THCA stands for tetrahydrocannabinol acid; it is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in live and raw cannabis. Over time, the THCA in the plant converts to THC – a process that is naturally very slow.
While THCA is benign in terms of psychological effects, it doesn’t stay that way when heat is applied. The conversion of THCA into THC is quite slow (as mentioned above) until you have a lighter. The drastic rise in temperature induces decarboxylation, a chemical reaction which releases carbon dioxide and rearranges atoms.
the research surrounding this cannabinoid is in its infancy and not that much is known about it. Still, there’s always speculation.
From the limited studies already performed, THCA possesses many of the benefits of other cannabinoids. muscle spasms, pain, and insomnia have all been alleviated. And while we await further studies to substantiate these claims, research has started to point to potential benefits in the following areas:
Let’s take a look at these in more detail:
The THCA present in raw cannabis appears to produce necrosis in plant cells. This means it helps the plant remove dead or dying cells. Our own immune system has a similar function – something called “programmed cell death” – where damaged, aged, or diseased cells are killed off. Cancer is the result of this programmed cell death no longer working, which, in turn, leads to diseased cells spreading instead of dying.
A study of cell cultures and animal models from 2013 suggested that THCA could prevent the spread of prostate cancer cells; something that falls in line with other research pointing to cannabinoids stopping the proliferation of various forms of cancer.
Inflammation is a natural response to injury, illness, and stress within our bodies. However, should that inflammation become systemic, it can contribute to everything from autoimmune disease to mental health issues.
That’s why it’s interesting to note that, like many of the cannabinoids present in cannabis, THCA is thought to be very strongly anti-inflammatory.
Antioxidants are compounds that can counteract harmful toxins within our body. And, like a number of cannabinoids, raw THCA is a strong antioxidant.
Encouragingly, a 2012 preclinical study observed that THCA was able to address the damage caused by neurotoxins. Although additional research is required, this suggests that THCA could potentially be used to treat neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s Disease.
Many people already turn to cannabis to counterbalance feelings of nausea, opting to smoke or vaporize the plant in an attempt to alleviate symptoms. But early research would suggest that the THCA found in raw cannabis is also adept at bringing relief to those suffering from bouts of nausea, vomiting, or loss of appetite.
According to research, it would appear that THCA is capable of interacting with the TRPA1 receptor. This particular receptor is part of what allows us to respond to pain, temperature, and even itching. The THCA found in raw cannabis could, therefore, reduce pain and calm painful muscle cramps and spasms.
Finally, research indicates that THCA has a part to play as a natural insecticide. This is consistent with the fact that cannabinoids in general act as both an immune and defense system for the cannabis plant.
(By adding Purple Power oil to a skin cream, insect bites could be kept to a minimum.)
In its rawest form, cannabis doesn’t produce THC or CBD. Rather, it produces cannabinoids in an acid form, synthesizing tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA).
It’s worth repeating that THCA is not psychoactive, and, in order to break it down into THC, it must be exposed to heat. But if consumed raw, how does the THCA present in cannabis work?
Well, according to Project CBD, THCA is known to potentially bind with the TRPM8 receptor (also known as the cold and menthol receptor; essentially, it makes mint feel cold). And at higher concentrations, it’s possible that THCA activates a heat-sensing receptor (TRPV4) and a pain-response receptor (TRPA1).
It is therefore possible that, by interacting with these receptors, THCA can produce therapeutic benefits. However, there’s currently no research to suggest that inhibiting the TRPM8 receptor can, in fact, prevent nausea or reduce seizures, and the clinically observed effects of THCA remain unexplained.
THCA can test positive on a drug test as thc even though it is not psychoactive it still contains the chemical biology of THC.
Scientific Studies on THCA
Scientists at the University of Guelph in Ontario published a story in 2013 that yielded some interesting results. They found that, by administering low doses of THCA (around 10-100 times lower than a requisite dose of THC), they were able to prevent nausea in rats.
What’s more, they also discovered that THCA can synergize with CBDA, a potent antiemetic compound. It is therefore possible that the anti-nausea effect experienced from smoking cannabis could be the result of a small amount of THCA left behind when the plant is exposed to heat.
The legal status of THCA is less clear. As it stands, it is not scheduled by the United Nations’ Convention on Psychotropic Substances, nor is it scheduled at the federal level in the United States.
However, if THCA is stored incorrectly and allowed to decarboxylate to form THC, it could lead to prosecution for possession of a Schedule I controlled substance.