THCA, or tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, is a cannabis compound that is beginning to demonstrate therapeutic potential despite the infancy of its research. You’ve heard of THC, and while they may sound similar, THCA has very different properties. Unlike THC, THCA is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid found in raw and live cannabis. As the plant dries, THCA slowly converts to THC. Heat expedites this conversion in a process known as decarboxylation, a fancy word that describes what happens when you smoke or vaporize flower.
If you’ve purchased lab-tested cannabis, you may notice that the most abundant cannabinoid is either THC or THCA, either of which can stretch between 10-20% on average. While THCA is the more accurate label for flower that hasn’t been decarboxylated, they essentially mean the same thing if you assume the consumer intends on smoking, vaporizing, or heating the product in some way. But what are THCA’s properties if it isn’t converted to THC?
What are THCA’s Effects and Benefits?
There isn’t enough research on THCA to definitively state what it can treat and with what degree of efficacy, but preliminary research and anecdotal evidence suggest that THCA will play a pivotal role in cannabis medicine as the industry propels forward. Here are some of the potential benefits studies have started to unveil:
- Anti-inflammatory properties for treatment of arthritis and lupus
- Neuroprotective properties for treatment of neurodegenerative diseases
- Anti-emetic properties for treatment of nausea and appetite loss
- Anti-proliferative properties noted in studies of prostate cancer
Other possible medicinal avenues supported by patient stories include insomnia, muscle spasms, and pain. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait for more studies to substantiate all of the above benefits before we can fully understand what THCA means for the future of cannabinoid-based medicines.
Where Can I Find THCA?
Every high-THC strain that has not yet been decarboxylated contains THCA, and these cannabinoid levels are particularly high as a live or freshly harvested plant. For this reason, raw cannabis parts are popularly juiced for their THCA benefits (sweet potato pear smoothie, anyone?).
Some products are marketed specifically for their THCA content such as Present Naturals and Mary’s Medicinals transdermal patches. Products like these deliver THCA’s benefits without the risk of psychoactive effects, and as THCA gains traction, we’re likely to find more products like this emerging.
THCA is a nonpsychoactive precursor to THC, which means it won’t get you high. This is the reason cannabis must be decarboxylated in an oven before being used in edibles. The process ensures all the THCA has been converted into THC so you can experience the full psychoactive effects.
THCA is believed to offer an assortment of medicinal benefits, and is commonly used as a nutritional supplement and dietary enhancement for its:
- Anti-inflammatory properties – A 2011 study published in the Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin suggested that, along with other cannabinoids, THCA demonstrated anti-inflammatory properties.
- Anti-proliferative properties – A 2013 study that analyzed cell cultures and animal models concluded that THCA could prevent the spread of prostate cancer cells.
- Neuroprotective properties – In a 2012 preclinical study published in Phytomedicine, researchers found that THCA showed the ability to help protect against neurodegenerative diseases.
- Antiemetic properties (increasing appetite and decreasing nausea) – A 2013 study conducted by researchers at the University of Guelph in Ontario found that both THCA and CBDA were effective in reducing nausea and vomiting in rat models, even moreso than THC and CBD, respectively.