What are THCa and CBDa Cannabinoids
Today, cannabis is one of the most researched plants in existence, with researchers discovering new elements and effects of the plant every day. We currently know that cannabis contains over 400 chemical entities, with more than sixty of them being cannabinoid compounds. Two of the most widely consumed and sought after cannabinoids are Cannabidiol (CBD) and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). In recent years, ongoing discussion has taken place regarding the benefits of THC vs CBD. Besides these popular cannabinoids, several others that are gaining attention and interest include: CBGa, CBCa, CBGVA, THCa and CBDa. What role do the latter cannabinoids play in consumers’ lives and what benefits and effects can one expect after consuming any of them?
The Significance of Different Cannabinoids and Terpenes:
Although there are numerous advantages linked to cannabinoids, consumers can also benefit from terpenes. It’s important to know that cannabinoids are categorized as either Phytocannabinoids, endogenous, purified or synthetic cannabinoids. However, there’s much more to the cannabis plant than the relationships of THC, CBD and other cannabinoids. There are different terpenes, flavonoids, trichomes and a unique set of cannabinoid acids.
Recently, the therapeutic and medicinal benefits linked to terpenes have grabbed many consumers’ interest. Terpenes are oil-based chemicals found in cannabis and hemp. Some of the most commonly consumed terpenes include limonene, linalool, pinene and myrcene. Terpenes are responsible for the presence of potent aromas and flavors found in various cannabis strains. Contrary to popular belief, terpenes are capable of more than providing pungent aromas and tantalizing flavors.
A few of terpene’s well-known health benefits include its analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anxiolytic, and antidepressant properties. Terpenes often act as a support to other cannabis elements, including THC molecules, in regards to the production of cerebral and physiological effects. This leads to the unique synergy between terpenes and cannabinoids. Different terpenes and cannabinoids are beneficial on their own, but when several of them are combined, a process called the “entourage effect” occurs.
The Entourage Effect: The Unique Synergy Between Cannabinoids & Terpenes
When several terpenes and cannabinoids are combined, the effects are enhanced compared to the effects from consuming individual cannabinoids or terpenes. The synergy between cannabinoids and terpenes is often referred to as the “entourage effect”.
The cannabis plant possesses a unique diversity of terpenes and cannabinoids, and it can fit into the category of an “ensemble” or “entourage”. In a musical ensemble, each instrument plays a pivotal role in contributing to the experience of that musical piece. This concept applies to the intermixing of terpenes and cannabinoids. Every compound, terpene and cannabis molecule contributes to the overall experience one has after consuming a combination of these molecules. As a result, heightened effects are typically felt after a combination of cannabinoids and terpenes are consumed.
What are THCa and CBDa Cannabinoids and What are Their Benefits?
The cannabis plant contains sixty cannabinoid compounds with many being non-psychoactive, including THCa. What is THCa, and what’s the difference between THC and THCa? THCa is short for Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid and it’s different from THC for several reasons. When comparing THCA vs THC, THCa is the most abundant non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in cannabis. THCa is the precursor to THC, including an extra carboxyl group. This extra piece in the molecule prevents the bodies Endocannabinoid system from absorbing it, which is why marijuana must first be decarboxylated’ before its effects can be felt. Decarboxylation removes the extra carboxyl group, turning non-psychoactive THCa into its more potent form, THC.
Before THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids are pharmacologically active, they exist in their own specific acidic forms. This is why THCa is short for tetrahydrocannabinolic acid and CBDa is short for cannabidiolic acid. Research findings have revealed that THCa can help improve neuronal viability and decrease neurodegeneration in animal subjects diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease. Other THCa benefits include its anti-inflammatory properties and neuroprotective benefits.
Next is CBDa, which tends to go under the radar. CBDa is short for cannabidiolic acid and it is a precursor to CBD. When CBDa is activated, it becomes CBD. Whether you’re a regular or irregular cannabis user, chances are you know several benefits associated with CBD. But, what about the benefits of consuming CBDa–the precursor of CBD? For one, CBDa may be effective in treating depression. This is because CBDa can impact the same receptors CBD does. CBDa also acts as an antidepressant agent at doses of 10-100 times less than the doses required of CBD.
Furthermore, one study discovered that CBDa was substantially stronger in preventing nausea and vomiting in shrews and rats as compared to CBD. Amazingly, CBDa interacts with the same receptors as CBD, which is why CBDa can help combat nausea.
Benefits of THCa and CBDa Crystalline Concentrates:
Now, let’s transition past the acidic forms of cannabinoids and into concentrated forms of cannabinoids like variations of THC and CBD crystalline. Put simply, THCa and CBDa are cannabinoid acids that exist in numerous concentrated cannabis products. When THCa and CBDa are extracted into an aesthetic crystal-like product, the end result is referred to as “crystalline”. What advantages can one expect from consuming THCa or CBDa crystalline products?
By now, THCa has demonstrated its anti-nausea andanti-emetic properties in animal subjects. This indicates that THCa crystalline products can deliver similar results to humans since all mammals have an endocannabinoid system. Also, THCa has demonstrated neuro-protective benefits in the past, which suggests that THCa crystalline products can deliver this benefit to consumers.
CBDa has shown to be effective in treating mental health issues like depression. Thus, it’s believed that CBDa crystalline products can also deliver anti-depressant effects. Because CBDa and THCa crystalline products are concentrated, their effects are much stronger than what many consumers are used to.
Additional Cannabinoids and Some of Their Advantages:
Besides CBDa, THCa and CBD, there are other beneficial cannabinoids that can serve an important purpose. The first is cannabigerolic acid (CBGa)–the precursor of allcannabinoids found in cannabis. Oftentimes, CBGa is referred to as a non-psychoactive mother cannabinoid. Without the existence of CBGa, no other cannabinoids would exist. Fortunately for consumers, CBGa contains numerous benefits including its anti-neuroinflammatory properties, antioxidant and neuroprotective effects.
What researchers know so far is that CBGa seems to act as a low-affinity antagonist to the body’s CB1 receptors. What’s already clear is that when strains high in CBGa are heated, they convert to CBD thus providing a multitude of medicinal and therapeutic benefits. Since CBD contains analgesic properties, once CBGa is converted to CBD it plays a vital role in managing pain and other related symptoms.
Next is CBCa–Cannabichromenic acid, which is the acidic form of one of the four main cannabinoids found in the Cannabis Sativa plant. CBCa has been found to possess anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties. Therefore, it can help treat inflammation, pain and various infections.
Let’s not forget about CBGVA, otherwise known as Cannabigerovarinic acid. As a cannabis plant grows and ages, the initial non-psychoactive CBGVA in the plant will react to form new cannabinoids. A process called biosynthesis occurs in which CBGVA produces these cannabinoids: THCVA, CBDVA, and CBCVA. Researchers believe that CBGVA possesses anti-inflammatory properties, which may serve a purpose in the lives of those struggling with arthritis and other inflammatory disorders.
When consuming cannabis products containing different cannabinoids, we may not connect the dots regarding how the cannabinoids were formed. Surprisingly, cannabis doesn’t directly produce cannabinoids. Rather, the plant synthesizes a handful of cannabinoid acids. Various acids must be heated up via decarboxylationand then activated to produce CBD and THC.
The next time you purchase a cannabinoid-rich product such as THCa oil, you can now better understand the background of cannabinoids and some of their medicinal and therapeutic benefits millions of consumers know and love!
Have a question or comment about cannabinoids? Let us know what you think below!
Today, cannabis is one of the most researched plants in existence, with researchers discovering new elements and effects of the plant every day. We currently know that cannabis contains over 400 chemical entities, with more than sixty of them being cannabinoid compounds. Two of the most widely consumed and sought after cannabinoids are Cannabi
THCA and THC: What’s the difference?
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- Why we get high on THC and not THCA, how cannabinoids convert, and raw cannabis as a superfood
- THCA vs. THC: decarboxylation process
Why we get high on THC and not THCA, how cannabinoids convert, and raw cannabis as a superfood
Surprise! You’re just not going to get high by eating that freshly picked weed. At all. When cannabis is harvested and raw, no matter how much potential resides within, there is practically none of marijuana’s most famous and intoxicating cannabinoid, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). There is, however, a wealth of tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), an inactive compound found within the trichomes of living cannabis plants.
So, if someone ever asks you “ what does THC stand for?” don’t confuse the two similar terms. As you’ll soon discover, they are vastly different in both chemical structure and how they interact with the human body.
THCA is a cannabinoid that until recently has been closely compared to THC. Though THCA doesn’t get one high and THC certainly does, there is a relation: THCA is the precursor to psychoactive THC effects .
So why does THC get us elevated and THCA doesn’t? The reason is due to the three-dimensional shape of the THCA molecule. It is a larger molecule that doesn’t fit into our cannabinoid receptors, specifically the CB1 receptors. A cannabinoid must fit into a body’s CB1 receptor in order to have an intoxicating effect at all.
The cannabis plant produces hundreds of cannabinoids , the chemical compounds responsible for the 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. How does THCA become THC?
The simplified answer is through heat and light — or the process of decarboxylation . Heat removes a carboxylic acid group of atoms from THCA, converting it into a molecule and altering the THC chemical structure , thus becoming the perfect shape to fit into our endocannabinoid system (ECS) and the CB1 receptors that run throughout the central nervous system, producing that classic elevated experience.
In a process called decarboxylation, heat removes a carboxylic acid group of atoms from THCA, converting it into a molecule and altering the THC chemical structure.
The non-intoxicating effects of THCA are a big part of the reason that fresh, raw, unheated cannabis is a superfood. You may have heard of juicing cannabis or adding raw cannabis to smoothies for health enhancement. There’s good reason for that.
Like other superfoods, including 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 its:
- Anti-inflammatory properties – A 2011 study published in the Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin suggested that, along with other cannabinoids, THCA demonstrated anti-inflammatory properties.
- Anti-proliferativeproperties – A 2013 study that analyzed cell cultures and animal models concluded that THCA could prevent the spread of prostate cancer cells.
- Neuroprotective properties – In a 2012 preclinical study published in Phytomedicine, researchers found that THCA showed the ability to help protect against neurodegenerative diseases.
- Antiemetic properties (increasing appetite and decreasing nausea) – A 2013 study conducted by researchers at the University of Guelph in Ontario found that both THCA and CBDA were effective in reducing nausea and vomiting in rat models, even more so than THC and CBD, respectively.
Most cannabinoids, including cannabidiol ( CBD ), cannabigerol (CBG), and tetrahydrocannabivarin ( THCV ), are in the acidic form (CBDA, CBGA , and THCVA) when cannabis is harvested. The unactivated forms of THC and CBD , along with other cannabinoids, have benefits themselves that we are still learning about.
It’s only after these unactivated cannabinoid acids go through the decarboxylation process, though, that they become the cannabinoids we’re most familiar with and that most interact with our ECS.
The acidic precursors are considered “thermally unstable,” which is another way to emphasize that they will alter when exposed to heat. Because of this instability, the molecules lend themselves to several different methods of decarboxylation.
THCA vs. THC: decarboxylation process
Here are the most common ways that weed is decarboxylated:
Sunlight conversion: THCA converts to THC in varying degrees through exposure to heat or light. If a cannabis plant sits in the warm sun for an extended period of time, its THCA molecules will slowly convert to THC.
Room temperature conversion: THCA also converts to THC when stored at room temperature for a long enough time. In olive oil, 22% of THCA will convert over the course of 10 days at 77 degrees Fahrenheit, or 25 degrees Celsius. Under the same conditions, 67% will convert in an ethanol extraction. And over time, cannabis stored at room temperature and with little light exposure, will convert 20% of its THCA into THC.
Smoking: When a flame is used to smoke dried, cured bud, a high degree of heat is applied in a short amount of time, resulting in the rapid conversion of THCA to THC. However, not all THCA will convert and, though smoking is the most common way to enjoy THC’s effects, it’s not the most efficient.
When a flame is used to smoke dried, cured bud, a high degree of heat is applied in a short amount of time, resulting in the rapid conversion of THCA to THC. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Vaporizing: This is perhaps the most efficient way of decarboxylating ground nugs. When heated at a low temperature, the cannabinoids are converted and released. Continuing to increase the heat will make sure that the prime amount of THCA is converted into THC and binds to CB1 receptors.
Vape pens: Even more efficient than vaporizing flowers is the use of already decarboxylated cannabis distillate found in preloaded vape pens. Since the THCA is already mostly converted to THC and the following vaporization takes care of even more, this is a good, efficient method of taking in intoxicating cannabis. Be sure you’re using a reliable brand of vape pen, for safety’s sake , and do your best to purchase products that are recyclable.
Cannabis concentrates: By isolating the THCA content from a cannabis plant, THCA crystalline can be extracted and consumed in dabs. Similar to vaporization, decarboxylation transpires rapidly when using the dabbing method, breaking down the THCA into active THC. In its pure form, THCA crystalline has little flavor or aroma, as most cannabis extractions aim to strip away the terpenes and flavonoids to isolate the cannabinoids. But many producers reintroduce cannabis-derived terpene blends back into the concentrate. Not only does the addition of terpenes improve the flavor, but these distinctively aromatic plant molecules also work together with cannabinoids to produce entourage effects that enhance the therapeutic potential of cannabis.
Conventional oven: When making edibles, you’ll want to activate, or decarboxylate, the weed before adding it to the butter, oil, or other medium. When weed gets ground up, spread evenly across a baking sheet that’s lined with parchment paper, and is baked at 230 degrees Fahrenheit, or 110 degrees Celsius, for 30-90 minutes (depending on the bud’s moisture content), it slowly converts most THCA into THC.
When making edibles, you’ll want to activate, or decarboxylate, the weed before adding it to the butter, oil, or other medium. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Whether cannabis is smoked, eaten, vaped, or juiced raw, understanding the plant’s properties and how and why they interact with our bodies the way they do is crucial in achieving the desired effects and avoiding adverse side effects . Cannabis molecules each have their own benefits and as raw cannabis is further studied, we can rest easy knowing that it’s safe to integrate it into a healthful diet.
There is a big difference between THCA & THC. Learn the differences between the two and how that affects your body.