The popularity of medical cannabis in recent years has motivated pharmaceutical companies to test different cannabinoids. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD) are not the only compounds present in cannabis plants. Approximately, there are 80 to 100 cannabinoids present in the marijuana plant, and one of these is tetrahydrocannabivarin or THCV.
Tetrahydrocannabivarin or THCV is a chemical found in Cannabis sativa plants and it is closely related to the chemical tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. THC is a chemical compound that can cause psychoactive effects when consumed at very high doses. However, their overall beneficial effects are different. Like all of the new cannabinoids, THCV is also known to offer various therapeutic benefits including anti-inflammatory, seizure and motor control, bone growth, and more.
What is Tetrahydrocannabivarin?
The endocannabinoid system is responsible for the regulation of our bodily functions such as memory, sleep, plain, lipid synthesis, glucose metabolism, and immune responses. THC and THCV are two compounds that are structurally nearly identical but provide different effects.
Tetrahydrocannabivarin is a cannabis-derived compound mostly found in African Sativa strains. It has unique properties that set it apart from other cannabinoids such as THC and CBD. Unlike THC which is a psychoactive and an agonist at the CB1 and CB2 receptors, THC is a non-psychoactive compound and a neutral CB1 antagonist.
This means that THCV will not cause you to feel high unless taken in very high doses. The tetrahydrocannabivarin formula is also different. It has a side chain with 3 carbon atoms whereas THC has a side chain with 5 carbon atoms. Both molecules are similar on the surface, but they are derived from different parent molecules and chemical pathways.
THC which can be found in CBD and other cannabinoids are derived from cannabigerolic acid (CBGA). This acid is synthesized in a reaction between olivetolic acid and geranyl pyrophosphate. THCV is derived from cannabigerovarinic acid (CBGVA). Instead of the olivetolic acid that produces CBGA, it is formed when geranyl phosphate reacts with divarinolic acid. Both CBGA and CBGVA go through a similar reaction with a THC synthase enzyme and subsequent decarboxylation to form THC and THCV, respectively.
Does THCV get you high?
Yes. But this will only happen if you take high quantities of THCV. THC has relatively strong intoxicating effects because it’s a CB1 agonist, meaning it has the strongest effects on CB1 receptors in the system causing a high feeling. THCV appears to be dose-dependent as low doses can cause the cannabinoid to act as a CB1 antagonist. A study involving 10 regular cannabis users was conducted wherein they were given 10 mg pure THCV and placebo for 5 days followed by a cost of THC on the last day. After days’ treatment, it was conducted that given with a low dose of THCV, experienced milder effects from the THC.
The high feeling is also short-lived with THCV. It typically lasts for about half as long as that of THC. This is regardless of the method you use or the amount and strength of the compound. The intoxicating effects of THCV are also much milder than THC.
What are the benefits of THCV?
THCV is known to have stimulating effects that affect certain nerve cells in the brain that might reduce seizures, reduce appetite, bone growth stimulation, reduce blood sugar levels, among others, while CBD is a compound extracted from the hemp plant and is known to help treat a wide variety of health issues including anxiety, insomnia, chronic pain, inflammation, increased appetite, and epilepsy. Since CBD products contain only little amounts of THC, their effects are mostly similar to THCV. Here are some of the common benefits of THCV:
According to a study published in 2010 by the British Journal of Pharmacology, the plant cannabinoid THCV activates the body’s CB receptors and can decrease signs of inflammation and related inflammatory pain.
A more recent clinical trial published by the Nature Journal suggested that a low dose of THCV may have clinical value in reducing Covid-19 related inflammation. However, researchers also noticed the fraction was associated with pro-inflammatory activity in macrophages which could worsen the “cytokine storm” in severe Covid-19 patients. Further clinical studies are needed to if cannabis treatments can be useful for Covid-19 patients.
Seizure and motor control
THCV is also known to provide neural effects. Reducing seizures and improving motor control are some of the benefits you get from cannabinoids such as THC and CBD. Some studies have investigated THCV as a potentially useful anticonvulsant medication.
An in vitro study conducted in 2010 on laboratory rats found THCV to exhibit good antiepileptic and anticonvulsant effects when administered during a seizure or just as a regular preventive medication. While there are cannabinoid formulations already approved in some countries for epilepsy treatment like the brand Epidiolex, THCV holds potential as an alternative if more research in the future is conducted.
Bone growth stimulation
THCV is also known to promote the production of new bone cells. A study published by the Frontiers in Endocrinology suggests that several cannabinoids and THCV has the potential to stimulate bone nodule formation, collagen production, and alkaline phosphatase activity in cultures of bone marrow stromal cells.
However, it’s still unclear to what extent these compounds are acting and if THCV helps with degenerative diseases like osteoporosis.
Does THCV suppress appetite?
Yes. While most cannabis plants are known to help increase appetite, THCV is thought to be appetite suppressing and provides metabolic effects in the body. This may be good for consumers struggling with their body weight gain. THCV’s ability to inhibit the action of CB1 receptors has made it a particular focus for research on appetite regulation.
A study in 2009 by the British Journal of Pharmacology suggested that THCV may reduce a person’s food intake and promote weight loss when taken at low doses.
However, research on THCV’s action to suppress appetite is still lacking, especially in terms of the management of obesity. Cannabis users who are underweight, and undergoing treatment for anorexia should be aware of this effect so that they can avoid consuming products that contain non-negligible amounts of THCV.
The effects of Tetrahdrocannabivarin on patients with diabetes?
There is also an interest in THCV as a diabetes treatment. Blood sugar levels are associated with various health issues that make a person a high risk for diabetes, stroke, and heart problems. THCV is found to have the potential to reduce blood sugar levels. THCV like THC interacts with the endocannabinoid system to maintain homeostasis and regulate lipid and glucose metabolism. While THC acts as an agonist at the cannabinoid receptors and increases lipid and glucose intake, THCV exhibits antagonistic activities at the cannabinoid receptors.
A study was published by Nutrition & Diabetes on the levels in the insulin of two mice models to know THCV’s effects in animals. THCV was found to have reduced their glucose intolerance, increased insulin sensitivity, and restored insulin signalling in genetically obese mice. While this study was conducted on mice and not humans, it still highlight’s THCV’s potential to help with glucose intolerance and help keep the blood sugar levels in check.
What is the relationship between THCV and CBD?
Both CBD and THCV along with THC are the major components isolated from cannabis Sativa. Compared to CBD, THCV has more similarities to THC in its chemical structures and also causes a euphoric high when taken. Unlike CBD, THC also readily binds to the endocannabinoid system.
A clinical study was conducted in 2016 by GW Pharmaceuticals wherein the efficacy of THCV and CBD were evaluated in patients with type 2 diabetes using the glycemic and lipid parameters. 62 patient volunteers with non-insulin treater type 2 diabetes were randomly given CBD, THCV, and 1:1 ratio of CBD and THCV, and matched placebo for 5 weeks. After the weeks’ treatment, results showed that THCV and CBD decreased fasting plasma glucose compared to the placebo group. The results also showed that THCV may provide a new way to develop therapeutic agents for glycemic control, especially for type 2 diabetes.
The research from GW Pharmaceuticals is interesting especially for those interested in the potential medical benefits of THCV, especially when it’s combined with another cannabinoid. However, a lot more research needs to be done.
Is THCV legal in the UK?
Yes. However, THCV’s availability is very limited in the UK. Currently, THCV is not available as a standalone supplement. THCV is still considered as a cannabinol derivative in the UK and is listed as a Class B drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and a Schedule 1 drug under the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001. Presently, THCV remains in Class B and Schedule 1 with no recognised benefit in the UK.
While THCV is very similar to THC, it is not a prohibited substance at the federal level in the United States. The Federal Analogue Act in the US considers THCV as a structurally similar compound to THC. However, some scientists indicate that THCV does not fall under the prohibited cannabinoids.