Your Wild n’ Awesome Cannabinoid Matchup: THCv vs. THCa
There are over 100 cannabinoids that naturally occur in cannabis, and every cannabis enthusiast knows that some of them are more widely available on the market than others. Right now, we’re focusing on two in particular: THCv (tetrahydrocannabivarin) and THCa (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid). These cannabinoids definitely have a lot in common, but ultimately, they feel very different in the body and achieve different benefits, so you’ll want to understand the basics of each before making a choice between the two.
Before we explore the differences between THCv and THCa, let’s talk about cannabinoids overall. Cannabinoids are the main compounds in cannabis that deliver effects to the human system. These compounds are distinctive in that they’re the only compounds in plants that directly work with our endocannabinoid system (ECS).
The endocannabinoid system is a complex network of cannabinoid receptors and endocannabinoids that maintain the task of regulating processes of the body, like pain tolerance, stress response, sleep, inflammation, and more. Cannabinoids in hemp and marijuana attach to different cannabinoid receptors in the body, 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.
You may not know that every cannabinoid starts out as CBG, aka 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.
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, the cannabinoid 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 are on the market will get you high. That’s because 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 a lot of people don’t know. And, while there’s plenty of research on THCa’s benefits, we’re 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, which 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, rearranging the molecules in CBD distillate to turn it into THCa distillate, which can then be blended with terpene extracts to offer a full-spectrum vape oil in disposable or vape cart form.
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 a company tests a THCa product for compliance, it’s actually legal, 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:
- Rhode Island
THCv, or tetrahydrocannabivarin, is another naturally occurring cannabinoid in hemp, and unlike THCa, it’s present in decarboxylated cannabis – in other words, THCv is the result of heating tetrahydrocannabivaric acid. Discovered in the 1970s, it’s actually been studied a good amount over the decades.
Can You Get High from THCv?
This is another complicated question, for different reasons from THCa. THCv is inherently intoxicating – but very mildly so, and it seems that to get the psychoactive effects of it, you need to take a lot of it – more than what’s a standard dose for, say, delta 9. People do report feeling a mild uplifting buzz after taking high doses of THCv.
Does THCv Have Any Benefits?
- Anti-Inflammatory Properties: THCv is like to have powerful anti-inflammatory properties, like THCa/delta 9 THC.
- Neurological Benefits: THCv has been studied for its anti-seizure activity which can play a positive role in addressing epilepsy. Overall, it’s a neuroprotectant, and so it can encourage healthy neuronal activity in the brain.
- Effects Related to Diabetes and Obesity: THCv is the cannabinoid that’s being studied for its ability to regulate blood sugar and insulin in the body, with lots of research showing very promising results for those with diabetes. It’s also been studied for its effects on obesity, as it may influence the way in which fat is stored and utilized in the body.
How are THCv Products Made?
Making a THCv product involves isomerization, in order to end up with an isolated THCv extract. This is a process in which CBD is converted by chemically rearranging its molecular structure – something that’s made possible because, again, all cannabinoids start out as CBG, and so they are isomers of one another. This creates THCv distillate, which can be used in a wide range of formulas.
Can You Enjoy THCv Legally?
THCv is compliant with federal law in any strength or product form. How come? Well, because only delta 9 THC is a restricted hemp derivative. Still, it’s actually illegal in the following states:
- New York
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
THCv or THCa: The Choice is Yours
THCv and THCa offer all kinds of amazing properties to the mind & body through their interactions with the ECS that keeps us in homeostasis. Yet, despite their similar-sounding names, they’re uniuqe enough that each one is worth exploring independently, for different reasons. That’s why ultimately, we encourage you to check out both of these all-time favorites. From there, you can see for yourself how they can improve your life.