January 15, 2022 Why does THC get us elevated and THCA doesnt

THC get us elevated and THCA doesn’t?

The reason is due to the shape of the THCA molecule. It is a larger molecule that doesn’t fit into certain cannabinoid receptors, specifically the CB1 receptors. You can find CB1 receptors primarily in the brain, central nervous system, lungs, liver, and kidneys. In order to have an intoxicating effect, a cannabinoid must fit into a CB1 receptor. 

The cannabis plant produces hundreds of cannabinoids, the chemical compounds responsible for the potential therapeutic and psychoactive effects of cannabis. Only a few cannabinoids contribute to the euphoric high that is unique to the cannabis plant, though. The most celebrated, researched, and sought-after is THC.

It’s commonly assumed that as a marijuana plant grows, it is ramping up THC levels until ripe for the picking. But the primary cannabinoid being produced is actually THCA. So, how does THCA become THC?

How THCA becomes THC

The simplified answer is through heat and light — or the process of decarboxylation. Heat removes a carboxylic acid group from THCA, altering the THC chemical structure. This makes it the perfect shape to fit into our endocannabinoid system (ECS) and the CB1 receptors.

Though THCA doesn’t have intoxicating effects, some consider fresh, raw, unheated cannabis a superfood. You may have heard of juicing cannabis or adding raw cannabis to smoothies for health enhancement. There’s a good reason for that.

Much like avocados, kale, Greek yogurt, green tea, and garlic, raw cannabis has the potential to ease arthritis, chronic pain, fibromyalgia, and other ailments.

THCA is believed to offer an assortment of medicinal benefits and is commonly used as a nutritional supplement and dietary enhancement for the following properties:

Anti-inflammatory. A 2011 study suggested that, along with other cannabinoids, THCA demonstrated anti-inflammatory properties in lab studies. In a 2021 study using mice, THCA shows great potential as a treatment for fatty liver disease.. 

Neuroprotective. Research, including a study conducted on mice, points to THCA’s ability to help protect against neurodegenerative diseases.  

Anti-emetic. This is the quality of increasing appetite and decreasing nausea. A 2020 study found that both THCA and CBDA were effective in reducing nausea and vomiting in rat.
Anti-obesity. A 2020 study that looked at mice and demonstrated THCA’s ability to reduce obesity. Also associated diseases including diabetes and fatty liver disease. As with all of the above findings, more research is needed before drawing any definitive conclusions.

THC-A isn’t the only cannabinoid acid

Most cannabinoids, cannabidiol (CBD), cannabigerol (CBG), and tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), are in the acidic form (CBDA, CBGA, and THCVA) when cannabis is harvested. The inactivated forms of THC and CBD & cannabinoids — have potential benefits that are still being discovered. Just like THCA, these cannabinoid acids are inactivated until they go through the decarboxylation process.