Welcome to part 1 of our Cannabinoid series where we focus on each of the cannabinoids and their effects on our body.
Today we will be covering Tetrahydrocannabinol, better known by its short-form THC, the cannabinoid that gives you the famous weed high.
As mentioned in the first part of our series, THC strongly binds to the CB1 receptors in the brain, giving the feeling of ‘euphoria’ after consumption, often described as feeling “high”. Cannabis has been used for recreational purposes ever since humans have discovered its psychotropic effect, which is largely due to THC.
THC is effective as a pain relief agent for people suffering from illnesses such as Multiple Sclerosis (E. Russo, 2008). There is also a lot of interest in THC as potentially having the ability to kill or slow the growth in cancer cells (Dariš et al., 2019).
Much of the THC from the plant is concentrated in the resin of the flowers in the form of THCA (which converts to THC with heat) (Taschwer & Schmid, 2015).
All THC starts as THCa- a non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in raw cannabis plant materials. In order to fully convert THCa to THC, heat must be applied. This is why one can’t get high from eating dry leaves and has to apply heat to dry leaf/resin or concentrate. Once THCa is subjected to heat (around 105 C) a process called decarboxylation occurs, where the carboxylic acid group is removed and released as CO2 and water, and the THCa gets converted to THC.
But not all the THCA gets converted to THC. The generally accepted conversion rate is 87.7% of the available THC (Taschwer & Schmid, 2015).
Total Potential THC = (0.877 * % of THCA) + % of THC
Effects of THC and THCa
THCa and THC are used to stimulate appetite. THCa works similarly to THC by acting as a cannabinoid receptor agonist (a chemical that binds to a receptor and activates the receptor to produce a biological response) and is known for its neuroprotective (brain protection) effects (Guidali et al., 2010).
Both THC and THCa are powerful anti-inflammatory, and claims suggest that they can help in slowing the spread of cancer and other tumors, aids with sleep, and more. Here are some of the potential benefits studies have started to unveil:
Analgesic – Relieves pain.
Anti-Emetic – Reduces vomiting, nausea, and appetite loss (Guidali et al., 2010).
Anti-Inflammatory – Reduces inflammation; for treatment of arthritis and lupus (Capasso et al., 2008).
Anti-Insomnia – Aids with sleep.
Anti-Proliferative – Inhibits cancer cell growth; noted in studies of prostate cancer.
Antispasmodic – Suppresses muscle spasms ((Capasso et al., 2008).
Modulates Immune System – THCa has been shown to the immune system functions.
Neuroprotective – Slows damage to the nervous system and brain; for treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.
Consumption of THCa
THCa allows you to obtain the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of THCa, without getting a psychoactive high. THCa is already bioavailable in raw cannabis and hemp plant, and there are plenty of ways to eat it raw (Nallathambi et al., 2017). It can be eaten fresh like a leafy green vegetable or added into salads or salad dressings. One can even press the juice from the leaves and mix it into blends, juices, or smoothies. One of the latest trends for consuming THCa is eating whole young saplings from microgrowery which are high in THCa.
Capasso, R., Borrelli, F., Aviello, G., Romano, B., Scalisi, C., Capasso, F., & Izzo, A. A. (2008). Cannabidiol, extracted from Cannabis sativa, selectively inhibits inflammatory hypermotility in mice. British Journal of Pharmacology, 154(5), 1001–1008.Link
Dariš, B., Tancer Verboten, M., Knez, E., & Ferk, P. (2019). Cannabinoids in cancer treatment: Therapeutic potential and legislation. Bosnian Journal of Basic Medical Sciences, 19(1), 14–23. Link
Guidali, C., Viganò, D., Petrosino, S., Zamberletti, E., Realini, N., Binelli, G., Rubino, T., Di Marzo, V., & Parolaro, D. (2010). Cannabinoid CB1 receptor antagonism prevents neurochemical and behavioural deficits induced by chronic phencyclidine. The International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, 14(01), 17–28. Link
Nallathambi, R., Mazuz, M., Ion, A., Selvaraj, G., Weininger, S., Fridlender, M., Nasser, A., Sagee, O., Kumari, P., Nemichenizer, D., Mendelovitz, M., Firstein, N., Hanin, O., Konikoff, F., Kapulnik, Y., Naftali, T., & Koltai, H. (2017). Anti-Inflammatory Activity in Colon Models Is Derived from Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid That Interacts with Additional Compounds in Cannabis Extracts. Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, 2(1), 167–182. Link
Russo, E. (2008). Cannabinoids in the management of difficult to treat pain. Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management, Volume 4, 245–259. Link
Taschwer, M., & Schmid, M. G. (2015). Determination of the relative percentage distribution of THCA and Δ9-THC in herbal cannabis seized in Austria – Impact of different storage temperatures on stability. Forensic Science International, 254, 167–171. Link