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News > What is THCa? All About The Strength of THCa

What is THCa? All About The Strength of THCa

Fri, Sep 03, 2021 | Reading Time: 4 minutes

What is THCa? All About The Strength of THCa

Despite what you might have thought — or heard from a favorite comedian — eating raw cannabis buds won’t get you high. Not even if you eat a pound of the stuff!

Why’s that? Because raw cannabis (and to a lesser extent, raw hemp) contains THCa, not THC. And THCa is non-psychoactive. It actually has totally distinctive effects compared to THC and other cannabinoids. 

Keep reading to learn more about what THCa is and how it could benefit your wellness routine. 

  • What is THCa?
  • How is THCa made?
  • THCa’s top health benefits
  • How to infuse THCa’s benefits in your wellness routine

What is THCa?

THCa is to THC what CBDa is to CBD. It’s essentially THC’s ‘raw’ form. 

As you might expect, THCa is a cannabinoid, which means it’s naturally present within cannabis and hemp plants. THCa — not THC — is actually the primary cannabinoid you’ll find in still-growing cannabis. It only gets converted to ‘regular’ THC when harvested and exposed to light or heat. [1]

THCa may be less well-known than THC, CBD, or even CBG, but it still has a wide variety of distinctive health benefits. 

How is THCa made?

Cannabis goes through several different stages as it grows towards full maturity, and each of these stages features different biochemical markers. 

A very young cannabis plant, for example, barely contains any cannabinoids! Instead it’s rich in olivetolic and oleic acids that will be converted into cannabinoids in the near future. [2]

The first cannabinoid to show up is CBG (actually, CBGa) — the “mother cannabinoid.” 

Next, CBGa gets synthesized into THCa with the help of special synthase enzymes. [3] Those who buy cannabis bud from a dispensary or licensed caregiver will be getting bud that’s rich in THCa. 

Last but not least, THCa gets converted into THC post-harvest when it undergoes a process called decarboxylation. [4] Smoking the THCa-rich bud mentioned above will also be sufficient to convert it into ‘regular’ THC. 

But what are THCa’s top qualities like if it’s not converted into THC by decarboxylation or combustion?

THCa’s top health benefits

Unlike THC, THCa is non-psychoactive. It won’t get you high, cause euphoria, or result in ‘couch-lock.’ THCa doesn’t even pass through the blood-brain barrier as easily as THC or other cannabinoids. 

But it still manages to have powerful effects! Research has shown that THCa may be:

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anti-emetic
  • Neuroprotective


A 2011 study found that THCa may reduce inflammation by inhibiting the COX-2 enzymes that convert the unhealthy fats we eat into inflammatory products. [5

Prior to this study, researchers didn’t understand quite how cannabinoids reduced inflammation: “[the] anti-inflammatory effects of cannabinoids and endocannabinoids have been observed, however, the mode of action is not yet clarified.” It turns out that THCa may cut off inflammation at the source.  


Many people view serotonin as a ‘feel-good chemical,’ but that view couldn’t be much further from the truth. Chronically high serotonin levels are neither good nor desirable! 

We mention this because THCa’s anti-emetic (anti-nausea) qualities stem from its ability to reduce serotonin levels. 

One review study described that THCa is even better at reducing nausea than THC is — and THC is better than many conventional pharmaceutical anti-emetics! [6]

“THC is effective in interfering with nausea and vomiting in human cancer patients. Comparisons of oral THC with the common anti-emetic agents of the time showed that THC was at least as effective, if not more effective, at reducing nausea and vomiting in human patients.”


THCa is more powerful than its low bioavailability would imply. 

And much of this power gets channeled to a highly important topic: neuroprotection. 

In other words, THCa doesn’t make it into the brain very efficiently — yet it still manages to bind to receptor systems that are essential for neurological health.  

A 2017 study found that THCa binded to PPAR receptors more directly than THC. Actually, any acid (raw) cannabinoid was better at this than its decarboxylated counterpart: [7]

“Cannabinoid acids bind and activate PPARγ with higher potency than their decarboxylated products. Δ9 -THCA, through a PPARγ-dependent pathway, was neuroprotective in mice treated with 3-NPA, improving motor deficits and preventing striatal degeneration.”

The study’s conclusion? “Δ9 -THCA [has] potent neuroprotective activity, which is worth considering for the treatment of Huntington's disease and possibly other neurodegenerative and neuroinflammatory diseases.”

How to infuse THCa’s benefits in your wellness routine

THCa is pretty powerful stuff. If you’re lucky enough to have a field of cannabis near your house, experiencing THCa’s benefits is as easy as munching on a few raw buds each day. (This is exactly what some ancient cultures did to keep their gut health in check.)

For those of you who don’t live in Humboldt county, there are other good ways to access THCa. Your local dispensary may carry THCa products. Small amounts of THCa are also present in some full spectrum hemp products. These small amounts likely provide cumulative benefits over time, especially considering how they might contribute to the entourage effect. 

Summing things up

The CBD revolution should really be called the hemp revolution. Cannabis and hemp are truly holistic plants that far transcend a single cannabinoid or two. THCa’s overlooked status is a perfect example of how the cannabis plant family really works. 

Our name Five CBD comes from our commitment to the entire parts of the hemp plant. With a 5:1 ratio of CBD to minor compounds, our products give you the full power of the hemp plant. That means some of the world's highest quality CBD with quite the ensemble behind it.


  1. Can You Pass the Acid Test? Critical Review and Novel Therapeutic Perspectives of Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid A. (2016). PubMed Central (PMC). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5549534/ 
  2. Gagne, S. J. (2012, July 31). Identification of olivetolic acid cyclase from Cannabis sativa reveals a unique catalytic route to plant polyketides. PubMed. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22802619/ 
  3. Shoyama, Y. (2012, October 12). Structure and function of ∆1-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) synthase, the enzyme controlling the psychoactivity of Cannabis sativa. PubMed. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22766313/ 
  4. Decarboxylating Cannabis. (2020). Project CBD. https://www.projectcbd.org/guidance/decarboxylating-cannabis 
  5. Ruhaak, L. R. (2011, May 1). Evaluation of the Cyclooxygenase Inhibiting Effects of Six Major Cannabinoids Isolated from Cannabis sativa. 2011 The Pharmaceutical Society of Japan. https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/bpb/34/5/34_5_774/_article 
  6. Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid reduces nausea-induced conditioned gaping in rats and vomiting in Suncus murinus. (2013, October 1). PubMed Central (PMC). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3792001/ 
  7. Nadal, X. (2017). Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid is a potent PPARγ agonist with neuroprotective activity. PubMed. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28853159/

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