THCVA (Tetrahydrocannabivarin Acid) Guide

Published September 17, 2020
THCVA (Tetrahydrocannabivarin Acid) Guide - Secret Nature

Cannabinoids undergo complex developmental processes before they arrive at their final configurations. THCVA is one of the intermediary forms that the cannabinoid THCV takes as it develops, and scientists are curious about the potential usefulness of THCVA for a variety of consumer and industrial purposes. In this guide, find out what THCVA is, why this Cannabis sativa substance is important, and the best ways to use THCVA.

What is THCVA?

Tetrahydrocannabivarin acid (THCVA), also known as tetrahydrocannabivarinic acid, is the carboxylic acid precursor to tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), the varin form of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This substance naturally transforms into THCV when exposed to certain stimuli, but you can also use THCVA in its original acidic form.

As it matures, the unique compounds present in Cannabis sativa flower undergo a variety of chemical transformations, and carboxylic acids are classes of chemicals that emerge relatively late in the cannabis maturation process. Characterized by the carboxyl groups attached to their ends, carboxylic acids are found in many places in nature. The carboxylic acid precursors to cannabinoids, however, are only found in Cannabis sativa.

THCVA begins its existence as cannabigerovarinic acid (CBGVA), which is considered to be the “stem cell” carboxylic acid for varin cannabinoids. Then, Cannabis sativa flower releases enzymes that transform CBGVA into THCVA. It’s also possible to isolate these cannabinoids and convert CBGVA into THCVA in laboratory settings.

Varin cannabinoids like THCV, CBDV, and CBGV are characterized by the decreased number of atoms in their carbon side chains, which are simple “tails” of carbon atoms connected to the side of cannabinoid molecules. While conventional cannabinoids have carbon side chains with five carbon atoms, the side chains of varin cannabinoids only have three carbon atoms.

This difference between varin cannabinoids and conventional cannabinoids is minimal, but it’s significant enough to place varin cannabinoids in their own distinct category. The pharmacokinetics of varin cannabinoids such as THCV have not yet been fully established, but based on limited research and anecdotal testimony, it appears that varin cannabinoids offer significantly different effects than their conventional counterparts. In chemistry terms, THCV is considered to be a homolog of THC, not an analog.

THCVA is primarily a point of interest among cannabinoid researchers due to the role it may potentially play in THCV synthesis. Among the varin cannabinoids, THCV is the most popular, making THCVA one of the most-researched varin cannabinoid acids.

History of THCVA research

The international cannabis research community was aware of the existence of THCV for a few years prior to the discovery of THCVA. In 1974, research revealed that certain “landrace” strains of cannabis from Central Asia and Western Africa included high concentrations of THCV, making this novel cannabinoid a prime target of further studies. 

Scientists first isolated THCVA from Cannabis sativa in 1977 along with a handful of other precursors to varin cannabinoids. Among these other isolated carboxylic acids was CBGVA, but at the time, researchers did not know that CBGVA could be transformed into THCVA using cannabis enzymes.

Research into THCVA was practically nonexistent throughout the following two decades, but in 1996, Japanese cannabis scientists discovered that CBGA was the chemical precursor THCA, CBDA, and other common carboxylic acid cannabinoid precursors. This discovery led cannabis researchers to the logical conclusion that CBGVA was likewise the precursor of varin cannabinoid acids like THCVA and CBDVA, indirectly placing additional emphasis on research into varin cannabinoids.

In 2004, researchers discovered that THCV made up more than 50% of the total cannabinoid count in certain cannabis strains, prompting further inquiry into THCV and its chemical precursors. In 2008, a study found that THCV acts as an antagonist at the CB1 receptor and a partial agonist at the CB2 receptor, leading to speculation that THCV may serve as a less-intoxicating alternative to THC.

Over the last decade, THCV has been included more frequently in studies into the effects of cannabis constituents, and as a result, THCVA has also enjoyed increased popularity within the cannabis science community. At present, researchers are keenly interested in the relationships between cannabinoids and their carboxylic acid precursors due to the potentially lucrative synthesized cannabinoid market.

What is THCVA currently used for?

Currently, the uses of THCVA remain relatively limited. Hardly any research has been conducted into THCVA specifically even though it has become more common to include this carboxylic acid when studying the overall effects of Cannabis sativa flower or cannabis extracts. As a result, the general public has low awareness of the potential benefits of THCVA, and this carboxylic acid is generally overshadowed by its final form, THCV.

Among the varin cannabinoids, however, THCV is by far the most popular, and THCVA remains a critical component of the majority of THCV research. Researchers are highly intrigued by the pharmacokinetics of THCV, which appear to differ significantly from those of THC while delivering similar benefits.

THCV, for instance, has been researched for its potential anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, which it appears to share with THC. This cannabinoid has also been researched for properties that could separate it from THC, such as its potential appetite-suppressing and anti-diabetes effects.

While awareness of THCV remains limited, this cannabinoid is gradually making its way into the mainstream. Since THCV wouldn’t exist without THCVA, this carboxylic acid is being taken along for the ride.

What might THCVA be used for in the future?

As research into cannabinoids deepens and the global Cannabis sativa market continues to expand, it’s likely that THCVA will primarily be used as an intermediary point in the synthesis of THCV. In 2017, researchers successfully derived CBGA from genetically modified yeast, and it’s only a matter of time until yeast-derived cannabinoids take center stage within the blossoming cannabinoid market.

While the cannabis and hemp markets remain highly lucrative, deriving cannabinoids from Cannabis sativa plants is inherently inefficient. For decades, pharmaceutical researchers have striven to design methodologies that generate bioidentical cannabinoids in laboratory settings, and it finally appears that these inquiries are starting to bear fruit.

Scientists have yet to derive CBGVA from yeast, but since this varin cannabinoid “stem cell” only varies from CBGA by two atoms, it’s only a matter of time before yeast-derived CBGVA becomes as common as its conventional cannabinoid counterpart. Mass-scale cannabinoid production using genetically modified yeast is still a few years away anyway, and by the time that yeast-derived THC and CBD hit the market, recombinant THCV might not be far behind.

Once cannabis researchers determine how to derive CBGVA from yeast at mass scales, they will simply need to apply a few already-isolated enzymes to transform this carboxylic acid into THCVA. From there, it will be possible to convert this THCVA into THCV that can be used in consumer products.

As THCVA receives increased attention due to its role in recombinant THCV synthesis, it’s possible that researchers may also apply their focus to the unique attributes of this cannabinoid acid. THCA appears to have very different attributes than those of THC, and it’s possible that researchers will use this roughly equatable relationship as basis for further inquiry into THCVA’s unique benefits.

Regardless of whether it ultimately receives attention due to its individual merits or its role in yeast-derived THCV synthesis, it’s likely that THCVA will continue to fly under the radar for at least the next five years. Scientists are just now starting to take a look at the ways that THCV differs from THC, and the market for THCV (whether cannabis-derived or recombinant) remains quite small.

Given enough time, however, varin cannabinoids will inevitably garner attention as they rise upon the tide of global cannabis popularity. Once they do, THCV will be the first varin cannabinoid to gain acclaim, and renewed research into the merits of THCVA won’t be far behind.

What are the best ways to use THCVA?

It’s generally quite hard to get your hands on the carboxylic acid forms of varin cannabinoids. Since THCV has already achieved a moderate level of popularity within the international cannabis community, however, using THCVA might not be as much of a challenge.

Your first route would be to purchase bulk THCVA extract from a cannabinoid supplier. According to our research, there are a few different suppliers that offer bulk THCVA, and you could simply purchase this carboxylic acid extract and make it into DIY products like THCVA-rich capsules or tinctures.

For residents of medical or recreational marijuana states, however, there might be an easier and less costly solution. While still relatively rare, it’s sometimes possible to find cannabis strains that include high concentrations of THCV, and when contained in hemp flower, the majority of the THCV in these strains is still in the form of THCVA.

Therefore, you can simply use THCV-rich cannabis with a method that does not involve the application of heat to experience the benefits of THCVA for yourself. Raw bud juicing is a popular heat-free way to ingest carboxylic acid cannabinoid precursors, and to try this method, you’ll need to acquire some THCV-rich bud that has not been dried or cured.

THCVA is the key to less-intoxicating THC

Over the years, it’s likely that a certain subset of consumers will continue to become disillusioned with the negative effects of THC. While this cannabinoid certainly has its benefits, not everyone wants to get high, and THC can be addictive.

This disillusionment will naturally bring THCV to the fore, which appears to be less intoxicating and less addictive than THC. Research into this cannabinoid’s carboxylic acid precursor will then spike since it’s impossible to synthesize THCV without THCVA.

It’s certain that THCVA has an important, if perhaps minor, role to play in the evolving story of cannabis. For more cannabinoid guides, visit the Shared Secrets blog, and contact us with any questions.

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