What is THCA?

Cannabis flower with THCA

If you are a curious person and like to learn about the scientific side of cannabis, then THCA will catch your eye. Why? Mainly because the percentage of THC present in your cannabis strain of choice will be directly related to the amount of THCA that the plant contains.

As soon as you begin to get acquainted with cannabis and everything related to this plant, one of the first things you hear mentioned is the infamous and controversial THC. Without a doubt, it is the most famous of the cannabinoids and the compound responsible for psychoactive intoxication. However, we must highlight the fact that this is only one of the cannabinoids that occur within the transformations that affect the molecular structure of the mother of all cannabinoids, CBGA. Among these transformations, we can find THCA or tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, which turns out to be the precursor cannabinoid of the revolutionary THC.

Especially in the last decade, things have gotten a lot more severe by bringing up the subject of cannabis. This is mainly due to all the recent information and scientific studies that support the wide range of therapeutic and medicinal properties that this plant possesses. This article will go a little deeper into the range of properties, effects, and benefits of THCA.

What is THCA?

It is necessary to speak of CBGA first to understand how THCA forms. Both cannabis and hemp plants produce an organic compound called cannabigerolic acid, or CBGA. In turn, each strain of cannabis contains unique enzymes that, as cannabis plants grow, synthesize this CBGA into one of these three main groups: precursor cannabinoids, THCA, CBDA, and CBCA. To become THC, THCA has to lose its acidic carbonyl. This is possible through decarboxylation, which happens when you expose the THCA in the plant to heat. That’s why most people who look for a THC high experience smoke, vape, or bake their THC-rich cannabis into edibles.

As we said before, the total THC percentage within the cannabis strain you choose will be directly related to the THCA content present in the plant. To calculate the total THC a bud has, starting from the THCA content, the most used method is gas chromatography. In this process, heat is applied to a sample of the cannabis plant material to decarboxylate the THCA into THC. The plant loses weight as the THCA molecules lose their acidic carbonyl group. It is necessary to consider all of this data to calculate the total THC percentage using a simple formula:

THC total = (% THCA) x [final mass/initial mass] + (% THC)

However, under normal smoking conditions, not all THCA will be converted into THC. In fact, the average THCA content present in the plant matter will not convert into THC. Only between 30 and 70% of the total THCA will synthesize into this compound. Calculating the exact THC percentage you would consume would be really hard. Nevertheless, this formula can give a perfect idea of an approximate THC percentage present in the raw cannabis material. 

THCA Effects and Benefits

Although there is still a long way to go towards a proper understanding of THCA’s effects and benefits, there are many preliminary studies and anecdotal arguments. In this sense, many have experienced the benefits that THCA can bring to the human body’s efficient functioning and health. Among the proven benefits that THCA has, we can find the following:

Analgesic and Anti-inflammatory: Same as other primary cannabinoids, THCA demonstrated to have anti-inflammatory effects, according to a 2011 study. Additionally, a recent 2021 study showed that THCA might be a potential treatment for fatty liver disease due to its anti-inflammatory features. These same features proved to help reducing pain.

Anti-Proliferative: In-vitro and in-vivo studies published in 2013 proved that THCA inhibits prostate carcinoma growth showing pro-apoptotic effects and underlying mechanisms.

Antispasmodic: Studies showed that THCA could have antispasmodic properties, helping control involuntary muscle spasms.

Anti-emetic: a 2020 study found that both THCA and CBGA perform great in reducing nausea in mice even more than THC and CBD.

Anti-obesity: Although scientists need to do more research to prove this fully, a 2020 study found that THCA has an apparent ability to reduce obesity, help to treat diabetes and fatty liver disease.

Immune system booster: THCA demonstrated to both improve and potentially suppress the immune system functions.

Neuroprotective: According to a 2017 study, THCA may perform as a neuroprotective agent against neurodegenerative diseases.

Does THCA Get you High?

As a primary form of THC, the psychoactive compound of cannabis, some may assume it has the same intoxicating effects as the latter. However, THCA by itself is not psychoactive at all since it needs to transform into Delta-9 THC to have intoxicating effects by exposing to heat.

For this reason, many patients or cannabis lovers with low THC tolerance can benefit from the non-psychoactive nature of THCA.

How to Get THCA

Getting THCA out of your regular cannabis flowers by smoking, vaping, or baking them would be really hard, or in the best-case scenario, you would a very minimum quantity of THCA as such. This is because THCA is easily converted to THC when exposed to heat or light. 

The best way to get THCA nowadays is by raw cannabis juicing. Making a cannabis juice is essentially the same as making kale juice, but using cannabis leaves instead of traditionally used leafy greens. As you don’t heat the cannabis in this process, this is the best way in which consumers can use THCA and enjoy all the medicinal and therapeutic benefits it can bring to the body without getting any psychoactive high. Raw cannabis juicing is becoming popular, and it is making its way to cannabis wellness shops, cafes, and amongst cannabis influencers.

You can also find THCA crystalline isolate currently available on the market. It’s an excellent way of getting THCA as the concentrate tends to have nearly 100% THCA cannabinoids compared with most extracts that contain only between 50 to 80% THCA. You can consume this isolate in a dab rig or an electronic dab nail to have more exact control of the temperature. You can also add THCA crystals to your daily smoking routine by adding them to your wrapped joints or as a topping in your bud-packed bowl. 

Nevertheless, these consumption methods will convert tour THCA powder into THC as you are heating it. So, if you don’t want to apply heat to your THCA but rather want to enjoy all the therapeutic benefits that this cannabinoid can offer by itself, you can add these THCA crystals or powder directly to your food preparations and smoothies. 

Moreover, you can dose the THCA in capsules to include an exact dose per day in your diet. You can also find THCA made as other oral products such as tinctures and droppers. You can consume these tinctures as a sublingual application by placing the THCA under your tongue and leaving it there for about 60 seconds. This will allow the THCA to get faster into your bloodstream and brain.

While scientists still have a long way to find more THCA benefits, it is already easy to come across amazing products that allow you to get this cannabinoid into your daily life. It goes without saying that each time you buy a cannabis product, it is essential to check the vendor’s reliability to ensure you are getting quality items.

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