecdotal and scientific evidence show that CBD is effective at addressing anxiety due to its profound impact on the Endocannabinoid System.

CBDa is effective at this too: a 2013 study showed that CBDa bonds particularly well to a certain serotonin receptor associated with anti-nausea and anti-anxiety effects.

Currently, not enough is known about CBDa to say whether or not it’s better than CBD for anxiety. However, both cannabinoids have shown promise. Our best advice is to try both and see if you respond better to one or the other.

CBDa + CBGa: A Dynamic Duo

Just as CBD can be combined with CBG to render increased benefits to the user, so can CBDa be paired with CBGa, the acid precursor to CBG.

Key benefits of CBGa include support for cardiovascular disease, colon cancer, and metabolic disorders. So when it is combined with CBDa, it renders comprehensive mental and physical wellness.

The Best Dosage of CBDa vs. CBD

It’s no secret that some cannabinoids are better in moderation, and others are better when taken in larger amounts.

However, most medical experts and CBD companies agree that the starting dose for both CBDa and CBD is about the same.

Here’s how much you should take, depending on why you’re taking it:

  • For stress, anxiety, and general relaxation: 10mg
  • For sleep: 25mg
  • For pain: 30mg

As with any cannabinoid, these are just the starting doses – adjust your dose by 5-10mg every few days until you find what works for you.

CBDa vs. CBD: Which Product Should I Pick?

Although this article is focused on differences, CBDa and CBD are equally effective in all forms — this section is dedicated to showing you what your options are.


Tinctures (also called oils) consist of carrier oil, cannabinoids, and sometimes, added terpenes. Since tinctures can be dosed in very small increments via a metered dropper, it’s easy to make small adjustments to your dose on a week-to-week basis.

When taken through a tincture, the effects of CBDa and CBD can be felt in 10 to 30 minutes.


Gel capsules provide a quick, tasteless way to take cannabinoids. And since each capsule will contain the same amount of CBDa or CBD, the dosing is very consistent. When taken through capsules, CBDa and CBD will begin taking effect in 30 to 90 minutes.


Edibles come in all shapes and sizes – gummies, lollipops, brownies, and more. While products like gummies offer consistent dosing, products like brownies do not. CBDa and CBD edibles will typically be felt in 30-90 minutes.

Flower and Vape

Raw hemp flower can be crushed and rolled into hemp joints, or prerolls. And of course, vapes allow you to ingest cannabinoid-infused vapor to get your daily dose.

There are pros and cons for prerolls and vapes when it comes to dosing; you can take a very small amount, yet it’s hard to figure out exactly how much you’re getting.

The effects of CBDa and CBD will be felt in 5-10 minutes when smoked or vaped.

Conclusion: Should You Use CBDa or CBD?

So, which is the better option: CBDa or CBD?

CBDa hasn’t been researched a lot in comparison to CBD, but it’s certainly worth a try because what we do know about it is promising. So while CBD is the more proven option, CBDa still has a lot to offer, especially when combined with CBGa.

We recommend trying both for yourself to find out which one supports your wellness goals and brings you the relief you need!

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