Cannabis contains many cannabinoids, not just CBD and THC. With legalization and research growing worldwide, more of the lesser-known compounds and their benefits are beginning to be recognized and none more so than tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV).
THCV can offer various effects and medicinal benefits destined to prove very useful once science has unlocked and discovered its full potential.
THCV is like THC in several ways. Their respective molecular structure looks the same, and both compounds can induce psychoactive effects. This is where the similarities end, though.
Although similar in name, the two cannabinoids originate from different parent molecules and chemical pathways. As a result, they produce differing effects at different doses and are present within the plant at varying levels.
THC, CBD, and many other cannabinoids are CBG synthesized. This is where the “mother” cannabinoid CBG undergoes a metabolic process creating THC, CBD, and other cannabis compounds. THCV, on the other hand, is formed from the combining of geranyl phosphate and divarinolic acid.
THCV is unusual since it does have the potential to get you high, but it can only do so when present in high doses. THCV typically acts as an antagonist to cannabinoid receptors at low doses, meaning it binds to the receptor but causes no effect.
Interestingly, however, THCV also acts as a block against other molecules that affect the receptor (agonists) such as THC at this low-dose rate.
THCV will not wholly block the THC — more likely is that it will simply reduce the force of some of the more undesirable effects THC can have. This would include things like food cravings, lowered cognitive function, and poor motor skills control.
THCV continues to surprise, however, as when the dose increases, the cannabinoid’s behavior also changes. In this example, THCV changes from an ‘antagonist’ to an ‘agonist’ and does affect the receptor. In simple terms, this means if you ingest large doses of THCV, then it will get you stoned.
A THCV high is a stimulating clear-headed high, which sounds ideal for most people. Unfortunately, the high feeling doesn’t last very long; quite a lot shorter than good-old reliable THC.
THCV is a minor cannabinoid, but the amounts will still vary depending on the cannabis strain you choose. There are some reports that THCV seems to be more prevalent in strains of African origin. Growers are also developing new strains that are being bred specifically to achieve a higher ratio of THCV.
So why does any of this matter?
Why do we need THCV when we have THC and CBD, which seem to cover all bases and are so readily available? Well, it’s because THCV has been found to have a unique set of benefits. Jokingly referred to as the “race car” of cannabinoids as it gives users a very energetic but short-lived high, THCV is linked to many physical and physiological effects. These potential benefits have made it a worthwhile subject for medical research.
One of the leading advantages of THCV is its potential to assist with weight loss and weight management. The World Health Organization figures for 2016 calculated that approximately 39 percent of the world’s adult population (1.9 billion adults) is overweight or obese. These figures alone make it easy to see why THCV is such a desirable and lucrative prospect for medical study.
Much of the strain put on Western health care systems come from conditions resulting from poor diet and weight issues. The retail health and diet industry is also a massive business. So any new product that promises fast, easy weight loss results would undoubtedly be embraced as a new “super” product and sell in huge volumes.
THCV can suppress appetite due to its ability to bind to cannabinoid receptors in the body at a low dose (around 5-7.5 mg). The THCV acts as an antagonist and stops other compounds from affecting the receptor, effectively reducing appetite.
Further studies found evidence that THCV may improve the brain’s connectivity, improving how the brain processes thoughts or feelings toward food and hunger.
Doses of THCV between 10-20 mg are thought to help regulate blood sugar levels and reduce the body's resistance to insulin. As THCV has been found to suppress appetite and assist with weight loss, it could be a suitable treatment for patients struggling with obesity-associated intolerance to glucose. Many studies have been conducted into the effects of THCV on various diabetic symptoms over the years. One study concluded THCV could be a new therapeutic agent in glycemic control for those who have type 2 diabetes. This resulted from discovering the cannabinoid noticeably improved pancreatic cell function whilst being well tolerated by the subjects.
Studies have indicated THCV may have the power to significantly lower the tremors experienced by people living with Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s. It may also reduce associated brain lesions and slow the progression of the disease by reducing the loss of neurons in the midbrain.
THCV has also been found to have positive anti-convulsant effects for people living with epilepsy when administered during a seizure and as part of a regular preventative medication plan.
Although several cannabinoid-based epileptic medicines already exist, THCV could be a great alternative if it can continue to perform in future trials. The fact it is non-intoxicating in small doses also makes it an attractive prospect for potentially treating children.
THCV has been found to promote the growth of new bone cells, and as a result, it is undergoing research as a possible treatment for osteoporosis and other bone-related conditions.
THCV can suppress the body’s natural fight or flight panic mode, meaning it could fight the symptoms of panic or anxiety attacks — maybe even prevent them from occurring altogether. For this reason, it has the potential as a promising treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
THCV has been found in laboratory studies on mice to decrease inflammation, swelling, and pain through its effects on cannabinoid receptors in the body. Additionally, during the study, the mice did not develop a tolerance for THCV.
So, how easy is it to get hold of THCV?
Well, the answer would be “not very easy” at the moment. Most current strains of cannabis contain only trace amounts of THCV. However, with the potential it shows, we can only assume THCV-heavy products (both natural and synthetic) will inevitably hit the mainstream market in due course.
If you must have it in the meantime, there are a few things you can try. African Sativa landrace strains like Durban Poison or hybrids with African parentages such as Pineapple Purps or Skunk No.1 are an excellent choice to purchase as they naturally contain higher levels of THCV.
If you are buying your cannabis from a reputable dispensary, ask your budtender for lab-tested strains high in THCV. This will ensure you are getting a good product. Even the cannabinoid percentage of specific strains can vary from batch to batch.
Cannabinoids are big business, with the legal market expected to hit around $45 billion by 2024. CBD and THC dominate the conversation on cannabinoids due to their abundance within the plant and their ever-growing list of health benefits. They are, however, only two cannabinoids out of more than a hundred discovered to date.
Though minor cannabinoids like THCV are still not as fully understood as THC and CBD, enough medicinal benefits have been discovered to justify more research into these promising compounds. It is currently difficult to obtain many of the minor cannabinoids in large quantities. Therefore, the best way to get the advantages of all the cannabinoids, both major and minor, is by exploring full spectrum whole-plant cannabis products. Doing so will ensure that you receive the full entourage effect of your cannabis experience.