Medically reviewed by Alexander Tabibi, MD
August 15, 2020

What is the difference between THC vs THCA?

Even if you’re not well versed in cannabis, it’s uses, and derivatives, including CBD, you’ve likely heard the term THC. But what is THC and what is the different with THC-A?

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the chemical compound accountable for the stimulating the psychoactive effects of cannabis usage, and also depending upon the exact strain of cannabis utilized, it can be one of one of the most plentiful cannabinoids present in a product. There are also strains of marijuana that have been cultivated to produce higher THC content, making those the source of extra powerful plant, but powerful for that purpose only.

But THC isn’t truly effective on it’s own. For instance, if you were to eat a leaf from a high-THC plan, you likely wouldn’t feel any effect that is typically associated with THC. This is because there is virtually no THC existing in the raw marijuana plant material.

What is THCA?

Every one of the significant cannabinoids existing in cannabis originated from the “mother of all cannabinoids”– cannabigerolic acid (CBGA).

As the marijuana plant develops, enzymes which are one-of-a-kind to each cannabis strain transform the CBGA into a combination the 3 major cannabinoid precursor compounds: tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), cannabidiolic acid (CBDA), and also cannabichromenic acid (CBCA).


THCA is the forerunner to the THC substance. In order to create THC, the cannabis plant product needs to be exposed to heat to instigate thermal decarboxylation– the procedure through which THCA loses its acidic carbonyl team to become THC. This is why you wouldn’t feel anything if you merely ate some fresh leaves; there has actually been extremely little time for sunshine or other sources of power to urge THC formation in this means.


Cannabis is able to produce intoxicating results when smoked, vaping, baking right into an edible, or extraction to form a concentrate– are all effective sufficient to be able to start this process and transform THCA into the extra intoxicating THC.



THCA, in fact, has two isoforms, called THCA-A and THCA-B. (Isoforms of a compound have the same atoms but are arranged differently.) The two isoforms of THCA are not usually distinguished, since it appears that most plants primarily produce THCA-A. This notion, however, is based on only a few studies. Neither THCA-A nor THCA-B should be confused with THC-COOH (11-nor-9-carboxy-THC), which is a metabolic breakdown product of THC in the human body.

Chemical structures of THC and three acid forms of THC. The acid is highlighted in red. THCA-A and THCA-B are the forms produced by cannabis, whereas THC-COOH is a breakdown product of THC in humans.

Source: Project CBD:

THCA and effectiveness

Because THC-A is a precursor to THC, THCA is still an essential cannabinoid to consider when determining the potency of a cannabis strain, although THCA itself is non-intoxicating.


One of the most common methods for gauging cannabis strength is gas chromatography. In this technique, there should to be sufficient heat applied to the marijuana product being checked in order to decarboxylate the THCA as well as the THC. As potency is usually shared as a percentage of THC, this technique should, theoretically, have the ability to determine the effectiveness of a product.


This heating and subsequent decarboxylation will certainly trigger the cannabis product to shed a recognizable amount of weight as the THCA molecules shed their carbonyl groups en masse. In order to accurately establish the total THC web content of a raw cannabis strain, this needs to be thought about in strength calculations. Usually, this formula looks like:


THC total = (% THCA) x [last mass/initial mass] + (% THC)

This provides an excellent estimation of the overall THC existing in the raw cannabis strain. This is likewise sometimes referred to as the optimum THC, as in technique. Real amount of THC taken in is hard to approximate, yet studies suggest that anywhere in between 30-70 percent of THCA might not be consumed in the smoking process.

The possible benefits of THCA.

Thanks to its non-intoxicating nature, THCA is a much milder agonist of the body’s CB1 cannabinoid receptors than THC. That’s not to suggest that THCA isn’t potent or effective. It merely means it interacts with the receptors differently. While there have been relatively few studies done on the prospective healing uses THCA, preliminary research study as well as anecdotal records appear to suggest that the pre-cursor can also have a multi-purpose array of potential healing benefits.

Initial studies have actually linked THCA to:.

  • Anti-inflammatory properties in the treatment of arthritis as well as lupus.
  • Neuroprotective impacts useful in the treatment of neurodegenerative conditions.
  • Anti-emetic results for battling nausea or vomiting and also appetite loss.
  • Anti-proliferative effects, particularly noted in researches of prostate cancer.


Anecdotal evidence also appears to indicate that THCA could be effective in helping with sleep disorders, muscle spasms, pain, and various other associated symptoms, though these cases have yet to be supported by confirmed scientific research study.


This is an exciting possibility because it would therefore provide the medicinal benefits of TCH without the concerning effects, both physically and legally, of THC.


According to a number of medical professionals THCA shows great promise in the treatment of epilepsy. Preclinical research studies suggest that THCA can have anti-inflammatory effects and minimize nausea or vomiting. One of the most significant features of THCA is its apparent ability to operate in really reduced doses. THCA’s healing potential is even more remarkable, as this substance is more readily available than THC or CBD due to the popularity of the raw cannabis plant.

Consuming THCA

As THCA rapidly becomes THC when exposed to heat, if you are taking in cannabis by smoking, vaping, or consuming cooked foods, there is likely to be relatively little THCA left in these products.


Among one of the most popular methods to take in THCA is via raw cannabis juicing. Marijuana juices have actually ended up being a trend amongst “cannabis influencers,” and cannabis-infused juices have also begun to appear in trendy groceries and boutiques, wellness shops, and cafes.


Making a marijuana juice is easy; it’s essentially the same process as making kale (or other cold ingredient) juice, yet using cannabis leaves rather of conventional leafy eco-friendlies. As the cannabis is never heated in this procedure, juicing can draw out THCA from the cannabis material without converting substantial quantities to THC. (NOTE: It’s important to ensure that your juicer does not heat up in the process as this would limit the effectiveness by essentially burning off the THCA). This way, customers can enjoy THCA for medicinal or restorative purposes without obtaining a cannabis high.


There are likewise raw tinctures, as well as raw edibles that can be bought pre-made on the marketplace, which consist of high degrees of THCA and other raw cannabinoids. These items are typically labelled with accurate application details, to make sure that customers know specifically how much THCA (plus other cannabinoids) they’re taking in. With cannabis juicing and also various other DIY raw cannabis fads, it’s much more challenging for consumers to estimate what, and also just how much, they’re taking.

The Difference Between THC vs THCA

THCa is very similar to THC in both its chemical make-up and exactly how it communicates with the body. THCa progressively becomes THC during the drying out procedure– a process that is accelerated when heat is included in the equation, such as when vaping, smoking or cooking over a duration of time in order to be ingested. Heat and light result in a chain reaction called decarboxylation, which eliminates a carboxyl group, causing a molecule that quicker interacts with the body.


THCa particles are larger than THC molecules and cannot bind to the body’s cannabinoid receptors that make up the endocannabinoid system. That does not suggest there are no advantages to THCa or raw marijuana.

THCA and Anti-Nausea Properties

Marijuana use has been known to help patients, especially cancer patients, with the side effects of chemotherapy by serving as an anti-emetic, meaning, it reduces the nausea, which in turn, allows patients to eat and build their energy and immune systems critical to the recovery and treatment of cancer.


Until recently the use of this was limited because of the legal issued surrounding medical marijuana, but as the trend to legalize it extends across states, more opportunities to use this for these patients, as well as others suffering from nausea, is increasing.


Still there remains the concern about THC, the chemical associated with marijuana that causes the “high”, as well as at times increased anxiety and paranoia. TCHA, not having those qualities of THC, is showing promise in delivering the same results without the concerns or risks.


Researchers have evaluated the anti‐emetic and anti‐nausea properties of THCA and found them to be similar to THC. Additional animal studies are ongoing, with the hopes of further research on this topic and condition, as well as on others, will proceed as the evidence of health and medical benefits begins to grow.

For more information about THCA