What Is THCV?
THCV may appear similar to THC but it produces a completely different set of effects in the body.
Written by Cathy Rozyczko
Edited by Jason Brett on
September 27, 2021
The cannabis sativa plant contains hundreds of cannabinoids, each one presenting its own unique qualities and potential benefits. You may not have heard of tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) before today, which is understandable, but you’ll be glad you uncovered the facts of this relatively rare cannabinoid!
Here’s everything you need to know about THCV, what it can do, and where you can find it.
What Is Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV)?
THCV is a psychoactive compound found primarily in Cannabis sativa strains.
While tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) begin life as cannabigerolic acid (CBGA), THCV starts as cannabigerovarin acid (CBGVA). The CBGVA is broken down by enzymes in the cannabis plant, and eventually becomes tetrahydrocannabivarinic acid (THCVA). From there, the THCVA is broken down further when exposed to ultraviolet light and heat from the sun, for example, and through a process called decarboxylation, the THCVA becomes THCV.
Some research suggests that THCV may be able to inhibit some of the less desirable effects of THC, like short-term memory loss and paranoia, while also enhancing other effects. In a double-blind, crossover, pilot study, researchers gave test subjects 10mg of pure, orally administered THCV or a placebo every day for five days. On the fifth day, test subjects were given 1mg of intravenous THC.
Nine of the 10 participants found the THC to be weaker, and the researchers reported that the subjects treated with THCV did not experience THC-induced difficulties with verbal recall; the THCV also prevented subjects from experiencing an elevated heart rate after receiving THC.
However, the study also reported greater instances of false or erroneous memories in those who’d taken the THCV in combination with THC compared to the placebo group. While some results are promising, and others troubling, it’s important to remember this study was incredibly small and further research will have to be conducted to draw any specific or definitive conclusions about THCV.
THCV is likely to produce contrary results in terms of its relation to THC because the amount of THCV consumed can impact its effects. In high doses, THCV acts as a CB1 cannabinoid receptor agonist, bolstering the impact of THC; in low doses, THCV is a CB1 antagonist, reducing THC’s impact and therefore decreasing the experience of intoxication.
What Are the Benefits of THCV?
Research on THCV is rather limited but that is beginning to change as our understanding of the therapeutic potential for cannabinoids beyond THC and CBD begins to grow.
What we know of THCV to date is pretty incredible, and it may hold significant promise for people suffering from a range of difficult-to-treat conditions.
THCV as an Appetite Suppressant
There is a big fuss being made about THCV’s potential to act as an appetite suppressant, offering hope for people fighting obesity or an eating disorder. Unfortunately, the scientific evidence to support these claims is fairly limited, but there is some research being done.
In a 2016 study, researchers examined THCV’s potential to treat obesity through its effect on neural connectivity. The results showed THCV to have a positive effect on the parts of the brain that are typically altered in people with obesity. The study concludes, “This effect profile suggests possible therapeutic activity of THCv for obesity.”
Additionally, it is believed that because THCV is an antagonist of the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors, at certain doses it can block the effects of THC which has been proven to stimulate the appetite.
THCV as an Anticonvulsant
THCV may play a role in reducing convulsions and spasms, showing promise for people with Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and epilepsy.
In a test performed on adult rats, THCV was found to exert anticonvulsive effects and reduced epileptiform activity. “Epileptiform” refers to the brain wave activity indicative of epilepsy. Though the research is still very early, these findings suggest THCV may have therapeutic use in reducing the symptoms of hyperexcitability conditions.
THCV for Diabetes
THCV may be able to help regulate blood sugar and reduce insulin resistance.
In one placebo-controlled study, THCV was found to significantly reduce fasting plasma glucose and improved pancreatic function in subjects with non-insulin treated type 2 diabetes. The researchers concluded that THCV may present a new avenue for controlling glycemic levels in individuals with type 2 diabetes.
In another study, THCV was tested on two different models of obesity in mice. The study found that THCV reduced glucose intolerance in one model, and improved glucose tolerance and increased insulin sensitivity in the other model. THCV was also found to restore insulin signaling in insulin-resistant hepatocytes and myotubes.
Research into the potential uses of THCV is ongoing but these early indications suggest that it could become a powerful tool in treating a range of complicated conditions.
How to Use THCV
Unfortunately, THCV is not easy to find. Most cannabis strains only contain trace amounts of THCV. As the research and interest in THCV continues to grow, it is possible that THCV isolates will start to pop up but until then, there are a few things you can do to try and reap the benefits of this particular cannabinoid.
For starters, before you purchase cannabis or cannabis-derived products for the THCV content, you need to make sure that you understand the laws in your state. If you do not live in a state with legal access to recreational or medicinal cannabis use, you will not be able to purchase a THCV product.
If you’ve confirmed it’s legal for you to purchase cannabis, look for an African Sativa strain. Previous testing suggests that THCV appears more frequently in sativa strains from Africa. Strains like Durban Poison, Red Congolese, and Willie Nelson all have higher THCV concentrations; strains like Pineapple Purps and Doug’s Varin were specifically bred to contain higher amounts of THCV.
If you can’t find an African sativa or one of the strains mentioned above, you may be able to find higher THCV content by way of a hybrid strain. Look into the hybrid’s genetics. A high-THCV parent strain can produce a higher THCV hybrid strain.
Finally, ask to see lab results whenever possible. These test results will show exactly what cannabinoids are present in your cannabis of choice. It can be difficult to control the cannabinoid concentration in plants and so the THCV content can change from one harvest to another and from one grower to another. If you can access these lab results, you can be sure that you are getting what you want in your purchase.
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