A non-intoxicating cannabinoid molecule that interacts with both CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors, among other targets in the body. It is typically found in cannabis only in trace amounts and its effects in humans are not well understood.
“Is THCV a cannabinoid I should look out for?”
“This strain is high in THCV as well as THC and CBD.”
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).
THCV derives from cannabigerovarin acid (CBGVA), one of two central cannabinoid precursors along with cannabigerolic acid (CBGA). Enzymes take CBGVA and convert them into acidic cannabinoids that include THCVA, which decarboxylates into the active compound THCV when exposed to heat or light.
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 contribute to 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.
Is THCV Psychoactive?
THCV’s psychoactive potential is complex, and largely dependent upon dosing. Low doses of THCV act as a neutral antagonist at CB1 receptors, where THC activates psychotropic effects, and may therefore inhibit the intoxication associated with THC, a CB1 receptor agonist, or activator. A neutral antagonist will inhibit the action of both agonist and antagonist compounds. As only trace amounts of THCV are found in most cultivars, a consumer is unlikely to experience any of its inhibiting effects on THC intoxication. Ultimately, the question of THCV vs THC points to a complex relationship as the two cannabinoids interact with one another inside a consumer’s body.
Is THCV Legal?
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. Similarly, it is not yet readily available as its own isolated, stand-alone product. However, a handful of strains produce a decent amount of THCV and many of these strains are attracting increasing attention throughout the industry.
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. Yet on the other hand, substances high in THCV may by definition be lumped in as a federally banned “marijuana extract.”
If you live in a weed-legal state, you’ll be able to find products containing THCV quite easily, including strains with THCV. However, 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 to this could be hemp-derived CBD oils that happen to also contain THCV.
What is THCV Good For?
Though more research is needed to fully understand the scope of THCV effects on the human body, several studies, both on animal and human subjects, have identified a variety of potential therapeutic uses for the cannabinoid:
- Anti-inflammatory: A 2010 study in the British Journal of Pharmacology found that THCV decreased signs of inflammation and inflammatory pain in mice.
- Neuroprotective: A 2011 study on rats, also published in the British Journal of Pharmacology, concluded that THCV’s ability to activate CB2 receptors while inhibiting CB1 receptors imbue the cannabinoid with neuroprotective properties that may be useful in treating Parkinson’s disease.
- Anticonvulsant: A 2010 study conducted in rat models and published in the journal Epilepsia revealed that THCV may be able to reduce seizure activity in epileptic subjects.
- THCV, diabetes, and glucose regulation: Animal studies have shown that THCV has the potential to regulate glucose levels, which could be helpful in treating diabetes. A 2016 study that tested the effects of THCV and CBD on 62 subjects with type 2 diabetes found that THCV indeed has potential to treat symptoms of the disease by controlling glucose activity.
- Bone health: THCV is one of several cannabinoids that may promote bone health and healing by acting at CB2 receptors in the bone marrow, according to a study published in 2007 by Calcified Tissue International.
- THCV, weight loss, and suppressing appetite: THCV is often associated with appetite-suppressing qualities. In his new book The African Roots of Marijuana, cannabis researcher and scholar Chris S. Duvall reportedly refers to THCV as an “appetite suppressant” with the capability of contributing to weight management and weight loss. However, no clinical trials or studies have pointed to conclusive evidence that THCV, alone or in conjunction with other cannabinoids, aids in appetite supression or weight loss.
Given the unique and potentially powerful effects of THCV, the cannabinoid is attracting more and more attention from consumers and cannabis businesses alike. For example, a 2018 article raved about THCV, stating that is rapidly becoming “the most sought-after cannabinoid on earth.” 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 THCV strains with elevated levels of THCV. Most notably, these strains include African sativas such as:
- Durban Poison
- Red Congolese
- Other African landraces
Other high-THCV strains include:
- Doug’s Varin
- Power Plant
- Jack the Ripper
- Skunk #1
- Pineapple Purps
- GSC (formerly known as Girl Scout Cookies)