Article written by
Tina MagrabiSenior Content Writer
Content reviewed by
Dr. Lewis JasseyMedical Director - Pediatric Medicine
Table of contents
Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid and the acidic precursor to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). While THCA won’t get you high, THC definitely will, so the two chemical compounds are structurally similar yet differ in important ways.
Cutting edge research has emerged to demonstrate the therapeutic potential of THCA in treating a number of conditions, including chronic pain and seizures. Learn about how you can experience the benefits of THCA and discover cannabis strains high in this potent acidic cannabinoid.
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How THCA Works
Before cannabis goes through the process of decarboxylation, the cannabinoid THC exists in an acidic form called THCA. After being heated and “decarbed,” cannabis is no longer in raw form and the compounds in the plant naturally undergo a series of chemical changes.
During this transition, THCA is no longer acidic. Rather, as carbon dioxide (CO2) is released, THCA becomes the chemically neutral cannabinoid THC. At the same time, when THCA becomes THC, the result is an intoxicating compound with the potential to get you high. In this sense, THC is not “neutral” at all but very strong and capable of impacting your mood and behavior in the short-term.
Benefits and Uses
THCA has multiple potential health benefits and medical uses. Here are some common ways that this acidic cannabinoid may be used, according to scientific research:
- Anti-inflammatory – chronic pain
- Appetite stimulant – eating disorders; chemotherapy treatment
- Treating sleeplessness – insomnia
- Anti-tumor – cancer
- Antispasmodic – multiple sclerosis (MS) and epilepsy
Research is limited on the potential health benefits of THCA, and more studies, especially clinical trials, are essential.
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Possible Side Effects and Interactions
Some people contend that THCA poses few negative side effects, while others argue that THCA comes with many of the same possible side effects as THC. If you have a sensitivity to THC, then it is possible that THCA could produce a similar reaction.
Here are some common side effects of THC that may or may not arise if you consume THCA:
- Dry mouth (cottonmouth)
- Red eyes
- Increased heart rate
However, these side effects may be much milder with THCA if they occur at all. Positive THC effects, like euphoria and creativity, will probably not result from THCA since the acidic cannabinoid is non-psychoactive. At the same time, THCA may show up on a drug test, especially if you consumed the cannabinoid within the past few days.
THCA may also interact with prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications. Speak with your pharmacist or doctor before taking THCA if you are on any other drug regimen.
Does THCA Have Any Effect At All?
Despite some evidence showing that acidic cannabinoids do have some positive effects (noted above), some argue that, as acidic cannabinoids don’t attach to endocannabinoid receptors, they don’t really exert any effect whatsoever. Acidic cannabinoids are also unstable, often found in trace amounts in dried cannabis.
THC and THCA may work in combination to exert some therapeutic effect. As people looking for THCA may decide to juice their cannabis plant and use it raw without infusing it into fats or heating it, they will not likely get the full psychoactive effects of THC.
How to Use
One of the most popular ways to use THCA is through a pure extract known colloquially as “diamonds.” Dabbing and vaporizing diamonds are common ways to experience the benefits of THCA.
You also have the option of eating raw cannabis to ingest THCA. Juicing raw cannabis and mixing the plant matter with ingredients like spinach, almond milk and banana can equal a tasty powerhouse beverage. Some people like to blend raw cannabis into salad dressings, sauces and other culinary staples. Using raw cannabis in this manner will not get you “high.”
Another option to use THCA is through a transdermal patch or other cannabis topical. Just be sure that the topical product lists THCA rather than THC as an ingredient. Otherwise, you may experience intoxicating effects that you weren’t seeking.
The best way to consume THCA is the one that works for you, but in general we suggest refraining from smokable ingestion methods, including vaping, which can damage the lungs. Eating raw cannabis may be the healthiest way to consume THCA, especially if you supplement your recipe with superfoods like dandelion greens and blueberries.
Cannabis Strains High in THCA
Look for raw cannabis strains (varieties) that are high in THC to unlock the benefits of THCA. THC-rich strains that have not yet been decarboxylated are likely to contain exceptional levels of THCA.
Here are some cannabis strains that have high THC concentrations and, therefore high THCA content before decarbing:
- Lemon Kush
- Gorilla Glue
- Bruce Banner
- Death Star
- White Tahoe Cookies
- SIlver Haze
- Laughing Buddha
- Blue Dream
- Sour Diesel
- Ghost Train Haze
- The White
- Amnesia Haze
This list is just a sampling of high THCA strains. Any marijuana strain that clocks in at more than 15% THC content should be equally rich in THCA before decarboxylation.
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Frequently Asked Questions
What does THCA do to the brain?
Some studies indicate that THCA may have neuroprotective effects. In other words, this cannabinoid could safeguard essential functions like memory and coordination as you age. Other research disputes this notion and suggests that cannabis could negatively affect the brain. Consult with your physician to understand if THCA and other types of cannabis medicine are right for you.
Why is THCA illegal?
In fact, THCA is not illegal and has not been classified as a controlled substance on the federal level. However, possessing THCA could land you in legal hot water if you decarb raw cannabis. Once cannabis has been decarbed, THCA changes into THC, the main psychoactive compound in cannabis that remains illegal at the federal level.
It is also possible that, if you are in possession of THCA, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) may consider it an analogue (structurally similar) of THC, and press charges based on the Federal Analogue Act.
If you live in a state like Colorado or Oregon where recreational marijuana is legal, then you may possess THCA in raw form or THC in decarbed form. But be sure not to cross state lines with the plant, as laws vary widely across the United States.
Does THCA get you high?
THCA does not get you high until the chemical heating process of decarboxylation takes place. After decarboxylation, THCA changes to THC, the main psychoactive compound in cannabis that will get you high.
Experience the benefits of THCA and other cannabinoids legally with a medical marijuana card. Leafwell’s team of doctors is here to help you gain access to cannabis medicine by guiding you through the quick steps to applying for your MMJ card online.