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THCA and THC: What’s the Difference?

Every medical marijuana product from Restore has a product label that details its exact cannabinoid makeup and terpene profile, but just how closely do you pay attention to it?

If you have ever taken a peek at these numbers, you may have noticed that your medical marijuana has a much higher content of the cannabinoid THCA than other compounds like THC or CBD. So what gives? What is THCA, and how is it related to THC?

What is THCA?

Raw medical marijuana leaves actually contain a lot less THC than you might think. In fact, unprocessed medical marijuana plants do not even contain enough THC to induce its psychoactive effects. These plants are much more abundant in the nonpsychoactive cannabinoid THCA than the intoxicating compound THC.

Just like THC or CBD, THCA is a cannabinoid — a unique compound that attaches itself to cannabinoid receptors in the central and peripheral nervous systems. Until recently, THCA was thought to interact with the endocannabinoid system similarly to THC, but new research has shown that the relationship between these two cannabinoids is a little more complicated. THCA is a precursor to THC: THCA is converted to THC through a process called decarboxylation — the scientific term for what happens when medical marijuana is dried and vaporized.

When medical marijuana is heated and vaporized, the decarboxylation process expeditiously converts THCA to THC as you inhale. As the THC enters your body, it attaches itself to cannabinoid receptors in your central and peripheral nervous systems. Only THC can create mind-altering effects; consuming THCA in its original state does not create a psychoactive effect no matter how much you ingest.

The Science of Cannabinoids

The reason that THCA does not induce psychoactive effects is that its molecular structure does not fit into the CB1 cannabinoid receptors in your body. Therefore, THCA only interacts with your CB2 receptors, which do not play a role in altering the state of mind, so THCA that hasn’t gone through the decarboxylation process will not induce any psychoactive or intoxicating effects.

However, THCA, in its original form, can be beneficial for several different ailments and may be a valuable resource for some medical marijuana patients. Early research of THCA has shown that this cannabinoid can act as a pain reliever and sleep aid, as well as an antiemetic to reduce nausea, vomiting, and appetite loss. It also demonstrates potential in its neuroprotective properties that slow damage to the nervous system and the brain.

How to Protect Your Medical Marijuana

Understanding the compound THCA and the decarboxylation process is also a crucial factor in learning how to properly care for your medical marijuana. Because THCA is converted to THC when exposed to heat and light, it is important to keep your medical marijuana products safe from sun exposure.

Medical marijuana that is exposed to heat and light for a prolonged period of time will begin to decarboxylate and release THC prematurely. This can have a serious impact on the quality and potency of your product. In addition, prolonged exposure to air can continue to dry out your product, which triggers THCA conversion as well.

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