THCV vs. THCA: What’s the Difference?

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Although cannabis research is roughly five decades old, the exact number of natural cannabis compounds remains unknown. 

Still, scientists have made great strides in uncovering many of the plant’s active ingredients associated with its psychoactive and medicinal properties. In this article, we’ll explore two of the lesser-known compounds of cannabis — tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) and tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA).

 

Key Takeaways

  • THCV is a minor cannabinoid found in cannabis.
  • THCA is the precursor of THC found in freshly harvested or live cannabis. It’s non-psychoactive because it cannot bind to cannabinoid receptors.
  • Both cannabinoids have potential health benefits.

 

What is THCV?

THCV is one of the many minor cannabinoids found in cannabis sativa. At first glance, it appears structurally similar to THC, the main psychoactive compound in cannabis. However, the difference lies in their side chains. THCV’s side chain has three carbon atoms (propyl), while THC has five (pentyl).

THCV is regarded as an analog of THC, and due to its unique chemical structure, it produces markedly different effects than THC. Though not as popular as CBD or THC, THCV offers various health medicinal and psychoactive effects depending on the strain and dosage.

This cannabinoid is generally considered non-psychoactive in smaller doses. In larger doses, THCV induces a short-lived “high” that many users find euphoric, motivating, and focus-improving. For this reason, THCV is commonly used during the day.

Like THC, THCV can bind to cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2, triggering wide-ranging physiological processes. One of its most well-known effects is appetite suppression, which explains why it’s also called “diet weed.”

All in all, this cannabinoid has very low concentrations, so direct extraction from hemp is costly. As a result, many products that claim to contain THCV do not. At best, they may contain delta 8 THC and/or CBD, which are comparably easier to produce. 

To avoid fake products, check third-party lab reports for in-depth product analysis.

 

What is THCA?

THCA is the parent compound from which THC is made and exists in raw cannabis. This compound is functionally inactive, so chewing raw cannabis cannot make you “high.” 

The science behind this phenomenon is simple – THCA cannot effectively bind to cannabinoid receptors due to its awkward three-dimensional shape, which prevents it from attaching to CB receptors as effectively as THC. As a result, THCA is essentially non-psychoactive.

A common misconception about cannabis is that THC accumulates in the plant gradually until it’s harvested. There is virtually zero THC in live or freshly harvested cannabis plants. So, at what point does cannabis become psychoactive?

This happens when THCA converts to THC through a decarboxylation process driven by heat or sunlight. Curing (exposure to air) also transforms THCA to THC by removing moisture, thus making the cannabis usable. 

Even though THCA is not known for its intoxicating effects, it has various health benefits. This is why some people add raw cannabis juice to their drinks. 

Like Greek yogurt, garlic, avocado, and kale, raw cannabis is thought to have a therapeutic effect on chronic pain, arthritis, and fibromyalgia, among other health conditions.

 

Possible Benefits of THCV

THCV has an array of health benefits that make it unique. These include:

May help regulate blood sugar levels

People with high sugar levels understand how dangerous this condition can be. It increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and weight gain. So, keeping your blood sugar levels is a health imperative.

Fortunately, THCV may help keep blood sugar levels within the normal range. It does this by enhancing insulin signaling, reducing glucose intolerance, and raising insulin sensitivity. 

Consequently, research suggests that THCV may help people with type-2 diabetes by improving pancreatic cell function and reducing plasma glucose levels.

Possibly reduced cravings 

According to a study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology, THCV demonstrated the potential to reduce nicotine cravings in rodents. 

Due to these findings, the authors concluded that this cannabinoid might have therapeutic benefits in treating nicotine dependence and, by extension, other addictive substances.

Besides nicotine, other studies show that THCV may reduce appetite and increase satiety. Further, it demonstrates clinical significance in weight loss management by up-regulating energy metabolism.

Reduced inflammation 

In a 2011 study, THCV possesses potent anti-inflammatory properties. As a result, it may help reduce symptoms of inflammatory conditions. 

These findings have been supported by a 2021 study demonstrating THCV’s potential in treating fatty liver disease in mice thanks to its anti-inflammatory effects. 

These are promising results for people struggling with painful anti-inflammatory conditions.

Studies show reports of bone growth 

The exact science behind THCV’s ability to influence certain processes remains unclear, but this phytocannabinoid may promote bone growth. However, THCV can bind to cannabinoid receptors. 

Typically, CB2 receptors are predominant in peripheral immune cells and populate osteoclasts and osteoblasts. These cells are responsible for regulating bone growth. So, by activating these cells, THCV stimulates the production and formation of collagen and bone nodules, thereby boosting bone growth.

Though preliminary, such findings highlight the potential of THCV to treat degenerative bone diseases like osteoarthritis.

 

Strains High in THCV 

This cannabinoid is only available in sativa strains. But these particular ones are considered THCV-rich strains.

Willie Nelson

Developed by Reeferman seeds, this sativa strain is a cross between Highland Nepalese and Vietnamese Black (both sativas). It is popular for its uplifting, cerebral “high” and was named the ‘Best Sativa’ in 2005. 

Its THC content ranges between 17 and 22%, with most plants having 20% THC. This makes it a very potent cannabis strain. Smokers value its euphoric “high,” which they say is ideal for social occasions, motivation, or mental clarity.

Jack the Ripper

Named after the infamous 1888 London serial killer, Jack the Ripper (aka JTR) is an award-winning sativa dominant strain known for its extreme THC content. It produces a very intense “high” that kicks in gradually, eventually reaching heady proportions.

Its THC percentage falls in the mid-20s, an aspect recreational users associate with its intense euphoric “high.” The strain’s lemony aroma and cerebral buzz boost creativity and energy. So, it’s definitely one for daytime use.

Pink Boost Goddess

This is a THCV-rich strain with a joyful and uplifting “high.” Pink Boost Goddess typically contains 10-16% THC and 7-10% THCV content. A serial award-winner, this cannabis strain is mildly psychoactive compared to THC. 

It reportedly boosts energy and focus, stimulates the mind and suppresses hunger pangs.

Pineapple Purps

This sativa-dominant rare strain is known for its unique ability to produce THCV. Though this cannabinoid exists naturally in trace amounts in most cannabis strains, Pineapple Purps produces it in incredibly large quantities, often in a THC-to-THCV ratio of 3:1.

The strain has an average THC concentration of 15%, so its THCV content falls between 2-3%, which is pretty good considering the rarity of the cannabinoid.

Pineapple Purps has a reputation for producing intense psychoactive effects. Its typical effects are euphoria, happiness, and increased focus. Its usage is common among users with pain, anxiety, and arthritis. Others find it helpful in regulating appetite.

Durban Poison

Another award-winner, this pure sativa originates from Durban, South Africa. It is one of the most cerebral and energetic cannabis variants, believed to contain high levels of THCV (roughly 1%).

It’s highly valued for its unique citrusy flavor with hints of spicy hashish that tops its typical “dank” aroma. With an output that leans towards the extreme, Durban Poison produces an intense psychedelic “high” that can leave you disoriented and hazy. 

A high THC content and low CBD concentration indicate this strain is ideal for mental stimulation and an energizing experience.

 

Ways to Consume THCV

Generally, THCV is much easier to use because it’s not easily degraded by heat. Depending on its form, there are several ways to consume this rare cannabinoid.

Vaping THCV liquid 

Vaping is the modern way to consume cannabis and has several advantages. It does not involve smoke, so your lungs are considerably safer. It’s also cleaner, more convenient, and more efficient than smoking.

Typically, you’ll require a refillable vape pen or cart. 

Smoking High THCV Cannabis Flower Strains

This is the oldest and most common method in the book, but it has its distinct disadvantages. For starters, there is no way to hide the pungent smell of cannabis, so discretion is out of the question.

Secondly, smoke typically contains carcinogens. Having these toxic substances in your lungs is a recipe for lung diseases and poor health.

THCV Shatter 

Shatter is a cannabis concentrate with a glass-like consistency. It’s generally more potent than marijuana because it can have as much as 60% THC compared to 20% of conventional marijuana. 

As the name suggests, shatter is brittle and tends to break—or shatter—when handled roughly. It’s a favorite of dabbing enthusiasts thanks to its high THC content. However, THC isn’t always the active ingredient in shatter.

Presently, many concentrate makers produce different varieties of shatter with different active ingredients. To this end, you can access CBD or THCV shatter depending on your health needs.

 

Possible Benefits of THCA

As noted earlier, THCA is non-psychoactive due to a molecular structure that prevents it from binding to cannabinoid receptors. However, this does not mean that THCA has no health benefits. 

Here are some potential benefits:

Reduces inflammation 

The two studies have highlighted THCA’s anti-inflammatory effects. In one of these, the authors conclude that THCA is responsible for cannabis’s anti-inflammatory action

This was demonstrated in an experiment where the researchers used different fractions of cannabis extract to treat inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). THCA was present in fraction 7, which exhibited significant anti-inflammatory activity.

The other study demonstrated THCA’s potent anti-inflammatory effect on mice with (high-fat diet) HFD-induced obesity. This was marked by reduced liver steatosis, macrophage infiltration, and adipogenesis

In particular, macrophage infiltration clearly indicates chronic inflammation in adipose tissues.

Neuroprotective properties 

THCA might also possess neuroprotectant qualities hence its therapeutic potential in diseases like Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s diseases. Studies show THCA exerts its anti-inflammatory effects via PPARy-dependent pathways, but more research is needed to understand how THCA works.

 

Strains High in THCA

If you are considering using THCA, here are the strains you should target.

Lemon Kush

This strain is popular for its fresh lemon flavor and sweet citrusy smoke. Don’t let its enticing aroma fool you, though; it’s a highly potent cannabis strain with THC concentrations averaging 20%. 

Being a 50-50 sativa-indica hybrid, Lemon Kush produces quietly reflective and deeply meditative effects with an unmissable sativa cerebral boost and uplifting experience.

Gorilla Glue

This is another evenly balanced hybrid strain known for its delicious flavor and heavy effects. With THC levels that fall in the 20s, Gorilla Blue is no doubt a potent strain.

Its THCV content is not known, as this cannabinoid is generally produced in very low amounts. However, its rich terpene profile (2.5%) means it produces a euphoric effect that quickly transforms into a hazy state.

Death Star

This indica strain is renowned for its high THC levels (22%). Its most notable effects are euphoria, relaxation, uplifted mood, and sleepiness (“couch lock”). As a result, most people reserve it for evening use.

Silver Haze

This is another THC-rich strain, which, as the name suggests, has a huge amount of THC glands in the buds. With THC levels averaging 22%, Silver Haze gives a strong but clear-headed “high.”

It produces a calming effect at low concentrations. This rapidly changes to a heady, energizing “high” at larger doses.

Bruce Banner

Mostly reserved for daytime use, Bruce Banner gives a relaxing body “high” accompanied by analgesic effects. With as much as 27% THC, this sativa-dominant strain is popular for its energetic, euphoric buzz. 

White Tahoe Cookies

This is another heavy-hitter known for its energizing effects. It has a 20% THC content and is commonly used to alleviate pain and anxiety.

 

Ways to Consume THCA 

The main thing to remember when using THCA is that it easily converts to THC through decarboxylation. This change happens when the cannabis plant material loses moisture (curing) and then is subjected to heat. So, to ensure you’re taking THCA and not THC, here are the ways to do it.

THCA powder

You can consume THCA in powder form, which is essentially grounded THCA crystals. These can be easily added to cold food or drinks. 

THCA edibles

You can also enjoy THCA in homemade edibles. Make your usual edible treats (cakes, cookies, gummies) and infuse them with THCA extract. Of course, ensure the edibles are cold to avoid converting THCA to THC.

THCA tinctures

Tinctures are another popular way to use THCA. These are easy to use since they typically come with droppers for administration.

Also, it may be difficult to maintain the original quality of cannabis extract in its raw form. With tinctures, the cannabis extract is diluted in alcohol, olive, or coconut oil which helps keep it fresh for longer.

Add cannabis bud to smoothies

If you love smoothies, you’ll be glad to hear you can enrich them with THCA for a more nutritious drink.

THCA patches

These are similar to CBD patches and work in the same way. Transdermal patches enable cannabinoids to enter the bloodstream via the skin. A key advantage of patches is discretion.

Bottom line: THCA changes to THC over time because it’s unstable. This conversion happens when it’s stored at room temperature for longer durations. 

 

THCV vs. THCA: Which is Better?

This question is relative because people use cannabis products for different reasons. A recreational user may be interested in getting “high,” while another with anxiety might want the potential health benefits that cannabinoids offer.

 

THCV vs. THCA for Energy

Sativa strains are known for their energetic, cerebral buzz. So, naturally, THCV is the cannabinoid most likely to help with this. It’s mildly psychoactive and is unlikely to give you a racy “high.”

 

THCV vs. THCA for Sleep

When dealing with sleep problems, most people turn to CBD. Its ability to enhance sleep quality and quantity is well-established in science. Like CBD, THCA is non-psychoactive and has similar anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties.

 

THCV vs. THCA for Focus 

If you want to sharpen your focus, THCV is probably the cannabinoid you should use. It’s known to boost energy, creativity, and focus.

 

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