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Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are not the only compounds present in cannabis. There are over one hundred distinct cannabinoids present in the marijuana plant.

In particular, two of these unique cannabinoids that are starting to make major waves in the cannabis industry are called THCA and THCV. But what are these cannabinoids and how do they work?

Put simply, THCA refers to the most abundant non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in cannabis (and the precursor to THC).

THCV, on the other hand, is a psychoactive cannabinoid found most prevalently in Sativa strains of cannabis.

Overall, both cannabinoids offer amazing health benefits for cannabis connoisseurs to enjoy. Let’s take a closer look. 

What is THCA? 

THCA stands for tetrahydrocannabinolic acid and it is the precursor to THC. You have likely heard of THC, the most famous and well-researched cannabinoid found in cannabis, however, raw THCA has very different properties from its intoxicating cousin. 

Unlike THC, THCA is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid found in raw and live cannabis.

When the raw form of THCA is heated, it is converted into THC through the process of decarboxylation. There are many ways for that to happen include:

  • Sunlight Exposure
  • Room Temperature Exposure
  • Heat Exposure through smoking, vaping, concentrates, and oven decarboxylation

THCA is considered non-psychoactive meaning you do not experience a “high” when imbibing it.

This is due to the fact that THCA does bind well with either CB1 or CB2 receptors in our endocannabinoid system.

It is not psychoactive due to its distinct, 3-dimensional shape and larger size which prevents it from fitting into CB1 receptors.

THCA Benefits

Right now, there is not enough research on THCA to definitively state what it can treat and with what degree of efficacy, but preliminary research and anecdotal evidence suggest that THCA may soon play a pivotal role in the cannabis industry going forward.

As mentioned above, THCA does not produce a “high,” since it does not interact effectively with our body’s cannabinoid receptors.

Furthermore, it is thought that THCA may also inhibit certain enzymes in our body, resulting in the potential to reduce pain and inflammation.

Both these enzymes produce prostaglandins which promote inflammation, pain, and fever.

A 2011 study published in the Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin suggested that THCA demonstrated anti-inflammatory properties in lab studies.

Another 2021 study on mice, showed THCA’s great potential as a treatment for fatty liver disease because of its anti-inflammatory traits. 

Another 2017 study, published in the British Journal of Pharmacology, points to THCA’s ability to help protect against neurodegenerative diseases.  

A 2020 study published in the journal Psychopharmacology found that both THCA was effective in reducing nausea and vomiting in rat models, even more so than THC and CBD.

Finally, another 2020 study that looked at mice and was published in the journal Biochemical Pharmacology demonstrated THCA’s apparent ability to reduce obesity and associated diseases including diabetes and fatty liver disease. 

As with all of the above findings, more research is needed before drawing any definitive conclusions.

What is THCV?

THCV, or delta 9 tetrahydrocannabivarin, is a molecule that looks exactly like THC without two carbon atoms.

It is also one of the latest cannabinoids being added to products in the booming legal cannabis industry.

THCV stands out since it does have the potential to get you stoned, but you can only achieve this THCV high in larger doses.

This form of THC  typically acts as an antagonist to cannabinoid receptors at low doses, meaning it binds to the receptor but causes no effect.

THCV Benefits

As we mentioned above, THCV can act similarly to THC as an agonist of the body’s CB1 endocannabinoid receptor, although the effects of THCV are much weaker.

But crucially, there is also evidence that THCV can behave as a CB1 receptor antagonist at lower doses, meaning that it has the potential to attenuate some of the less-desirable effects of THC that are thought to be CB1 receptor mediated, such as poorer motor control, lessened cognitive function, and even the food craving “munchies.”

Its ability to inhibit the action of CB1 receptors has made it a particular focus for research into appetite regulation.

Research has found that THCV can effectively reduce appetite, and may even be able to improve connectivity in certain areas of the brain that are altered in some people with obesity.

While THCV’s documented action as an appetite suppressant is of interest in terms of tackling obesity, it is also important that cannabis users who are already underweight, undergoing treatment for anorexia, or who are otherwise being treated for problems with low appetite be aware of this effect, so that they can avoid products containing non-negligible amounts of THCV.

THCV has also been found in laboratory studies on mice to decrease inflammation, swelling, and pain through its effects on cannabinoid receptors in the body.

Additionally, during the study, the mice did not develop a tolerance for the THCV.

In addition, THCV in high doses reportedly gives users a short-lasting but especially energetic high sensation.

The compound has also been linked to a variety of other physiological effects that make it a notable prospect for medical cannabis research.

Conclusion

Though minor cannabinoids like THCA and THCV are still not as fully understood as THC and CBD, enough medicinal benefits have been discovered to justify more research into these promising compounds.

It is currently difficult to obtain many of the minor cannabinoids in large quantities.

Therefore, the best way to get the advantages of all the cannabinoids, both major and minor, is by exploring full spectrum whole-plant cannabis products.

Doing so will ensure that you receive the full entourage effect of your cannabis experience.

Whether cannabis is smoked, eaten, vaped, or juiced raw, understanding the plant’s cannabinoids and how they interact with our bodies is crucial in achieving the desired effects and avoiding adverse side effects.

Cannabis molecules each have their own benefits and much more research is needed to understand the full scope of what they may offer. 

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