For decades, the world has been debating the fantastic health benefits of cannabis, and the focus has been chiefly on THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). These two cannabinoids have been studied extensively.
THC is known as the psychoactive component in cannabis, meaning it’s responsible for the “high” associated with its use. CBD, on the other hand, is non-psychoactive and is often used for medicinal purposes due to its anti-inflammatory and anxiolytic effects.
For this reason, the two cannabinoids have had their time in the spotlight, but there is another cannabinoid gaining more and more attention—THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid).
In this blog post, we’ll cover what THCA is and why it’s gaining traction among other cannabinoids, especially with introduction of THCA Isolate.
What is THCA?
THCA, also known as tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in raw and live cannabis. It’s the precursor to THC, meaning it’s converted into THC when exposed to certain environmental factors such as heat or light.
Through the process known as decarboxylation, THCA is converted into THC, which then binds to the CB1 receptors in our endocannabinoid system and produces the psychoactive effects associated with cannabis use.
THCA molecules, conversely, can’t bind to the CB1 receptors due to the size and shape of the molecule, so it doesn’t create the same psychoactive effects as THC.
Although THC was discovered in 1964 by Israeli scientist Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, THCA remained relatively unknown until recently. Now, the cannabinoid is gaining interest due to its potential therapeutic benefits.
In the near future, we can expect to see more and more research into the therapeutic benefits of THCA.
Is THCA the Only Cannabinoid Acid?
No, THCA is not the only cannabinoid acid. In fact, there are several other “acidic” cannabinoids, including:
- CBDA (cannabidiolic acid)
- CBGA (cannabigerolic acid)
- CBCA (cannabichromenic acid)
- CBGVA (cannabigerovarinic acid)
- THCVA (Tetrahydrocanabivarinic acid)
- CBCVA (Cannabichromevarinic acid)
- CBDVA (Cannabidivarinic acid)
These acidic cannabinoids are converted to their neutral forms when exposed to heat or light. For example, CBDA is converted into CBD when heated up and CBCA is converted into CBC when exposed to sunlight.
Among the carboxylic acids, CBGA is a special case. It’s the precursor of all other carboxylic acids and can be found in trace amounts in raw cannabis plants. You can derive the other acids mentioned above from CBGA.
How Does THCA Become THC?
When exposed to heat or light, THCA is converted into THC. This process is known as decarboxylation and it’s essential if you want to unlock the psychoactive effects of cannabis.
Decarboxylation can occur naturally when cannabis is smoked, vaped or cooked at high temperatures. It can also happen through a laboratory process in which THCA is exposed to heat or light.
Therefore, it is safe to conclude that THCA converts to THC easily and can become psychoactive when exposed to certain environmental factors. This affects the method of consumption of THCA as well.
If you want to consume the non-psychoactive effects of THCA, it should be consumed raw or in its live form. If you want to experience the psychoactive effects of cannabis, you should consider exposing THCA to heat or light through methods such as smoking, vaping or cooking.
THCA vs. THC: Differences and Similarities
Based on the facts stated above, it can be almost impossible to separate THCA from THC. Their scientific nature is almost identical, but the manner in which they interact with receptors in our body can be quite different.
To summarize their relationship, we are going to categorize them into 5 aspects:
- Chemical structure
The chemical structure of THCA and THC are almost identical. The only difference is that THCA contains an additional carboxyl group, making it non-psychoactive. This carboxyl group is released when exposed to heat or light, transforming THCA into THC.
THC is known to be much more potent than THCA. This is because it binds easily with CB1 receptors in our body, thus producing the psychoactive “high” associated with its use. On the other hand, THCA doesn’t bind to these receptors and won’t produce a high when consumed raw or live.
However, when exposed to heat or light, THCA is converted into THC and its potency increases.
This means that your method of THCA consumption can determine its potency. If you use raw or live cannabis, your THCA potency will be very low. If you decarboxylate (expose to heat/light) the THCA before consumption, it can become as potent as THC.
Note that any cannabis strain with THC content exceeding 15% is likely to have a high THCA content prior to decarboxylation. Some weed strains with the highest THC percentage include Lemon Meringue, Silver Haze, Hawaiian, Memory Loss, Laughing Buddha, etc.
Unlike THCA, scientists have conducted substantial research on THC due to its potential therapeutic benefits. Some proven THC benefits include alleviating pain, reducing nausea and vomiting, stimulating appetite, improving sleep quality, etc.
THC is also believed to promote neurogenesis (the growth of new neurons in the brain) and improve cognitive function. Research also suggests that THC could improve symptoms of mental illnesses such as depression.
As for THCA, the research is still in its early stages. However, preliminary studies have hinted at some of THCA’s potential therapeutic benefits, such as anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects.
THCA is also believed to help reduce nausea and vomiting, although more research is needed to confirm this.
However, due to the intoxicating effects of THC, it is not recommended for some health conditions, such as seizures. This is where THCA could be a preferable alternative, as it doesn’t have any psychoactive effects like THC.
How do I consume THCA and THC? THC can be consumed in various forms, including smoking, vaping, edibles, and tinctures. However, due to its psychoactive effects, it is not recommended for those sensitive to THC or under 21 (in states where it is legal).
If you want to consume THCA without witnessing any psychoactive effects, it is best to consume it in its raw or live form. Most enthusiasts recommend adding THCA into a smoothie or juice for maximum effects. Alternatively, it can be consumed orally as a raw powder.
The legality of THCA is not fully established yet, as there are no federal laws regarding its use. This makes it fall under the Federal Analogue Act since it can easily be converted to THC.
The legality of THC, however, goes with where marijuana is legal. In states where it is legal, THC and products containing it can be used for medical or recreational purposes.
Can THCA Appear on a Drug Test?
Yes, THCA will show up on a drug test. When THCA is consumed, it is metabolized by the body to create a THC-COOH compound. This is the same compound to which THC is metabolized. Therefore, if the drug test looks for THC-COOH, you are likely to fail the test.
However, some drug tests have the capacity to avoid traces of THC-COOH caused by THCA. This is why it’s important to understand the type of drug test you are going through and how it works.
THCA and THC are almost identical chemical compounds, with the only difference being that THCA has an additional carboxyl group. This makes THCA non-psychoactive, while THC is known for producing powerful psychoactive effects.
THC can be consumed in various forms such as smoking, vaping, edibles, and tinctures. On the other hand, raw or live THCA is the preferred method of consumption if you want to experience its therapeutic benefits without feeling any psychoactive effects.
Finally, it is important to note that THCA can appear on a drug test and potentially cause you to fail the test. Therefore, it’s important to know which type of drug test you are going through and how it works.