THCa vs THCV
Cannabis contains an impressive amount of beneficial compounds, and you’re probably quite familiar with cannabinoids like THC. But have you heard of the similar-sounding THCa or THCV? These lesser-known compounds can also offer therapeutic benefits and we’ve broken down how they compare.
What is THCa?
Also known as tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, THCa is the precursor to THC. This acidic compound is found in unheated cannabis. When heat is applied to THCa it decarboxylates – meaning that it loses a carboxyl group and changes from its acidic form – and turns into THC.
Because of its different structure, THCa acts on the body differently than THC. For example, while THC largely induces its effects through the cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2, THCa can only weakly bind to these same receptors.
What is THCV?
While THCa is a precursor to THC, THCV is a different cannabinoid compound altogether. Tetrahydrocannabivarin, or THCV, is a minor cannabinoid found in cannabis plants. THCV cannot turn into THC, regardless of what you do to it, and has its own unique characteristics.
You won’t find as much THCV in cannabis as you will THCa. This is because THCV is a minor cannabinoid and is found in much lower concentrations than THC or its precursor.
THCa has been found to offer an impressive range of health benefits. Provided that you consume THCa before decarboxylation, these are the potential benefits that you could experience:
Research tells us that THCa may hold anti-inflammatory properties. A 2011 study investigated the anti-inflammatory effects of various cannabinoids and found that THCa showed an impressive ability to inhibit the production of prostaglandins (1). Prostaglandins are lipid compounds that can induce inflammation, and so THCa may be able to reduce inflammation by blocking the effects of these compounds.
Protect the brain
THCa also shows an impressive ability to help protect your brain. One cell study found that THCa was able to protect mice brain cells from cell death at the hands of the neurotoxin MPP (2).
THCa’s neuroprotective properties were further explored in a 2017 study (3). Researchers in the study investigated the effects of THCa on the PPARy (Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptor gamma) co-activator. This is important as PPARy has been strongly implicated in the regulation of cell cycles and cancer.
The study found that acidic cannabinoids seem to bind effectively to PPARy receptors, meaning that acidic compounds like THCa may be able to act through the PPARy pathway. More importantly, the study found that THCa was able to protect certain neural cells from cytotoxicity and showed impressive neuroprotective results. THCa was shown to offer different protective effects from motor deficits, Huntington’s disease, neuroinflammation, and striatal degeneration.
THCV offers a different array of potential health benefits when compared to THCa. Some of the therapeutic effects that you might experience from THCV use include:
Help to regulate blood sugar levels
High blood sugar levels can be particularly dangerous, placing you at increased risk of diseases like weight gain, diabetes, stroke, and heart disease.
Research tells us that THCV may be able to help keep your blood sugar levels within a healthy range by reducing glucose intolerance, restoring insulin signaling, and improving insulin sensitivity (4).
Reduced food cravings
Interestingly, another benefit you may experience from THCV is a reduction in the amount of food you naturally intake. Research has found that THCV was able to reduce the amount of food that the mice ate and help the animals to lose weight (5).
Like THCa, THCV may also be able to reduce inflammation. Although through different pathways. One study found that THCa was able to reduce inflammation and inflammatory-related pain (6), offering hope for people struggling with painful inflammatory-related conditions.
One unexpected benefit of THCV may be a boost to bone growth. Research indicates that THCV may help to stimulate collagen production and bone nodule formation, two factors that play an important role in bone growth (7).
While research into THCV and bone growth stimulation is still in the early stages, it highlights the potential power of THCV in treating bone degeneration diseases like osteoporosis.
The main differences between THCa and THCV
So how do THCa and THCV differ? The main difference between these two compounds is in their structure. THCa is an acidic precursor to THC, whereas THCV is a separate compound altogether.
Because of this structural difference, you can expect to experience different results from THCa and THCV.
Another clear difference between THCa and THCV lies in their psychoactive properties. While THCa is a precursor to the psychoactive THC, THCa cannot get you high. THCV, on the other hand, can cause a high. However, the psychoactive effects of THCV are significantly weaker than those of THC.
How to use THCa and THCV
To consume THCa, you have to do so in a way that doesn’t convert it into THC. Here are some ways that you can consume THCa:
- Consume fresh cannabis e.g. eat it raw, juice cannabis leaves, or add fresh cannabis bud to a smoothie
- THCa powder. THCa powder is a ground version of THCa crystals that can easily be added to food or drink. Again, be sure to keep THCa powder away from any heat (i.e. don’t add to a hot meal) to keep it in its acidic form.
- THCa edibles
- THCa tinctures
- THCa transdermal patches
Consuming THCV is a little simpler because you don’t have to worry about keeping it away from heat. Here are some common ways to consume THCV:
- Vaping THCV vape liquid
- Smoking cannabis bud
- Dabbing THCV shatter
Strains high in THCV include:
- Pink Boost Goddess
- Pineapple Purps
- Durban Poison
- Willie Nelson
- Jack the Ripper
The bottom line
THCa and THCV both demonstrate strong therapeutic effects and their own array of benefits.
**Standard Disclaimer: CBD is not FDA-approved. We make no such claims that using our products will guarantee relief. Moreover, research regarding CBD is still ongoing and in the early stages.**