Featured Cannabinoid: THCA
Noel Palmer, Ph.D., Chief Scientist, CBx Sciences
THCA, or tetrahydrocannabinolic acid is the precursor to THC. In fresh cannabis – cannabinoids are initially produced as acidic cannabinoids – meaning there is a carboxylic acid functional group on the molecule’s backbone. When heat is applied to an acidic cannabinoid – this carboxylic acid functional group is driven off – and the molecule is converted to its ‘neutral’ counterpart in a process known as decarboxylation. In the case of THCA (THC-acid) – heat converts THCA to delta-9 THC - the psychoactive molecule that we all know and love. You can learn more about decarboxylation here.
Unlike THC, THCA is generally considered a non-psychoactive cannabinoid as it does not activate CB1 receptors in the brain. In other words, THC is psychotropic and 'gets you really high' whereas THCA, while full of benefits, is not considered psychotropic, and thus, does not 'get you high.'
However, THCA has a host of other reported therapeutic benefits - most being described empirically based on people trying different cannabis formulations rather than clinical work. In-vitro (petri dish and cells) research on THCA suggests the molecule doesn’t strongly bind to the endocannabinoid receptors. That being said, THCA has been reported to provide anti-proliferative and anti-inflammatory effects, but it also has antispasmodic properties, which may explain how it has been successfully used in controlling seizures. The mechanism of anti-inflammation of THCA is caused in part by inhibiting COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes. We’ve even heard reports from customers that the topical application of THCA helps relieve the pain of endometriosis and menstrual cramps.
Since THCA occurs in raw cannabis, some individuals that are lucky enough to have access to gardens will juice the leaves of live cannabis to enjoy its benefits. The use of raw acidic cannabinoids has been explored by Dr. William Courtney, who found benefits in many of his patients with autoimmune disorders. However, most of us aren’t lucky enough to have that access, so at CBx Sciences, we include THCA in products like our Intensive Salve. Look out for more products featuring THCA over the coming months.