THCA vs THC: Which Is Stronger?

Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCa) is a naturally occurring cannabinoid in the hemp plant. It is not psychoactive and will not make you high. THCa has many therapeutic potentials, but it is rarely consumed. It converts into THC through a decarboxylation process. All cannabis and hemp flowers are really THCa flowers, but THCa is converted to THC just before it’s inhaled. THCa is essential for THC to exist.

THCa is not just a precursor to THC; it has many benefits and effects. In this article, we will go over these benefits and provide a breakdown of which is stonger THCA vs THC.

What Is THCa?

Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCa) is one of the 100-plus naturally occurring cannabinoids found in the cannabis and hemp plant. THCa is the chemical precursor of delta 9 THC. All THC is a converted form of THCa.

Unlike THC (and isomers like delta 8-THC and HHC), THCa will not produce a high. It produces a mild mental effect.

What Is THC?

Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is one of the 100-plus cannabinoids naturally found in the cannabis and hemp plant. THC, which is dominant in cannabis strains, is known for producing a head high. It can also be found in hemp, the federally-legal version of cannabis.

THC is not only used for its high but also for therapeutic purposes. Most research focuses on medical cannabis as a whole, but THC plays a key role.

THCa and THC: The Differences

THCa differs from THC in three main ways: its origin, its strength and effects, and its side effects.

Origin in Hemp

The main difference between THCa and THC is where they are derived from. THCa is not found in living hemp plants. THCa must be heated to decarboxylate, which removes its acid ring.

To understand this better, you should also be familiar with another cannabinoid called cannabigerolic acid (CBGa). CBGa is a cannabinoid that all cannabinoids derive from and can be found in young hemp plants.

As the hemp plant matures, most of the CBGa initially present is transformed into THCa, CBDa, CBCa, and CBG. THC cannot be found in living plants. THC is produced when THCa undergoes decarboxylation.

Strength

THCa is a much less stronger form of THC. It can be viewed as an “inactive” version of THC. THCa doesn’t have the same psychoactive effects as THC.

THC produces a high that is marked by feelings of euphoria and relaxation. It can also cause heightened sensory perception and altered perceptions of time. THCa has very little noticeable effect. You won’t “feel” it when you use it as an edible product or in any other form. It’s possible that some people may feel a slight sense of energy or even drowsiness, but these effects may not be consistent.

THCa has other benefits for mental and physical health, which are discussed in the section “Benefits of THCa.”

Side Effects

THCa and THC can both be consumed without harm, and some research indicates that they could have therapeutic benefits. However, they may also cause adverse effects.

The side effects of THCa are not well researched. Anecdotal evidence indicates that THCa can make some people feel tired or drowsy, while others feel energized.

THC can have the following side effects:

  • Anxiety
  • Dry mouth
  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty thinking and speaking
  • Red eyes
  • Delayed response time
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased appetite

THCa has far fewer negative effects than THC. Most of these side effects can be avoided or reduced by using the correct THC dose.

Conversion of THCa to THC

THC, the cannabinoid that causes the head high feeling when using cannabis (whether it’s hemp or marijuana), is well-known. Live cannabis plants do not contain THC. Instead, they contain tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCa), which comes from CBGa that breaks down as the plant grows.

THCa is then converted into THC by a process known as decarboxylation. THCa, which loses its acid group during decarboxylation (as does CBDa, which becomes CBD), is converted to THC.

Decarboxylation occurs to a minor extent during cannabis storage, but it mainly happens when the plant is heated. This is how prerolls, vapes, dab rigs, and other methods of inhaling THC work. THCa becomes THC when heated.

For products like gummies or drinks that do not involve heating, THCa will be decarboxylated before being added. However, you can skip this step to keep THCa in its original form, allowing you to consume it raw in gummies and tinctures.

What Is a Good THCa?

Some dispensaries categorize flower strains based on their THCa levels, not their THC levels. Since THCa is converted to THC by burning, the THCa levels are the same as the THC levels, minus a few percentages for conversion.

High-quality, potent flower usually contains between 15-25% THC. Look for strains that have similar THCa levels. Ask the budtender or the company if you are buying online how to understand and read the potency levels of the different strains.

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THCa Benefits

Research and anecdotal reports indicate that THCa may have therapeutic effects in many areas, even though it does not produce psychoactive effects.

  • Relaxation: Anecdotal data suggests that THCa can promote mental calmness and relaxation without the psychoactive effects of THC.
  • Inflammation: A 2017 study published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research found that THCa has anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Neuroprotective Properties: In 2017, researchers from Spain and Italy conducted a study that found THCa to have potential neuroprotective qualities. They stated that THCa is a potential treatment for neurodegenerative diseases and should be further studied.
  • Seizures: A 2017 research review found that THCa showed anticonvulsant activity (anti-seizure).

THC Benefits

THC and its “high” effects are well-known. However, THC is more than just a high. Research and anecdotal reports suggest that THC may have several therapeutic benefits.

  • Stress and Anxiety: Research shows that THC can be either beneficial or harmful depending on the amount you take. In a study conducted by the Yale School of Medicine, THC was found to have anxiety-reducing properties at lower doses. Larger doses may cause anxiety.
  • Nausea: A 2010 study conducted by a major Spanish research institute found that a THC-CBD mixture had antiemetic effects (anti-nausea and vomiting). The study concluded that THC could be used to treat chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.
  • Sleep: According to anecdotal evidence, THC’s euphoric and relaxing effects may promote restful sleep. Three Australian researchers found that medical cannabis increased both sleep duration and quality in a study conducted in 2022.
  • Appetite: The ability of THC to stimulate appetite was the source of the term โ€œmunchies,โ€ which describes the feeling of hunger after smoking marijuana. Researchers have also studied this effect for therapeutic purposes. In a 1994 study, the Cleveland Clinic discovered that THC could have appetite-stimulating effects.

THCa and THC: Their Effects on the Body

Cannabinoids such as THCa or THC act via the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) in your body, which is a receptor system that regulates many vital functions including sleep, mood, and inflammation response. The ECS is designed to maintain your body and mind in a balanced state.

Your ECS has two main types of receptors:

  • CB1 receptors: When stimulated by a substance, these produce mental or “head” effects.
  • CB2 receptors: When stimulated by a substance, these produce physical or “body” effects.

THC is a strong agonist of CB1 receptors and produces powerful psychoactive effects. THCa does not bind to these receptors as strongly, and therefore doesn’t produce a similar “high.” THCa may also benefit your ECS by supporting it in other ways. More research is needed to fully understand THCa’s mechanism of action.

Product Types and Dosage

THCa is available in the same forms as THC. THCa products such as THCa vapes and THCa flowers are THC products because THCa is converted to stronger THC by heating.

Edibles

Bioavailability: 10-20%

Start Time: Around 1 Hour

You’ll find gummies, candy, brownies, and many other types of edibles. Edibles taste great and provide a consistent dose.

Capsules

Bioavailability: 10-20%

Start Time: Around 1 Hour

Like edibles, capsules offer a method of consumption with a predetermined dose for THCa or THC.

Oil

Bioavailability: 20-30%

Start Time: 15-20 minutes

Oils can deliver THCa and THC very effectively because they are taken under the tongue and swallowed, rather than passing through the digestive tract like an edible. Oils are also great for therapeutic purposes because you can customize the dose to the last drop.

Vapes & Flower

Bioavailability: 30-50%

Start Time: 5-10 minutes

Like oils, vapes and flowers are more potent delivery methods. Cannabinoids are delivered to the body via the lungs rather than through the digestive system. THCa is not delivered by THCa vapes or flowers. These are not true THCa delivery options.

THCa vs. THC: Legality

All hemp-derived cannabinoids are now legal in the United States. Hemp is cannabis that contains 0.3% or less THC by weight. THC is illegal in certain states. The legality of THCa isnโ€™t clear. However, if THC is illegal, THCa will likely be as well (and vice-versa if THC is legal).

Here are the states that allow THC and the states that do not.

States Where Hemp-Derived THC Is Legal

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

States Where Hemp-Derived Thca Is Illegal or Restricted

  • California
  • Idaho
  • North Dakota
  • Mississippi
  • Colorado
  • Kentucky
  • Pennsylvania
  • Vermont

THCa and THC in Drug Tests

Drug tests will detect both THCa and THC. THC is often screened due to its presence in marijuana, which is illegal in most states. THCa is used to test for THC.

We recommend that you avoid THCa or THC products when you are about to take a drug test. Consider using a Broad Spectrum product or CBD isolate product instead.

Conclusion - Is THCa Worth a Try?

Now you know which is stronger and difference between THCa and THC. THCa offers unique benefits, including potential therapeutic effects without the psychoactive high. Discover the unique benefits of THCa products at Utoya Organics and experience the difference for yourself!ย 

Explore our range of high-quality THCa products and find out how they can enhance your well-being.

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