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There is something a bit loaded about the letters THC. Any American adult knows that the acronym is a compound demonized for decades before its renaissance in the 2010s as multiple states broke barriers to decriminalize marijuana.

Yes, THC is a loaded term, but every year, we inch a little closer to normalizing the benefits of this infamous cannabinoid, everything from pain management to boosting appetite to aiding with insomnia.

In a way, we are beginning to realize the relative advantages of allowing THC to become both a recreational and therapeutic addition to the daily lives of adults. 

That brings us to THCV, an emerging sibling of THC which has been on researchers’ radar for some time but is only gaining popularity in the wake of the aforementioned American age of cannabis.

If CBD is the “PG-rated THC” of cannabis extracts, THCV has been called “diet THC” by some, giving you an idea of how people have begun to understand this mysterious compound. 

Part of the reason why THCV is so mysterious is that it is not exactly an easily attainable or extracted cannabinoid.

It is mainly found in cannabis Sativa plants harvested in South Africa and Asia, making this a mostly imported cannabinoid. In addition, it is found in cannabis plants originating in Nepal, Thailand, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. 

By contrast, any hemp or cannabis plant grown in North America will have far lower amounts of THCV, if any at all. Since these strains are not prevalent in the United States and are mainly found in rare “parent” strains originating in southern Africa and South Asia. 

It behooves us to give you a picture of what THCV is with the bit of research we have available to us at this time.

Below, we will outline some of the science behind the plant, what its effects and benefits are, and what to expect if it begins to emerge on the market and take the world by storm.

Much as CBD has in the wake of the 2018 farm bill that opened the door for cannabis (at least in hemp form) to be a fairly regular part of everyday American life. Read on after the jump for a closer look at THCV.

THCV: A Unique Cannabis Plant Extract

So, what is THCV? Is it anything like smoking marijuana? What kind of health benefits does it have? Can I buy it over the counter? 

Okay, let’s take it slow and start with the fundamentals. And the fundamentals begin in a somewhat mysterious setting. The truth is, this is one of the least studied cannabinoids. So first, let’s get into the science behind THCV (we promise this part is interesting!). 

First, THCV is short for Tetrahydrocannabivarin. A mouthful, right? Yeah, we thought so too.

Second, THCV is much easier to understand and remember. But the last part of the word is vital. THCV is called that because of its status as a homologue of THC, meaning it has a key repeating molecule that distinguishes it from its “parent” strain.

Third, THCV has a propyl molecule, or a 3-carbon molecule, instead of a pentyl 5-carbon molecule, making it leagues different from its father, THC. 

Another key fact about THCV? It is an antagonist of THC at the CB1 receptor in the body, meaning its presence tends to cancel out the effects of classic THC.

We will get more into this in the next section, but for now, we will try to stick to just the basic science and facts about this mysterious cannabinoid. 

In lower doses, THCV avoids producing psychoactive effects due to its status as a receptor antagonist on the CB1 receptor. But at higher doses, it has psychoactive effects like regular THC. 

Because of the difference between THC and THCV’s carbon group, THCV’s boiling point threshold is higher than regular THC, boiling at 428° compared to 315°.

This helps explain the difference in psychoactivity depending on the dosage. In other words, THCV is your best friend if you are wary of the risks of negative side effects with regular THC, but your worst enemy if you take it in higher doses. 

You cannot be blamed if all of this sounds new to you, as this is the kind of information that only those neck-deep in the cannabis industry would know about.

Additionally, did you know that every cannabis plant has up to 100 cannabinoids and 300 other kinds of “non-cannabinoid” substances? The cannabis plant is highly complex, and there is so much left to learn about what its compounds can do to the human body in isolation. 

One of the things we can answer, though, are some of the differences between THCV and THC on their own.

While there is not much information or solid research available regarding THCV, there is plenty on THC, and this research can be quite instructive. We will get into that in the next section. 

How THC V Differs From Good Old THC

We know quite a bit about THC in the 21st century, and we know about it because it has inundated our pop culture stratosphere for multiple generations at this point.

We know its psychoactive effects, its health benefits, the not so rare munchies sessions, and the terrific benefits for pain management and research for cancer patients. But these surface-level observations do not tell us much about the science.

So what is going on with our bodies when we consume THC? 

All mammals have what is called an endocannabinoid system. This system helps regulate things like mood, appetite, sleep, memory, fertility, and reproduction.

It does not matter if you use THC, THCV, or any cannabis product; your endocannabinoid system exists and is part of what makes your body “tick.” 

The body has its endocannabinoid molecules, named anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). Your body produces these molecules in response to its own goings-on, leaving us slightly in the dark about how many of these molecules are made and when. 

Next, we have endocannabinoid receptors that these molecules link to. These receptors are called CB1, found in the central nervous system, and CB2 found primarily in immune cells.

Endocannabinoid molecules bind to these receptors, and the effects produced depend on where and which receptors are attached to. For example, CB1 receptors could bind to these molecules to relieve pain, and CB2 receptors could bind to trigger the immune system’s response to inflammation. 

That brings us to THC and THCV’s effect on this system. When an individual smokes marijuana, the endocannabinoid system is flooded with these molecules, making it difficult for the body to do its own natural “thing” with the endocannabinoid system and causing the famous psychoactive and physical effects that THC Is known for. 

THCV, however, has a different effect. Called “diet weed” and compared to Adderall, you can surmise with just that information that THCV has a vastly different role to play in our bodies when we ingest it.

It has been said that the combination of THC and THCV creates an effect where the psychoactive effects of THC are mitigated, but this is primarily anecdotal.

Hemp and cannabis producers are unsure if THCV in isolation does anything overt, the way THC does, comparing it to CBD’s subtle benefits and relaxing vibe. 

There is stronger anecdotal evidence (and some research!) for THCV in a different, non-psychoactive category, however, and one that could make waves if it bears out, and that’s what we will get into in the next section. 

THCV: A New Weight Loss Frontier? 

You would be forgiven if you were somewhat skeptical of the idea of *anything* with THC in its name had the effect of suppressing appetite. After all, the munchies are a hallmark side effect of THC. But so far, animal research has indicated some reduction in appetite. 

The mechanism goes something like this: THCV has the capability to block the CB1 receptor in smaller doses, and this is the receptor that handles appetite.

The interaction between THCV and CB1 could mean that appetite goes in the other direction when consuming THCV, a welcome finding for the weight loss industry if it bears out. 

A 2009 study mostly aligned with this theory, showing decreased food intake and weight loss in rodents. In 2013, a similar study showed that it may have a positive effect on glucose tolerance.

In a study on individuals with Type 2 diabetes, THCV was administered vs. a placebo group at 10 mg daily and was found to decrease fasting glucose and aided in pancreatic function over 13 weeks.

Marked weight loss was not observed, but the findings on diabetes were quite encouraging. 

A different, human study from 2015 that looked at food aversion and reward involved participants taking 10 mg of THCV daily.

This particular study found that brain regions that handle food aversion and reward were activated throughout the administration of the THCV, but overall results were inconclusive.  

As you can see, there is more work to be done in terms of nailing down a more concrete use for this compound. In the interim, we can at least assume that it does have many health benefits when taken in lower targeted doses. 

THCV and Future Possibilities

In the last section, we covered the prospects THCV has for weight loss. But in other research, there have been growing signs of more specific benefits that THCV can provide, such as treatment for debilitating conditions like Parkinson’s and ALS; THCV has shown benefits with regard to the nervous system, which is where these diseases originate.  

There are even possibilities when it comes to Alzheimer’s disease, as THCV has shown potential in this arena as well. 

Bacterial inflammation is another area in which THCV has shown benefits. 

As a cannabinoid, THCV has been shown to block the production of certain sebaceous lipids that cause acne, a welcome possibility in what is a very common dermatologic affliction. 

As a therapeutic, THCV may also help combat the ills of fatty liver disease, and studies were conducted on those with non-alcoholic origins of the disease which can cause insulin resistance and other issues. 

Even generalized, everyday pain management can be managed with cannabinoids, and the linked study specifically references good old THCV as a potential gold mine for this.

Epilepsy, like Parkinson’s, showed remarkable improvement in rodents, with less incidence and severity of epileptic episodes.

It is still early days for THCV and at PureKana we know we will not be getting any answers right off the bat, but these signs for THCV are nothing to sneeze at and we should help them flesh themselves out, especially if THCV begins to grow in popularity.

Sources:

Illicitly imported Cannabis products: some physical and chemical features indicative of their origin

Synthetic and plant-derived cannabinoid receptor antagonists show hypophagic properties in fasted and non-fasted mice

The Ultimate Guide to THCV Strains

Endocannabinoid System: A Simple Guide to How It Works

The Science of the Endocannabinoid System: How THC Affects the Brain and the Body | Scholastic: Nida

Cannabinoids for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease: moving toward the clinic

Differential effectiveness of selected non-psychotropic phytocannabinoids on human sebocyte functions implicates their introduction in dry/seborrhoeic skin and acne treatment

Two non-psychoactive cannabinoids reduce intracellular lipid levels and inhibit hepatosteatosis

The plant cannabinoid Delta9-tetrahydrocannabivarin can decrease signs of inflammation and inflammatory pain in mice

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