Tetrahydrocannabinol acid (THCA) is a non-psychoactive compound in the marijuana plant. It’s also the acidic precursor of THC. But, unlike THC, THCA won’t get you high.
As a marijuana plant matures and starts growing buds, it develops the first cannabinoid, CBGA – also known as the mother of all cannabinoids. CBGA eventually breaks down into THCA and CBDA. THCA has an extra carboxyl ring that prevents it from binding to your brain’s cannabinoid receptors, so it won’t get you high. It does, however, affect your weed experience, and when exposed to heat, it turns into every stoner’s favorite cannabinoid – THC.
Read on to learn more about this lesser-known compound in the marijuana plant.
If you’ve tried making edibles before, you’ve probably heard of decarboxylation. Decarboxylation is a chemical process that occurs when you heat cannabis plant material. The process alters the chemical structure of THCA so that it loses a carboxyl group to form THC. Once altered, the compound can bind with your endocannabinoid system through the CB1 receptors that run throughout your body.
Decarboxylation can occur in various ways, including through exposure to sunlight, long-term storage at room temperature, smoking, vaping, and baking.
When exposed to sunlight for extended periods, THCA will gradually transform into THC. Likewise, long-term storage at room temperature, especially when submerged in a solvent, can trigger this transformation. For instance, when submerged in olive oil at 77º Fahrenheit, up to 22% of THCA in the plant will transform to THC in 10 days.
When smoked, the high degree of heat applied to the cannabis plant material in a short amount of time converts THCA into THC. However, not all THCA is transformed into THC. This means that despite its popularity, smoking probably isn’t the most efficient way to take your weed.
Vaporization, on the other hand, takes things up a notch by heating the compounds at relatively low temperatures. This way, you get to transform more THCA into THC. However, this only works up to a certain temperature, ideally 315 degrees Fahrenheit. Beyond this point, you start losing more THC as temperatures rise.
The most notable difference between THCA and THC is that the former doesn’t induce intoxicating effects. However, both compounds share numerous similarities, including their potential to improve your overall sense of well-being. On the flip side, most users prefer using THC for its sleep-inducing effects. That’s because THCA doesn’t produce the intoxicating effects that, in turn, act as a sleep aid.
CBDA (the mother of all cannabinoids) breaks down into THCA and CBDA as the plant matures. Much like THCA transforms into THC when heated, CBDA also transforms into CBD. However, although THCA converts to THC, it shares many similarities with CBD. For starters, both compounds won’t get you high, and they have numerous therapeutic effects.
Additionally, neither of the two compounds exerts their effects by binding with cannabinoid receptors in your body. Instead, they work to complement the effects of THC. They also inhibit and promote the release of various neurotransmitters that may elicit effects like relaxation and mood elevation.
Before being converted to THC, THCA is non-psychoactive. However, new research suggests that it may enhance the effects of other cannabinoids like THC and CBD when taken orally. Besides its entourage effects, the interaction of THCA with the CB1 receptors and whether or not it crosses the blood-brain barrier is still unclear.
Many users also claim that it offers an assortment of health effects. Some people even use it as a nutritional and dietary supplement. There are also numerous studies that show its potential in medical applications.
There is very limited research on the effects of THCA on humans. As such, we can’t make any comprehensive claims about its possible side effects. However, various preliminary studies and anecdotal evidence from users show that THCA is safe for human consumption, with limited possibility of adverse side effects.
You should note that most side effects of THC arise from its intoxicating effects. Since THCA is non-psychoactive, it doesn’t present any of these side effects. However, to prevent THCA in your cannabis flower from converting to THC and subsequently resulting in unwanted side effects, you should store your cannabis flower in a cool, dry place. You should also be cautious not to take too much THCA as some of it may be converted to THC, resulting in some of the following side effects of THC.
All cannabis plants have THC in them, especially the fresh high-THC strains. If you purchase raw, lab-tested cannabis flowers, you’ll notice that the label indicates the product’s THCA percentage. You can also find THCA in other cannabis products like tinctures, balms, oils, and transdermal patches.
One of the most popular methods of consuming THCA is juicing raw cannabis leaves. Suppose you want to use THCA without dealing with the intoxicating effects of THC. You should avoid applying heat as it would convert it to THC.
Despite the limited research on THCA and its effects, numerous users are raving about its positive effects, especially its entourage effect when taken with THC and CBD. So, if you have some cannabis flower lying around, try juicing it and see how it makes you feel.