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CBD, THCa, Cannabinoids
October 19, 2023 By Wild Orchard Co.

Your Wild n’ Awesome Cannabinoid Matchup: CBD vs. THCa

Did you know that there are over 100 cannabinoids found naturally in the cannabis plant?  In fact, some are a lot more popular on the market than others.  Today, we’d like to explore two cannabinoids that really reign supreme: CBD (cannabidiol) and THCa (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid).  These cannabinoids are quite unique from one another.  So, it’s important then to know how each one can affect you.  This is particularly the case when it comes to psychoactive properties.

Cannabinoid Basics

Before we take a look at the differences between CBD and THCa, let’s talk about cannabinoids overall.  Cannabinoids are the main compounds responsible for the distinctive effects we get from cannabis.  These compounds are really unique because they’re the only compounds found in plant life that directly work with our endocannabinoid system (ECS).

The endocannabinoid system is a complex network of cannabinoid receptors (CB receptors) and endocannabinoids.  Each maintains the task of regulating processes of the body, i.e., pain tolerance, stress response, sleep, inflammation, and more.  Cannabinoids in hemp and marijuana attach to different cannabinoid receptors in the body.  Thus, resulting in chemical reactions that improve how efficient these physiological processes are.  Basically, consuming cannabinoids supports our body’s innate methods for maintaining homeostasis, for optimal wellbeing.

One thing that a lot of people don’t know is that all cannabinoids come from CBG, or cannabigerol, the singular cannabinoid present in young cannabis, before the plant matures during the growing process.  CBG eventually branches itself out to become over 100 individual cannabinoids that are isomers of one another, including the ones that we’re diving into today.

The Basics on THCa

CBD, THCa, Cannabinoids

THCa, or tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, is the raw form of delta 9 THC, and you’ll only find it in raw cannabis flower.  Basically, all cannabinoids have an acidic precursor form – like CBDa, which converts into CBD – and these compounds only convert into their more widely used counterparts after the plant has been heated.  That’s why, for example, smoking raw flower gets us high, but eating it doesn’t.  Heat has to be applied for THCa to become THC, and the compound takes on new properties during this process.

Can You Get High from THCa?

Now, here’s where things get a little complicated, so bear with us.  You can’t get high off of THCa, because again, it isn’t intoxicating until it’s heated, converting it into delta 9 THC, which gains the ability to attach to cannabinoid receptors in the brain to trigger intoxication.

But, the majority of THCa products that you’ll encounter will get you high.  The reason why is that these products have to be heated in order to be usable.  We’re talking about flower, vapes, and dabs, all of which undergo a heating process through combustion or vaporization.  This process converts the THCa into delta 9 THC, and as we all know, delta 9 THC is absolutely intoxicating – it’s what gives weed its notorious high, after all.

Does THCa Have Any Benefits?

THCa has inherent benefits in raw form, which is something that might surprise people.  And, while there’s plenty of research on THCa’s benefits, we are really focusing on products like THCa flower, vapes, and concentrates, which aren’t feeding you THCa, but delta 9 THC.  In other words, these products will give you the benefits of delta 9.  And, this we know about through many decades’ worth of clinical research.

These benefits include:

  • Effects on Appetite and Nausea: Studies have shown that delta 9 THC can reduce nausea and episodes of vomiting, all while improving appetite (after all, a lot of us are familiar with the munchies)
  • Better Mood and Better Sleep: Researchers have found that delta 9 regulates neurotransmitters in the brain that impact our mood and stress response, which is why so many people find THC to be both relaxing and uplifting. It can also improve sleep by balancing hormones that affect our sleep response.
  • Anti-Inflammatory and Analgesic Properties: Delta 9 THC is known for both its anti-inflammatory and analgesic that can help with physical discomfort and inflammatory symptoms, as we’ve seen proven in a number of studies.
  • Neurological Effects: A lot of studies have explored the way in which delta 9 can regulate neurological function, and studies done on multiple sclerosis and epilepsy show that delta 9 THC has a strong likelihood of improving symptoms.

How are THCa Products Made?

THCa naturally exists in the hemp plant, but there are a few ways to make specific THCa products.  One is by growing THCa flower, by cultivating industrial hemp and exposing it to specific conditions that naturally increase its THCa concentration.  This is how most THCa flower and concentrates are created.  Usually, for vapes, a distillate is created through isomerization.  This is the process of rearranging the molecules in CBD distillate to turn it into THCa distillate.  It can then be enhanced with terpene extracts to offer a full-spectrum vape oil.

Can You Enjoy THCa Legally?

Yes, THCa converts into delta 9 easily through the application of heat, and we know that federal law prohibits sales of hemp products that contain more than 0.3% delta 9 THC.  But, when you test a THCa product, it’s compliant with this law, as the THCa hasn’t converted yet.  That means that THCa products are totally legal under federal law.  However, several states have banned THCa products, as in products that contain more than 0.3% THCa + delta 9 combined:

  • Arkansas
  • Hawaii
  • Minnesota
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island

The Basics on CBD

Cannabidiol is the dominant chemical compound in the hemp plant,  It accounts for up to 25% or so of the plant’s chemical composition.  CBD was first discovered in the 1940s, and by the 1960s, scientists had managed to isolate the cannabinoid and start exploring its properties to develop a good understanding of what kinds of benefits it can offer.  CBD is also found in marijuana, but only in trace amounts by comparison.

Can You Get High from CBD?

CBD is not intoxicating whatsoever.  And, unlike THCa, that’s not because CBD has to be converted through heating to become psychoactive.  Cannabidiol simply does not interact with the same cannabinoid receptors as THC.  Hence,  it won’t get you high, no matter how much you take.  It can offer mood benefits, but those aren’t because of intoxicating qualities.

Does CBD Have Any Benefits?

  • Analgesic and Anti-Inflammatory: Like THC, CBD is both analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties that can help with inflammatory symptoms as well as discomfort in the body.
  • Better Mood: CBD also helps improve mood like THC, because it also has the ability to regulate neurotransmitters that affect stress levels and overall mood, to provide people with an uplifting yet calming effect. Again, this can also offer improved sleep.
  • Better Appetite and Less Nausea: Like THC, CBD can improve appetite and reduce nausea, as studies have shown.
  • Improved Immune Function: CBD has been shown to regulate immune function, and a lot of research has shown that taking CBD daily can offer very valuable effects to our immunity.
  • Properties related to epilepsy: A significant amount of research has introduced us to the neuroprotective properties of cannabidiol which can regulate neurological function, and specifically, researchers are very interested in the role that CBD could play in managing symptoms of epilepsy through its anticonvulsant and neuroprotective properties.

How are CBD Products Made?

CBD products are pretty straightforward, as it’s easy to extract the cannabinoid from the plant material since it’s so naturally abundant.  CBD flower is the exception.  You see, it’s just raw hemp flower which naturally yields a high concentration of cannabidiol.  And of course, no extraction process is necessary.

Can You Enjoy CBD Legally?

CBD is completely legal according to federal law, and in all 50 states.

CBD or THCa: Which One Will It Be?

As you can see, CBD and THCa each offer a lot to anyone looking to benefit from cannabinoids.  Of course, the key difference is that most THCa products are gonna get you high.  Once again, it’s because they involve turning that THCa into THC.  On the flip side, CBD will never get you high no matter what.  Otherwise, they’re both rich in benefits, and very much worth exploring.