The Apothecarium

Cannabinoids 101: THCA


What are cannabinoids?

Cannabinoids are the naturally occurring chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant. Cannabinoids are partly responsible for the wide array of medicinal and psychoactive effects cannabis may provide. Currently there are over 110 known cannabinoids with more likely to be discovered as studies continue to reveal the complex molecular structures of the cannabis plant.

Cannabinoids interact with human physiology through the endocannabinoid system (ECS), the set of receptors that function to regulate health and promote homeostasis throughout the body. The ECS has two primary receptors, the CB1 and CB2. The CB1 receptor binds primarily to the brain and nervous system, while the CB2 receptor interacts largely with the immune system. The cannabis plant relies on cannabinoids binding to these receptors to produce the array of potential benefits and effects. Each cannabinoid holds unique characteristics of their own that are worth noting in order to maximize desired effects from medicating with cannabis.

What is THCA?

Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid and a primary constituent of cured and live cannabis. THCA is the acidic form of THC as they share a very similar molecular composition. The differentiation is due to an additional carboxyl group in THCA, which converts to THC through exposure to heat or sunlight. This process of decarboxylation expedites the conversion when cannabis is subjected to high heat. In its raw form, THCA’s prevalence in cannabis may have a multitude of therapeutic applications due to its non-psychoactive nature.

The raw cannabis movement has been gaining momentum as juicing is considered one of the most effective ways to ingest cannabinoids and maximize the benefits of cannabis based medicine. The acidic forms can be consumed at significantly higher levels and THCA may potentially act as an effective neuroprotectant, antioxidant, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, anti-emetic, appetite stimulant, pain reliever, and anti-proliferative agent. THCA may be found in topicals, tinctures, capsules and raw cannabis juice.

How does THCA work?

As the molecular precursor to THC, THCA is not known to closely bind with the CB1 and CB2 receptors. THCA is thought to interact with the 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) receptors as a possible agonist, responsible for serotonin output in the body. THCA, along with other acidic cannabinoids, may act as an inhibitor to COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes, showing promise for battling pain and inflammation. THCA could also boost levels of the endocannabinoid 2-AG, which modulates several health functions.

THCA displays a wide range of potential medicinal value and may prove to be a key contributor to cannabis based treatments as greater understanding of this cannabinoid continually evolves. Feel free to ask any of our knowledgeable patient consultants with any questions you may have.

The Research

The anti-inflammatory effects of THCA, along with other cannabinoids, was the subject of a 2011 study. A June 2012 study examined the potential neuroprotective and antioxidant properties of THCA. A study from July 2013 suggests THCA may combat nausea and vomiting. A July 2017 study observed THCA to hold stronger anti-inflammatory properties than CBD for the possible treatment of IBD’s such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. THCA’s potential for treating Huntington’s disease, and other neurodegenerative disorders, was the subject of a December 2017 study.

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