While we’ve always thought cannabis’s psychotropic effects were primarily due to THC, they may be, in fact, partly attributable to one promising, newly discovered cannabinoid. Thanks to a group of Italian researchers, supported by the UNIHEMP project, we now know that the high-inducing THC isn’t the most potent psychoactive cannabis compound. Meet Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabiphorol (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabiphorol).
On the cusp of 2020 in Italy, the word THCp was on the lips of Giuseppe Cannazza and his group of Italian scientists. In an attempt to define the cannabinoid profile of an “autarchic” medical cannabis strain, two new cannabinoids popped up on the scene when using various scientific characterization techniques.
Dr. Cannaza isolated these unique cannabinoids from the others and realized that they had a look-alike appearance with the already-known THC and CBD. For this reason, they named them THCP (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabiphorol) and CBDP (cannabidiphorol), respectively.
What is THCP?
After the confirmation of the identities of the two cannabinoids, the group turned its focus to THCP. This potential game-changer is the latest of hundreds of active phytocannabinoids identified in the resinous trichomes of cannabis plants.
It seems to interact with the same receptor as THC, known as CB1, but with a critical difference in the side alkyl chain, the string of carbon and hydrogen atoms attached to a molecule. To bind the CB1 receptor, a minimum of three carbons is necessary, like in the case of THCV, while an eight-carbon side chain registered the highest binding activity.
In THC, the alkyl chain consists of five carbon atoms, while in THCP, it differs slightly. It consists of seven carbon atoms and appears to elicit the most potent biological response, suggesting that it’s the alkyl chain’s length that potentiates the chemical’s effects. According to the study, naturally occurring cannabinoids with a linear alkyl side chain longer than five terms have never been identified in cannabis plants.
Its discovery prompted research on active cannabis compounds. Wondering about its medical relevance, these scientists concocted a makeshift receptor in a lab dish to prove THCP potency. They concluded that this compound tended to bind to CB1 receptors 33 times more reliably than THC did. These receptors regulate anxiety, stress, pain relief, mood, and happiness. In addition, THCP might also be five to 10 times more active than THC on the CB2 receptors, which are known for helping modulate inflammation, pain, and our immune response to pathogens.
Its immense affinity for binding with these receptors may be the answer to its medical applications. Users could appreciate its possible medicinal effects and health benefits at relatively low doses. The team performed a tetrad test on mice as part of the study. THCP caused hypomotility, analgesia, catalepsy, and a decreased rectal temperature.
Furthermore, this new cannabinoid proved to have a cannabimimetic activity on rats similar to THC. Nevertheless, it is necessary to perform studies on humans to demonstrate the qualities of this newfound compound. Even though it showed sedative analgesic properties similar to THC, it is essential to corroborate if it provides a similar “high” in the human system. These effects could be non-intoxicating therapeutic responses. Moreover, THCP may even be too large to pass through the blood-brain barrier with two extra carbons.
So, we’re looking forward to seeing how researchers continue studying its properties in the next few years. Although it appears to be present in cannabis in only small amounts, hopefully, once researchers figure out its accurate potential application, THCP could be grown in larger quantities to enjoy its many properties.
Strains with THCP
The Italian Ministry of Health authorized a cannabis strain called FM2 for the study. While it has a low THCP concentration, these scientists believe that other cannabis varieties with more THC may contain higher levels. Sadly, due to the current cannabis’ legal status in many places, this is the only high THCP strain known to date.
This chemical was present in FM2 at 0.0029%, with a THC content of 3.9%. According to Dr. Cannazza, the presence of THCP could account for the pharmacological properties of some cannabis varieties that are difficult to explain by the presence of THC alone. The Italian researchers theorize that “there exists an astonishing variability of subject response to a cannabis-based therapy even with an equal THC dose.”
Although they think that the presence of highly active cannabinoids such as THCP explains why some strains with a low THC level have extremely high psychotropic properties, they need further research to confirm this theory. While it remained hidden in small quantities in cannabis plants for many years, now THCP is here to stay.
At present, we know very little about the THCP content of other cannabis strains. The next step will be to research the concentration of this cannabinoid in different varieties of this plant. For now, it looks like we will have to wait for labs to include THCP, along with THC and CBD, in various strains as research into the cannabinoid continues.
THCP vs. CBDP
Only a small part of the almost 150 phytocannabinoids detected have been isolated to understand their properties. In addition to THCP, researchers also uncovered a CBD lookalike with seven carbon rings named cannabidiphorol (CBDP). These latest two cannabinoids could play a possible key role, along with terpenes and flavonoids, in the well-known entourage effect of a specific cannabis strain.
Both THCP and CBDP have a seven-term alkyl side chain, making these two compounds particularly interesting because they are the first cannabinoids discovered with “tails” longer than five links. Although phytocannabinoids with longer alkyl chains bind with cannabinoid receptors in the body more readily, the team found that this new cannabinoid, CBDP, doesn't bind strongly to either the CB1 or CB2 receptors, regardless of its side chain length.
How to Make THCP
All phytocannabinoids start life as the same molecule, cannabigerolic acid (CBGA). This mother cannabinoid undergoes further enzymatic reactions to become the phytocannabinoids’ acidic forms: THCA, CBDA, CBCA, etc. These only exist in their acidic forms in raw cannabis.
However, when they are in contact with heat, they react to a process called decarboxylation, changing their structures from THCA into THC, CBDA into CBD, and CBCA into CBC. Similarly, THCPA reacts through decarboxylation and converts into THCP, activating the acidic form of delta-9-THCP.
Where to Buy THCP
Despite that these chemicals hold great medical potential, they may also pose an increased risk of side effects. More research is necessary to determine their exact impacts on human health. Nevertheless, Bee’s Knee’s has an already legal, safe, and fun product, including this new cannabinoid.
You can find it under the name of USDA Certified Organic Vegan THCP Gummies, made with a natural blend of legal hemp extract that includes cannabinoids, terpenes, and other natural with non-GMO ingredients designed to provide a relaxing effect. It contains 150 mg CBD/15 mg THCP per bag with absolutely no artificial flavors or colors.
Moreover, a few exciting products are coming soon to the cannabis industry, like SpyGlass CBD THCP Tincture, perfect for infusing butter, cooking oil, or any other oil-based consumable or topical. You will be able to use it sublingually for even faster relief. These findings inevitably make us wonder if any other highly potent cannabinoids exist inside the plant without being identified yet.
As cannabinoid science progresses and scientists recognize new compounds, product labeling and consumer warnings will likely become more complex. What’s sure about is that the discovery of THCP, might start a whole new evolution, led by the identification of unique cannabinoids which may offer therapeutic riches that can potentially transform medicine further.