Cannabinoids are the chief chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant that interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system—the complex network of cannabinoid receptors that influence the central nervous system and immune system, among others. While CBD and THC often steal the show when it comes to the powerful chemical compounds associated with the cannabis sativa plant, they aren’t the only cannabis-related chemicals with tremendous health and wellness potential.
Recent data featuring both CBDA and CBGA, additional cannabis compounds, have yielded exciting results for their future in helping patients support overall good health. While research remains in very early stages, it seems reasonable to expect good things from both CBDA and CBGA in terms of health support in the future.
8 Benefits of CBDA and CBGA
- Potentially Effective Against SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19)
- Supports Cardiovascular Health
- Regulates Metabolism
- Anti-Anxiety and Depression Properties
- Prevents Seizures
- Boasts Anti Inflammatory Properties
- Effective Anti-Nausea Agent
- Potential Cancer Treatment
The cannabis sativa plant is one of the world’s oldest cultivated crops, and boasts a long history of human extraction and consumption in many different forms. In recent years, various chemical compounds found in the hemp plant and the cannabis sativa plant have garnered attention for their wide and varied documented health benefits.
Essentially, phytocannabinoids found in cannabis and hemp plants exist in two different states: either acidic, like THCA and CBDA, or neutral, like THC and CBD. But while neutral cannabinoids like THC and CBD, which have been extensively studied over the past four decades, typically have been viewed as the chief therapeutic compounds in the cannabis plant, some emerging data suggest that there may be a benefit to using the raw plant—gaining the benefits of acidic phytocannabinoids in the plant, including CBDA and CBGA. While the scientific world identified these compounds more than 50 years ago, it’s only recently that they have garnered interest for their therapeutic effects.
What Are CBDA and CBGA?
Cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) and cannabigerolic acid (CBGA) are lesser-known compounds found within the raw cannabis sativa plant, both of which may have exciting effects on the world of health and wellness based on early-stage recent research. In fact, some experts consider these compounds the next frontier when it comes to cannabinoid-based therapy—expanding the potential development of medications that are not only more therapeutically effective, but also less likely to cause unwanted side effects and/or long-term dependency than current options.
CBGA is a foundational compound of the raw cannabis flower, formed in the cannabis plant when geranyl pyrophosphate and olivetolic acid combine. The resulting enzymatic reaction converts CBGA into several different cannabinoids, leading to its sometimes being called the mother cannabinoid. In fact, CBGA is the precursor to three of the most commonly found cannabinoids: tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), cannabichromenic acid (CBCA) and CBDA. These are known as acidic cannabinoids. CBGA (Cannabigerolic acid) holds potential for treating diseases, but more data is needed to support anecdotal claims to suggest CBGA as a treatment option. Some data indicates that CBGA may make the body more receptive to other cannabinoids, plus assisting the body as it processes them. CBGA also has some reported analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and anti-proliferative properties.
Through an extraction process called decarboxylation, acidic cannabinoids are converted into their decarboxylated forms, which are the main psychoactive cannabinoids—THC, CBC, CBD, etc.—that positively affect the body and with which most people are familiar with. While THC is the chief psychoactive compound associated with marijuana use, CBD has gained attention in recent years for its many health benefits that come without the mind-altering effects associated with THC. CBD is simply the decarboxylated form of CBDA. Decarboxylation occurs when the cannabis plant is heated, dried or processed.
In most cannabis plants, cannabidiolic acid appears in only small amounts, though hemp oil, in particular, is known for its higher CBDA content. And because it is non-intoxicating, CBDA is completely legal in nearly every state. Additionally, cannabidiolic acid has greater bioavailability; meaning it is absorbed by the body up to 11 times better than CBD when taken orally. There is also some animal-based data that CBDA is, in fact, stronger and more potent than CBD. This appears to be not just because CBDA is absorbed better, but because it actually acts more effectively in the body to address symptoms like nausea and vomiting, pain, inflammation and even seizures.
CBDA’s basic mechanism of action comprises interacting with the endocannabinoid system by inhibiting the Cox 2 enzyme, which is slightly different from how CBD works. In general, a CBD product works by binding to CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors, which produces a slightly different result.
8 Benefits of CBDA and CBGA
Now that we’ve explained what CBDA and CBGA are, let’s take a closer look at some of their chief benefits:
1. Potentially Effective Against SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19)
In a very exciting recent development, researchers have found that both CBDA and CBGA have some potential to combat the SARS CoV 2 infection (also known as coronavirus). Both compounds seem to block a critical step in the process the virus uses to infect patients.
According to researchers led by scientist Richard Van Breemen at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, the two cannabis compounds are able to bind to the spike protein that is characteristic of the virus particles—this then prevents the protein from being able to bind to sites within human cells. This inability to bind effectively prevents a key step that the SARS-CoV-2 virus uses to infect patients.
It’s important to note that all testing thus far has incorporated only the alpha and beta variants of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, not later strains like Delta or Omicron. Even so, researchers remain optimistic that the efficacy of CBDA and CBGA against early variants bodes well for their effectiveness against later iterations of the virus. Further research, of course, is needed, but both chemical compounds show potential as adjunctive therapy to vaccines for both the prevention and the treatment of COVID-19.
Full results have been published in the paper, “Cannabinoids Block Cellular Entry of SARS-CoV-2 and the Emerging Variants.”
2. Supports Cardiovascular Health
More and more data supports the fact that regulating the endocannabinoid system with phytocannabinoids can have positive effects on cardiovascular health. In particular, the chemical compounds found in hemp and the cannabis sativa plant, including CBDA and CBGA, can be effective against cardiovascular issues, including myocardial infarction (heart attack), atherosclerosis, arrhythmias, hypertension, and metabolic disorders.
In particular, blocking CB1 receptors with phytocannabinoids has a tremendously positive effect when it comes to treating cardiometabolic disorders. In addition, one study has shown that CBGA may be effective in helping diabetic patients manage several of the disease’s complications and comorbidities—including cardiovascular disease.
3. Regulates Metabolism
At least one study has indicated that CBGA may help patients manage metabolic disorders. A 2019 computer simulated study revealed that CBGA helped stimulate lipid metabolism, which reduced excess lipid accumulation. Though these early results are promising, more research is needed, particularly studies with animal and/or human subjects.
4. Anti-Anxiety and Depression Properties
While the non-acidic CBD has long been touted as a potential treatment for both depression and anxiety, there is reason for excitement around cannabidiolic acid as well. In fact, researchers have seen that CBDA not only affects the same receptors as CBD—namely, the receptors that control feelings of anxiety and well-being—but that it is effective as an antidepressant at doses 10 to 100 times less than the dosage size required of CBD.
5. Prevents Seizures
Currently, the only FDA-approved CBD medication is an anti-seizure drug called Epidiolex, which is used to treat drug-resistant epilepsy. The manufacturer of Epidiolex also has conducted tests comparing the efficacy of cannabidiolic acid against that of CBD in seizure prevention. Some early data shows that CBDA may demonstrate better bioavailability and a faster-acting effect than CBD. This may mean that smaller doses of CBDA would be needed for effective seizure prevention, even further reducing the chance of any side effects associated with the product.
6. Boasts Anti Inflammatory Properties
While inflammation is a natural and necessary response to trauma, chronic inflammation can be the source of many health issues, not least among them, arthritis. Chronic inflammation is highly influenced by the Cox 2 enzyme. CBDA has shown powerful anti inflammatory properties, and may be effective against inflammation because of its characteristics as a selective Cox 2 inhibitor. This means cannabidiol acid works in much the same way as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like aspirin and ibuprofen, but without the damaging long-term side effects to the gastrointestinal tract.
7. Effective Anti-Nausea Agent
Researchers have found that CBDA can be a powerfully effective agent against nausea and vomiting caused by toxins and motion sensitivity. In fact, a 2012 study revealed that CBDA treatment dramatically reduced nausea behaviors in mice. And perhaps most exciting, CBDA has shown promising effects against the anticipatory nausea many patients feel before receiving chemotherapy treatments. Since no current medication has been effective for this type of nausea, CBDA appears especially positive. In some tests, cannabidiolic acid showed an anti-nausea impact at a dosage size 1,000 times smaller than the dose of CBD needed to achieve the same effect.
8. Potential Cancer Treatment
In one preclinical study, researchers found that CBDA could potentially suppress the spread of a specific type of breast cancer cells (cells with a higher-than-average concentration of the Cox 2 enzyme). Specifically, CBDA treatment seemed to prevent the migration of breast cancer cells.
In theory, a therapy that could stop cancer cells from metastasizing would be able to prevent the disease from spreading throughout the body. In addition, in the course of the study, CBDA reduced the effectiveness of the Id-1 protein associated with catalyzing cancer cell growth and survival. CBDA also seemed to increase Sharp-1 expression associated with suppressing breast cancer metastasis. While more research is certainly needed to determine the exact effect of CBDA on cancer, early data indicates it may have great promise to help suppress the spread of harmful cells within the body.
In fact, both CBDA and CBGA have also been reported to demonstrate cytotoxic activity against colon cancer. In fact, CBGA has been shown to kill colon cancer cells, along with hastening early cancer cell death and arresting the cancer cell cycle. While more research is needed in this area, researchers are optimistic that CBGA could effectively target not only colon cancer cells, but could also prevent the growth of pre-cancerous polyps.
Are CBDA and CBGA in CBD Oil?
As it turns out, both CBDA and CBGA are absent from traditional CBD oil, which features neutral CBD compound only. It’s important to remember that the chemical compound of CBD is only produced after the decarboxylation of CBDA, so it’s no longer present in the final CBD product. In fact, CBDA and CBGA are not usually found in most commercial hemp CBD products.
This means you should make note that if you’re using CBD oil, you should not expect to get all the same therapeutic benefits we’ve outlined here; especially when it comes to potentially preventing or treating a COVID 19 infection due to SARS-CoV-2. The promising effects against COVID-19 are specific to CBDA and CBGA. These were the only hemp or cannabis-related compounds that have shown promise against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. So, while CBD won’t magically turn into a COVID-19 prevention or cure, it does offer a full range of other health benefits, including headache relief.
CBDA and CBGA Research Looks Promising
Early research around CBDA and CBGA as medical treatments has shown exciting results, but it’s important to remember that current research has focused chiefly on animal subjects. Until more human clinical trials are conducted, it’s impossible to say for certain how effective these chemical compounds may be against a variety of potential health issues—certainly not least among them, the prevention and treatment of COVID-19.
However, early research shows some exciting and promising potential for these powerful chemical compounds when it comes to safely and effectively treating a variety of health conditions.