Cannabinoids, the miracle molecules that provide cannabis with its medical efficacy — in addition to its euphoria — number more than 111. First discovered in 1964 in Israel, cannabinoids have been found to work synergistically with the human body and, more specifically, the endocannabinoid system.
Endocannabinoids are produced by humans, whereas the cannabinoids from a plant like marijuana are officially known as phytocannabinoids. Phytocannabinoids are a perfect fit for specialized receptors found throughout the brain, nervous system, and immune system of the human body. In addition, cannabinoids do more than work independently to deliver a particular therapeutic effect. Cannabinoids also work in tandem to regulate one another or create a unique effect, something that has been labeled the entourage effect.
Dr. Acid and Mr. Kind
Nearly all cannabinoids exist in two states: An acidic and a non-acidic form. The acidic type is the precursor to the non-acidic. When heat is applied to cannabis, such as during smoking or vaporizing, the cannabinoids’s acidic form loses some carbon dioxide molecules and is instantly converted to its non-acidic sibling.
In the case of THC, its acidic precursor, THC-A, provides no euphoria or high whatsoever. By simply applying sufficient heat, however, the THC cannabinoid comes alive. It is estimated that 95 percent of the THC-A in raw cannabis is converted to THC during the application of heat, or what is technically called decarboxylation. Decarboxylation also occurs at low levels during drying and exposure to oxygen.
The acidic forms of cannabinoids, while they provide no high, offer significant medical efficacy and work in conjunction with the same CB1 and CB2 endocannabinoid receptors throughout the human brain, nervous system, and immune system. It is believed that acidic cannabinoids, their non-acidic twins, and terpenes work synergistically to deliver medical efficacy.
CBD-A provides the following benefits:
- Anti-proliferative: Prevents cancer cells from spreading. CBD-A, along with CBD, THC, and THC-A, has proven to be an effective anti-tumor treatment. Sometimes cannabinoids “re-program” cancer cells to kill themselves, actually shrinking tumors.
- Anti-inflammatory: Reduces inflammation throughout the body. Effective for conditions like arthritis and Crohn’s.
- Antibacterial: Slows bacterial growth, aiding in the fight against infection and bacteria-based conditions such as pneumonia, meningitis, ear infections, strep throat, food poisoning, ulcers, and gonorrhea.
- Anti-emetic: Reduces or eliminates nausea and vomiting. A 2013 study revealed that CBD-A reduces vomiting in laboratory rats. The Schedule I status of cannabis prevents human trials from being conducted in the United States.
To gain the medicinal advantages of CBG-A, one must begin with a plant that is naturally high in the cannabinoid and consume the cannabis without applying heat. One common route of ingestion of the acidic forms of cannabinoids is juicing. Patients take the undried leaves and bud of mature plants and, using a blender or food processor, add a vegetable like carrots (in a 10:1 ratio of vegetable to cannabis to decrease bitterness).
Dr. William Courtney, a Mendocino County, California doctor, is a strong advocate of the health benefits of cannabis juicing. Courtney gained notoriety after helping his wife, Kristen, overcome a collection of debilitating ailments, including systemic lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, endometriosis, and autoimmune disease — using only cannabis juice. The efficacy of the treatments was significant enough to allow Courtney to wean herself off of 40 pharmaceutical drugs, many of which delivered very negative side effects.
The biggest disadvantage of juicing is the inability of patients to find enough raw plant material to juice on a daily basis. Those living in states that have legalized medical marijuana and allow commercial or home cultivation will find it easiest to obtain enough fresh trim to experiment with juicing. Also, because plant material must be fresh, leaves that have dried or been stored for extended periods are not recommended.
CBD-A for Epilepsy?
CBD, the non-acidic form of this cannabinoid, has received a great deal of media attention for its ability to treat intractable epilepsy, especially in children. More research is necessary to learn if this cannabinoid’s acidic precursor may offer similar efficacy for patients with neurological disorders like epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and dystonia.
However, if CBD plays by the rules of other cannabinoids, such as THC, its acidic form CBD-A likely holds significant potential for the treatment of conditions like epilepsy. Synergistic effects involving CBD-A and dozens of other cannabinoids and terpenes are likely involved in the efficacy of particular strains for individual ailments and diseases.
Strains High in CBD-A
Any strain that is high in CBD necessarily contains potent amounts of CBD-A. Because CBD-A is the direct precursor to CBD, the abundance of the latter means the same plant, if it is not decarboxylated, will deliver a roughly equal quantity of CBD-A.
One source of CBD-A is hemp, the cousin to cannabis that, by legal definition, contains less than 0.3 percent THC. Some hemp varieties offer as much as 20 percent CBD-A (assuming that the cannabinoid is extracted properly).
Cannabis strains high in CBD-A include:
- Critical Mass (indica)
- Harlequin (hybrid)
- Mandarin Kush (hybrid)
- Island Sweet Skunk (sativa)
- Shark Shock (indica)
- Boston OG (hybrid)