Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid, also known as THC-A, is a non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis plants. It is the precursor to Delta 9 THC and is found in much higher concentrations in raw cannabis. Cannabinoid acids, like THC-A, are converted to their active form when exposed to heat. When cannabis is heated or burned, THCA undergoes a process called decarboxylation, which converts it into THC (Delta 9 THC). This is why consuming raw cannabis does not result in the same psychoactive effects as consuming cannabis that has been heated or burned.
THC-A vs THC: What Are The Differences?
Even if you are not a big cannabis specialist, the chances that you have heard of THC are very great. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC Delta 9) is the chemical component that stimulates the psychoactive effects associated with cannabis use, and depending on the exact type of cannabis used, it can be one of the most predominant cannabinoids present in a product. There are even hemp plants that have been specially bred by growers to achieve a very high Delta 9 THC content. However, if you were to chew a fresh hemp leaf with a high THC content, you would feel nothing. Why? Because there is almost no THC Delta 9 in the raw plant material, no matter how strong the strain of cannabis is.
So What Is THC-A?
All the main cannabinoids present in hemp come from cannabigerolic acid (CBGA) - the "mother of all cannabinoids." As the cannabis plant matures, CBGA is converted (or synthesized) into a combination of three main cannabinoid precursors: tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), cannabidiol (CBDA), and cannabichromenic acid (CBCA).
THC-A is a prototype of the psychoactive compound THC Delta 9. To produce THC, hemp plant material must be exposed to heat or some other driving force qualified to initiate thermal decarboxylation. THCa loses its acidic carbonyl group and becomes THC (Delta 9). That is why you would not feel anything if you chewed freshly harvested hemp. Hemp is capable of producing intoxicating effects when used, as the most common ways of consuming hemp are smoking, inhaling, baking, and others. All of these methods are powerful enough to jumpstart the process and convert THCa into more intoxicating THC.
Synthesis Of THCA To THC
Since THCA is a precursor to Delta 9 THC, it is still an important cannabinoid to consider when determining the quality of a strain. One of the most generally used strategies for calculating cannabis potency is gas chromatography. In this method, sufficient heat is applied to the tested hemp material to decarboxylate the THCA present and form Delta 9 THC. Since potency is usually expressed as a percentage of THC, this method should theoretically be able to determine the potency of cannabis directly. However, this heating and succeeding decarboxylation will cause the plant material to lose weight. In order to accurately determine the total THC content of raw hemp, it needs to be factored into the calculations. The general formula for the calculation is as follows: Total THC = (% THCA) x [Final Weight / Initial Weight] + (% THC). This formula provides a good estimate of the total Delta 9 THC content of raw hemp. The resulting amount is also referred to as the maximum amount of THC because, in practice, not all THC and THC are synthesized in the usual ways of using hemp. It is difficult to estimate the actual amount of THC taken, but research (to date) shows that 30% - 70% of THC is not converted to THC in the process of consumption.
Potential Benefits Of THC-A
Due to its non-psychoactive nature, THC-A has less of an effect on the cannabinoid receptors in the body than regular THC. However, this does not mean that THCA has no important effects. Compared to Delta 9 THC, moderately occasional examinations have been conducted on the potential therapeutic uses of THC-A. However, according to preliminary studies and anecdotal reports, THC-A has been associated with the following therapeutic effects:
- anti-inflammatory effects - in the treatment of arthritis and lupus,
- neuroprotective effects - useful in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases,
- antiemetic effects - in the fight against nausea and loss of appetite,
- antiproliferative effects - noted in prostate cancer studies.
Anecdotal evidence also suggests that THC-A may help treat insomnia, muscle spasms, pain, and other related symptoms, although high-quality scientific research is needed to confirm these claims.
New Ways To Consume THCA
Because THCa is converted to Delta 9 THC by heat, relatively small amounts of THCa remain in hemp products that are consumed by smoking, vaping, cooking, or baking. One of the most popular ways to consume THCA is by juicing raw hemp. Hemp juices are becoming a new trend and are slowly making their way into the offer of modern hemp shops and cafes. The preparation of hemp juice is simple. It's basically the same process as making juice from cabbage, but hemp leaves are used instead of traditional cabbage leaves. Since the hemp is not heated in this process, THCA can be extracted from the hemp leaves without a large amount being converted to Delta 9 THC. Consequently, consumers can use THC-A for medicinal or therapeutic purposes without getting high. There are also raw hemp tinctures and raw hemp products that can be purchased pre-made that contain high amounts of THCA and other raw cannabinoids. The advantage of these products is that they are labeled with accurate dosage information, so users know exactly how much THCA (and other cannabinoids) they are consuming. During the actual production of hemp juices, it is not possible to estimate exactly how much of which cannabinoids the user will consume.
THCA stands for Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid, which is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that is found in raw cannabis plants. THC-A is the precursor to THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is the primary psychoactive component of cannabis. This cannabinoid is believed to have potential therapeutic benefits, including anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and anti-nausea properties. Nevertheless, more study is needed to understand the therapeutic potential of THCA thoroughly.