What is THCA, and How Is it Different from THC?

8 min read

What is THCA, and How Is it Different from THC?

If you’re curious about THCA and what it is, then keep reading and we’ll breakdown everything you need to know about THCA!

If you’re new to cannabinoids and curious about THCA, then in the following article you’re going to learn the difference between THC and THCA, some of the potential benefits THCA may offer, whether or not THCA will get you high, the side-effects, and where you can find THCA.

For many new cannabis users, the different terms and names can all appear quite daunting. It’s a lot to learn in a short time, but once you do, you’ll be able to make better-educated decisions about the cannabis products that you choose to use.

Here at Vaping Vibe, we’re all about education and making healthier choices. After you finish reading this, you’ll know everything we know about THCA and have a much clearer idea of what this cannabinoid is all about.

Enough from us, let’s get into THCA and find out more about this natural compound.

What is THCA, and How Is it Different from THC?

THC vs. THCA – What’s the difference?

Although they sound the same and share similar initials, tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) is vastly different from tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). While THCA may appear to be closely related to THC, the two have incredibly unique properties. Currently, we don’t know everything there is to discover about THCA, but scientists around the world are working hard to unlock all its secrets.

To help you understand more about THCA, we’re going to break it down in the simplest way that we know. THCA is the precursor to THC. THCA is produced by cannabigerolic acid (CBGA).

The three main cannabinoids produced by CBGA over the lifetime of the plant are CBG, CBDA, and THCA. THCA is processed into THC through a process that is known as decarboxylation. It sounds complicated, but it’s actually pretty straightforward when you take away all the fancy terms and names.

Over the lifetime of the plant, oxygen and heat remove the carboxyl groups from the THCA compound, which then slowly turns it into THC. This is where the process gets interesting. The amount of THC found in the plant is still low by the time it reaches the end of its life.

It still requires additional decarboxylation. Decarboxylation is done when you heat cannabis flower in a joint, vaporizer, or bong. In concentrates and other liquid THC products, this is done during the manufacturing process.

The way that total THC is calculated looks like this Total THC = (%THCA) x 0.877 + (%THC).

What are the potential benefits of THCA?

So far, most of the research into cannabis and the cannabinoids found in cannabis have centered around CBD and THC. Not THCA. We can’t make any specific medical claims until further clinical trials and studies have been completed. However, some of the studies and research that have been conducted on THCA are looking very promising indeed. 

According to a study done in 2011 and published on J-Stage, THCA exhibits many of the same anti-inflammatory properties that we see in other cannabinoids. In an additional study conducted in 2017, the authors of the research proposed that THCA may be more beneficial than CBD in the treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Currently, there is a cannabis-based pharmaceutical medication called Sativex, which has been approved by the FDA for the treatment of seizures associated with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). In 2017, a study found that THCA could potentially help with seizure prevention. 

Another study in 2013 found that THCA could be much better at preventing vomiting and the treatment of nausea compared to THC. 

Two studies, one done in 2012, and one conducted in 2017, found that THCA exhibited neuroprotective properties which could help with the treatment of Huntington’s disease as well as Parkinson’s disease.

Will THCA get you high?

We’ve all seen the movie or television show where they’re getting chased by the cops or about to be arrested, and instead of getting caught with the weed, they chew it all up and swallow it. What comes next is one of the biggest, mind-blowing highs of all time. It might look cool on television, but in real life, it doesn’t wash.

Although raw cannabis flower contains a small amount of THC, it’s mostly THCA, and without the heat of the decarboxylation process, it will never make it to THC. THCA will not get you high without the decarboxylation process, which converts it to THC. 

This scenario would be completely different if you consumed an excessive amount of cannabis edibles or concentrates that have gone through the heating process during their manufacture. We don’t recommend ever swallowing a handful of cannabis edibles, and if you’re new to the cannabis edible scene, then it’s a good idea to start off slowly.

Does THCA have any side effects?

Unlike THC, which will often leave you feeling anxious, paranoid, nervous, and nauseous, if you consume too much of it, THCA doesn’t appear to have the same negative side-effects. Interestingly, CBD is believed to reduce some of the negative side-effects associated with THC by preventing THC from binding with the CB1 receptors in the Endocannabinoid System (ECS). 

Some people have suggested that a small percentage of THCA could turn into THC as it passes through the digestive system, but there haven’t been any specific studies done into the process yet. Even if this were true, and we’re not saying one way or another, if it is, the amount of THCA turned into THC would probably only be a tiny amount. 

We strongly recommend that you consult with your doctor or healthcare provider before taking any THCA products, especially if you are currently on any prescription medications. Although most cannabinoids are safe and don’t cause any direct complications with prescription medications, they can alter the speed in which your body processes them. This can cause adverse side-effects if prescription medication is processed too slowly or too quickly by the body.

Will THCA show up in a drug test?

Although people aren’t taking THCA products to get ‘high’ as they would with THC products, many drug testing kits target the THCA compound. Different drug testing kits target different compounds, and some may be more sensitive than others. 

Some drug tests are designed to pick up certain compounds for shorter periods of time, while others can pick up certain compounds for up to a month. It all depends on the type of drug testing kit that’s being used, and what it is they’re looking for. Many companies are only looking for potential employees that are high while at work, but some have stringent anti-drug use policies. 

Because THCA has the potential to trigger a positive drug test result, you should avoid any products that contain THCA if you have the potential to be tested.

What is THCA, and How Is it Different from THC?

Where can THCA be found?

When it comes to THCA, you’ll find yourself in a bit of a legal gray area. It isn’t explicitly listed as a controlled substance under federal law in the United States, but it the precursor to THC. 

Because of this, you are going to find it challenging to find any products that specifically contain only THCA. There are a lot of products containing THC which are legal in some states but remain illegal at a federal level in the United States. CBD products are considered legal if they contain less than 0.3% THC after the 2018 US Farm Bill was signed into law. 

If you can legally grow or have access to fresh cannabis plants in your state or country, then you can find THCA in the raw plant material. However, once the plant is heated in any way, the decarboxylation process begins, and the THCA will be converted to THC. 

There is a growing trend of adding raw cannabis leaves and plant material to cold smoothies and shakes to get the THCA while avoiding the decarboxylation process. We know it’s not something that’s going to appeal to everybody, but there are some delicious recipes available online that will help to cover up the taste. If you like the taste of raw cannabis, well, you’re in luck! 

If you prefer other methods of getting THCA, then searching online may help to identify some full spectrum cannabis-based products that claim to be THCA tinctures and patches. It’s important to understand that most of these patches and tinctures will only contain small trace amounts of THCA, and higher amounts of THC.

THCA Conclusion

Thanks for making it this far! Hopefully, you have a much better idea about what THCA is and the difference between THCA and THC.