As a regular cannabis user, you have probably come across a handful of strains that boast a certain ratio of two of the most common compounds or cannabinoids: THC and CBD. But have you ever wondered what THCA is, the acidic form of THC?
Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid is the most abundant cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant although it is not psychoactive like its non-acidic counterpart THC – which means there is no feeling of euphoria or ‘high’ as such.
Interestingly, THCA has been getting widespread attention nowadays – however, before we discuss why it has become such a popular cannabinoid for scientific research or it’s often underrated benefits, we should briefly understand what THCA is at its core and the general role cannabinoids play when consumed in their raw form.
Understanding the Role of THCA – What are Cannabinoids?
Our brains and bodies have their own unique receptors, known as the CB1 and CB2 receptors respectively; certain chemical compounds, including cannabinoids, have the ability to bind seamlessly with these receptors.
Endocannabinoids (produced in the body naturally), phytocannabinoids (found in cannabis) and synthetic cannabinoids (manufactured artificially) all act as ligands for the CB1 and 2 receptor proteins.
These three cannabinoids play an important part in that they exert a variety of effects on the mind and body, which depends on what kind of receptors they bind with.
For instance, THC – probably the most researched and commonly discussed cannabinoid – binds easily with the CB1 receptors in the brain, resulting in that signature ‘high’ feeling, which has made the herb so popular. Other cannabinoids, however, are not psychoactive, and are taken mostly for their medicinal and health benefits.
All in all, there are over 100 cannabinoids that scientists and researchers have studied so far. Other common cannabinoids include CBN and CBD – although we’re putting the spotlight solely on THCA in this article.
What is THCA?
Early research into THCA points to the fact that it has many therapeutic benefits. However, it does not share the same psychoactive properties as its non-acidic form THC.
THCA is, in fact, a precursor to THC – it is found in raw, live cannabis. Once the plant starts to dry, that’s when THCA converts to THC – and so, the plant becomes psychoactive. A heating process known as ‘decarbing’, or more specifically, decarboxylation, speeds up the conversion process – this is probably why majority of users prefer to smoke or vape high-THC strains.
But our goal (for now) is to not heat the THCA-infused strain via decarbing. Read on to understand what you can expect from freshly harvested THC strains that are still in their acidic form.
THC versus THCA – Why Consume THCA?
Let’s assume you approach any random person who you think is a cannabis consumer, and ask them how they like to have it – we’re fairly certain that they will say they prefer smoking it. However, many people fail to realise that there are a number of benefits to be had when consuming raw, unheated and uncured cannabis.
In its raw state – e.g. when cannabis isn’t exposed to heat – the plant still has its resin glands which are abundant in cannabinoid acids. THCA happens to be one of the most present cannabinoid acids in these resins. So what this means is that fresh, completely raw cannabis contains almost no THC because it has not been subjected to the decarbing process.
But again, if you prefer to experience a ‘high’ from your herb, then you’ll need to expose the bud or leaves to the right temperatures, thus, breaking down the THCA into its psychoactive form, THC.
Benefits of Consuming Your Cannabis ‘Whole’
By using the full compliment or range of cannabis compounds, you can benefit in many interesting ways. You see, the whole cannabis plant, in contrast, offers a wider range of therapeutic effects, because none of the cannabinoids are lost by way of decarbing.
As research continues, medical marijuana scientists and cannabis experts are now giving the spotlight to THCA strains – current anecdotal evidence suggests that it has an important role to play as far as medicinal cannabis use goes.
Patients have also shared their insights into their experience with THCA-rich raw cannabis – reporting that symptoms of insomnia, pain and muscle spasms were alleviated. While further studies are needed to substantiate these claims, there’s already plenty of research pointing to its benefits:
Many people consume medical cannabis to find relief from stress, illness and injury. If left unchecked, inflammation can become chronic, contributing to a host of health issues including mental health problems and autoimmune disease.
Luckily, much like majority of other cannabinoids present in raw cannabis, THCA also has a very good anti-inflammatory profile.
Antioxidants are important compounds to have within the system as they help fight harmful toxins in our bodies – THCA is a very good antioxidant.
In fact, a study done in 2012 confirmed that THCA can effectively remedy the damage done by neurotoxins. This is certainly very encouraging because more clinical trials would further prove its effectiveness in treating neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Since THCA has the ability to interact with the TRPA1 receptor, it can manipulate the response we have to itching, fever and pain. It can, therefore, reduce painful muscle cramps, spasms and reduce other painful conditions on a whole.
People have been using cannabis to counter feelings of nausea for quite some time now – typically smoking or vaping the herb to alleviate symptoms. However, research has suggested that THCA in raw cannabis plants is also very effective at curing not only nausea and vomiting but also loss of appetite.
The THCA in uncooked cannabis produces necrosis in the plant cells – which means plants have the ability to remove redundant or dying cells. Our immune systems actually function in a similar way – where ageing, diseased or damaged cells are eliminated. Cancer manifests in the body when this mechanism seizes to work properly, leading to diseased cells multiplying instead of being eliminated like they should.
A 2013 study suggested that THCA may prevent prostate cancer cells from spreading – something that is reinforced by the fact that other research has also connected cannabinoids’ role in preventing the proliferation of many varieties of cancer.
THCA acts as a natural insecticide because cannabinoids themselves work as a defence and immune system for the plant. Raw cannabis oil infused in a cream or ointment can prevent insect bites.
How to Consume THCA
One of the best ways to consume raw cannabis containing THCA is by ‘juicing’ or blending it.
Here’s a simple recipe to juice with your favourite THCA strain:
What you’ll need
- Freshly harvested raw plant leaves – 30g (that’s 10-15g of raw buds)
- Masticating juicer (cold pressed juicers)
- An apple
- A cucumber
- Two carrots
- Half a lemon
- A piece of ginger
Steps to juicing your THCA-rich plant
- It’s always a good idea to properly wash the plant material before juicing
- Soak the leaves in cool water for a few minutes and then drain
- Turn on your masticating juicer and get to work – how you carry out the process depends on the model you own
- In most cases, you’ll see the juice collecting up on one side, while the fibre and pulp accumulates on the other side
- Raw cannabis juice is best served fresh. You can store it in your fridge but for no more than 3 days; you can also freeze it into ice cubes and tuck away in your freezer for a few months
- Just to prepare you for the experience – raw cannabis juice boasts a strong, leafy and bitter taste; therefore, we would always recommend having it with your favourite fruits and vegetables
Final Thoughts on THCA
If you’re wondering how exactly to identify THCA-rich strains or where to get them, know that any strain abundant in THC (which hasn’t been decarboxylated yet) will have plenty THCA. Just make sure that you’re buying a freshly harvested cannabis plant as those have the highest ratio of cannabinoids, including THCA. Lab-tested marijuana is abundant in THCA one way or another, averaging between 10-20% of the cannabinoid.
THCA’s immense therapeutic potential has garnered a lot of positive, research-based evidence and praise from medical cannabis users as well. Its underrated medicinal benefits have clearly shown to be helpful in treating anything from loss of appetite and insomnia to neurodegenerative diseases and inflammatory conditions.
There’s a lot that still hasn’t been discovered about cannabinoid acids, although the medical efficacy of THCA is as clear as the blue sky.
So go ahead and juice your raw cannabis for not only its therapeutic effects but health benefits as well, although if you feel like innovating a little, you can always make raw cannabis salsas, popsicles, salads and much more.
Now that you know the real story about cannabinoids and THCA in particular, the next step is to find a quality strain.