If you’ve ever walked into a dispensary, you’ve likely noticed the THC percentages being listed on different strains and products. THC is the cannabinoid responsible for producing the intoxicating and mind-altering effects of cannabis. What Is THCa And Why Does It Matter?
Knowing the THC percentage of a specific product can give you a better idea of how intoxicating it will be when ingested. However, many people may be surprised to find out that, despite what their labels say, raw cannabis buds don’t actually contain any THC at all. Instead, they contain THCa, a cannabinoid that is similar to THC.
What is it? What’s the difference between THC and THCa? Here’s what you need to know about this cannabinoid!
What Is THCa?
Over 100 different cannabinoids have been identified in the cannabis plant. It is known for being the acidic precursor to THC. It’s theorized that cannabis plants developed THCa as an evolutionary mechanism to defend themselves from predators and pests that could be driven away from the acidic substance.
Many people associate the shiny trichomes that cover cannabis with THC, but what they’re actually looking at is THCa. Additionally, the THC content you see on the label of a cannabis strain or some cannabis flower buds is actually the potential amount of THC that can be converted from its content. However, the labels of products like edibles and oils really do show the true amount of THC in the product, since the THCa in the extract has already been converted into active THC.
Does THCa Get You High?: THCa vs THC
The main difference when it comes to THCa vs THC is that THCa does not have the same psychoactive properties as THC.
So if they don’t share the same psychoactive properties, then does THCa get you high like THC? The answer is no. It simply doesn’t produce the same intoxicating and mind-altering effects that THC does.
That’s because in order for THC to produce its effects it must bind directly to cannabinoid receptors in the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). However, the molecule is shaped differently than that of THC, making it impossible for it to bind to these receptors in the same way.
Does THCa Get You High?: Making THCa Work By Converting It To THC
If there’s no actual THC in raw cannabis, and if THCa doesn’t actually get you high, then why do you get high when you smoke cannabis? Because you’re exposing it to heat and converting that THCa to THC with the flame of your lighter.
It is converted into psychoactive THC through a process called decarboxylation. Decarboxylating cannabis basically means exposing it to heat and allowing the THCa to THC conversion process to take place. For example, raw cannabis can be decarboxylated by placing it in the oven for a certain amount of time and at a certain temperature until almost all of it is converted to THC.
But you don’t need an oven to make this process happen. When the cannabis in a bowl or a joint is exposed to fire, that conversion takes place instantly. Similarly, when the ground cannabis in a vaporizer is exposed to the heat produced by the unit, its content is converted into active THC as well.
Just because it doesn’t get you high doesn’t mean that it isn’t beneficial. Research into this cannabinoid is still very much in its early stages, but the work that’s been done so far indicates that there may be several THCa benefits worth exploring further. For example, research shows that it may have anti-inflammatory properties, neuroprotective ability, and may even be beneficial in preventing the growth of certain kinds of tumors. However, much more research is needed in order for us to really see just what this cannabinoid may truly be capable of.
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