What does CBD stand for? And the Other ABC’s of Hemp

Every industry has its fair share of technical jargon. The hemp industry is no different.

  • “What does CBD stand for?”
  • “What about THC?”
  • “A C.o.A?”

It’s easy to get a little turned around with all of these three- and four-letter abbreviations. In this post, we’re going to define some of the more common terms.

What Does CBD Stand For?

CBD is the abbreviation for Canna-Bi-Diol. CBD is one of the many chemical compounds present in cannabis plants.

What is Cannabidiol? Learn more here

Unlike it’s cousin THC, cannabidiol is not psychoactive. In other words, consuming CBD by itself will not make you feel intoxicated or “high.” This lack of high has even led the World Health Organization to state, “In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential….To date, there is no evidence of public health-related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.”

How Does CBD Work?

CBD interacts with our bodies in a number of ways— the main being with our endocannabinoid system which is a system that helps our bodies regulate:

  • Sleep

  • Mood

  • Stress

  • General appetite and metabolism

  • Memory and learning

  • Inflammation

Some believe that consuming CBD and other cannabinoids can actually help our endocannabinoid system run more efficiently. There is still plenty of research to be undertaken, but early returns suggest that CBD can help with pain management, feelings of nausea, and symptoms related to inflammation.

What Does CBD Stand For CBD Molecule
Credit: Nationwide Testing Association, Inc.

What Does CBDa Stand For?

CBDa stands for cannabidiolic acid. It is the precursor to CBD. Found mainly in raw forms of CBD hemp flower, CBDa will convert to CBD through a process called decarboxylation. 

Decarboxylation is a process in which CBDa is introduced to heat, and as a result drops one of its carboxyl rings. Once this happens, your CBD is “activated” and ready for consumption. This activation step is very easy to overlook when making CBD edibles

What Does THC Stand For?

Perhaps the one cannabinoid better known than CBD, THC stands for Tetrahydrocannabinol. THC is generally a common stand-in for Δ9-THC (delta-nine tetrahydrocannabinol,) a schedule I substance in the United States. There are also similar legally-murky molecules known as Δ8-THC (delta-eight tetrahydrocannabinol) and Δ10-THC (delta-10 tetrahydrocannabinol) that affect our bodies similarly to Δ9-THC.

THC is best known for its psychoactive properties— inducing euphoria in users, heightened awareness, and time dilation.

What Does THCa Stand For?

THCa stands for tetrahydrocannabinol acid. Much like the relationship between CBDa and CBD, THCa is the precursor to THC and is found in raw forms of cannabis. 

THCa is a fun molecule because unlike THC, THCa is not psychoactive and its consumption won’t make you high. 

What Does CBG Stand For?

CBG is short for Cannabigerol, another of the 120 cannabinoids found in hemp. Both CBG and CBD come from the same parent cannabinoid— Cannabigerolic Acid (CBGa for short.)

CBG research is relatively new and in pre-clinical stages. That said, the benefits of CBG are being studied in animals currently and there are some promising signs:

  • Like CBD, CBG is believed to have anti-inflammatory properties.

  • In early animal models, CBG has been shown to slow and inhibit tumor growth.

  • CBG is believed to have neuroprotective properties. If this is true, the molecule could help further research into treatments for Huntington’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, and several other diseases.

Cannabigerolic Acid (CBGa) is the precursor to CBD by way of CBDa Synthase; a process in which CBGa splits into CBDa and a hydrogen peroxide molecule. It’s believed that this synthase step may help contribute to the hemp plant’s own self-defense system. CBDa can then become CBD through the same decarboxylation process described above.

What Does “CBD/Hemp Flower” Mean?

CBD flower and hemp flower are synonymous with each other. Hemp flower refers to the unprocessed bud from a female hemp plant. When it’s dried and cured, it’s almost indistinguishable from traditional marijuana. 

The real difference between the two are in the different cannabinoids (CBD/THC/CBG) that the hemp plant is designed to produce. To be considered a hemp flower, the flower must contain less than 0.3% of Δ9-THC by dry weight. 

More simply put, if a one gram (1000mg) cannabis flower sample contains more than 30mg of Δ9-THC it is considered marijuana. If that same sample contains less than 30mg of Δ9-THC, then it’s considered hemp flower.

What Does CoA Stand For?

CoA stands for Certificate of Analysis— a document provided by a third-party laboratory that certifies the potency of a specific CBD product.

You should always ask to be provided with a CoA when purchasing (or even looking at) CBD products. Any reputable vendor will happily provide you with one. Have a look at ours here!

A little confused by what you’re looking at? Don’t be. Check out our handy guide where we talk about how to read your own CoAs and become a CBD expert. Learn how to read your CoA here

What Does Kief/Keef Stand For?

Kief is unlike the rest of the terms we’ve covered thus far. Kief isn’t an abbreviation, but it does deserve its own little section here. Kief is the name for a collection of trichome heads that develop on flowering cannabis plants. The word itself is derived from the Arabic word meaning “pleasure.”

Usually, kief is used in conjunction with other cannabis products to enhance the effects. Check out Sunset Lake’s in-depth explainer on kief here.

What Does “Terps” Stand For?

Terps, short for terpenes, refers to the organic compounds in the essential oils that give cannabis flowers their fragrance and flavor. As of this writing, there are believed to be around 120 identifiable terpenes that develop in cannabis.

It’s also believed that a cannabis plant’s terpene profile can actually work together with the cannabinoids to produce desired effects.

What Are Flavonoids?

Flavonoids are various compounds found in a lot of fruits and vegetables. They are also found in cannabis plants, though to a lesser extent. Flavonoids work in tandem with the aforementioned terpenes to give cannabis its smell and taste. 

Flavonoids are also rich in antioxidants and can help your body fight off any potentially harmful molecules introduced into your system.

Updated 9/1/2021


  1. “CANNABIDIOL (CBD) Pre-Review Report.” World Health Organization , World Health Organization , Nov. 2017,
  2. “Endocannabinoid System: A Simple Guide to How It Works.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 17 May 2019, endocannabinoid-system#how-it-works.
  3. Watson, Kathryn. “Everything You Need to Know About Flavonoids.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 23 Oct. 2019, what-are-flavonoids-everything-you-need-to-know.