Difference between THC and THCA

Sep 9, 2020

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Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) are among the many cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant.

It is believed that the cannabis plant has over 113 known cannabinoids. The cannabinoids are responsible for the therapeutic properties of cannabis.

THCA is a precursor of THC but one is psychoactive and the other non psychoactive. For a cannabinoid to offer intoxicating effects, it must be able to fit in CB1 receptors. The THCA molecule is large and cannot fit in CB1 receptors, the reason why it is non-psychoactive, while THC perfectly fits in the receptors.

During cannabis growth, many do not understand how THC is formed. There is an assumption that it is directly formed during ripening of the buds, which is not true according to recent research.

THCA is formed and later converted to THC through a decarboxylation process. This article explains the difference between THCA and THC and how decarboxylation works.


Conversion of THCA to THC


THCA is converted to THC through the decarboxylation process. This process is achieved mainly through light and heat. Below are some ways on how decarboxylation can be achieved.


Sunlight Conversion

The UV light is capable of converting THCA to THC. If a cannabis plant is left to lie for sometime in direct sunlight, the THCA present is automatically converted to THC.


Through Vaporizing

This is a method of consuming cannabis using a device called a vaporizer. This process involves taking in vapor and not smoke. Continued heating of cannabis converts THCA into THC which later binds to CB1 receptors, making one feel high.

Many believe that when they are vaping cannabis, the THC is already present. The euphoric effects come later as a result of  automatic conversion of THCA to THC upon heating.


Cannabis Concentrates

THCA can be extracted from the cannabis plant and made into crystalline concentrates that are consumed through dabbing. Dabbing is almost similar to vaping, in both, heating is involved. The heat quickly turns THCA into THC. Among all methods of cannabis consumption that have existed up to now in 2020, dabbing and vaping are ranked among the best because of their health benefits.

Most industrial concentrates are prepared with the aim of stripping out other cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes. The resulting THCA crystalline has no aroma or flavor. Most people advocate for the reintroduction of terpenes, because the two combine to offer an entourage effect which enhances cannabis’ therapeutic potential.



Lighting a blunt also converts THCA into THC because of the heat involved. Cured and dry buds are rich in THCA. Curing is done after bud trimming has been done to remove all unwanted plant materials. Bud trimming equally improves the potency of cannabis. Immediately the dry cannabis herbs are lit, the heat quickly turns THCA into THC.

The conversion is so quick, and as a result, not all the THCA is converted to THC. As a result smoking is not one of the best methods of enjoying THC.


Room Temperature Conversion

Room temperature is 25℃ or 77℉t. When THCA is stored at room temperature for a long enough period of time, it slowly converts to THC. As long as the temperature is kept constant, there is no need of light, the process is automatic.


Potential Benefits of THCA

Although not much research has been conducted on the medicinal benefits of THCA, there is preliminary research that has indicated the potential benefits that it can offer. They include;

  • Anti-inflammatory properties – in research that was conducted in 2011, THCA alongside other cannabinoids showed anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Neuroprotective properties – in research conducted in 2012, THCA demonstrated the ability to protect one against most neurodegenerative infections.
  • Anti-proliferative properties – a research conducted in 2013 on cell culture showed that THCA has the ability to protect one against prostate cancer.
  • Antiemetic properties – another 2013 research demonstrated the ability of THCA and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) to decrease nausea and increase appetite. 

How to Consume THCA

Since THCA quickly turns to THC when heat is involved, different ways of consumption have to be used to avoid this conversion, most of these ways are easy to try at home.

One of the best ways to consume it is through cannabis juice. Cannabis juicing is slowly cropping in with many targeting the non-psychoactive cannabinoids and other compounds. Cannabis juice is extracted like any other vegetative juice using a strainer or compressor. Since this does not include any heating, the juice will not make an individual feel high.

There are also raw cannabis edibles and tinctures that exist containing THCA and other cannabinoids aside from THC.


Potential Benefits of THC

Research has also demonstrated that THC, just like other cannabinoids, has its own benefits, most of which are medical benefits.

  • Relieves chronic pain- THC interacts with CB1 receptors to reduce pain and inflammations. It can also be used as a topical where it is applied on affected areas like joints.
  • Increases appetite and lowers nausea – cancer, HIV, and other chronic infections reduce one’s appetite and induce nausea. Studies show that THC extracts have antiemetic properties that help in counteracting these symptoms..
  • Alleviates Insomnia- this is a sleeping disorder. Smoking THC reduces the time one takes before sleeping and increases stage 4 of sleep which is deep sleep. 


THCA is important to the plant itself where it protects the leaves from UVB radiations that are damaging. It works as an external immune system of the plant. It is found in trichomes’ glands that are mainly found on the leaves and flowers.

When this chemical is produced in the leaves, it triggers production of necrosis that helps the plant to eliminate dead cells or those that are about to die. It also hinders entry of microbial pathogens into the plant.


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