What is THCa? Understanding THCa vs THC

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Black and white photo of cannabis leaves

As the cannabis industry grows, we are becoming more aware of the microscopic elements that make up the various aspects of a “high” along with the myriad medical benefits that cannabis provides like inflammation reduction and anxiety relief. One of the things we have discovered is the significant difference between the molecule THCa and THC. They sound nearly the same because they are the same molecule at different chemical reaction stages.

What is THCa?

THCa stands for tetrahydrocannabinolic acid. When a cannabis plant grows, THCa naturally builds up in the stem, stalk, and especially the flower buds. If the male and female plants are separated, the female plants produce a higher percentage of THCa, increasing bud size and crystallizing THCa on the outside of each bud in sparkling trichomes.

THC Chemical formula

Contrary to popular belief, this is not THC. The intoxicating cannabinoid THC. That’s why you can’t just pop a weed bud in your mouth and get high. But you might experience some pain-relief. THCa must go through a heated chemical reaction and become THC before providing psychoactive effects. However, raw THCa has many of cannabis’ shared physical benefits, as found in full-spectrum cannabis oil.

THCa vs THC in Your Endocannabinoid System

The interesting thing about THCa is that it’s not the right shape to provide THC’s signature effects. The molecule has one too many carboxyl clusters, which makes it too bulky for your CB1 or CB2 receptors to process. When THCa is heated (gently), it goes through a chemical reaction that drops the extra carboxyl and becomes THC.

That said, THCa does seem to have some interaction with the endocannabinoid system similar to CBD’s known effects like inflammation and pain reduction.  It has been noted that THCa can be received by your 5-HT receptors which boost serotonin, a mood-balancing effect for most people. This allows THCa to provide it’s own set of cannabis-based benefits to the body.


How THCa Becomes THC with Decarboxylation

THCa goes through a chemical transformation when exposed to low but steady heat. This is called decarboxylation. The process can be done with direct sunshine or in your oven if you are activating cannabis to cook edibles. The traditional methods of smoking cannabis naturally apply heat to the buds, transforming the inherent THCa into psychoactive THC right at the moment that the smoke is inhaled.

Cannabis concentrate vapor oils are also heated in order to vaporize them for inhalation. This triggers the THCa in the oil, and activates it to THC as the vape is inhaled.

Scoping Cannabis Chemical

Taking THCa Instead of THC

Of course, you don’t have to break down your THCa before consuming it to gain many of the holistic benefits of cannabis. This is where full-spectrum oil, topicals, and tinctures play a role. A full-spectrum oil is raw oil pressed and suspended from the cannabis plant. Its THC is still in the form of THCa. When full-spectrum oil is ingested or used as a topical you are absorbing the THCa along with the entourage of terpenes, flavonoids, and CBD included in the natural plant’s compounds.


THCa Benefits

  • Anti-Inflammatory
    • reduces swelling and inflammation
  • Anti-Emetic
    • Settles your stomach and decreases vomiting
  • Neuroprotective
    • Inhibits certain nerve and cell degeneration
  • Anti-Cancer
    • May be able to stop growth of some cancerous cells

Curious About Trying THCa for Yourself?

Many people are interested in a THC compound that offers benefits but avoids the psychoactive experience. CBD is one option, and THCa is another. You can enjoy them both in full-spectrum oil or even seek THCa isolate to try the compound out on its own. To discover and explore your options in THCa, you can explore the online resources and contact us today. 

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