Photo by: NickyPe.
People are well aware of THC and CBD, but now there are more cannabinoids that consumers can be excited about. Tetrahydrocannabivarin, aka THCV, is taking over and there are plenty of reasons why. It’s unique interaction with the human endocannabinoid system (ECS) gives it a wide range of effects and plenty of medical applications.
THC vs. THCV
Despite the similarity in their names, THC and THCV are very different in their production and their effects. Both offer users a high. However, one of the primary differences pointed out by Vaping 360, is that THCV leaves a user with a clear headed high while THC is more intoxicating in its effect.
According to Alexander Beadle, science writer at Analytical Cannabis, THCV is derived from the chemical compound cannabigerovarinic acid (CBGVA) whereas THC is derived from CBGA. THC and THCV come from different parent molecules, however, they follow a similar chemical pathway to reach their active forms. An enzyme called THCA synthase converts CBGVA to THCVA. Heating it up activates THCVA and yields its active form, THCV.
THCV in the Endocannabinoid System
The ECS is a complex biological system that exists within organisms to help maintain homeostasis, or a stable state. This system consists of two types of endocannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are mostly located in the brain, and when cannabinoids like THC bind to them, dopamine is transmitted. This is what is responsible for the high feeling.
THCV is an interesting cannabinoid due to its psychoactive effects at high doses and non-psychoactive effects at low doses, according to ACS Lab Cannabis. For example, it can both bind to, and block, CB receptors — depending on the dosage.
High doses of THCV act as an agonist to CB1 and CB2 receptors. This means that it binds and stimulates these receptors to achieve a response. However, at low doses, THCV acts as an antagonist to CB1 receptors. An antagonist blocks and inhibits receptors to prevent a response.
Consumers describe the effects of high doses of THCV as extremely fast acting compared to cannabinoids like THC. It provides an energetic high that is short lasting. Therefore, people use THCV for its uplifting and euphoric effects without the sluggishness that can sometimes be felt with THC.
At low doses, the inhibition of CB1 receptors can actually help reduce the intensity of a THC high. For example, it can remove negative side effects such as hunger and poor motor function.
Compared to THC and CBD, THCV is less understood as it has less research behind it. That said, there are plenty of studies that look into the medical applications of THCV.
For example, Healthline states that it can be useful for a wide range of diseases and disorders including psychosis, acne, bacterial infection, fatty liver disease, and epilepsy.
One of THCV’s more well known effects is its use as an appetite suppressant. It blocks cannabinoid receptors responsible for hunger, making it good for weight loss. Research, particularly in rodent studies, also shows that THCV decreases appetite and increases metabolism, according to a study in the Journal of Cannabis Research. The study also suggested that consumers could use it clinically as a treatment for obesity and type II diabetes.
According to Cresco Labs, THCV is an excellent neuroprotectant and may also lower stress levels. Stress relief from THCV can prevent anxiety and panic attacks. It’s neuroprotective properties make it useful for treating neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and multiple sclerosis. This is huge since UN News reports that nearly one in six people in the world suffer from a neurodegenerative disease.
Additionally, THCV may also promote bone growth. CNBS, an online cannabis resource, talks about how its effect on skeletal stem cells may make it useful for treating bone fractures and possibly even osteoporosis.
Where to Find THCV
THCV is not present in all cannabis. Weedmaps says that African sativa landrace strains, such as Durban Poison, typically have a higher than average concentration of the cannabinoid. They continue to mention that strains like Girl Scout Cookies, Jack the Ripper, Tangie, Skunk #1, and a handful of others are also good producers of THCV.
Since it occurs in such low levels, The Higher Path Collective, a dispensary, mentions many cannabis companies rely on extractions to make THCV products. For example, manufacturers use CO2 or ethanol to form a solution which separates THCV from other plant material. The solution then evaporates, which leaves behind a concentrated form.
As of now, most cannabis is produced for THC and CBD. However, Leafly suggests that cannabinoids such as CBDG, CBG, and THCV are slowly becoming more available. As research begins to highlight these lesser known cannabinoids, there is more demand for strains that produce other kinds of cannabinoids such as THCV. As cultivars are selected for THCV and other minor cannabinoids, there might soon be a much more diverse selection of cannabis products to choose from in the near future.