Scientists have now discovered the existence of well over 100 cannabinoids in cannabis and hemp plants and mounting evidence suggests that each cannabinoid has huge potential to influence our physical and mental health and wellness.
By now, most people have heard of THC as the most notorious and well-researched cannabinoid found in cannabis sativa, but what about THCA? They sound similar, but what is THCA, and does THCA get you high in the same way that THC does?
In this article we’ll aim to answer all of your questions about THCA, as well as examine its main potential health benefits and effects.
What is THCA?
THCA, short for tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, is the acid precursor to the THC cannabinoid. It is produced in abundance in the resinous glands of cannabis flowers and once exposed to heat, UV light, or age, it transforms into the intoxicating THC cannabinoid through the process of decarboxylation.
People are often surprised to find out that, like CBD, THC isn’t actually found in fresh cannabis or hemp flowers. It develops in the buds as they dry out and/or are heated during the extraction or smoking process.
This makes THCA a very unstable molecule, therefore producing a THCA product that isn’t contaminated by THC is nearly impossible. As you can imagine this also makes it incredibly difficult to study, while remaining confident that the results are accurately based on THCA and not THC.
What is the difference between THC and THCA?
Although THC starts life as THCA, if you compare THCA vs THC, there are a few notable differences. At a molecular level, THCA has an additional group of atoms that make the compound acidic and although this difference may seem small, the effects and therapeutic potential of each compound can be poles apart.
Does THCA get you high?
The first thing you should know is that THCA doesn’t possess the same psychoactive effects as THC. The extra group of atoms mentioned previously mean that THCA doesn’t bind to the cannabinoid receptors in your brain like THC can and it’s this binding that makes you feel intoxicated when you ingest THC.
What does THCA do?
Although THCA won’t get you high like THC does, research has shown that some THCA benefits are similar to those offered by THC. For example, THC is famous for possessing potent anti-nausea and anti-sickness properties and animal studies have also shown that THCA is effective at reducing these symptoms.
However, like CBD, THCA has also demonstrated potent anti-inflammatory activity and neuroprotective properties by acting as an agonist at peroxisome-proliferator activated receptors (PPARs) in the body. The research highlights the fact that this cannabinoid acid has a much higher potency in these areas than its non-acidic cousin.
This makes THCA a very interesting candidate for the treatment of neurodegenerative and neuroinflammatory diseases such as Huntington’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
How to take THCA
Because THCA so readily converts into THC, you can’t smoke high THCA flower to enjoy its effects. Instead, the only way to take THCA is to consume fresh, raw cannabis flowers or a freshly and carefully made extract.
You can consume raw cannabis by grinding it and blitzing it into a smoothie or sprinkling it over food. If you invest in an extract then just be sure to store it in a cool, dark place and be aware that degradation over time will naturally occur, decarboxylating the THCA into THC.
When you smoke high THCA flower it converts into THC creating a very real buzz.
What are THCA diamonds?
You can also buy THCA crystalline, known as THCA diamonds or crystals. This product is most commonly vaporized in a dab rig, but dabbing THCA diamonds will cause them to decarb into THC, resulting in a potent high.
THCA diamonds can also be added to joints, blunts, or bowls to increase the THC potency of whatever you’re smoking them with.
THCA has more in common with CBD
As we learn more about THCA, it is becoming apparent that it shares more similarities with CBD than it does with THC. Although THCA is the precursor of tetrahydrocannabinol, like CBD it doesn’t directly bind to cannabinoid receptors in the brain and body and therefore doesn’t cause intoxication.
Instead, THCA and CBD exert their therapeutic effects by influencing other receptors in the body, either enhancing or inhibiting various other neurotransmitters. Although research into THCA is still in its infancy, preclinical studies suggest that it may possess similar anti-emetic, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective properties to CBD.