What Is THCA?

It’s 2021, and the cannabis industry is booming. Today, enthusiasts can enjoy more parts of the cannabis plant than ever before. 

THC and CBD may be the most abundant and well-known cannabinoids out there, but they aren’t the only ones. In fact, the plant is known to produce over 100 different cannabinoids, all with unique effects and benefits. Today, we’ll take a look at one in particular—THCA. 

What Are Cannabinoids?

What are cannabinoids

Before we get started, what exactly is a cannabinoid? 

By definition, any compound found naturally occurring in the cannabis plant that interacts with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) when consumed by a human is considered a cannabinoid. So other molecules found in cannabis, like terpenes for example, don’t qualify as cannabinoids as they don’t directly influence the ECS. 

The two most common types of these compounds are THC and CBD. THC is the cannabinoid that produces the infamous “high” associated with marijuana consumption. CBD, while considered non-intoxicating, still has psychoactive effects since, like all cannabinoids, it can impact the brain and central nervous system by interacting with the neurotransmitter receptors in the endocannabinoid system. 

CBD and THC are considered the “major cannabinoids” since the plant produces them in much higher percentages than other cannabinoids. All the other cannabinoids are considered “minor cannabinoids.” Some common minor cannabinoids you may find include: CBG, CBN, CBC, CBDA, and THCA. 



THC and THCA have incredibly similar names—just one letter separates the two. So what’s the difference between THC and THCA? 

THCA is a precursor to THC. Without it, we wouldn’t have THC at all. If you’ve ever made edibles or cannabutter, then you know that raw cannabis doesn’t get you high until it’s been activated through a process called decarboxylation, which involves exposing the cannabis to heat. What’s actually happening during decarboxylation is that the THCA compounds are being converted to regular THC. 

Does THCA Get You High?

THCA will not get you high

Despite THCA’s essential role in the formation of THC, THCA itself doesn’t have any intoxicating properties. So until you expose the compound to heat, either with a lighter or through the cooking process, THCA won’t get you high. However, keep in mind cannabis flower with high percentages of THCA will be intoxicating if smoked. 

THCA Benefits And THCA Side Effects 

So does THCA do anything besides turn into THC? 

Much of cannabis research is still in its relative infancy since the legal restrictions around it have made it nearly impossible to study, and the studies we do have tend to focus on THC and CBD. However, there are a few studies that look into the potential benefits of THCA. 

For example, one 2017 study found that THCA possesses neuroprotective qualities which could potentially play a role in treating neurodegenerative diseases like Huntington’s disease.  Another study found that THCA could reduce inflammation in those suffering from IBS. 

There hasn’t been much in the way of documentation when it comes to THCA’s side effects. However, the compound is generally consumed alongside other cannabinoids, which can produce drowsiness, dry mouth, changes in perception, and increased heart rate.  

Strains With High THCA Percentages

Want to try THCA out for yourself? Taking a pure THCA isolate tincture or oil will probably be your best bet. 

There are cannabis flower options with high THCA percentages (depending on how the flower was tested for potency, high THC strains may show much larger THCA percentages than actual THC), but trying to effectively consume cannabis flower while avoiding decarboxylation can get challenging. 

Is there another minor cannabinoid you want us to explore next? Get on Twitter and let us know!