The cannabis plant is turning out to be the gift that keeps on giving. Initially, the only known cannabinoid was THC. Over the last several years, there's been a proliferation of new cannabinoids that have been discovered and some that have hit mainstream. The other popular cannabinoid has been CBD, but around the same time, others like Delta 8 THC, Delta 10 THC, and the newer THCa have also been identified.
Considering over 100 compounds have already been identified from the cannabis plant, it's safe to say THCa is not the last cannabinoid to become mainstream. What's exciting is that each compound comes with various wellness benefits, giving cannabis fans a reason to consider adding it to their daily routine. And THCa is not any different!
While THCa is the new kid on the block, thousands of consumers have already commented on its potential benefits, giving cannabis lovers a reason to try it. If you're among those considering giving THCa a try, this guide covers everything you need to know about it.
What is THCa?
THCa, otherwise called tetrahydrocannabinol acid, is a naturally-occurring compound found in raw and unheated cannabis plants. In simpler terms, it is the acidic version of THC. Compared to its more popular product, THC, THCa is often overlooked but still has many potential benefits and effects for people.
Generally, raw cannabis plants have very low THC but very high THCa content. Once the THCa is exposed to heat or light, it undergoes a decarboxylation process that turns it into THC. THCa is a white crystalline compound in its pure form.
The easiest way to think of THCa is to consider CBGA, better known as the “mother of all cannabinoids.” THCa is the same. It is the molecule from which other forms of THC are born.
How Does THCa Work?
THCa works more or less the same way as other cannabinoids. It can be delivered into the bloodstream through several methods depending on which THCa product you consume. Once in the body, it interacts with the endocannabinoid system. However, unlike THC, which has a high affinity to CB1 receptors, THCa is slightly bigger and thicker and doesn’t interact as seamlessly with the same receptors. Therefore, it doesn't produce the exact same effects because it doesn't interact with the CB1 receptors, specifically.
However, THCa may have other wellness effects on the body. According to some experts, they believe THCa works similarly to CBD by interacting and exerting itself on other receptor-dependent functions in the body.
That said, there aren't yet studies published to back the benefits or highlight how THCa works in the body. More work studying the compound could help understand it better and unearth its full benefits and effects.
Is THCa Legal?
Oftentimes, people are cautious about trying new cannabis products because of the legality of the products and history between cannabis and government agencies.
That said, 2018 was a major turning point for stakeholders in the cannabis industry. The passing of the 2018 Farm Bill into law meant that certain types of cannabis, particularly hemp, were distinguished from marijuana and removed from the Controlled Substances Act, effectively making them federally legal.
Compounds like THC are still listed under the Controlled Substances Act but luckily, THCa is not on the list of scheduled substances. Therefore, THCa is not considered illegal under federal law as it contains less than 0.3% Delta 9 THC and is obtained from hemp.
As always, it’s recommended to comply with the latest regulations in each state. While TCHa is federally legal, you should consider the legality of THCa products at the state and local level before purchasing.
Benefits of THCa
THCa is said to have a multitude of wellness benefits. But because THCa is relatively new to the cannabinoid industry, most people are only starting to uncover the benefits.
Because of this newness, most of the effects and benefits associated with THCa have not yet been scientifically proven. Instead, they're primarily based on consumers reporting on their experience after taking different THCa products. Expectedly, these effects and benefits vary widely mainly because the interaction of THCa varies depending on the individual. It may also depend on the amount of THCa one has taken and various physiological factors.
Among the many THCa benefits that have been reported, some are more commonly reported than others like:
- Discomfort support: Similar to most cannabinoids, preliminary results from THCa studies indicate that it might support a healthy immune system and have properties that help with discomfort. However, THCa has a different method of achieving the effects. It works by blocking the enzymes that contribute to discomfort, making it helpful in people dealing with tightness, soreness, and tension. THCa might effectively manage different types of discomfort, including those caused by intense workouts.
- Mood elevation: Many fans of THCa have reported experiencing mood elevation after taking THCa. This cannabinoid is often consumed alongside CBD and is known to help improve your mood and promote relaxation. A handful of studies have supported the claim that CBD might have calming benefits, and because THCa contains CBD, many people have thought of it as a more natural way to uplift and stabilize their mood.
- Supports Healthier Appetite Habits: THCa might positively influence appetite behaviors similar to THC. This effect could benefit people who are seeking healthier appetite habits. Anecdotal evidence suggests that consuming THCa can also help make eating more enjoyable.
Because THCa interacts differently with every individual, the effects experienced might vary from person to person. It's possible you won’t experience all the above effects and that your experience with it might be slightly different. Also, note that the compound is biphasic and will produce different effects when taken in different quantities.
Possible Side Effects of THCa
Positive THCa effects have been widely reported. However, some reports have reported that THCa has some mild and temporary side effects. These are rarely reported and often reported by newcomers who are just getting started with THC and aren’t sure about their intake.
You can potentially avoid undesirable effects by reducing your THCa intake, starting with the smallest dose possible and increasing gradually after observing how your body responds.
How Does THCa Compare to Other Types of THC?
If you’ve tried other types of THC, comparing the effects with THCa might give you a better idea of what to expect.
As you may know, THCa transforms to THC when heated through decarboxylation. Therefore, the two compounds are not that different. During the transition, THCa loses the extra carboxyl ring. For avid Delta 9 THC fans, you know that “decarbing” the flower and other products is a crucial part of the process to maximize conversion.
Although the compounds are close in nature, let’s explore how THCa stacks up compared to the other types of THC:
- Delta 8 Vs THCa: Delta 8 THC is also a tetrahydrocannabinol derived from THCa. Although it is naturally present in hemp plants, it’s only present in trace amounts. Therefore, experts have developed ways to semi-synthesize Delta 8 THC using hemp-derived CBD in a lab setting. Similar to THCa, Delta 8 THC produces some mild uplifting. If you're looking for those gentle, uplifting effects, Delta 8 THC would be a great choice. The other benefits between the two compounds are broadly similar but might vary slightly in intensity.
- Delta 9 THC Vs. THCa: Delta 9 THC is the primary psychoactive compound in the cannabis plant. It's also a tetrahydrocannabinol derived from THCa. It's fondly called THC or, in some cases, marijuana (although technically, marijuana is a type of cannabis plant). Even though Delta 9 is obtained from exposing THCa to heat, the two compounds are pretty distinct. From a scientific perspective, THCa has an additional carboxyl group that prevents it from binding to CB1 receptors. Decarboxylation removes this extra carboxyl group to create Delta 9 THC.
- Delta 10 THC Vs THCa: Delta 10 is comparable to Delta 8 THC. It’s mildly psychoactive, and it is also derived from THCa. Delta 10 effects tend to be more energizing and stimulating versus the sometimes sedating and milder Delta 8 THC. Also, the effects of Delta 10 make you more focused and energized while delivering a subtle and manageable stimulating effect.
How to Take THCa
The hemp market offers several ways to enjoy THCa. How you prefer to take it boils down to personal preference and the effectiveness of each method. While we recommend methods including smoking, inhaling, vaping, or taking THCa orally via edibles – each consumption method yields different experiences for you to consider.
Although we recommend smoking or vaping THCa flower, juicing raw cannabis leaves is a great way to get your dose of THCa. While unconventional, juicing THCa flower helps you enjoy the wellness benefits because the leaves can be blended to extract the THC. And if you can't consume all the juice at once, you can freeze it in batches and defrost it when needed.
You might also find THCa in raw cannabis tinctures. Even though this method is effective, we recommend that you smoke, vape, inhale, or consume THCa flower in edible form.
The fastest and most intense effects of THCa are experienced through smoking or vaporizing. This method delivers the active ingredients directly into the bloodstream, delivering the fastest effects onset. Overall, smoking is recommended for more experienced consumers who already understand how their bodies respond to THCa.
Pre-made THCa edibles are currently available on the market, often in the form of gummies. When buying edibles, you should be cautious to avoid those subjected to heat and only purchase from reputable brands like Koi CBD.