Most people, even those only vaguely familiar with cannabis, will have heard of THC, the chemical in weed responsible for its intoxicating high. However, while THC is the most well-known cannabinoid in cannabis, its close cousin THCa is the most abundant - and doesn’t get you high.
THCa is the chemical precursor to THC, which converts to the latter when exposed to high temperatures, such as when it’s smoked. Keep reading to understand THCa compared to THC and what to know about getting high when consuming it.
- THCa will get produce a high only when it’s decarboxylated or exposed to heat.
- THCa, once decarboxylated, turns into delta-9 THC and produces the same high.
- While not psychoactive, THCa has shown many potential health benefits based on early research.
What is THCa?
Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCa) is a nonpsychoactive cannabinoid in the cannabis plant. On its own, THCa doesn’t produce any psychoactive effects but is an integral part of the raw plant that eventually converts to THC.
THCa was discovered only in 1995, and it’s only recently that the scientific community has started to give the cannabinoid more attention. A 2017 study explored potential medical uses and applications for THCa, including potential benefits in soothing seizures and chronic pain. While the research is still relatively new, scientists are excited about the potential of this underexamined compound in cannabis.
When exposed to heat (whether combusted or vaporized), THCa converts to psychoactive THC. This process is known as decarboxylation and can occur by:
- Room temperature exposure
- Heat exposure via smoking or vaping
- Sunlight exposure
This is why we need to smoke flower to get high and cannot get stoned by simply eating raw cannabis matter.
How THCA Works
Before cannabis flower or concentrates are heated, the THC only exists in its THCa precursor form. The THCa is exposed to heat and, in the transition, loses its acidity - the “A” in its name. As carbon dioxide is released, the THCA is converted into the intoxicating THC that attaches to the body’s endocannabinoid receptors and produces the psychedelic euphoria for which cannabis is known.
Does THCa Get You High?
While early research suggests that THCa and other acid-containing cannabinoids might have beneficial properties on their own, they don’t necessarily get you high. THCa cannot attach to endocannabinoid receptors, meaning they don’t exert any effect the way that THC and CBD do.
When combined, trace THC levels and THCa may produce therapeutic benefits, such as when people decide to juice their cannabis raw. However, THCa will not produce the same psychoactive effects as its counterpart without heat. When finally exposed to heat, the THCa in a given cannabis product instantly converts to THC, producing the intoxicating effects that get you high.
How to Use THCA
Some consumers use THCa in its pure extracted form, commonly called THCa diamonds. Dabbing or vaporizing diamonds, whether by themselves or added to other concentrates or flower, is a common and highly potent way to reap the benefits of THCa. Again, remember that THCa is instantly converted to THC when heated, so diamonds are known to produce intense highs that are better reserved for more experienced consumers.
As mentioned above, some prefer to eat raw cannabis as a means to consume THCa. Juicing cannabis plant matter or mixing it into a protein smoothie is one such way to reap the cannabinoid’s benefits. Others may mix it into a salad dressing or homemade sauce for earthier flavors. Again, raw cannabis and THCa will not get you high.
The Bottom Line
While THCa doesn’t produce the same euphoria as its THC counterpart, emerging research suggests it has other health benefits worthy of consideration. The best method of consuming THCa depends entirely on the individual. Generally speaking, vaporizing THCa is a smokeless consumption method that will still produce a high. Juicing or eating raw cannabis or THCa-infused edibles may be the healthiest method to ingesting THCa, especially when mixed with healthy superfoods or other beneficial cannabinoids like CBD or CBN.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does high THCA do?
High THCa levels have been associated with neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory benefits. Early research also suggests that high THCa can help reduce nausea and vomiting, especially in patients undergoing chemotherapy. However, THCa does not get individuals high, no matter the potency – only when the THCa is converted to THC do high levels yield strong intoxicating effects.
How potent is THCA?
THCa isolate or diamonds, when heated, convert to THC to create an intensely psychoactive high, with potencies between 95-100%. Without heat, however, it stays in its original form and doesn’t produce psychoactivity, though it may still have potential health benefits.
Is THCA indica or sativa?
THCa is an isolated cannabinoid and not classified as a strain, whether sativa, indica, or hybrid. Different strains have different levels of THCa, depending on their genetics and growing environments.