THCA Benefits – Health Applications of this Cannabinoid
Posted on December 8th, 2020
While CBD and THC are the two most famous cannabinoids, they are by no means the only ones. At the time of this writing, there are already 113 identified compounds, of which THCA is one to look after. Despite its name, THCA actually has more in common with CBD than with THC itself. Read on to learn more about this recently discovered cannabinoid.
What Are Cannabinoids?
Cannabis extracts have quickly become an exciting and seemingly effective alternative supplement for people with a wide variety of health issues across the globe. For a long time, all products coming from this plant were subject to a ban due to the “high” feeling associated with it. As a result of what one could describe as a moral panic, the authorities did categorize it as a drug, and it remained so for a long time. At the moment, most would have seen that move as justified.
However, when reviewing the historical context, let us not forget that the cannabis plant has a long history with humanity. Cannabis was used for a wide variety of applications long before morality clashed with its recreational use. The plant was used for everything, from fabric to tool material and, of course, as a therapeutic compound. Nowadays, there’s a surge of renewed interest in the latter. Scientists are ready to make up for lost time and get to the bottom of just how beneficial cannabis could be and why.
The cannabis extracts are full of ‘cannabinoids,’ the compounds that give them their special properties. You most likely have come in contact with its most famous cannabinoids by now: THC and CBD. CBD is all the rage right now. You will find a lot of products featuring it that, many claim, help treat a wide variety of conditions. The other, perhaps more controversial extract, is THC. THC has the same purported health benefits that CBD, but it is also psychoactive. Thus, you will get high from it. Since both extracts come from the same plant, it is possible for a CBD product to contain THC. However, in order for CBD to become legal to sell, the authorities demand that it features 0.3% or less THC content.
What is THCA?
THCA, short for tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, is an extract of the cannabis plant closely related to THC. It is actually the precursor form of THC. Thus, it is the initial form of the chemical state from which THC will ultimately form from after a specific process.
All the major cannabinoids found in the marijuana plant come from CBGA (cannabigerolic acid), also called the ‘mother of all cannabinoids.’ As the plant matures and undergoes exposure to various conditions, enzymes that are unique to every strain of cannabis swing into action. They end up converting CBGA into the specific cannabinoids the strain supports. There are three main precursor compounds derived from this process: THCA, CBDA, and CBCA. From that point, those compounds also undergo another series of reactions that end up producing THC, CBD, and CBD.
How Does THCA Become THC?
For THCA to produce THC, the cannabis material requires exposure to heat or sunlight to trigger the reaction. This process is called thermal decarboxylation, and here, the THCA loses its acidic carbonyl group and becomes THC. If you ever happened to chew fresh marijuana leaves, you would find out they do not give you a high at all. This is because the THCA inside of them has not undergone decarboxylation to become THC, and THCA, unlike THC, is non-psychoactive.
THCA will not produce the psychoactive effect associated with THC. That is due to how it interacts with the CB1 and CB2 receptors located within your Endocannabinoid system (ECS). THC sends triggers using the CB1 receptors in the brain, and there is where the psychoactive effect starts. The THCA molecular structure happens to be too big to fit these receptors and, thus, does not bind to them. So, you won’t feel high when you use THCA. Yet, THC will work as a trigger for the 5-HT receptors that boost the production of serotonin in the body.
What Are Some of The Potential THCA Benefits?
Note that a lot of research is still happening around THCA. Yet, early signs are that it is not all that different from some other cannabinoids already studied. Just like other cannabinoids, THCA works in conjunction with the Endocannabinoid system to regulate a wide variety of bodily functions. The ECS is a body system that helps maintain homeostasis within the body. Said balance within your body can shift due to a wide variety of factors. For instance, if you hit your knee hard, you would feel pain and see some swelling.
The swelling is the way the body acts to repair itself, and that process involves the ECS. Usually, the body has naturally occurring cannabidiols that try to fix this balance. These are the ‘endocannabinoids’. Yet, often, our bodies overwork these endocannabinoids until there’s a shortage of them. The lack of endocannabinoids available will throw the whole ECS off balance and, thus, the bodily functions it regulates as well. This is where phytocannabinoids – cannabinoids found in plants like THCA – come in handy.
According to studies, the THCA benefits may include:
As an Anti-Inflammatory
As seen with CBD, THCA seemingly has some anti-inflammatory properties. Studies indicate that THCA alleviates inflammation by inhibiting the COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes. These are the ones that produce prostaglandins and, thus, cause pain and inflammation. Note that THCA reduces inflammation caused due to a wide variety of reasons. These include pain caused by chronic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. In one specific study, THCA seemed to decrease inflammation in the colon for people suffering from irritable bowel disease. These tentative results paint it as a future option for addressing inflammation from gastrointestinal conditions in the future.
As a Neuroprotective
THCA appears to have neuroprotective properties that may help with conditions that cause brain cell degeneration. According to a study conducted in Spain by the Maimonides Institute of Biomedical Research of Cordoba, THCA seemed to inhibit nerve cell degeneration. According to the report published, THCA showed impressive neuroprotective activity. So much so that it might one day become a viable treatment for neurodegenerative and neuroinflammatory diseases like Huntington’s disease.
As a result, people who have multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s may benefit from taking THCA in regular doses.
As an Anti-Emetic
Studies show that THCA is an excellent solution to induced nausea and vomiting. Studies have pointed out that it might be more effective than THC in eliciting this effect in the human body. One of the most common applications of anti-nausea treatments is undergoing treatments that induce nausea. A prime example would be chemotherapy, as it does cause heavy nausea that might end up in vomiting. The study’s results pointed to THCA as a good option for those seeking relief from the nausea various treatments cause them.
As an Anticancer
Studies show that THCA might be able to stop the growth of cancerous cells in some instances, like in prostate cancer. Since CBD became popular, many users swore by it as a reliable way of inhibiting these cancer cells’ growth, although research could not support their claims. Now, THCA seemingly might become an equal or even better option. While research is still in the early stages, they are promising.
Ways to Use THCA
Don’t get so excited about THCA’s benefits and non-psychoactivity that you jump the gun and go buy one to take without proper clearance. As it is with any supplement, you will have to contact your physician and see if they approve of it or not. While most of all products derived from cannabis or hemp are safe, mixing them with other medications is not. Please, do take the necessary precautions to avoid this and talk to your doctor beforehand if you want to take it.
As mentioned before, THCA is prominently present in raw cannabis, and its availability depends on the state you live in and the laws that govern the growth and purchase of cannabis there. Before buying anything, check with the laws in your state and confirm that it is legal.
One of the safest ways to use THCA is as a tincture. A tincture is a combination of the THCA extract with a carrier oil. When buying THCA tinctures, make sure that the carrier oil it uses won’t affect is to your liking.
Not interested in drinking those oils? Buy THCA isolate instead, the purest form of the compound available that has close to 99% purity. However, do mind that, when taking it, you will feel an earthy taste due to it being the rawest presentation available of it.
Can You Vape or Smoke THCA?
Instead, if you are thinking of taking it via vape or smoke, do understand that that will degrade the THCA. Why? Because high temperatures are what triggers the decarboxylation process. This process happens at different temperatures depending on how long the exposure of THCA to the heat. For reference, THCA will start decarboxylating after 3 hours at 212 Fahrenheit, 10 minutes at 320 Fahrenheit, and a few seconds at 392 Fahrenheit. This way, if you want to vape it, be wary of the timespans so that you do it before it becomes THC.
THCA Benefits – The Takeaway
While the precursor compound of THC, THCA, is harder and trickier to come by, yet, the purported THCA benefits might worth the hassle. As always, you should do an exhaustive search for a high-quality manufacturer to make sure the product is legit.