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What Is THCa?

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In short, THCa is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that is found in raw cannabis. It stands for tetrahydrocannabinolic acid.

When it comes to cannabis, there are a lot of acronyms and terminology that can be confusing for first-time consumers.

THCa has some potential therapeutic benefits that are still being explored. If you're interested in learning more about THCa, keep reading!

Key Takeaways:

  • THCa stands for tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, which is the raw form of the psychoactive THC cannabinoid.
  • Unlike THC, THCa is non-psychoactive. Consuming large quantities of THCa is unlikely to produce any intoxicating effects.
  • To transform THCa into THC requires decarboxylation to break off the carboxylic acid chain, leaving behind THC.
  • You can find raw cannabis extracts made from hemp that concentrate high levels of THCa to formulate into tinctures, oils, and edibles.
  • While research on the unique potential benefits of THCa is new, it does show a lot of promise for anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, anti-nausea, and anti-obesity properties. However, more research on human trials is needed to understand its future in medicine.

What Is THCa?

THCa is a non-psychoactive compound that is found in raw and live cannabis. When cannabis is heated, THCa converts to THC, which is why smoking or vaping does not produce the same effect as consuming raw cannabis.

While many people are familiar with THC, the main psychoactive component of cannabis, fewer are aware of THCa.

THCa is thought to have a variety of potential medicinal benefits, including reducing inflammation, relieving nerve pain, and improving appetite.

Though more research is needed, there is evidence to suggest that THCa may also be effective in treating seizure disorders and mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.

Effects of THCa in the Raw Cannabis Plant?

THCa is a that is found in raw and live cannabis. When cannabis is heated, THCa converts to THC.

There are a lot of speculations as to why the cannabis plant produces cannabinoids. Some researchers believe that cannabinoids protect the hemp plant from pests, germs, UV, wind, and frost damage, and for attracting pollinators [1, 2].

THCa Isn't The Only Cannabinoid Acid

While THC is the most well-known cannabinoid, it's not the only one.

In fact, there are over 100 different cannabinoids, and each one has its own unique effects.

However, most of these cannabinoids are present in very small amounts. The major exception is cannabidiol (CBD), which is found in significant concentrations in many cannabis strains. But CBD isn't the only cannabinoid that's worth paying attention to

CBGa and CBDa are becoming wildly popular cannabinoids oil, and raw cannabis extracts are not far behind.

Both of these compounds are found in the cannabis plant, and they have a wide range of potential benefits. Both compounds are thought to contribute to the "entourage effect," which is the beneficial effects that can be achieved when different cannabinoids are used together.

As more research is conducted on these compounds, it is likely that their popularity will continue to grow. Raw cannabis extracts offer a potent dose of these beneficial compounds, and they are quickly becoming a popular way to consume cannabis plants.

How Does THCa Work In The Body?

Why does consuming THC produce intoxicating effects, while THCa doesn't?

The answer has to do with the molecular shape of the compounds, which affects their interactions in the body.

Unlike THC, THCa does not bind to CB1 receptors, the receptors that have a high binding affinity for THC. CB1 activation in the central nervous system releases a flood of hormones that affect our visual perception, coordination, mood, and sense of time which are the major characteristics of marijuana high.

The shape of the THCa molecule with the carboxylic group isn't a good fit for these receptors, which is why eating raw cannabis buds don't produce the same psychoactive effects as smoking or vaporizing it.

However, we can verify that extracts that are predominantly made up of THCA have been known to have anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties. THCA has also been shown to reduce nausea and vomiting.

So while it may not get you high, THCa definitely has some therapeutic benefits that are worth exploring.

Benefits Of THCa: Scientific Research

Most of the research in cannabis medicine is centered around THC and CBD, but with more people becoming more interested in the cannabis plant, scientists are finding that minor cannabinoids may play some important roles too.

Though still in its preliminary stages, research on THCa is beginning to uncover some potential health benefits associated with this compound found in the raw cannabis plant.

Let's get into some of the interesting research on THCa benefits.

THCa May Have Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Some studies have shown that THCa can reduce inflammation in cells and animal models through its interactions with COx pathways, which mediates the inflammatory response [3].

Inflammation is often at the root of many ailments from irritable bowel syndrome, arthritis, lupus, and chronic pain.

The jury is still out on whether THCa has the same anti-inflammatory effects in humans. But if further research confirms these findings, it could mean that THCa could be used to treat a range of conditions characterized by inflammation.

THCa Shows Neuroprotective Potential

Studies in animal models have shown that THCa can help to protect neurons from damage caused by inflammation and oxidative stress from a mutated form of the Huntington protein [4].

This is significant because nerve cell damage is a major contributor to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

Not only was it effective at protecting brain cells from damage, but THCa has also been shown to promote the growth of new neurons and improve cognitive function and motor deficits [4]. These findings suggest that THCa could be a valuable treatment for a variety of neurodegenerative diseases.

THCa & CBDa Combined May Support Nausea and Vomiting

The cannabis plant has long been used as a folk remedy for a variety of uses.

One that is particularly well-known is its ability to relieve nausea symptoms. THC and CBD are thought to be responsible for many of the positive effects of their anti-anemic effects.

Recent studies show that the raw versions of these cannabinoids THCa and CBDa may be better suited for these effects in murine models [5].

THCa May Have Anti-Obesity Properties

Everyone is well aware of THC and the munchies, but can THCa provide benefits towards fat loss?

Some scientists believe that THCa does have the potential to support fat loss.

A new study suggests that THCa may have anti-obesity properties. The study, which was conducted on mice, found that THCa increased energy expenditure and helped to reduce body fat [6].

While the study did not examine the mechanisms by which THCa exerted its effects, the authors speculate that it may work by activating brown adipose tissue (BAT), which is known to play a role in regulating metabolism. If further studies confirm these findings, THCa could be an important new tool in the fight against obesity.

However, it's important to note that the effects of THCa have not been studied in humans, so it's not clear whether or not it would have the same effect in people.

Is THCa Legal?

The short answer is yes, THCa is legal in most states.

But of course, there's a bit more to it than that. To understand why THCa is legal, we need to take a look at what it is and how it's derived.

In 2018, the United States revised the Farm Bill, creating a legal distinction between hemp and marijuana plants, which defined hemp as cannabis plants with less than 0.3% THC by dried weight.

Hemp plants were removed from the list of controlled substances federally. However, marijuana and high concentrations of delta-9 THC remained on the list.

Because the Controlled Substances Act doesn't list THCa or other isomers of THC as a banned substance, many CBD brands operated under a legal loophole and can produce and sell THCa and THC products derived from legal hemp crops.

When shopping for THCa products online or in-stores, be sure to check its source.

Remember, marijuana plants are only legal in select states for recreational use, and always reference the third-party lab report and make sure that it contains less than 0.3% THC.

Where Can I Find THCa?

If you're looking for raw cannabis extract, your best bet is to look online.

There are a few companies that offer these products, and they can be shipped right to your door. However, it's important to do your research before buying any cannabinoid products like THCa, THC, or CBD products, as the quality of these products can vary greatly.

Additionally, make sure to check your state's laws regarding cannabis extracts, as some states have more restrictive regulations than others. But if you're looking for a high-quality product, raw cannabis extracts can be a great option. Just be sure to do your homework first.

How Do You Use THCa?

If you get ahold of raw THCa extract, it's important that you don't heat it—unless you want regular THC.

You can find hemp concentrates made for dabbing that are advertised as having high THCa levels, but they will convert into THC as soon as you heat it up, and you may not get the same benefits you were after.

Of course, you can eat raw cannabis buds in a salad or by juicing it, but it's not always recommended as they're fibrous and have a bitter taste. If you choose to consume raw cannabis, make sure that the grower isn't using harmful pesticides that could be irritating to your stomach.

The best and most convenient form of THCa you want to look for are either raw THCa tinctures, capsules, or gummies (made using heat-free methods). These are typically made from high THCa cannabis strains and extracted using heat-free methods to preserve the cannabinoid acids.

Edible THCa produced by manufacturers will also provide more accurate dosing instructions, which could be beneficial for those who are after specific wellness goals with THCa. As always, make sure you shop with reputable brands that can provide ingredient sourcing transparency and third-party lab tests to ensure you're getting a safe and effective product.

Will THCa Show Up On a Drug Test?

Many people are interested in whether or not THCa will show up on a drug test. The answer is a bit complicated. Urine drug tests can detect for THCa as the liver breaks it down into the same compound as THC's metabolite.

However, blood and hair tests cannot currently detect for THCa. So, if you're worried about failing a drug test, it's best to steer clear of products that contain this compound.

Is THCa Safe?

THCa is generally considered to be safe, as it does not produce psychoactive effects (unless it is heated). There are a few considerations for safety, however, such as the quality of the product and the individual's genetics and lifestyle.

For example, tested samples of raw cannabis extracts have found traces of pesticides and irritating solvents that can cause harm and injury when taken in large quantities. This is why it's so important to shop for cannabis products from trusted sources that provide third-party lab testing for its safety.

Additionally, people with a family history of mental illness or who are taking medications that may interact with cannabinoids may want to avoid using THCa or consult with their doctor to make sure it's safe.

The Takeaway: What THCa is & the Effects of it

THCa Benefits & The Future Of Cannabinoids

Cannabinoids are the active compounds found in the Cannabis plant. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the most well-known cannabinoid, thanks to its psychoactive properties.

However, THC is just one member of a large and diverse family of cannabinoids. Recently, scientists have begun to explore the potential therapeutic benefits of THCa, or tetrahydrocannabinolic acid. THCa is the non-psychoactive precursor to THC, and it appears to have a wide range of potential medicinal applications.

For example, THCa has been shown to be an effective anti-inflammatory agent, and it may also help to improve appetite and reduce nausea.

In addition, THCa has shown promise as a treatment for neurological disorders like Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease. As research into the therapeutic potential of cannabinoids continues to evolve, it's likely that we will discover even more uses for these fascinating compounds.


What Is THCa?

THCa is an abbreviation for tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, which is the raw form of the psychoactive THC cannabinoid. THCa has been demonstrated to be an efficient anti-inflammatory drug, as well as aiding with hunger and nausea reduction.

What Is The Difference Between THC vs. THCa?

THC is formed when the carboxylic acid chain of THCa is separated by heat. THC's molecular structure causes it to interact with various brain receptors, resulting in a variety of psychoactive effects. THCa, on the other hand, may provide the same health benefits as cannabis but without the euphoric affects.

Does THCa Get You High?

THCa, unlike THC, is not psychoactive. Large amounts of THCa are unlikely to produce intoxication effects.

Is THCa Legal?

THCa is legal in most states as a result of the 2018 Farm Bill, which classified hemp as cannabis plants containing less than 0.3% THC by dried weight. Because THCa and other isomers of THC are not listed as prohibited substances under the Controlled Substances Act, numerous CBD brands can develop and sell THCa and THC products derived from legal hemp crops.


  1. Ali, E. M., Almagboul, A. Z., Khogali, S. M., & Gergeir, U. M. (2012). Antimicrobial activity of Cannabis sativa L.
  2. Lydon, J., Teramura, A. H., & Coffman, C. B. (1987). UV‐B radiation effects on photosynthesis, growth and cannabinoid production of two Cannabis sativa chemotypes. Photochemistry and Photobiology, 46(2), 201-206.
  3. Ruhaak, L. R., Felth, J., Karlsson, P. C., Rafter, J. J., Verpoorte, R., & Bohlin, L. (2011). Evaluation of the cyclooxygenase inhibiting effects of six major cannabinoids isolated from Cannabis sativa. Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin, 34(5), 774-778.
  4. Nadal, X., Del Río, C., Casano, S., Palomares, B., Ferreiro‐Vera, C., Navarrete, C., ... & Muñoz, E. (2017). Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid is a potent PPARγ agonist with neuroprotective activity. British journal of pharmacology, 174(23), 4263-4276.
  5. Rock, E. M., Sullivan, M. T., Pravato, S., Pratt, M., Limebeer, C. L., & Parker, L. A. (2020). Effect of combined doses of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol or tetrahydrocannabinolic acid and cannabidiolic acid on acute nausea in male Sprague-Dawley rats. Psychopharmacology, 237(3), 901-914.
  6. Palomares, B., Ruiz-Pino, F., Garrido-Rodriguez, M., Prados, M. E., Sánchez-Garrido, M. A., Velasco, I., ... & Muñoz, E. (2020). Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid A (THCA-A) reduces adiposity and prevents metabolic disease caused by diet-induced obesity. Biochemical Pharmacology, 171, 113693.
Katrina Lubiano

BA in English Katrina has always had a passion for health sciences and literature. She works as a content writer, editor, and strategist in the health and wellness space, primarily focusing on cannabis education. She’s written well over 400,000 words on the subject—including demystifying laws a...

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