What is THCA?

Indoor Cannabis Farm

You’ve heard of THC, the beloved cannabis compound that’s known for getting cannabis lovers high, but maybe you’re looking to explore some other cannabinoids and their effects. If you’ve decided it’s time to branch out from trusty THC, we’ve collected some basics so you can understand one of cannabis’ hottest up-and-comers, THCA.

What is THCA?

THCA, or tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, is a non-psychoactive compound found in both cannabis and hemp. It can be considered the “raw” form of THC. Unlike Delta-9 THC, THCA doesn’t effectively bind with the proteins in our endocannabinoid system (ECS) receptors, namely CB1 and CB2, due to its unique 3D shape. As a result, it doesn’t act as a psychoactive compound in our cannabinoid system.

However, research suggests that THCA may inhibit enzymes like COX-1 and COX-2, potentially offering pain relief and reducing fever and inflammation for users.

It’s crucial to understand that THCA is entirely non-psychoactive in its raw form. Its molecular structure makes it too large to bind effectively with CB1 receptors, thus unable to induce a high. However, when heated, through a process called decarboxylation, THCA converts into Delta-9 THC, providing that familiar cannabis high.

How is THCA Made? 

While it’s been discovered that you can actually make THCA at home, the production of THCA is a complex process that typically requires advanced equipment, in-depth knowledge, and a considerable amount of time. 

Here’s an overview of how THCA crystals are typically formed:

  • Cannabis extract is combined with natural solvents like hexane, which effectively dissolve organic plant compounds.
  • Once fats, terpenes, and other cannabinoids are dissolved, only THCA remains in the solution.
  • The solution is then placed into a rotary vessel, where solvents are allowed to evaporate, leaving behind pure THCA.
  • Chromatography serves as the final and crucial step, involving another round in the rotary vessel to separate any residual solvents from the THCA.
  • Finally, THCA molecules begin to bond together, gradually forming a crystalline structure.

For more information about making THCA flower, click here.

Is THCA Natural Or Synthetic?

THCA is a naturally occurring cannabinoid present in both cannabis and hemp plants. In contrast to synthetic counterparts engineered in labs, THCA is an organic compound naturally synthesized by cannabis and hemp plants. While some growers have found ways to increase the amount of THCA in plants, it is completely natural and does not require human intervention in order for it to be found in plants. 

THCa, making up to 90% of a cannabis plant’s THC, collects in tiny structures on the flowers and leaves. It starts a process called necrosis, where plant cells die. This is important for the plant’s health, as it helps get rid of cells that are damaged or dying.

Lighter Being Lit on a Table

Photo by Jeff W on Unsplash

The Effects of THCA

As mentioned above, the effects of THCA vary depending on whether it has been heated or left in its raw form. Many users prefer to utilize raw THCA in products like lotions, tinctures, or oils. While raw THCA doesn’t induce a psychoactive “high,” anecdotal evidence and studies suggest it offers benefits such as pain relief, anti-inflammatory properties, appetite stimulation, and nausea alleviation.

While some individuals seek the converted form of THCA for its psychoactive effects, others appreciate the advantages of its non-psychoactive properties. As research into lesser-known cannabinoids continues to evolve, the raw form of this compound is unveiling numerous potential health benefits.

However, upon being ignited or exposed to heat, THCA transforms into traditional Delta-9 THC that produces intoxicating effects, potentially offering benefits such as:

  • Relaxation
  • Increased Creativity
  • Feelings of Euphoria 

Click here for a more comprehensive review of the THCA high and be sure to consult a healthcare professional before seeking the potential health benefits of THCA.

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Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash

Is THCA Legal? 

THCA is federally legal under the 2018 Farm Bill, provided that THCA products comply with the requirement of containing no more than 0.3% Delta-9 THC and being derived from hemp.

However, it’s crucial to be aware that several states have implemented comprehensive bans on THC and its associated cannabinoids. This could potentially restrict access to THCA, as certain states might classify it as an analog of THC, despite its non-psychoactive nature. It is advisable to review the regulations concerning hemp-derived cannabinoids and THC in your state before purchasing any cannabis products. Find more details on the legality of THCA here. 

Understanding THCA Diamonds

Some THCA products boast the use of THCA Diamonds. THCA diamonds represent some of the purest cannabis concentrates available today. Created through chromatography, this process yields a dense, crystalline cannabinoid product, earning it the nickname “diamonds”. THCA diamonds boast up to 98% THCA content, adding extra potency to any THCA product they are added to.

Is THCA Stronger Than Regular THC?

It depends – In its raw form, THCA lacks potency and does not produce psychoactive effects. However, in a variety of hemp-cannabis products designed for smoking, THCA converts to THC when heated, resulting in an experience closely mirroring that of THC cannabis products found in dispensaries. If the product features particular concentrated forms of THCA, such as THCA Diamonds, the effects could potentially exceed the potency of traditional THC products.

Is THCA Addictive? 

For all cannabis and hemp products, conducting personal research is crucial. Given that THCA remains a cannabinoid that has not been thoroughly researched, its long-term impacts on users are not entirely known.

Raw THCA is recognized as a substance that does not lead to addiction, whereas the status of THCA which is converted into THC through heat falls into a more ambiguous category. Provided that usage is responsible and excessive consumption is avoided, THC does not exhibit the same potential for addiction as many other substances.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that research on THC’s addictiveness remains inconclusive, with findings varying widely depending on the specific study. If you or someone you know is facing challenges with addiction, reach out to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) free national helpline.

Imperial Extraction THCA Preroll Collection

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking to widen your scope into newer, fresher cannabinoids, THCA is a great place to start. With its true-to-THC effects, many users find that this product is very similar to the THC they’re used to, while also having a non-psychoactive option. 

For those eager to explore world-class, lab-tested THCA products, consider Imperial’s range of THCA Prerolls. Available in sativa, indica, and hybrid strains with delightful flavors, there’s an option to suit every user. As a precaution, especially for beginners, we advise starting with a modest dosage and gradually increasing as needed.

Disclaimer reminder: This article is not medical advice. It is based on anecdotal user experience alone. If you are thinking about incorporating cannabis (delta-8 THC, delta-9 THC, CBD, etc) into your medicinal routine, please consult a healthcare professional. Do not stop taking any prescribed medications without first consulting your doctor.

Disclaimer: This article was written in February 2024 and reflects the United States’ laws that were current at that time. Because cannabis laws in the United States laws are subject to change at any time, please make sure that you are always staying up to date on your federal, state, and local county’s cannabis laws. Additionally, we are NOT encouraging anyone to break the law––we are simply showing people ways to legally and discreetly bring their cannabis products along with them on their travels so that they may have access to those products when they reach their intended destination.

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