In the present study it was revealed that cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) selectively inhibited cyclooxygenase (COX)-2 activity with an IC(50) value (50% inhibition concentration) around 2 microM, having 9-fold higher selectivity than COX-1 inhibition. In contrast, Delta(9)-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (Delta(9)-THCA) was a much less potent inhibitor of COX-2 (IC(50) > 100 microM). Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs containing a carboxyl group in their chemical structures such as salicylic acid are known to inhibit nonselectively both COX-1 and COX-2. CBDA and Delta(9)-THCA have a salicylic acid moiety in their structures. Thus, the structural requirements for the CBDA-mediated COX-2 inhibition were next studied. There is a structural difference between CBDA and Delta(9)-THCA; phenolic hydroxyl groups of CBDA are freed from the ring formation with the terpene moiety, although Delta(9)-THCA has dibenzopyran ring structure. It was assumed that the whole structure of CBDA is important for COX-2 selective inhibition because beta-resorcylic acid itself did not inhibit COX-2 activity. Methylation of the carboxylic acid moiety of CBDA led to disappearance of COX-2 selectivity. Thus, it was suggested that the carboxylic acid moiety in CBDA is a key determinant for the inhibition. Furthermore, the crude extract of cannabis containing mainly CBDA was shown to have a selective inhibitory effect on COX-2. Taken together, these lines of evidence in this study suggest that naturally occurring CBDA in cannabis is a selective inhibitor for COX-2.