What is THCA (Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid)?

 Photo Credit: Kojin/Shutterstock

Photo Credit: Kojin/Shutterstock

Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid (THCA) is the molecular precursor to THC. THCA is non-psychoactive, and must be converted to THC through a heated process called decarboxylation before it will provide any sort of "high." This is because while THCA contains a carboxylic acid group that is absent in THC, which actually prevents it from binding with the CB1 receptor in the brain. In order to consume THCA, a patient must avoid the use of heat in order to prevent THCA from converting into THC. Common THCA vehicles include topicals, juices, and tinctures. Patients can apply THCA topicals in the form of lotions, oils, and salves, directly to a targeted area so that it can provide localized pain and inflammation relief. THCA can be used in a pure crystalline form, which can be measured out into capsules for easy dosing. Patients may choose to juice cannabis or use tinctures under the tongue to consume THCA as well. Because THCA does not bind with cannabinoid receptors, it is slightly unclear how it is able to provide relief. Still, the cannabinoid is known to provide relief for a variety of symptoms.

THCA regulates immune cell function to reduce inflammation by lowering the production of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα). Because TNFα plays a role in inflammation and fever, lowering its production could reduce these symptoms, while also reducing pain, muscle spasms, menstrual cramping, and treating immune system disorders. THCA also produces anti-emetic effects, and researchers have found it reduces nausea and vomiting in animal models. THCA may also have the potential to slow tumor growth in different tumor cell types, but these anti-cancer effects are not as significant as the ones provided by other cannabinoids like CBD. Lastly, THCA acts as a neuroprotective agent. One study on brain cell cultures that had been exposed to the toxic chemical MPP found THCA protected the brain cells from toxicity. THCA increased the number of living cells after their exposure to MPP by 123%, compared to CBD which also showed protection at around 117%. This may have implications for neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.

This information has been provided by Leaf Science and approved by our Chief Medical Officer.