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THCa is the New (Cool) Cannabinoid on the Block

Soumya Nalam
Cannabis leaves close up with water droplets

THCa is anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-nauseant, anti-emetic, anti-epileptic, and pro-brain. It’s not wonder it’s on the rise for cannabis medicine.

Many patients already know the medicinal benefit of non-psychotropic cannabinoids.  In fact, raw (unheated) cannabis preparations point toward many novel therapeutic opportunities.  THCa, just one of the cannabinoids that are plentiful in raw cannabis, is the up-and-coming cannabinoid darling of the moment due to its robust pharmacological profile.

THCa is THC-acid, which means it contains one carboxyl (COOH) group. When you heat (bake, smoke, or vape) the cannabis herb at a certain temperature for a period of time, THCa converts into psychoactive THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). The conversion into THC consists of about 95% of the THCa. So, if you’re looking to access THCa (and we’ll tell you why you should be in a moment), the fresher the bud, the more THCa it contains.

By interacting with a number of molecular targets, THCa exerts multiple actions through mechanisms that are only partially related to modulation of the endocannabinoid system. These include its potential anti-cancer, anti-nausea, anti-emetic, anti-inflammatory, anti-epileptic, immunomodulatory and neuroprotective properties.

Close up of Crystalline THCA

THCa is Anti-Cancer

THCa’s anti-proliferative abilities are crucial in inhibiting the growth of cancerous cells. It prevents the growth of prostate carcinoma cells (PCC), helping those diagnosed with prostate cancer. According to the WHO, deaths caused by prostate carcinoma, a major life-threatening disease in men, are expected to double over the next 30 years.

Phytocannabinoids, like THCa, interact with cannabinoid type 1 (CB1) receptors in the brain and central nervous system by stimulating TRPV1 (type of protein) channels to inhibit nerve growth factor (NGF)-induced proliferation of human prostate carcinoma (PC-3) cells. THCa exhibited the same biological action in a panel of tumor cell lines, such as: human breast carcinoma, human prostate carcinoma, human colorectal carcinoma, human gastric adenocarcinoma, C6 rat glioma, rat basophilic leukemia and transformed thyroid cells.

THCa is Anti-Emetic and Anti-Nausea

Research indicates that low doses of this cannabinoid may be a more potent alternative to THC in the treatment of nausea and vomiting.

THCa reduced the effects of lithium chloride solution (LiCl) induced nausea and vomiting in mice and ferrets. Furthermore, even small doses of this cannabinoid proved to be effective in reducing the effects of LiCl solution. More importantly, in an activity test conducted for 15 minutes, THCa did not trigger hypothermia (lower body temperature) in any of the subjects.

Activation of the CB1 receptor could explain some of these effects. Still, the study concluded that the cannabinoid also helped through another as of yet unknown mechanism.


Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis (inflammation of the large intestine). THCa’s anti-inflammatory effect was indicated with just a fraction of cannabis extracts that contained this non-psychoactive component was tested on colon epithelial cells. Further, the mechanism involves GPR55, the suspected CB3 receptor, and the inhibition of COX-2. The latter is an enzyme that produces prostaglandins responsible for triggering fever, inflammation and pain.


THCa showed potent neuroprotective and neuroinflammatory activity in an animal model affected by Huntington’s disease, which makes it worth considering for the treatment of this medical condition. It is also a potential treatment for other neurodegenerative and neuroinflammatory diseases. These include Alzheimer’s, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), and Parkinson’s, among others.

Profile of man with brain sparking

Cannabinoid acids (THCa, CBDa and CBCa) bind and activate PPARy (nuclear receptor of some cannabinoids). They do so with greater potency than their decarboxylated counterparts (THC, CBD and CBC). As a potent PPARy agonist, THCA improved motor deficit and prevented striatal degeneration through a PPARy-dependent pathway in rodents.  THCa has been shown to protect dopaminergic neurons (sources of dopamine in the midbrain) against toxin MPP(+) induced cell death.


Basically, THCa modulates the immune system by inhibiting the levels of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-a), a protein involved in inflammation. TNF-a dysfunction causes Alzheimer’s, cancer, depression, IBD and psoriasis.


THCa shows great promise in the treatment of epilepsy. Studies indicate that a combination of cannabinoid compounds, not just cannabidiol (CBD), may be more effective in reducing seizures. THCa, along with CBD and THC, helped patients with epilepsy 86% of the time. More research is needed regarding optimal drug delivery, potential drug-drug interactions and specific targets of action.

Young Woman having brain wave activity measured

The leaves and uncured buds of the cannabis plant will also have high levels of this cannabinoid. Basically, the easiest way to consume THCa is by eating raw cannabis leaves. Popular ways include cannabis teas, salads and making smoothies with raw cannabis leaves, but the possibilities are as endless as your imagination. Further options include oils, pills, tinctures and transdermal patches.

Additionally, we could learn how to fine tune the amount that will convert into THC. This would lead to the perfect blend or ratio using custom ranges of temperatures and times to perform decarboxylation. It could be extremely beneficial in making products that have a broad range of therapeutic benefits.

Soumya Nalam

An expert content strategist with over a decade's experience. A double gold medalist with a Master's in Life Sciences (Biochemistry & Molecular Biology). Editor-in-charge at CureJoy, Senior Publishing Specialist and Reuters and Optimization Specialist at Google AdSense.

1 Comment
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    I have leukemia, not sure which strain I should go for?

    January 27, 2019 at 2:22 pm Reply

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