There is a growing belief that cannabis and its many compounds are the future of medicine. The plant contains 110+ identified cannabinoids, along with hundreds of terpenes and other compounds.
Although most cannabis research relates to THC and CBD, things are changing. Researchers are beginning to focus on additional cannabinoids with medical potential. This article focuses on the THCV cannabinoid, a compound nicknamed ‘diet weed.’ It also briefly looks at THCV vs. THC, investigates the benefits and effects of THCV, and shows where you can buy it.
What Is THCV?
The THCV cannabinoid (tetrahydrocannabivarin) is a relatively abundant yet little-known cannabinoid. It is a compound that potentially provides people with an array of benefits and unique effects. Researchers discovered THCV in 1973, and while it isn’t as popular as CBD or THC, it is an extremely well-studied cannabinoid.
It is a molecule with C19H26O2 as its chemical formula. This means it contains 19 carbon atoms, 26 hydrogen atoms, and two oxygen atoms. It follows the typical phytocannabinoid behavior of being insoluble in water but very soluble in lipid-based solvents. Structurally, it is similar to the famed intoxicating cannabinoid THC, but we outline a few differences below.
THCV is unusual insofar as it is only intoxicating in high doses, a bit like CBN. Most known cannabinoids are synthesized from cannabigerol (CBG), a compound found in all forms of cannabis. CBG goes through a metabolic process from which CBD, THC, and several other cannabinoids are created. However, THCV forms after the joining of divarinolic acid and geranyl phosphate. The resulting THCVA is decarboxylated to create THCV.
THCV acts as an antagonist of the CB1 receptor in low doses, which means you won’t experience a ‘high.’ When you increase the dose, though, something very strange happens; THCV switches behavior and acts as a CB agonist, activating the CB1 and CB2 receptors, like THC. This means you WILL get intoxicated.
When you smoke a high THCV strain in large doses, you should experience a stimulating and clear-headed high that doesn’t last long. You can expect THCV to work faster than THC, but it lacks its cousin’s longevity. Let’s take a closer look at the differences between the two before focusing on THCV benefits.
What’s the Difference Between THCV & THC?
THCV can somewhat mimic the intoxicating effects of THC in large doses because of their similar structures. For example, their atoms have an almost identical arrangement. However, THC’s side-chain comprises a pentyl group, while THCV’s has a propyl side-chain. The best-known cannabinoids are made from pentyl groups, but some follow THCV’s propyl group (including CBDV and CBV).
One of the fascinating differences between the two cannabinoids is that THCV suppresses appetite, whereas THC increases it (a.k.a. ‘the munchies’). Studies have shown that THCV can limit the effects of THC.
Research suggests that THCV has some legitimate medical benefits. Along with several other cannabinoids, it binds to receptor sites in the immune system, major organs, and brain. Also, the fact that THCV doesn’t cause a high in small doses is beneficial to many users. Here are a few of the cannabinoid’s apparent benefits.
One of the main reasons for THCV’s effects in this field is that it suppresses CB1 receptors. A study published in the Journal of Cannabis Research found that THCV decreases appetite, increases feelings of fullness, and up-regulates energy metabolism. The researchers concluded that THCV for weight loss showed a lot of promise.
A small weight loss study funded by the National Institute of Health in 2021 tested the benefits of Nitro-V, a hemp extract microcapsule containing THCV. At the end of the 90-day trial period, participants who used the extract experienced weight loss without changes to diet or exercise.
However, a human study from 2015 suggested there isn’t enough evidence to claim THCV suppresses appetite. The researchers found that 10mg of THCV was enough to affect food reward and aversion. The cannabinoid increased the activation of various brain regions in response to aversive food stimuli and chocolate. However, THCV didn’t impact how users perceived a food’s pleasantness, nor did it impact the desire for the food stimuli.
A study by Wargent et al. published in 2013 showed that THCV can help people with diabetes who suffer from obesity-related glucose intolerance. Rats who consumed the cannabinoid showed increased energy expenditure and restored insulin signaling in insulin-resistant hepatocytes and myotubes.
A study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology in 2010 found that THCV reduces swelling and pain in mice. These are two of the main symptoms of inflammation after exposure to inflammatory chemicals. Intriguingly, the team also looked at the impact of Rimonabant, an anti-obesity drug, and found that it hindered THCV’s effects. This is a sign that THCV activates cannabinoid receptors.
During the study, the mice received THCV after inflammatory exposure each day for four consecutive days. The scientists found that the compound reduced inflammation, and the mice did not build up a tolerance.
There is a suggestion that THCV can reduce or even eliminate panic attacks. As a result, it is a possible option for individuals with PTSD or other anxiety disorders. Most of the research has taken place in Israel. Scientists have determined that THCV works for anxiety reduction because it suppresses our ‘panic’ mode, which occurs during our natural fight-or-flight response to threats.
Research in rats showed that THCV reduced the tremors associated with conditions such as ALS and Parkinson’s disease and decreased brain lesions in the latter illness.
The compound may also stimulate bone growth which makes it a useful addition to osteoporosis treatment options. Moreover, there is evidence that THCV potentially reduces seizures. Since it is non-intoxicating in smaller doses, it could be useful for children with epilepsy.
Does THCV Have Negative Effects?
While THCV is associated with benefits such as weight loss, are there adverse effects to worry about? In reality, there isn’t enough research to determine the answer. Human studies to date show it is tolerated in doses of up to 10mg a day for 13 weeks. However, many THCV oil and vape juice users consume significantly more. Animal studies have involved the administration of large doses with no signs of toxicity, on the other hand.
Appetite suppression is a THCV side effect of concern for individuals with existing eating disorders. Therefore, anyone falling into that category should avoid the cannabinoid. It is a similar tale for individuals who use drugs with appetite suppressant effects, like chemotherapy medication.
If you use THCV, it is wise to begin with no more than 10mg. This is a dosage potentially capable of reducing certain THC side effects. It is mildly intoxicating, probably 25% as strong as delta-9-THC, and provides a clear-headed high.
Is THCV Legal?
Confusion reigns over whether THCV is legal in the United States. It is not scheduled at the federal level in America, nor is it scheduled by the Convention on Psychotropic Substances. Therefore, the assumption is that THCV is legal if it comes from industrial hemp with a maximum THC content of 0.3%.
However, the FDA’s Interim Final Rule (IFR) prohibits any form of THC created synthetically, regardless of whether it comes from hemp or cannabis. Furthermore, the Federal Analogue Act bans the analogs of THC.
In a purely technical sense, one could claim that THCV extracted from industrial hemp is legal. Otherwise, it is possibly a federally illegal substance, even though it isn’t high on law enforcement’s list of priorities.
THCV extracted from hemp may be permitted in some areas, but legislation is changing fast, so it’s vital to research laws in your locality.
Also, states that permit recreational marijuana should permit THCV; you may even find strains like Doug’s Varin in a dispensary. Likewise, you can probably buy THCV without many problems if you live in a state with an MMJ program and have a valid card. In the THCV vs. THC debate, there seems little in it regarding the legality, at least!
In the United Kingdom, we came across a letter written by T. Rowland to the British Home Office. The letter looked for clarification on the legality of THCV.
According to J. Bisping of the Drugs Legislation Team, which is part of the Drugs and Alcohol Unit, THCV is “listed as a Schedule 1 to the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 as a controlled drug which has no recognized medicinal benefit in the UK.” Therefore, it is illegal to possess and sell THCV in the UK.
How Can I Find THCV?
Unlike cannabinoids such as CBN and CBC, there are relatively high levels of THCV in a wide variety of marijuana strains. In 2004, an article in the American Journal of Botany performed numerous tests on landrace populations across the globe to determine their cannabinoid levels.
This detailed research found that THCV concentration varies significantly depending on location, strain, light exposure, and climate. The researchers found that relatively high levels of THCV and CBDV were only common in Cannabis indica.
There are also reports that researchers found a South African strain with a THCV level of over 53% in the 1970s. In general, your best bet when seeking high THCV strains is to focus on African sativas. Here is a list of high THCV strains that you might want to focus on:
- Doug’s Varin:4-7%
- Pineapple Purps:4%
- Pink Boost Goddess:4+%
- Jack the Ripper: 5%
Brands selling THCV products tend to use a chromatography process that uses a superfluid solvent like ethanol or CO2 to separate the compounds from the plant. Next, the manufacturer evaporates the solution with heat under a vacuum to remove all the gas. The result is a high-purity THCV concentrate.
What THCV Products Are Available?
Despite its potential, there aren’t many sellers of THCV products right now. One might expect THCV edibles to have a wide appeal, for instance. Nonetheless, it isn’t easy to purchase THCV gummies.
Even THCV tinctures are hard to locate, especially in comparison to CBD and THC oils. There is more of a market for THCV isolate; make sure the product contains 99+% of the cannabinoid.
In general, you are better off looking into vaping products, as many brands sell THCV cartridges. Alternatively, you can look for one of the high-THCV cannabis strains outlined above.
Where to Buy THCV
Up until recently, quite a few brands offered THCV products online. However, that number has dwindled as former sellers have turned to delta 8 THC and delta 10 THC instead. Yet, with the net tightening on these cannabinoids, as several states have made them illegal, attention may turn back towards THCV.
Binoid is regarded as one of the most reputable sellers of lesser-known cannabinoids. Its THCV range is limited to vape products, but it prefers quality over quantity. Interestingly, the brand has combined THCV with delta8 and other cannabinoids in its vape cartridges. Around 20% of the liquid consists of THCV, with 30% delta 8, 5% terpenes, and the remaining 45% consisting of a mixture of CBD, CBN, and CBC.
Before you consider buying a Binoid product, please make sure you check to see if THCV is legal in your state. Remember, it is probably legal if your state allows recreational cannabis or if you have an MMJ card. Otherwise, you’re taking a risk.
If you use a vaporizer to consume THCV, bear in mind that its boiling point is 428 degrees Fahrenheit – a full 114 degrees higher than THC. Therefore, you can increase your vape device’s temperature towards that level without losing the potency of your e-liquid.
However, if you use a product containing various cannabinoids and terpenes, remember that they begin to vaporize once you go above 245 degrees Fahrenheit.
Final Thoughts on THCV
If you hadn’t heard of THCV before reading this article, we hope you now realize it’s one of the most important medicinal cannabinoids in marijuana. Although it doesn’t have intoxicating effects at low doses, it provides users with an intense, euphoric, and short-lived high when used in large quantities.
To date, research shows that THCV could become the basis for an effective means of managing obesity and type-2 diabetes. Other possible benefits include acting as an anti-inflammatory, reducing seizures, reducing tremors in Parkinson’s patients, and controlling PTSD and anxiety disorders.
While THCV shares a similar profile to THC, it also inhibits some of THC’s negative side effects, such as increased heart rate or weight gain. Up until recently, there were few marijuana strains with more than 2% THCV. Now, however, growers are breeding special THCV-high plants, knowing that this cannabinoid could become extremely popular.