Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid typically found in cannabis only in trace amounts. Little is known about the effects of this trace cannabinoid on humans.
What is THCV?
Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) is one of several phytocannabinoids, or cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, that are neither as prominent nor as well researched as the major phytocannabinoids tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).
Cannabinoids interact with the human body by way of the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a system of cannabinoid receptors, messenger molecules, and enzymes that play a role in maintaining the body's homeostasis, or internal regulatory balance. Phytocannabinoids interact with our body's cannabinoid receptors and other targets to produce psychoactive and therapeutic effects.
Though lesser-known and less prominent than THC and CBD, THCV has several potential therapeutic benefits and may limit the psychoactivity of THC.
How THCV works
Like all other phytocannabinoids, THCV is synthesized in the cannabis trichomes, the glandular hairs found on the surface of the plant. THCV binds to both CB1 and CB2 receptors, the most studied cannabinoid receptors in the body.
Can THCV get you high?
In many ways, THCV lives in the shadows compared to other cannabinoids. Research is only just beginning to examine the molecule's effects and potential. THCV's psychoactive potential is complex and largely dependent upon dosing. Given its low concentrations in cannabis cultivars, THCV is not yet available as an isolated concentrate on its own so the question is a bit of a moot point right now. Many strains high in THCV are also high in THC so the high is built in.
Is THCV legal?
There isn't yet much legislation specifically dictating the legal status of THCV. On the one hand, THCV is not explicitly included on the list of federally banned substances. On the other hand, substances, including flower, high in THCV may by definition be illegal at the federal level since they are, in effect, marijuana.
If you live in a weed-legal state, you'll be able to find products containing THCV quite easily, including strains with THCV. However, if you live in a place where marijuana is illegal, THCV products will probably be much harder to find and of questionable legality. The one exception may be hemp-derived CBD oils that happen to also contain THCV.
What are the benefits of THCV?
THCV shows great potential to improve a number of physical functions and treat several diseases. One thing that has confused researchers, however, is the cannabinoid's beneficial aspects at low doses while it has the opposite effect at higher levels. Though more research is needed to fully understand the scope of THCV's effects on the human body, several studies, both on animal and human subjects, have identified a variety of potential therapeutic uses for the cannabinoid:
- Anticonvulsant: A 2015 review published in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics concluded that THCV may be able to reduce seizure activity in epileptic subjects.
- Anti-inflammatory: A 2010 study in the British Journal of Pharmacology found that THCV reduced inflammation and related pain in mice.
- Appetite-suppressant and glucose regulator: A review of existing studies published in 2020 by the Journal of Cannabis Research said THCV provides appetite suppression and glycemic control. The reviewed studies looked at obesity and diabetes in humans and mice.
- Bone growth stimulant: THCV is one of several cannabinoids that may promote bone health and healing, according to a study conducted on tissue samples and published in 2007 by Calcified Tissue International.
- Neuroprotective: A 2020 study on mice published in the journal Neurobiology of Disease concluded that THCV had neuroprotective properties that may be useful in treating Parkinson's disease. Another 2020 study, in the British Journal of Pharmacology, said THCV showed potential in the treatment of neuroinflammation and Huntington's disease.
Where can you buy THCV?
Given the unique and potentially powerful effects of THCV, the cannabinoid is attracting more and more attention from consumers and cannabis businesses alike. However, the biggest challenge with THCV is that it is not naturally produced in high concentrations, with the exception of a few strains, mostly African sativas. Because of this, it's hard to find a pure THCV extract or products like an isolated THCV oil. Rather, your best bet is to find a more generic full-spectrum cannabis extract or oil that includes THCV in its cannabinoid profile.
What strains have THCV?
THCV shows up in relatively low concentrations in most strains. However, there are a handful of recognized strains with elevated levels. Most notably, these strains include African sativas such as Durban Poison, Red Congolese, and other landraces.
Other high-THCV strains include: