What Is THCV? A Look at the Benefits and Side Effects

Dr. Abraham Benavides is an international cannabis science advisor, health coach, and full-tuition merit scholar of the GW School of Medicine. Abe pioneered and published first-author research with the Cannabis...

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Man holding THCV cannabis jar
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THCV is a cannabinoid that is naturally present in the cannabis plant. Its molecular structure is shorter than delta-9 THC which makes it non-psychoactive. THCV is distinctly known for its potential therapeutic effects on metabolism, obesity, and chronic liver diseases (CLDs). 

Preclinical evidence and small clinical trials suggest THCV may regulate blood sugar levels, improve insulin resistance, suppress appetite, promote weight loss, and improve pancreatic β-cell function in diabetic patients. 

Fortunately, THCV is well-tolerated and doesn’t carry the same psychiatric effects as high THC (e.g. intoxication, anxiety, nausea) or similar synthetic drugs (i.e. rimonabant, AM251). Rather, you may experience decreased appetite, diarrhea, and dizziness with THCV.

What Is THCV? 

THCV is the third most-studied cannabinoid and early discovery studies in the 70’s estimated it has 25% of the psychoactivity of THC. However, modern research tells us this simply isn’t the case for any minor cannabinoid, and so THCV is considered non-psychoactive. 

THCV is naturally-occurring in fractional percentages. Historically, it is prominently found in southern African cannabis chemotypes, or “landrace strains”. Nowadays, selective breeding allows us to cultivate THCV-rich strains more easily, including in legal hemp flower and other hemp-derived products. 

THCV can be extracted and processed into tinctures, oils, edibles, capsules, cartridges, and possibly more as the industry expands. They are most commonly sold as full-spectrum products, meaning they contain a legal but trace amount of THC which can compromise drug testing results.

THCV vs. THC: Key Differences

  • THCV is 2 carbons shorter than THC, making a world of difference
  • Both are neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, and anti-epileptic
  • Unlike THC, THCV is non-intoxicating and doesn’t cause adverse effects like anxiety, nausea, or psychoactivity. In fact, THCV may counter these effects.
  • THC is an appetite stimulator, while THCV is an appetite suppressant 
  • THCV’s actions on CB1 and CB2 receptors differ based on concentration, while THC consistently activates CB1/CB2
  • THC’s actions on CB1/CB2 may contribute to fatty liver disease, but THCV may reverse this in mice
  • THCV’s effects are largely thanks to the endocannabinoidome which includes the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) plus receptors like PPAR-γ, GPR 55, and the TRP family

THCV vs. CBD: Key Differences

What Are the Benefits and Effects of THCV?

THCV’s effects are familiar in some ways, and unique in others. Many preclinical and two clinical studies, including a phase II trial, create a supportive evidence base for THCV in the following:

What Are the Side Effects of THCV? 

According to small clinical studies, THCV is apparently just as well-tolerated as CBD is without psychiatric or serious adverse reactions. The most commonly reported side effects of THCV are:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness

How Much THCV Should You Take? 

Minor cannabinoids like THCV don’t have formal prescribing guidelines yet because the research is in the very early stages. However, the few clinical studies that exist show therapeutic effects at doses of 5 mg twice daily or 10 mg once daily. 

This level of dosing is consistent with other recommendations for beginners. It should be noted that one of the clinical studies combined 5 mg THCV with CBD in varying ratios: alone, 1:1, or 20:1 CBD:THCV.

Consider working with both your healthcare provider and an expert cannabis coach like me to best adjust your individual preferences and dosing needs over time.

Will THCV Get You High?

No. Good-quality, THCV-dominant products should not get you high unless an appreciable amount of THC is also consumed or inhaled.

Most often, THCV is sold as the dominant cannabinoid or part of a formulary ratio. THCV products can only get you high if deliberately combined with or contaminated with >0.3% THC. 

Will THCV Show Up on a Drug Test?

Potentially, yes. THCV is inextricably found in full-spectrum hemp and cannabis products due to its natural, fractional occurrence. This means that virtually all THCV products also contain a trace amount of THC that won’t cause a high but can still cause a red flag over time. 

THCV also has similar metabolic derivatives, and we don’t know yet if they affect drug test results. Research shows that THCV itself is difficult to test to determine herbal vs. prescription THC use; THCA is probably used instead. 

At the time of writing, I have not encountered any broad-spectrum, or “THC-free”, THCV products on the market yet. If you do, please let us know in the comments below.

RELATED: How to Pass a Drug Test?

Conclusion 

THCV is a minor cannabinoid, but not because it has lesser effects. Due to its rarity, THCV is still a relatively underutilized cannabinoid. 

THCV holds unique promise for diabetes, obesity, metabolic disease, and more. It’s worth considering adding this cannabinoid to your toolkit.

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