Know Your Medicine: THCA


Recently, many patients have been asking me if they should be using THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid), and if you have been paying attention, you may have seen products labeled “THCA” in your local collective. So what is THCA, what does it do, and who should use it?

What is THCA?

THCA is synthesized in the trichomes of the cannabis flower when its precursor, CBGA (cannabigerolic acid), is exposed to an enzyme called THCA synthase.  THCA is considered to be “thermally unstable,” meaning that it readily converts to THC (D9-tetrahydrocannabinol) when heated.  This conversion of THCA to THC is called decarboxylation.

What does THCA do?

THCA is less studied than THC or CBD because raw cannabis typically has not been used by most recreational users or medical patients.  THCA is not psychoactive in animals even at high doses, and psychoactivity in humans is not reported. Research shows that THCA has many medicinal properties.

In an animal study,  low doses of THCA prevented nausea. THCA also has potent anti-inflammatory properties, inhibiting both COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes which block the production of prostaglandins, compounds that promote inflammation. THCA also inhibits TNF (tumor necrosis factor), another proinflammatory compound. THCA was found to be an effective neuroprotective and antioxidant in a research model of Parkinson’s disease. THCA also has been shown to have anticancer properties.  In one animal model of seizures, THCA had anticonvulsant effects.

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