As the marijuana market across Europe and the US continues to mature, newer processes and technologies have brought forth a barrage of innovative products for medical and recreational use.
With competition all around, manufacturers are striving hard to find new ways of impressing and wowing their consumers. For a fact, cannabis users today are more demanding and sophisticated than ever, willing to pay top cash for the highest potency product.
Enter THCA – tetrahydrocannabinolic acid – the non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in raw, live cannabis. Over time, the THCA in the cannabis plant turns into THC via a slow and natural process.
The Cannabis Concentrates Market – Driven by Potency and Purity
When it comes to the cannabis concentrates consumer market, two of the key driving factors are potency and purity. Pharmacists and chemical engineers have been working hard and conducting research to create the latest concoctions in the hashish market – constantly pushing the envelope in terms of what’s possible with cannabis isolations and extractions.
So, you’re looking for the purest, strongest, most unadulterated product on the market, is that right? Is it possible to isolate pure cannabinoids into a packaged product fit for consumption? Unless, you’ve been nice and cosy under a rock for the last few years, yes, it is totally possible.
Professional extractors now deliver a crystal-like cannabis isolate composed of THCA, which is often called THCA “crystalline” or the other way around; e.g. Crystalline THCA.
All You Need to Know about THCA Crystalline
Engineered by a team of researchers and pharmacists at Guild Extracts, the crystalline extract contains 99.997% THCA. As far as we know, majority of raw cannabis extracts today typically have anywhere between 50% and 80% purity.
Since the Guild Extracts team claim to have been the first ones to produce such a pure THCA crystalline extract, this would mean that it’s currently “the undisputed” strongest and purest hashish in the world. Furthermore, with an error margin of just 0.003%, we doubt if it can get any purer than this. Given its uniqueness and mind-boggling purity, it has gained quite a lot of popularity among EU consumers – in fact, so much so that it sells for a cool €170 per gram.
So what exactly is THCA? “Fondly” referred to as tetrahydrocannabinolic acid among geek circles and pot literates, it is a cannabis compound that, thanks to adequate research, has immense therapeutic potential.
You may have already heard of THC as a recreational or medical pot user, but THCA is not to be confused with the former as it has very distinct properties. And, unlike THC, the latter is a non-psychoactive cannabis that’s found in raw cannabis. Once the plant dies, the THCA gradually starts to convert to THC. Bring heat into the mix, and you can further expedite this process via decarboxylation – a fancy schmancy term for what follows when a flower is smoked or vaporised.
Research confirms that THCA is among one of the most prominent cannabinoids naturally found in raw, living cannabis plants. The second one is CBDA (cannabidiolic acid), although not relevant to this article, but just an FYI.
THCA is a precursor to its pharmacologically active and commonly consumed analogue: THC. Just to reiterate what we shed light on earlier, as a living cannabis plant starts to wither during the last stages of senescence, the unstable cannabinoid precursors gradually “decarboxylate” to become active. When a cannabis plant is finally harvested and dried, heat processes further decarboxylate cannabinoids into the active compounds to form THCA.
Cannabis contains hundreds of both active and inactive compounds that tend to take a variety of shapes and structures. The molecular composition of THCA, when viewed under a microscope, looks a lot like a crystalline formation that has latticed and rigid structures. And once these structures are completely isolated to form visible compounds, they resemble crushed rock salt or snowflakes.
Factually speaking, isolated THCA is the purest form of concentrate currently available with a potency of 99.9%. To elaborate a little more on this, what this basically means is it has no traces whatsoever of fats, lipids, flavonoids, terpenes or anything else left over from the raw plant. It is due to this reason that THCA isolates have no colour, flavour or aroma, for that matter.
Even though the specific process used to create THCA crystalline is a well-guarded one, processors have shared just enough information to provide a gist of how the complicated preparation is made.
How is THCA Crystalline Made?
It’s probably fair to say that majority of folks around the world have never ever experienced what it’s like to consume the purest grade hash currently available. Today, THCA crystalline is considered the “holy grail of hashish potency”. Here’s how it’s made:
The cannabinoids isolation and collection process begins with an extract. In addition to primary cannabinoids, these extracts have a variety of components including lipids, fats, flavonoids and terpenes. Since these compounds must be removed for the cannabinoids to be isolated, a series of washes and separations are required.
The initial wash and extraction is usually done using hydrocarbon hexane and acetic acid, which can be thought of as a kind of super-concentrated vinegar. When mixed together, the two chemical solvents can effectively get rid of plant impurities and particulates.
Now these chemicals need to be removed – the slurry is loaded into a rotary evaporator, which is often called a “rotovap” – these are designed to carefully and gently separate solvents from compounds via a mix of slow heat introduction and pressure as well as rotational motion.
After completing this step, the remaining cannabinoids need to go through additional isolation via a separation process referred to as “preparative chromatography”. This type of chromatography is very useful for separating a group of compounds as they are passed through different mediums at varying speeds. To properly isolate cannabinoids using this method, more chemicals are required, which can be easily filtered out through another round of rotovap.
Important to note is the fact that crystalline THCA is still inactive as it does not share the same psychotropic properties as THC, if it were to be ingested in its current state, that is.
Therefore, the final cannabinoid isolation stage revolves around preparing the product for human consumption. So far, all that we have left are pure cannabinoids and perhaps just a few impurities in trace amounts.
These remaining impurities and particulates can be removed using solvents like pentane and methane via dedicated mixing and separation processes – each solvent is added and then subsequently removed using the rotovap.
Now that the final separation is complete, what you’re left with is 99% pure crystalline cannabinoids ready for consumption.
What’s the Best Way to Consume Crystalline THCA?
In order for the crystalline THCA to “lock’n’load” and deliver its intoxicating effects, it needs to be heated. However, keep in mind that since THCA has therapeutic and medicinal uses even though it is inactive, it can still be taken in its raw form through different methods.
For example, crystalline cannabinoids can be ingested orally as they can be mixed in while preparing food or even portioned into capsules and pills. They are very easy to dose because they are so pure.
However, those looking to rapidly “activate” those crystalline cannabinoids would want to consume it through vaporisation and dabbing. By ingesting THCA through these two methods, decarboxylation occurs almost immediately, breaking down the inactive and acidic cannabinoid into THC.
You might come across certain pure THCA extracts which have been enhanced through additional terpene blends. Processors do this because crystalline THCA has almost no flavour. By combining cannabinoids with a variety of terpenes, users can have a more robust and varied experience, not just by way of added flavour but also more nuanced effects.
Good to Know: Crystalline THCA Benefits and Uses
Plenty of research and anecdotal evidence suggests that THCA offers many benefits such as:
- Antiemetic – to treat nausea and appetite loss which may prove useful for cancer patients
- Neuriprotective agent – to treat neurodegenerative diseases
- Anti-inflammatory – to treat arthritis and lupus
- Anti-proliferative – which may lower the risk of prostate cancer by preventing malignant cells from spreading
Other studies have concluded that patients have reported feeling less pain and muscle spasms, and reduced episodes of insomnia. THCA may also treat people with auto-immune disorders. Also among its most profound positive effects might be assisting users on a psychiatric level to reduce stress and too much anxiety.
A major advantage of THCA as far as medical applications are concerned, is that if it is consumed without the heat or pressure applied (decarboxylation), patients can still enjoy the positive effects without feeling “high”.
Speaking of Which – What is the High Like?
When consuming a substance like pure THCA, you may have to sacrifice a few things which are found in, say, a conventional joint or bong, such as the flavour or aroma. Since most processors selling pure extracts would not want to “muddy up” the product in any way, it’s quite likely that it will have zero terpenes. So what this basically means = no flavour or aroma.
Some users who have had the privilege of trying out crystalline THCA have said that it tastes like snowflakes, which is pretty much your standard tap water taste. Also, bear in mind that the high you experience will not be the typical cannabis high because you’re experiencing just one cannabinoid.
However, once you’ve tried it, the high may catch you by surprise. Majority of users have described the high as “clear and fresh” energy that made them feel more energetic. Perhaps, it may prove to be a bit too clear and fresh for some users, because those who have used it describe the high as more “medical” than the near-psychedelic high regular hashish is known for.
Depending on the purpose you want to use THCA for, you may or may not feel noticeably high, but you will definitely feel something – after all, the product has nearly twice the purity of what most pot smokers have experienced.
So depending on your mindset and pot-smoking preferences, you may not be able to comprehend the high during the first few doses. You might find it to be a little more “medical” than desired but perhaps that is a good thing.
One thing is for sure – any recreational consumer is going to find it mighty difficult to go back to getting mixed and impure highs from regular joints because crystalline THCA is truly some next-level stuff.