The most common cannabinoid found in the raw cannabis plant.
Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, or THCA, is non-intoxicating but converts into intoxicating THC when exposed to heat through a process called decarboxylation.
Research indicates that THCA has its own medicinal potential in anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and anti-emetic treatments.
WHAT IS THCA?
THCA, or tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, is a cannabis compound that is beginning to demonstrate therapeutic potential despite the infancy of its research. Research on this cannabinoid is quite promising, despite the fact that it’s still mostly uncharted territory. However, one of the most hopeful studies to date is a new one from Israel that suggests THCA could be beneficial in the treatment of drug resistant tumours. You have heard of THC, and while they sound similar, THCA has very different properties. Unlike THC, THCA is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid found in raw and live cannabis. As the plant dries, THCA slowly converts to THC. Heat expedites this conversion in a process known as decarboxylation, a scientific name that describes what occurs when you smoke or vaporise cannabis.
For many years, this acid compound has been largely ignored and the central focus was on THC and finding ways to vilify it. Thankfully now, we’re starting to make great strides in the way of cannabis research and medical researchers are starting to look at the unique benefits of multiple cannabinoids, including THCA. New medical cannabis technology means new and improved products for consumers.
THCA is produced in trichomes, the tiny glandular hairs found across the surface of the cannabis plant. Trichomes are responsible for producing the cannabis plant’s cannabinoids and terpenes. Trichomes contain resin glands that make the terpenes, THCA, and other phytocannabinoids.
As interest and research investments increase in the realm of medicinal cannabis as a medicine, more studies are being conducted. There isn’t enough research on THCA to definitively state what it can treat and with what degree of efficacy, but preliminary research and anecdotal evidence suggest that THCA will play a pivotal role in cannabis medicine as the industry moves forward. THCA stimulates the appetite like THC; it acts as a cannabinoid receptor agonist (a chemical that binds to a receptor and activates the receptor to produce a biological response), and in so doing helps in its neuroprotective (brain protection) effects. It is also a powerful anti-inflammatory, helps fight cancer and other tumours, aids with sleep, and more. Here are some of the potential benefits studies have started to unveil:
Analgesic: Relieves pain. Chronic pain relief is the most common reason why people seek medical marijuana. A large (United States) systematic review evaluated cannabis studies in patients with chronic pain found that THCA increased the odds of pain improvement by around 40%
Anti-inflammatory: THCA possesses anti-inflammatory properties that could help aid in the treatment of such diseases as arthritis and lupus. In a 2021 laboratory study, THCA also showed great potential as a treatment for fatty liver disease thanks to its ability to work as an anti-inflammatory.
Neuroprotective properties: If you have a family history of neurodegenerative diseases, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s, THCA could contain neuroprotective properties to help slow or prevent the development of these diseases. It is also beneficial in the treatment of such conditions as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease. It can also help to stimulate the appetite in patients suffering from cachexia and anorexia nervosa.
Anti-emetic: For those who suffer from chronic nausea or appetite loss, THCA has anti-emetic properties to help counter some of these issues. In another laboratory study, THCA was more effective in reducing nausea symptoms than CBD or THC. Interestingly, two oral THC-containing drugs – nabilone and dronabinol – have been available for the treatment of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting for more than 30 years. A 2010 (United States)study of chemo patients found those who took a THC-containing medicine in combination with standard treatment experienced stronger protection against nausea and vomiting than patients who received the standard treatment alone.
Anti-proliferative: THCA also has anti-proliferative qualities, which means that it can help inhibit the growth of cancer cells that are responsible for creating tumours. Notable studies have been conducted in regards to it aiding in prostate cancer. THCA alone doesn’t kill cancer, it does however, help traditional chemotherapy and other cancer immunotherapy treatments work more efficiently by bypassing any existing Multi Drug Resistance that is common in roughly half of all cancer patients. A combination of standard cancer therapies along with THCA could allow doctors to give much smaller doses of chemotherapy drugs to their patients, minimising the risk of dangerous side effects and making survival much more likely.
Anti-insomnia: Improves sleep. Sleep disturbances are typical in people living with health problems like MS and chronic pain. Studies in these groups show THCA products can improve short-term sleep problems, reduce sleep disturbances, and decrease the time it takes to fall asleep. However, it’s unclear whether the THCA directly affects sleep quality or whether sleep is improved because chronic symptoms were reduced.
Anti-spasmodic: Modestly reduces muscle spasms, a common symptom experienced by people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and paraplegia.
Modulates Immune System: THCA has been shown to both improve and potentially suppress the immune system functions.
THE FUTURE OF THCA
In general, endocannabinoid deficiencies https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18404144 are thought to be at the source of conditions like IBS and fibromyalgia. Rebalancing of the endocannabinoid system with cannabinoids produced by the cannabis plant, may be achieved through consistent properly titrated use. In doing so, these conditions’ symptoms may be partially, if not fully, alleviated. The health food movement is treating raw cannabis (THCA) as a ‘superfood’.
The aim is to prevent chronic diseases that are caused by inflammation. (Any condition ending with ‘itis’, like arthritis, is inflammation based). With its anti-inflammatory properties and neuroprotective qualities, THCA is already helping to ward off ageing of the brain and all that brings. It is going to be interesting to see if THCa is able to help patients with a medical condition that needs large doses of THC, but they aren’t able to handle the psychoactive nature of the THC. If THCa can be stabilised then it has the potential to remain non-psychoactive.