Cannabis is primarily known for its mind-altering effects, but there’s much more to this plant than its ability to get people high. It contains hundreds of active and inactive compounds, each with its own unique set of properties and uses. These compounds can impact your mood, stimulate your immune system and alter how your body functions.

The cannabis plant has hundreds of compounds. Among these are at least 113 known cannabinoids, chemical compounds that interact with specific receptors, located within different parts of the central nervous system.

For example, tetrahydrocannabinol (aka THC) is responsible for the plant’s psychoactive effects. Tetrahydrocannabivarin has been found to be a natural caffenator. Conversely, cannabinol is believed to help people sleep. And Cannabidiol, which has risen to prominence in recent years, has a number of proven medical benefits

Less well known is cannabidiolic acid or CBDa. Like CBD, CBDa has been recognized in recent years for its potential benefits, yet little is known about the compound. However, research studies examining the compound are increasingly being released and as interest around it grows, we’re likely to learn more about the oft-forgotten cousin in the cannabis family.

Here are three things you need to know about CBDa.

What is CBDa

Cannabidiolic acid can be found in the stems, leaves and flowers of some varieties of cannabis plants.  It’s particularly prevalent in hemp plants which are bred to contain lower levels of THC and higher levels of CBD.

CBDa is an acidic precursor to CBD. When the compound is exposed to heat it turns into CBD through a process is called decarboxylation. Through this process, carbon dioxide and hydrogen are removed.

While CBD product manufacturers cultivate cannabis specifically for the purpose of processing CBDa to create CBD, decarboxylation can occur naturally as a result of the plant aging and being exposed to environmental light and heat. For this reason, the compound is most commonly found in live or raw cannabis.

In order to access the benefits of CBDa, raw cannabis plants are juiced and ingested in juice form or smoothies. People also ingest the compound by eating raw cannabis leaves in salads. It can also be put into topical treatments and applied to the skin.

What are the Benefits

CBD has numerous health benefits that are believed to be linked to the way the compound interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system. However, while research suggests cannabidiolic acid has its own set of health benefits, this compound does not interact with the endocannabinoid system. Instead, CBDa works by interacting with different receptors and enzymes in the human body.

Like CBD, there’s evidence to suggest CBDa has potential as an anti-epilepsy drug.  It’s also believed to be effective in combating nausea.

Similar to CBD, the compound could also be effective in reducing inflammation. While CBD decreases inflammation by interacting with the endocannabinoid system, CBDa could potentially reduce inflammation by inhibiting COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes which produce inflammation responses.

Additionally, like CBD, CBDa is believed to have potential in the area of mental health.  The compound is capable of activating the serotonin 5-HT1A receptor, which is responsible for mood stabilization.

What Studies Show

To date, minimal research has been conducted to examine how cannabidiolic acid impacts humans. So far researchers have done studies on how the compound interacts with cell cultures and animal models, but human studies have yet to be conducted.

Much research has been conducted on the impact of CBDa on nausea. One study published in 2017, found that the compound is very well tolerated in patients and does not carry the sedative side effect profile of benzodiazepines. The study concluded that more research should be conducted to examine it’s use in anticipatory nausea treatment.

In 2015 and 2016, two separate studies examined the combined effects of CBDa and THC on nausea in rodent models. Researchers in the first study determined that when taken together, the two compounds are particularly effective as a treatment for acute nausea. Researchers in the second study concluded that oral THC and CBDa may be an effective new treatment for acute nausea, anticipatory nausea, and appetite enhancement in chemotherapy patients.

Additionally, studies have examined the impact of CBDa in conditions beyond nausea. A 2008 study looked at it’s impact on the COX-2 enzyme which is tied to inflammation. Steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which are commonly used to treat inflammation, work by inhibiting COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes. The study found that CBDa was capable of selectively inhibiting COX-2 enzymes but not COX-1 enzymes.

Another study, published in 2012, suggested for the first time that CBDa offers potential therapeutic benefits in inhibiting cancer cells. In particular, the study found that the compound inhibits the migration of highly invasive MDA-MB-231 human breast cancer cells.

Finally, a 2017 study looked at the impact of CBDa in treating depression in rodents models. The study revealed that it had an antidepressant effect at doses 10-100 times smaller than CBD, which has also been found to have a mood stabilizing effect.