What is THCA?

THCA is THC’s precursor acid. What are its uses and benefits?

THCA tincture product
Free THC product sample

Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) is the precursor acid of THC. It turns into THC by a process called decarboxylation (exposure to heat). It can further degrade into CBN over time. THCA is a solid antiemetic, anti-proliferative, and neuroprotectant, as well as effective at combating symptoms of IBDs. THCA can also help with nausea, vomiting, inflammatory bowel diseases, Parkinson’s disease, and prostate cancer.

In this guide we’ll cover what THCA is, its benefits and side effects, and how you can get your hands on THCA-rich products.

What is THCA?

  • THCA is the precursor acid of THC — it turns into THC by a process called decarboxylation (exposure to heat). It can further degrade into CBN over time.
  • It’s federally legal, provided it’s derived from hemp plants containing <0.3% THC.
  • It’s a solid antiemetic, anti-proliferative, and neuroprotectant, as well as effective at combating symptoms of IBDs (Chron’s, etc) — THCA can also help with nausea/vomiting, inflammatory bowel diseases, Parkinson’s disease, and prostate cancer.
  • Legal at a federal level provided it comes from hemp with less than 0.3% THC.
  • THCA may cause you to fail a drug test.
  • THCA products are rare — usually combined with other cannabinoids or as diamond shaped concentrate boasting 99% THCA.

THCA is THC’s precursor acid

Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid molecular structure

Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) is THC’s precursor acid and is almost identical in terms of molecular structure — however, THCA has unique benefits away from THC, which we’ll discover later on in this guide. 

When THCA goes through the process of decarboxylation (heated), either slowly through storage and fermentation or rapidly through very high heats when smoked, it’ll slowly begin to turn into THC — it can further degrade into cannabinol (CBN) if exposed heat or light (natural or UV). 

TCHA was discovered in 1965 (and 1969 elsewhere)

THCA was discovered as a major component of hashish in 1965 by Professor Friedhelm Korte at the University of Boon in Germany. Later, in 1969, a team of Israeli researchers headed by Raphael Mechoulam discovered the second form of THCA — they subsequently named the former THCA-B and the latter name was kept as THCA.

THCA vs. THC vs. CBD

Federally legalLegal in some statesFederally legal
Derived from CBGACB1 and CB2 receptor agonist — binds to both, eliciting a strong highDerived from CBGA
Non-intoxicatingVery intoxicatingNon-intoxicating (but relaxing)

Benefits of THCA

THCA is a pretty good all-rounder (in combination with other cannabinoids).

THCA’s anti-nausea and anti-vomiting qualities are incredibly promising and could be used as a potent treatment for something as mild as general sickness or as severe as chemotherapy-induced vomiting and nausea.

Its effectiveness against IBDs is also very useful if you’re suffering from mild to severe digestive issues — the anti-inflammatory properties may help soothe your symptoms and fight off the pain and discomfort.

1. Anti-nausea & anti-vomiting

Nausea and vomiting are two incredibly uncomfortable experiences. It makes you feel pretty awful actually. The good news? THCA is really beneficial here. 

In a 2013 study, researchers injected rodent and Suncus murinus (shrew) test subjects with lithium chloride (LiCl) to induce nausea in the former and vomiting in the latter. Interestingly, THCA “potently reduced conditioned gaping [nausea-induced behavior] in rats and vomiting in Suncus murinus”, showing its potential as a very, very promising anti-nausea and anti-vomiting treatment. I’m looking forward to seeing how it does inside human test subjects!

2. Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs)

THCA (alongside other cannabinoids such as CBD and THC) is proven as an effective anti-inflammatory, particularly for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis.

In fact, researchers believe “that in a non-psychoactive treatment for IBD, THCA should be used rather than CBD”, concluding there may be major medical use for this cannabinoid later on in the future.

3. Neuroprotective (Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease)

The combination of THCA and THC provided researchers with a clearer picture of their combined neuroprotective qualities

Rodent test subjects were injected with 1-methyl-4-phenylpyridinium (MPP+), a neurotoxin known to induce irreversible Parkinson’s disease. The team found THCA and THC has the ability to “protect dopaminergic neurons against MPP+ induced cell death”. 

THCA’s neuroprotective qualities may also be effective against Huntington’s disease and other neuroinflammatory diseases. 

4. Anti-proliferative (prostate cancer)

THCA shows anti-proliferative qualities against certain types of cancer, specifically prostate cancer, whereby it slows the progression of cancer cells. 

Of course, more needs to be looked into here. There are few clinical studies on THCA’s effectiveness here, so I’m looking forward to learning more about this in the future.

THCA’s side-effects aren’t well-documented

THCA’s side-effects aren’t well-known, at least not in terms of scientific research. Instead, anecdotal evidence is all I can go by:

  • Sedative (tiredness, drowsiness)
  • Energizing (different high to THC)
  • Anxiousness (at high doses)

Side-effects reported by users are somewhat conflicting.

Some say it made them fairly tired, while others believe it made them feel energized — some even said THCA in high doses made them feel anxious, though I’m not sure whether they confused it with THC, to be perfectly honest. I see no reason why THCA would ever make anyone anxious or even paranoid. 

THCA and Your Endocannabinoid System

Unfortunately, there is limited knowledge about how THCA interacts with your endocannabinoid system (ECS).

However, from what we do know, THCA isn’t particularly great at binding to CB1 or CB2 receptors — in fact, THCA doesn’t really bind to these receptors at all.

Instead, it attaches to transient receptor potential cation channel subfamily M (melastatin) member 8 (TRPM8) receptors and activates the transient receptor potential ankyrin 1 (TRPA1) receptors.

THCA oil does not get you high

Despite being a homolog of THC, THCA does not get you high, nor does it impair your judgment.

The reason for this is all about the shape of THCA. It’s a much larger molecule than THC and doesn’t properly bind to either the CB1 or CB2 receptor — therefore not producing any intoxicating effects. 

If you’re looking to get high as hell while still consuming THCA, you may as well just smoke THC-rich cannabis flower followed by a few drops of premium THCA oil. The reason I recommend this is simple. Even if you had a THCA-rich cannabis flower in front of you and you smoked it, most of it would decarboxylate into THC as soon as heat touched it anyway. 

Under the Agricultural Improvement Act 2018 (otherwise known as the Farm Bill 2018), THCA is federally legal and not listed as a controlled substance provided it comes from industrial hemp containing <0.3% THC and not marijuana containing more than 0.3% THC. 

In other words, THCA derived from industrial hemp is perfectly legal to manufacture, possess, and consume on a federal level (with some restrictions and limitations depending on state law).

THCA derived from marijuana is not federally legal, though some states have decriminalized or legalized recreational/medicinal marijuana use. 

THCA oil shows up on a drug test 

THCA is capable of showing up on a drug test, despite many articles and blogs on the internet suggesting it doesn’t. 

THCA almost always shows up in urine and blood samples the same way THC does — however, standard hair tests won’t unless it’s a deep-dive forensic hair test.

I, therefore, advise caution here. Just because THCA is THC’s precursor acid, it doesn’t mean it won’t cause you to fail a drug test. It also doesn’t matter whether you juice your THCA using raw cannabis or you apply a THCA tincture under your tongue, the result will still be the same.

Best Way to Consume THCA: Smoking, Vaping and Eating

THCA live resin diamonds

When THCA is heated via vaping, dabbing, or smoking, it immediately turns into THC. This is a pain in the ass if you’re looking to consume it in higher quantities.

So, how do you circumvent this? Well, there are a number of ways:

Don’t smoke THCA; vaporize it instead (but there’s a more to it than that) 

At roughly 220℃ (420°F), THCA turns into THC.

When you light up a joint, the burning tip can hit temperatures of up to 580℃ (700℃ when you take a toke or hit). At this temperature, THCA will not survive. It’ll immediately turn into THC.

However, going down the vaporization route may just help counteract this. You see, you can’t adjust the settings on a joint.

You can, however, adjust the settings on a vaporizer. I recommend turning the heat right down to below 420°F — anywhere between 140-250°F is, in fact, the ultimate temperature. 

Cannabis juicing 

The most ideal way of consuming THCA is via cannabis juicing. Cannabis juicing is the act of ingesting raw cannabis.

Many users simply place the cannabis plant into a juicer or blender alongside water, fruits, veg, etc, to make a smoothie out of it.

No heat is required here, which results in no substantial THCA to THC conversion. 

THCA products do exist, but like other minor cannabinoids, they’re rare

Minor cannabinoids which make up 1% of the whole cannabis plant aren’t typically found in products, especially not in high percentages. 

The reason for this is they’re not particularly cost-effective on the manufacturers/company’s side of things. 

Just think. There’s 1% THCA in one whole cannabis plant. How many of them do you think is needed to make a whole bottle of THCA oil? Quite a bit. Not to mention the meticulous extraction process needed to isolate it from the rest of the cannabinoids in the extract.

THCA-rich cannabis tincture. Photo: Papa & Barkley

However, this isn’t to say THCA products don’t exist. THCA tinctures, like Papa & Barkley THCA Cannabis Tincture, are a really good choice.

If tinctures aren’t really your thing, no worries at all. You can always try THCA diamonds! 

What are THCA diamonds?

THCA-rich diamonds for dabbing

They say diamonds are a girl’s best friend but what about THCA diamonds? I personally refer to them as a cannabinoid lover’s best friend because they’re a pretty loyal, trustworthy addition to your cannabis-derived arsenal. 

THCA diamonds are quite a new type of product and haven’t gained much mainstream recognition yet, so allow me to divulge.

THCA diamonds aren’t real diamonds (duh!) but I think they’re just as valuable. They’re a type of concentrate product that began showing up around 2017 in the Arizona medical marijuana market.

Unlike many other concentrate products such as shatter, wax, or crumble, diamonds boast 99% THCA with the remaining 1% reserved for terpenes (and sometimes flavonoids). 

Because it’s of their 99% THCA content, they’re pretty potent — though you won’t get any intoxicating effects from consuming them (without heat), you’ll definitely feel the health & wellness benefits kick in quite fast. 

If you’re looking to get high from THCA diamonds, you’re going to need to heat them up via dabbing, smoking, or vaping. Be careful here, though. You’ll consume a huge amount of THC. Only dab, smoke, or vape a small amount — the high will be outrageous. 

Cannabis juicing: A DIY way to get your THCA fix

You don’t necessarily need a company or brand to manufacture a THCA oil to get your THCA fix — though these do exist, which I’ll come onto in a sec. 

All you need is a young and aspiring cannabis flower (preferably in its flowering stage) ready to be juiced. Cannabis juicing is the act of placing cannabis plants (100% organic is ideal) into a blender with water alongside other nutritious ingredients — carrot juice or pomegranate juice is perfectly fine here. 

The taste is actually pretty amazing considering eating raw cannabis on its own is, well, interesting. Not only do you get the benefits of THCA, but you also get the benefits of cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) as well. 

If you need more info on what THCA is, what it can do for you, or (more importantly) which product you should purchase, we’re 100% here to help. Read more about cannabinoids and what they can do for you.