Learning about the phytocannabinoids that exist in the cannabis plant family can feel a little bit like sifting through alphabet soup. While tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are well researched and often well understood by the general population, others, like THCA, require a little more explanation.
What is THCA and how is it different from THC? How can THCA help you? And what are the best ways to consume it?
Fortunately, we’ve got the answers.
THCA is the compound found in raw hemp or cannabis. When the plant is dried or exposed to heat, THCA becomes THC, the cannabinoid that is most commonly associated with the intoxicating high that comes with consuming marijuana.
THCA is not believed to interact with the CB1 and CB2 receptors of the endocannabinoid system. Instead, it is believed to work as an agonist for the 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) receptors, which are responsible for serotonin production in the body.
THCA is one of the most abundant cannabinoid acids found in the raw cannabis plants. Unlike THC, THCA is not psychoactive and does not produce any intoxicating effect. Exposure to heat will destroy most of the THCA but the portion that remains can be beneficial.
While the research is in its early stages, all indications seem to suggest that like other cannabinoids, THCA can help support or regulate several functions in the body, providing relief for many different conditions.
Like CBD, THCA has an anti-inflammatory effect on the body. Research suggests THCA fights inflammation by inhibiting the COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes. These are the enzymes that produce prostaglandins that produce pain and inflammation.
In one particular study, THCA was found to decrease inflammation in the colon. Cannabis extracts were given to individuals with irritable bowel disease and the impacts on epithelial cells and on colon tissue were then examined. It was found that THCA most strongly mitigated inflammation, presenting the potential for future use in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome and other inflammatory gastrointestinal conditions.
Research conducted by the Maimónides Institute of Biomedical Research of Cordoba, Spain (in collaboration with Phytoplant Research and Emerald Health Pharmaceuticals) found that THCA could potentially protect brain cells from degenerative diseases of the brain. The study concludes, “THCA shows potent neuroprotective activity, which is worth considering for the treatment of Huntington's disease and possibly other neurodegenerative and neuroinflammatory diseases.”
These results present THCA as a viable treatment option for people with neurodegenerative diseases like multiple sclerosis (MS), Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's disease. As more research is conducted and regulations created, THCA could be a regular part of future neurodegenerative treatment plans.
In a 2013 study, THCA was found to reduce anticipator nausea and vomiting in rats. Interestingly, the results indicated THCA may be more effective than THC in treating these conditions.
Rodent studies are not the same as human studies but if results translate, THCA could be useful in relieving the nauseating side effects of chemotherapy treatments without the mind-altering effects of THC.
One study found that non-THC cannabinoids were able to inhibit the growth of prostate carcinoma, the most common type of tumor found in men. While CBD was the most effective at inhibiting the spread of the cancer, THCA was also found to be beneficial.
More research is required before any conclusions can be drawn about the effectiveness of THCA (or any of the cannabinoids) in limiting the growth of cancer cells, but these findings are certainly promising.
As with any supplement, you will want to talk to your doctor first. While the majority of cannabinoids have been found to have a good safety profile, some of them can interact with common medications, so confirm with your physician that THCA is a safe option for you.
THCA is most prominently found in raw cannabis and you will not be able to purchase or possess it if you do not live in a state that has legalized recreational and/or medicinal cannabis. So, before making any purchase, check the laws in your state.
It is possible to purchase THCA tinctures but the most reliable way to consume THCA is from the raw plant itself. If you have access to fresh, raw cannabis, you have access to THCA.
Heating cannabis by smoking, vaping, baking, or cooking with it will degrade, or decarboxylate, the THCA, turning it into THC. For your reference, here’s a quick breakdown of the temperatures and timespans at which decarboxylation of THCA begins to occur:
So, if you are looking to experience THCA, you’ll best preserve its chemical makeup by keeping it away from heat—consider juicing raw cannabis, adding it to a smoothie, or maybe even grinding it up to sprinkle on a salad or pizza! Get creative in your meal planning and you’ll be feeling the potential benefits of this potent cannabinoid in no time.
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