By: James Brooks
Did you know that cannabis plants don’t produce THC or CBD? Instead, the plants create two acids called tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA). These two cannabinoids have the same precursor, known as cannabidiolic acid (CBGA). Applying heat to cannabis through smoking, vaporizing, or decarboxylation causes the THCA to convert into the psychoactive form of THC. But THCA by itself, a non-psychoactive inactive compound, may have several benefits of its own. Here’s what to know about THCA and the clinical benefits of cannabinoid acids.
What Should You Know About THCA?
THCA, unlike the well-known cannabinoid THC, does not have psychoactive properties. It’s the reason why you could eat raw cannabis plants and never notice an intoxicating effect. Essentially, it all comes down to how THCA molecules interact with your body. Because THCA molecules are more prominent than THC molecules, they cannot interact with CB1 receptors in the brain and nervous systems, which causes a psychoactive “high.” For this reason, individuals use THCA as a nutritional supplement or as a tincture to receive several beneficial properties.
Are There Clinical Uses of THCA?
While people who add unheated cannabis to their food note anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and anti-obesity benefits, the fascinating results come from clinical trials of THCA tinctures.
In a recent study, doctors provided doses of THCA per day to patients that suffer from epilepsies. In addition to receiving conventional antiepileptic drugs, these patients also either received a small amount of THCA, around 0.1 to 1 mg per day depending on body weight, or a larger dose, around 5mg to 25 mg per day. And the results are pretty astonishing.
Scientific Results from THCA Testing
In the results of this study, clinicians noticed that high doses of THCA did not change a patient’s response to treatment. One patient had worse seizures after taking a high dose of THCA.
Yet, the small doses of THCA did positively affect patients by reducing the number of seizures, relieving pain, and preventing migraines. Researchers also noted that cannabis strains with a high concentration of terpenes like linalool could improve the antiepileptic effect of THCA.
Additionally, preclinical research suggests several more benefits from low doses of THCA. In one instance, researchers found that THCA can prevent nausea in rats. Since around 5% of the THCA content remains even after the heating or decarboxylation process, this might be why smoking cannabis has anti-nauseating effects.
In another trial, THCA reduced the pain of those who have arthritis and irritable bowel syndrome. But one study that stands out involved a patient with Alzheimer’s disease. By dosing THCA, this patient reduced dependency on other medications and noticed improved cognitive function.
Do We Know How THCA Works?
Although the preclinical research is promising, how exactly THCA provides health benefits is less known. Some believe that THCA binds to the TRPM8 receptor, but that doesn’t explain how THCA has anti-nauseating properties. Another theory is that THCA inhibits the MAGL metabolic enzyme and activates CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors in a more complex process than THC.
Regardless of the scientific processes at play, it’s apparent that doctors and patients notice benefits from low doses of THCA. For this reason, we can expect there to be further studies on cannabinoids to combat a variety of health problems. The early science is promising, but there’s still a lot to learn about why THCA effectively reduces the pain and severity of epileptic seizures.