What Makes Raw Cannabinoids So Special?
All cannabinoids start life as an acidic compound
With cannabinoid-derived products becoming commonplace, it can be hard to imagine cannabinoids existing undisturbed inside a cannabis plant. If you were to reverse the extraction process, you would end up with a healthy cannabis plant filled with raw, acidic cannabinoids. Without the influence of heat, time, or exposure to the atmosphere, these acidic cannabinoids are the precursor to their activated counterparts.
When we say activated cannabinoids, we mean THC or CBD. Neither of these cannabinoids has retained the “A” necessary to make them acidic. Instead, after being subjected to a process known as decarboxylation (applying heat to cannabinoids), the volatile acid molecules are removed. In the case of the cannabinoids mentioned above, if you reversed the decarboxylation process, you would end up with THCA and CBDA.
The “A” makes a big difference
The easiest way to gain access to acidic cannabinoids is to eat the cannabis plant raw. Juicing the leaves, flowers, and even stems provides an abundance of both THC-acid (THCA) and CBD-acid (CBDA). Considering both CBD and THC have taken centre stage when it comes to research and mainstream consumer interest, you may be wondering what the point of raw cannabinoids might be.
Just like their activated counterparts, acidic cannabinoids are starting to gain numerous accolades. For a start, acidic cannabinoids are non-psychoactive. Even though THCA shares some attributes with THC, it will not get you high. It is therefore possible to retain some of the therapeutic benefits without psychoactive side effects. Preliminary studies are showing that in some cases, acidic cannabinoids could be beneficial in their own right.
The most common acidic cannabinoids
We’ve mentioned THCA and CBDA, but these are not the only acidic cannabinoids that exist. Take a deep dive inside a cannabis plant, and you will also find CBGA, CBCA, and many, many more. The selection of acidic cannabinoids present, as well as their exact ratio, vastly differs depending on the species of cannabis plant. C. indica, C. sativa, and C. ruderalis will all feature differing proportions of the cannabinoids we have mentioned above.
Activated versus non-activated cannabinoids
The next logical question is, which is better: activated cannabinoids or non-activated (acidic) cannabinoids? The common misconception is that activated cannabinoids are stronger and more effective than their non-activated counterparts. The reality is that while activated cannabinoids may be more potent, that have a different set of uses. Several studies favour the use of non-activated cannabinoids because they have minimal side effects and can be regularly consumed. In acid form, cannabinoids have different therapeutic applications, although it is true that less is known about their capabilities.
Fortunately, the lack of information about these raw compounds is changing. Studies are starting to show that non-activated cannabinoids, like THCA and CBDA, may have unique uses. In some scenarios, they could be more suitable as a treatment option than their activated form. The next time you read about CBD, spare a thought for its acidic precursor CBDA. Without raw cannabinoids, we wouldn't have the hundreds of variations that exist inside a cannabis plant.