THC vs THCA: Understanding Their Unique Therapeutic Effects

Ashley Priest

Posted by Ashley Priest on 06/14/2023 in Alternative Medicine

THC vs THCA cannabis leaf

THCa vs THC, what are the differences?

While both of them are forms of THC, they are both unique in their own ways. While THC is the most popular cannabinoid in the cannabis plant, THCa has a number of benefits that are largely undiscussed in the cannabis community. 

Let’s dive in. 

What Is THCA?

THCa is a cannabinoid acid produced by cannabis plants. 

Cannabinoid acids, which exist for all major cannabinoid lines, are present in the highest concentrations within raw cannabis. This includes THCa, CBDa, CBGa, and CBCa. 

Unlike some cannabinoids, cannabinoid acids do not produce an intoxicating effect. They do, however, possess their own unique potential benefits, such as an abundance of insecticide and antimicrobial properties that help to protect cannabis during cultivation. All cannabinoids start as cannabinoid acids before they are decarbed during the consumption process. 

THCA vs. THC: What’s The Difference?

There is one natural element that is responsible for converting THCa into THC: heat. THCa converts to THC when it undergoes the process of decarboxylation, but just what is decarboxylation? 

Decarboxylation is the process of introducing a cannabinoid acid such as THCa to heat, which removes the carboxylic acid ring from the cannabinoid acid’s molecular structure, effectively converting it to the cannabinoid THC.  

While it is not intoxicating before decarboxylation, THCa has its own unique and potentially therapeutic benefits. 

What Are the Benefits Of THCA? 

One of the biggest differences between THCa and THC is that one produces an intoxicating effect while the other does not. THCa, which is sometimes also known as 2-carboxy-THC, has been shown through research to offer many potential therapeutic benefits. 

THCa may lessen the symptoms of ailments like:

  • Chronic pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Inflammation
  • Muscle spasms  

It also has anti-proliferative and neuroprotectant properties.

In addition to the ever-growing list of potential benefits it offers, the side effects of THCa are very few. Many of the reported side effects of THC–such as anxiety and increased heart rate–are directly related to the decarbed version of THC and its well-known intoxicating properties. 

So not only can THCa offer therapeutic benefits, but it also has few side effects and produces no risk of intoxication.

The Benefits of THC

During the process of decarboxylation, THCa converts to THC as the carboxylic acid ring is removed from the THC molecule. Once it is in its nonacid form, this cannabinoid produces intoxicating effects that have been widely embraced by consumers for years. This cannabinoid, in its decarbed form, has been found to offer the following benefits and many more. 

  • Analgesic
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Appetite Stimulation
  • Bronchodilator
  • Intraocular Pressure Relief
  • Neuroprotectant
  • Reduces anxiety and depression

So, when it comes to THC vs. THCa, which is healthier? 

Neither is considered to be unhealthy for you, and the risk of side effects from both is minimal. However, THC is known for producing intoxication as well as side effects such as dry mouth, excessive hunger, paranoia, nausea, and red eyes.

How To Use THCA

THCa can be found in many products. In fact, any cannabis product meant to be smoked contains THCa until you light it on fire, vape it, or dab it converting it to THC. Therefore, THCa can be found in cannabis concentrates, cannabis vape pens, raw cannabis flower, and in cannabis extracts. 

To reap the benefits of THCa without intoxication, simply consume raw cannabis flower without decarbing it or look for THCa-specific products that do not require decarboxylation to consume. 

Additionally, one common way of utilizing THCa flower (as well as cannabis leaves which are also rich in this cannabinoid acid) is through juicing the raw cannabis substance.

Benefits of Juicing Raw THCa Flower and Cannabis Leaves

Juicing raw cannabis flower can have the following benefits.

  • Anticonvulsant
  • Antiemetic
  • Anti-Inflammatory
  • Antimetastatic
  • Appetite stimulant
  • Complete protein source
  • High Concentrations of Magnesium
  • Mood enhancer
  • Potent Amino Acid Profile
  • Rich in Fiber
  • Rich in Omega Fatty Acids (Omega-3 and Omega-6)

Exploring THCa Percentage 

Technically, the THC percentages that you see in the dispensary for cannabis flowers and concentrates are actually THCa percentages because before these products go through decarboxylation, their THC-related content is THCa, not THC. 

In this case, the best THCa percentage is the lowest concentration needed to meet your specific needs. For some, this may be 15%, while for others, they may prefer cannabis concentrates that offer 50% THCa concentration and higher. 

It is important to note that studies suggest that up to ¼ of a product’s THC content is lost when converted from THCa to THC.

Key Takeaways

Cannabinoids start as cannabinoid acids and remain in this form until they are decarboxylated through the application of heat. Decarbing THCa removes the carboxylic acid ring from the THC molecule. This process converts THCa into THC and becomes the well-known psychoactive cannabinoid that many are familiar with. 

Both THCa and THC have a plethora of potential benefits and oftentimes are consumed through smoking, vaping, or the consumption of cannabis extracts. The most common way of utilizing THCa flower for raw health benefits is through juicing the freshly harvested buds and leaves.

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