What Is THCA? Get To Know The Precursor To THC

More than 100 cannabinoids are found in the trichomes that coat cannabis flower, and each one is thought to play a unique role in the effect it has on your body and mind. One of those compounds is THC-A, and while it may only be one letter difference from the THC you know about, that letter makes all the difference between feeling the effects of cannabis and feeling nothing at all. 


What is THCA?

Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) is the acidic precursor to the well-known cannabinoid Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and is the most abundant non-intoxicating compound found in the plant. THCA is what is actually inside cannabis flower, not THC, even though the active form of the cannabinoid is more well-known.


How does THCA work?

Although their names are similar, THCA and THC are very different compounds. If you eat THCA, it doesn’t cause a high like THC, but when you add heat to THC-A, whether with a lighter or with a vape cart and battery, it turns into the active THC that’s responsible for the elevated feeling you associate with cannabis. That’s why you might see significant amounts of THC-A listed on the label the next time you buy cannabis flower or a pre-roll – that percentage turns into active THC once you start your session.

Why does it work like this? This is due to THCA’s additional molecular carboxyl ring, which prevents THC-A from binding with the cannabinoid receptors of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) like THC does. (Remember, cannabis works because cannabinoids interact with your ECS.) 

However, this doesn’t keep THCA from offering a range of other effects that consumers might find beneficial. Even if you don’t feel heady or elevated when consuming THC-A, there are plenty of good reasons to try it on its own.

What are the effects of THCA?

THCA offers some of the same therapeutic properties as THC without the intoxication. These can be achieved by juicing raw cannabis flower – not exactly something available at the provisioning center – or ingesting a THCA product like a tincture or an edible. THCA could have these properties:

  • Neuroprotective: A series of studies found that THCA may offer neuroprotective potential that makes it a strong candidate for further study for use in treatment of conditions like Huntington’s Disease and other neurodegenerative conditions. Researchers suspect that THCA’s neuroprotective potential is related to its effects on PPARγ signaling, which is a function of the Central Nervous System (CNS) that plays a role in inflammation in the brain
  • Anti-convulsant: THCA has potential as an anti-convulsant, specifically as it relates to Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. This may also be the result of its relationship to PPARγ signaling, but research is still needed to paint a full picture.
  • Anti-inflammatory: In addition to its potential effects on neuroinflammation, THCA could offer relief for people managing gastrointestinal symptoms caused by inflammation. One study found that THCA interacts with the GPR55 receptor to reduce inflammation, which can help ease the symptoms related to Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis.

It remains unclear whether THCA offers the same properties as THC in one major area – pain. However, researchers are also working to determine if that might be the case. As cannabis research improves and legalization advances, more answers about the pain relief potential of THCA may emerge.

What kinds of THCA products are there?

Here are some of the most common types of cannabis products high in THCA you might encounter when shopping for cannabis in a provisioning center.

  • THCA diamonds: THCA diamonds are crystallized extract products that can be orally ingested. Try mixing diamonds into a cold drink to create a cannabis infused beverage! THCA diamonds are also sometimes included in concentrates or vape cartridges, though vaporizing these crystals will convert them to THC.
  • THCA tinctures: One of the easiest ways to consume pure THCA is with a cannabis tincture. These extracts come with handy droppers that make it easy to measure and consume the product, and the biphasic effect that combines fast-acting sublingual absorption with the long duration of oral ingestion makes it a great option for fast-acting, long-lasting effects.
  • THCA edibles: Edibles can be high in THCA if they were made with extract that isn’t decarboxylated. Consuming these products, whether they’re gummies, candies, or beverages, offer the benefits of THCA in a non-intoxicating package.
  • THCA transdermal patches: Transdermal patches deliver cannabinoids through the skin and into the bloodstream, enabling fast-acting systemic effects that can last all day. And with THCA transdermal patches, there won’t be a high, so you can get the effects of this compound all day long while staying totally clear-headed.

While flower and concentrates can contain THCA, be aware that heating these products converts the THCA into THC. This will result in a high, unlike if you ingested a THCA product orally.


Shop THCA products at Iconic Wellness

When you visit an Iconic Wellness dispensary in Michigan, you’ll have your choice of a broad selection of cannabis products, including those high in THCA. If you want some of the effects of THC without the high, these THCA products might be right for you. If you want to learn more about how THCA could be just what you need, stop in one of our dispensary locations in Gaylord, Sturgis, or Lowell and ask one of our friendly expert budtenders about the options available to you.

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