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THCV is one of over 100 cannabinoids that can be found naturally occurring in cannabis and hemp plants. Many people have heard of the cannabinoids THC and CBD, but as education about cannabis and hemp continues to spread, more people are beginning to become curious about some of the minor cannabinoids that are making headlines recently, with THCV being one of them.
In this article we’re going to explain what THCV is, covering subjects such as:
- What is THCV?
- What is the difference between THC and THCV?
- Is THCV psychoactive?
- Is THCV legal?
- THCV effects
- THCV side effects
What is THCV?
THCV, short for tetrahydrocannabivarin, was discovered in the 1970s and, as its name suggests, it has a very similar molecular structure to THC. However, THCV offers a unique variety of effects that sets it apart from all other cannabinoids.
As mentioned previously, THCV is a minor cannabinoid that can be found in both cannabis and hemp flowers. It is more commonly found in pure sativas originating from Afghanistan, Africa, China, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Thailand.
For example, Durban Poison of African origin is considered to be a particularly high-THCV strain.
However, against some other cannabinoids it’s found in such small concentrations that many companies have started extracting it and selling it in the form of THCV isolate, gummies, and vapes.
What is the difference between THC and THCV?
At first glance, the THCV molecule looks very similar to THC, but the relationship between them is actually quite superficial.
It may seem like a small difference to the eye but THC’s longer hydrocarbon chain lends this compound a much stronger binding affinity for CB1 cannabinoid receptors. CB1 receptors are found abundantly throughout the central nervous system and it is through this CB1 binding that THC is able to produce strong psychoactive effects.
THC and THCV are also derived from completely different parent molecules and chemical pathways. THC is produced when its acidic precursor THCA, or tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, is exposed to heat, oxygen, or sunlight, whereas THCV is produced from a different acidic precursor, THCVA.
Research into the potential benefits and therapeutic effects of THCV is only just beginning, but preclinical evidence suggests that these compounds impact our endocannabinoid systems in unique ways, thereby producing entirely different effects.
Is THCV psychoactive?
Despite having a weaker binding ability for CB1 receptors in the brain, THCV is still a psychoactive compound. However, its ability to intoxicate is said to be more similar to CBN as opposed to THC, as it’s only at very high doses that THCV is able to activate CB1 receptors and produce some intoxicating effects similar to THC.
What’s interesting is that at lower doses, THCV actually acts as an antagonist to CB1 receptors, meaning it can inhibit or block some of the effects of its intoxicating cousin THC, just like CBD. A small human study on ten male cannabis users showed that THCV inhibited some of the well-known effects of THC, including delayed verbal recall and increased heart rate. However, it also seemed to potentiate others, therefore much more research is needed to understand THCV’s exact mechanism of action.
Is THCV legal?
The legal status of THCV is complicated to say the least. Technically speaking, as long as the THCV you buy is derived from hemp then the compound is legal at the federal level under the 2018 Hemp Farming Act. However, some states have banned all tetrahydrocannabinols (all types of THC) outright, so you need to familiarize yourself with your local state laws before jumping into a purchase.
Another aspect that puts THCV in a legal gray area is the Federal Analog Act, which “refers to a yet-to-be-scheduled substance with a chemical structure and effect on humans that is similar enough to a controlled substance that the law treats it as one.”
THCV, along with other “new” types of THC (delta 8, delta 10, and THC-O) are being scrutinized due to their structural similarity to delta-9 THC. Many people would like to see them banned outright, but others feel that THCV is substantially different enough from other tetrahydrocannabinols for the Analog Act not to apply here.
THCV benefits and effects
As stated previously, the psychoactive effects of THCV are a lot more mild than THC, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t feel anything from it. The level of intoxication you feel may be directly related to your current tolerance to THC, as well as the dosage you choose to take.
Preclinical evidence suggests that the health benefits of THCV are also very different to those of THC and for this reason it isn’t being marketed to consumers in the same way, which supports the theory that THCV is substantially different from THC.
Within the medical cannabis community, for example, THC is often utilized as an appetite stimulant, but early evidence suggests that THCV may have the potential to act as an appetite suppressant. This is why you’ll often see THCV being marketed as the “diet weed”. THCV is also commonly promoted towards people that want more energy and motivation making it a great daytime cannabinoid.
THCV side effects and safety
There have only been a few, limited human clinical trials involving THCV to date and these trials administered doses up to 10mg per day for up to 13 weeks.
No major negative effects have been recorded thus far, but some study participants noted that they felt more tired than usual, which is strange considering the fact it’s being marketed for the opposite. This may be due to the dosage administered in the trials, as CBD is also well-known to produce more energizing effects at lower doses and a more relaxed feeling at high doses.
Until you know how THCV personally affects you, it is advised to avoid driving while using this compound and until more is known, you should also avoid taking THCV completely if you are pregnant or nursing.