THCa - The Mother of THC
As the precursor to THC, Tetrahydrocannabinol Acid, or THCA, develops in the cannabis sativa plant before THC. Without THCA, we wouldn't have THC at all. THCA is the unsung hero of THC. It's the cannabinoid we look to when determining the potency of flower. It's not psychoactive on its own, but when exposed to heat THCA decarboxylates into THC.
Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid, or THCA, can be found in the Cannabis plant while it's growing, flowered, dried, and raw. THCA is abundantly present in cannabis flower as well as concentrates like hash, wax, and shatter. THCA is standardly measured and used to indicate the potency via THC percentage. For example, if you were looking at a COA, AKA Certificate of Analysis, you would look at the THCA content versus the THC content; this is because when exposed to high heat THC burns away while THCA decarboxylates into THC! THCA is not psychoactive due to the chemical structure possessing an additional carboxyl ring that prevents it from binding to receptors in the brain that THC binds to. The binding of THC to these receptors is what produces the psychoactive effect.
Check out the example COA below! The red dotted line shows the levels of THCA present.
"Decarboxylation is a is a chemical reaction that removes a carboxyl group and releases carbon dioxide." (source) When THCA is exposed to high heat, a reaction occurs that removes the additional carboxyl ring present in THCA's chemical structure. When this carboxyl ring is removed, a process called decarboxylation, THCA is converted into THC. This is exactly what is happening when smoking and vaping flower or concentrates; it happens nearly instantaneously, allowing the body to readily absorb THC. Decarboxylating, or decarbing, is a necessary step when making THC edibles in order to achieve a functional and potent edible. This is the step that 'activates' the THC in the cannabis flower.
Essentially, in the simplest of terms, THCa is the state of THC prior to being smoked or cooked. Once you add that heat, it becomes THC. It's what decarbing is all about.
Interested in making your own edibles? Check out the Herbal Chef Electric Butter Infuser and the Magical Butter Machine MB2E Botanical Extractor!
Research on THCA indicates its helpful for...
reducing inflammation symptoms related to inflammatory bowel disease like Chron's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis
reducing symptoms in seizure disorders
neuroprotective properties, which can positively impact the course of neurodegenerative diseases, like Huntington's Disease
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