THCV. What is Tetrahydrocannabivarin? – Cannabis Media Blog
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THCV. What is Tetrahydrocannabivarin?

 Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV, THV) is a homologue of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) having a propyl (3-carbon) side chain instead of a pentyl (5-carbon) group on the molecule, which makes it produce very different effects from THC.

Similar to THC, THCV has 7 double bond isomers and 30 stereoisomers

The rapid spread of legalized cannabis has meant an equally rapid evolution of the research. Scientific study no longer focused strictly on delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), it is moving into the hundreds of other, lesser-known cannabis-derived compounds – including a minor cannabinoid called tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCv).

THCv is a propyl analog of Δ9-THC. Its journey begins as cannabigerovarin acid (CBGVA), then gradually synthesizes into tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCVA) throughout the plant’s maturation. Other cannabinoids follow this same path of transformation. For example, cannabigerol acid (CBGA) transforms into CBDA and THCA.

THCVA drops the molecular acid component during its final conversion following the process of decarboxylation. Decarboxylation, commonly called decarbing, is the process of applying heat over time. Decarbing can either happen during the extraction process or through incineration or vaporization (smoking, vaping). Once THCVA is exposed to heat, the molecule transforms into THCv.

But what about THCV?

THCV: The Mystery Cannabinoid

THCV

Bet you didn’t know about this one. THCV is not only one of the cannabinoids in marijuana; it’s one of the so-called “big 6” that has been extensively researched (the other two are CBC and CBG).

Just like CBN, THCV is only psychoactive when you ingest a lot of it. And even though THC and THCV have names which make them appear almost identical – and their basic structure is indeed similar – the effects they produce are quite different, in two ways.

  • THCV’s high is almost always fast-acting, clear-headed and stimulating, and it lasts for a short period of time. THC’s high can vary in characteristics and will last longer.
  • THC stimulates the appetite, but THCV suppresses it.

In fact, THCV suppresses the appetite so well that it has shown promise as a treatment for weight loss and glucose intolerance. It appears to have many other medical benefits as well.

“How do I get some of that?” we hear you cry. Well, some strains are naturally higher in THCV than others. We’ll take a look at them, after learning a bit more about this mystery cannabinoid

THCV as a forensic tool

During the 1980s, tests that detected the presence of THCV were used to determine if illicit cannabis was imported or domestic. Since domestic strains of Cannabis sativa did not contain any sizable concentrations of THCV, the presence of this cannabinoid was seen as forensic evidence of cannabis smuggling. Japanese scientists discovered a variant of THCV in 1981, but the potential benefits of conventional THCV would remain unelucidated for more than two decades.

In 1999, researchers developed THCV testing methods that determined if individuals had ingested cannabis or Marinol, a THC-based prescription drug. Starting in 2005, research into the potential benefits of THCV got underway with a study into the impact of this cannabinoid on the brain’s CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors. While both ∆9 THC and ∆8 THC act as cannabinoid receptor agonists, this study determined that THCV is a CB1 and CB2 antagonist, which means that it does not stimulate these intoxicating neuroreceptors.

The Medical Benefits of THCV Strains

Scientific research on THCV is in its early stages, but a number of potential benefits have already been discovered.

THCV: The Mystery Cannabinoid
  • Studies show that THCV can benefit type-2 diabetics, helping to control their glycemic levels by reducing glucose intolerance.
  • Research indicates that THCV has strong anti-inflammatory effects, theoretically making it effective in treating illnesses and diseases ranging from allergies, asthma, and arthritis, to the bowel and gastrointestinal diseases, celiac disease and even heart disease.
  • THCV has been found effective in suppressing tremors in diseases like epilepsy, ALS and Parkinson’s.
  • Initial research indicates that THCV has antipsychotic effects, and is able to help patients suffering from anxiety disorders like panic attacks and PTSD.

That’s all great news, but we know you’re really here for the anti-munchies effect.

What We Know About THCv

THCv is very similar to THC at the molecular level, but it is non-intoxicating. It also has a slightly different relationship with endocannabinoid receptors compared with its THC cousin. Research has found it seems to be a CB1 antagonist and a partial agonist of CB2. Thanks to this difference, THCv may hold powerful antipsychotic properties.

Beyond its interaction with the endocannabinoid receptors, THCv also interacts with a non-cannabinoid receptor – 5HT1A. This relationship could also attribute to its antipsychotic effects.

Although in the very early stages of study, THCv holds the potential for several other therapeutic applications:

  • Known Anticonvulsant – Along with Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), CBD, and cannabidivarin (CBDV), THCv is another known anticonvulsant agent.
  • Improves Insulin Sensitivity – In a dietary-induced mouse model of diabetes, THCv improved insulin sensitivity, as published in a preliminary study from in 2013 in the Journal of Nutrition & Diabetes. According to the authors, “THCV did not significantly affect food intake or body weight gain in any of the studies but produced an early and transient increase in energy expenditure.”
  • Neuroprotective Qualities – In an animal model of Parkinson’s Disease, THCv has “a promising pharmacological profile.” Acute administration of this cannabinoid improved the symptoms of the disease, including reducing motor inhibitions. The authors attributed these benefits to the antioxidant properties of THCv as well as the way this cannabinoid blocks CB1 receptors while activating CB2 receptors.

Who is Producing It?

There are only a handful of producers of THCv worldwide, and its distribution is highly regulated based on its relationship with THC. Isolations are available as Certified Research Materials (CRMs), but at the time of writing, pure THCv isolates were not in production for commercial applications.

MilliporeSigma Canada Co. and Cerilliant both distribute THCv for research purposes. Its average price point as a CRM would make it financially prohibitive for commercial applications.

At the consumer level, Doug’s Varin, appropriately named after a strain of cannabis known to produce higher levels of THCv, in California, creates several THCv rich consumer goods, like tablets, pre-rolls, and tinctures. These typically contain unique ratios of many cannabinoids, not just THCv. They are not isolates.

Cannabis cultivators are actively responding to the shift if interest, to breed new strains selecting for the minor cannabinoids like THCv. Combined with technological advances within commercial extraction, we should soon expect to see new products hitting the market with minor cannabinoid isolations. With more research, the pharmaceutical industry could also lead the charge, chasing THCv as a therapeutic solution.

Who is Producing It?

There are only a handful of producers of THCv worldwide, and its distribution is highly regulated based on its relationship with THC. Isolations are available as Certified Research Materials (CRMs), but at the time of writing, pure THCv isolates were not in production for commercial applications.

MilliporeSigma Canada Co. and Cerilliant both distribute THCv for research purposes. Its average price point as a CRM would make it financially prohibitive for commercial applications.

At the consumer level, Doug’s Varin, appropriately named after a strain of cannabis known to produce higher levels of THCv, in California, creates several THCv rich consumer goods, like tablets, pre-rolls, and tinctures. These typically contain unique ratios of many cannabinoids, not just THCv. They are not isolates.

Cannabis cultivators are actively responding to the shift if interest, to breed new strains selecting for the minor cannabinoids like THCv. Combined with technological advances within commercial extraction, we should soon expect to see new products hitting the market with minor cannabinoid isolations. With more research, the pharmaceutical industry could also lead the charge, chasing THCv as a therapeutic solution.

Description

Plants with elevated levels of propyl cannabinoids (including THCV) have been found in populations of Cannabis sativa L. ssp. indica (= Cannabis indica Lam.) from China, India, Nepal, Thailand, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, as well as southern and western Africa. THCV levels up to 53.7% of total cannabinoids have been reported.[2][3]

THCV is a cannabinoid receptor type 1 antagonist and cannabinoid receptor type 2 partial agonist.[4] Δ9-THCV has also been shown to be a CB1 antagonist.[5] Both papers describing the antagonistic properties of THCV were demonstrated in murine models.

Biosynthesis

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Unlike THC, cannabidiol (CBD), and cannabichromene (CBC), THCV doesn’t begin as cannabigerolic acid (CBGA). Instead of combining with olivetolic acid to create CBGA, geranyl pyrophosphate joins with divarinolic acid, which has two fewer carbon atoms. The result is cannabigerovarin acid (CBGVA). Once CBGVA is created, the process continues exactly the same as it would for THC. CBGVA is broken down to tetrahydrocannabivarin carboxylic acid (THCVA) by the enzyme THCV synthase. At that point, THCVA can be decarboxylated with heat or UV light to create THCV.

Research

Reducing blood sugar

THCV is a new potential treatment against obesity-associated glucose intolerance with pharmacology different from that of CB1 inverse agonists/antagonists.[6] GW Pharmaceuticals is studying plant-derived tetrahydrocannabivarin (as GWP42004) for type 2 diabetes in addition to metformin.[citation needed]

Appetite control

THC increases appetite (aka “the munchies”) by acting as a CB1 agonist. As a CB1 antagonist, THCV has been shown to reduce appetite in murine models.[7]

THCV Legal status

As per usual, confusion reigns over THCV’s legal status in the United States. Since it comes from weed and is psychoactive when used in large doses, you would expect it to fall under the marijuana umbrella which of course would make it federally illegal. However, there is still a great deal in terms of legality when considering individual cannabinoids. All we can tell you is that THCV is not scheduled at the federal level in America, nor is it scheduled by the Convention on Psychotropic Substances.

Over in the United Kingdom, we happened to come across a letter written by T. Rowland to the British Home Office, looking 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.” So in other words, it is illegal to possess or sell THCV in the UK. The legal standing of THCV in the United States, however, remains even more unclear.

It is not scheduled by Convention on Psychotropic Substances. In the United States, THCV is not specifically listed as a Schedule I drug, but “Marijuana Extract” is.[8] THCV could be considered an analog of THC, in which case, sales or possession intended for human consumption could be prosecuted under the Federal Analog Act.

United States

THCV is not scheduled at the federal level so long as it is not derived from the cannabis plant in the United States.[9]

The 2018 Farm Bill legalized the production and sale of THCV if it is derived from hemp compliant with the 2018 farm bill

What is THCV currently used for?

THCV remains relatively unknown among the general public, making the popular uses of this cannabinoid highly limited. Veteran cannabis users know THCV as the “type of THC that doesn’t get you high,” and individuals who don’t commonly use cannabis simply aren’t aware of the potential benefits of this cannabinoid.

Some diabetic patients, however, have recently become aware of the potential benefits of THCV, leading to increased demand for this predominantly non-intoxicating cannabinoid. People with serious medical conditions generally view drug intoxication as a downside, so the fact that THCV is being intensively researched for its antidiabetic properties while also acting as a CB1 and CB2 antagonist makes this propyl cannabinoid highly attractive.

While THCV was relatively unknown a few years ago, rising interest in the potential unique benefits of this cannabinoid has led to a spike in THCV production. Largely relying on Cannabis sativa strains that naturally contain high concentrations of THCV, a variety of entrepreneurs have started manufacturing products that contain this unique cannabinoid. 

THCV may not be intoxicating like THC, and it might not be as relaxing as CBD. For people with diabetes, epilepsy, and other serious conditions, however, THCV is shaping up to be a potentially bright light in the darkness.

What might THCV be used for in the future?

Based on the current research climate surrounding THCV, it’s highly likely that pharmaceutical corporations will start producing THCV-based drugs in the near future. It will be quite some time until enough research has been conducted to positively affirm the potential antidiabetic properties of THCV, but as the approval process for Epidiolex is proven, much of this research could be conducted as part of the preparation for a THCV-based drug’s approval.

Regardless of which stance the pharmaceutical industry takes on the utility of THCV as an antidiabetic drug, individuals with diabetes are constantly searching for natural methods of approaching their disease that do not have considerable side effects. THCV is not significantly intoxicating, and it is natural and non-toxic. Via word-of-mouth and internet consumption, people with diabetes will rapidly learn about the potential usefulness of THCV and promote the use of this cannabinoid.

THCV use will also increase among individuals who do not suffer from any serious conditions. While similar to THC in many ways, this cannabinoid is non-intoxicating, and THCV also has properties that make it different from CBD, CBG, CBN, or any other non-intoxicating cannabinoid. Veteran hemp and cannabis users seeking a new experience will naturally gravitate toward THCV as another potentially antioxidant and anti-inflammatory cannabinoid to explore.

What are the best ways to use THCV?

Unlike CBC, CBN, or some of the other “fringe” cannabinoids that have just started to receive widespread acclaim, THCV is already popular enough to be offered in a variety of different types of products. Some companies offer THCV in tinctures or capsules, and this cannabinoid may soon be available in topical products.

The most reliable way to experience the full effects of THCV, however, is to inhale this cannabinoid. While some Cannabis sativa strains, especially those hailing from South Africa, can contain high concentrations of THCV, this cannabinoid is usually accompanied by equally high concentrations of THC, which you may not wish to consume.

Therefore, the best way to inhale THCV is in the form of a vape cartridge. Featuring purified distillates that do not contain high concentrations of THC, THCV vape cartridges provide a clean, pure approach to exploring the potential benefits of this cannabinoid. Reputable THCV cartridge manufacturers also provide lab results proving the purity and potency of their products.

Why you should try THCV today

Ever since its discovery, THCV has been overshadowed by the successes of its more well known cousin, THC. Relegated to the sidelines, THCV hardly received any attention at all except when it was deemed useful as a tool for identifying instances of illicit cannabis use. During the last two decades, however, everything has changed, and THCV now shines out as a unique and potentially highly useful contributor to the wider Cannabis sativa family.

Whether you have a serious condition or not, you should give THCV a shot to experience this cannabinoid’s unique effects for yourself. It doesn’t matter whether you enjoy or abhor the intoxicating effects of THC—THCV is entirely different, and this largely unknown cannabis constituent has an impressive story to tell. As the perfect companion to CBD or CBG, THCV has secured an enduring place within the modern pantheon of non-intoxicating cannabinoids.


If you hadn’t heard of THCV before reading this article, we hope that you now realize it’s one of the most important medicinal cannabinoids in marijuana. Although it doesn’t have psychoactive 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 treatment for 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.

It is also interesting to note that while THCV shares a similar profile to THC right down to the psychoactivity, 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, but now growers are breeding special THCV-high plants in the knowledge that this cannabinoid is set to become extremely popular in the near future.

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