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THCa vs. THC: What are the differences?

THCa vs. THC: What are the differences?

One of the most widespread misconceptions about the cannabis plant is that it naturally stores very little THC until it is harvested. The truth – It primarily contains THCa, a cannabinoid that develops from CBGA, known as the “mother of all cannabinoids,” as the cannabis plant ages. In the live or raw plant (freshly harvested), there is hardly any THC.

Many perceive THCa and THC as basically the same but there are very distinct differences between the two cannabinoids. Read on if you want to clearly distinguish between the two and determine which compounds cater best to your needs.

What is the difference between THCa and THC?

THCa, short for tetrahydrocannabinol acid, is the acidic and raw version of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). Although the two share a similar chemical composition, THCa has one more carboxyl group than THC. THCa loses this carboxyl group when it undergoes a heating process called ‘decarboxylation,’ which initiates the conversion into THC. 

Ultimately, this conversion process allows THC to bind to CB1 receptors in the body to produce the “high” that most consumers are familiar with. In the simplest sense, THCa is the precursor of THC.

Science aside, THCa in its raw, natural state does not produce a psychotropic effect when ingested. If a consumer eats the raw plant material, without heating the flower prior to ingestion, the THCa molecules will not bind with the receptors in the body to create a high.

Once decarboxylated, the THCa becomes THC which binds directly to the receptors and causes a psychotropic effect for the user.

Some other common samples of decarboxylation are sunlight conversion, room-temperature conversion, smoking, vaporizing, dabbing, and baking. Let’s dig in. 

How to take THCa

It’s a little tricky to get raw THCa into the body because decarboxylation transforms it into THC and even a warm room environment or sunlight will speed up this process.

If you want to keep THCa as it is, you should purchase isolated THCa extracts or consume them as raw, freshly harvested plant material. It’s also highly advised that you keep the freshly harvested plant in a cool, dark place to prevent decarboxylation.

Taking decarboxylation into consideration, cooking would also be out of the equation. You could always just consume the plant in its raw state like any other green vegetable, but that might not be a very pleasant experience because it is said to have a bitter flavor. One highly recommended way to ingest THCa as it is, is blending it into your juice, smoothie, or raw salad.

On the other hand, THC may be consumed from cannabis or extracts fairly easily. Any of the typical consumption techniques, such as smoking, vaping, or making edibles, will introduce variable doses of THC into the human body.

Making a joint. How to take THCa and THC

Is THCa psychoactive?

A cannabinoid needs to be able to bind with cannabinoid receptors in our bodies in order to have intoxicating effects. 

Ingesting THCa is not intoxicating because the endocannabinoid system in the body is made up of receptors that THCa molecules, which are bigger than THC molecules, cannot bind to. THCa’s added molecular carboxyl ring prevents it from interacting with the CB1 and CB2 receptors, the two major cannabinoid receptors in our bodies. 

Of course, the conversation becomes different when decarboxylated THCa is converted into THC, which binds easily with the said receptors to give users a ‘high’ feeling.’

What is the purpose of THCa?

You might be wondering, “If THCa is just the precursor of THC and is not psychoactive, why don’t I just get myself THC directly?”

Well, not everyone who consumes cannabis products is in it for psychoactivity. In fact, there are users who prefer to enjoy the reported benefits of the hemp plant without getting high.

But if you are aiming for the euphoric effects that smoking THC provides, it is more advisable to purchase high THCa products e.g. high THCa flower. This is because THC may lose part of its cannabinoid concentration when exposed to direct heat, which would reduce the compound’s effects. 

Whereas if you smoke high THCa flower, for example, it is the THCa that is being directly exposed to heat and converted. This prevents the reduction of the intoxicating concentration of the THC from decarbed THCa which allows you to maximize the high you can get from THC.

The THCa concentration in cannabis products also represents the product’s maximum intoxicating potential before it transforms into THC. We suggest that you seek out cannabis products with high THCa content which is said to be a good indicator that the flower is fresh, recently cured, and has not been sitting around in a jar. 

What does THCa do?

Since THCa is the precursor of THC, several of its effects on the human body are similar to that of THC’s. However, some people may find THCa less useful for sleep than activated THC because THCa does not intoxicate them.

(Note: Elevated Trading has only referred to user reports and early studies which need further scientific basis as THCa is still a very young subject of research.)

As previously mentioned, THCa is new to the industry and many CBD shops are finding it challenging to locate compliant THCa flower (produced by a registered hemp farm).

No worries. Elevated Trading has enough supply for you (properly packed to prevent decarboxylation, of course). You can buy THCa flower wholesale, online or through one of our sales pros at Elevated Trading. 

We specialize in providing brands and merchants around the nation with bulk cannabinoid products like Delta 8 THC products, hemp-derived Delta 9 THC products and THCa products. If you want to package your own brand of flower, have a look at our bulk THCa flower. 

We carry a lot of different options, both bulk and retail-ready in packaging, to make sure that our wholesale products are the right fit for your smoke shop, vape shop, or retail location.
Contact us today for a free consultation to see if we’re a fit for your store.