THCV, or tetrahydrocannabivarin, is a compound in cannabis that offers a unique array of effects and medical benefits that sets it apart from other cannabinoids like THC and CBD. Whether you’re a medical marijuana patient looking for a particular type of relief or a casual consumer chasing a specific effect, we’d like to introduce you to this fascinating compound that’s sure to make major waves in the cannabis world as we discover and utilize its full potential.
A non-intoxicating cannabinoid molecule that interacts with both CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors, among other targets in the body. It is typically found in cannabis only in trace amounts and its effects in humans are not well understood.
How THCV Works
Like all other phytocannabinoids, THCV is synthesized in the cannabis trichomes, the glandular hairs found on the surface of the plant. THCV binds to both CB1 and CB2 receptors, the most studied cannabinoid receptors in the body.
Is THCV Psychoactive?
THCV’s psychoactive potential is complex, and largely dependent upon dosing. Low doses of THCV act as a neutral antagonist at CB1 receptors, where THC activates psychotropic effects, and may therefore inhibit the intoxication associated with THC, a CB1 receptor agonist, or activator. A neutral antagonist will inhibit the action of both agonist and antagonist compounds. As only trace amounts of THCV are found in most cultivars, a consumer is unlikely to experience any of its inhibiting effects on THC intoxication. Ultimately, the question of THCV vs THC points to a complex relationship as the two cannabinoids interact with one another inside a consumer’s body.
Is THCV Legal?
In many ways, THCV lives in the shadows compared to other cannabinoids. Research is only just beginning to examine the molecule’s effects and potential. Similarly, it is not yet readily available as its own isolated, stand-alone product. However, a handful of strains produce a decent amount of THCV and many of these strains are attracting increasing attention throughout the industry.
There isn’t yet much legislation specifically dictating the legal status of THCV. On the one hand, THCV is not explicitly included on the list of federally banned substances. Yet on the other hand, substances high in THCV may by definition be lumped in as a federally banned “marijuana extract.”
If you live in a weed-legal state, you’ll be able to find products containing THCV quite easily, including strains with THCV. However, you live in a place where marijuana is illegal, THCV products will probably be much harder to find and of questionable legality. The one exception to this could be hemp-derived CBD oils that happen to also contain THCV.
What are THCV’s effects and benefits?
As its name suggests, THCV is similar to THC in molecular structure and psychoactive properties, but it provides a variety of pronounced and altogether different effects. A note for vaporizer enthusiasts: THCV has a boiling point of 428 °F (220 °C), so you’ll need to turn it up higher than you would THC.
- THCV is an appetite suppressant. In contrast to THC, THCV may dull the appetite. This may be good for consumers focused on weight loss, but THCV should be avoided by patients treating appetite loss or anorexia.
- THCV may help with diabetes. Research shows promise in THCV’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels and reduce insulin resistance.
- THCV may reduce panic attacks. It appears to curb anxiety attacks in PTSD patients without suppressing emotion.
- THCV may help with Alzheimer’s. Tremors, motor control, and brain lesions associated with Alzheimer’s disease appear to be improved by THCV, but research is in progress.
- THCV stimulates bone growth. Because it promotes the growth of new bone cells, THCV is being looked at for osteoporosis and other bone-related conditions.
Where can I find THCV?
So you’re looking for the effects mentioned above, but you aren’t sure where to start your search for high-THCV strains and products. Most strains only contain trace, undetectable amounts of THCV, making it difficult to achieve the desired therapeutic effect. We can assume that more THCV-rich products will be introduced alongside its growing popularity, but in the meantime, here are some useful hints for locating this rare therapeutic gem.
- Look for African sativas. Lab results show that THCV is most abundant in sativas, particularly landrace strains from Africa. Durban Poison is one of the more common high-THCV strains, but other options can be found in the strain list below.
- Ask about parent genetics. Having trouble finding an African sativa? Plenty of strains have hybridized African genetics that predispose it to a higher THCV potential. Cherry Pie, for example, may express a high THCV content by way of its Durban Poison parent. Look for lineage information in Leafly’s strain pages or ask your budtenders to point out their African hybrids.
- Request test results. Genetics alone can’t promise a high-THCV content, and cannabinoid contents can vary from harvest to harvest. If possible, ask your budtender for lab-tested strains to ensure that you’re indeed getting a THCV-rich product.
High-THCV cannabis strains
This list is by no means comprehensive, but it includes strains best known for their tendency toward higher-than-average THCV contents. These strains can be consumed in flower form or they can be processed into extracts, oils, and edibles for a higher concentration of cannabinoids. A few of the strains below, like Doug’s Varin and Pineapple Purps, were specially bred to contain higher levels of THCV. Again, be sure to steer your choices toward African sativas as they tend to contain the most THCV.
Strains high in THCV:
- Doug’s Varin
- Pineapple Purps
- Durban Poison
- Power Plant
- Willie Nelson
- Red Congolese
- Jack the Ripper
- Durban Cheese
What is THCV Good For?
Though more research is needed to fully understand the scope of THCV effects on the human body, several studies, both on animal and human subjects, have identified a variety of potential therapeutic uses for the cannabinoid:
- Anti-inflammatory: A 2010 study in the British Journal of Pharmacology found that THCV decreased signs of inflammation and inflammatory pain in mice.
- Neuroprotective: A 2011 study on rats, also published in the British Journal of Pharmacology, concluded that THCV’s ability to activate CB2 receptors while inhibiting CB1 receptors imbue the cannabinoid with neuroprotective properties that may be useful in treating Parkinson’s disease.
- Anticonvulsant: A 2010 study conducted in rat models and published in the journal Epilepsia revealed that THCV may be able to reduce seizure activity in epileptic subjects.
- THCV, diabetes, and glucose regulation: Animal studies have shown that THCV has the potential to regulate glucose levels, which could be helpful in treating diabetes. A 2016 study that tested the effects of THCV and CBD on 62 subjects with type 2 diabetes found that THCV indeed has potential to treat symptoms of the disease by controlling glucose activity.
- Bone health: THCV is one of several cannabinoids that may promote bone health and healing by acting at CB2 receptors in the bone marrow, according to a study published in 2007 by Calcified Tissue International.
Given the unique and potentially powerful effects of THCV, the cannabinoid is attracting more and more attention from consumers and cannabis businesses alike. For example, a 2018 article raved about THCV, stating that is rapidly becoming “the most sought-after cannabinoid on earth.” However, the biggest challenge with THCV is that it is not naturally produced in high concentrations, with the exception of a few strains, mostly African sativas. Because of this, it’s hard to find a pure THCV extract or products like an isolated THCV oil. Rather, your best bet is to find a more generic full-spectrum cannabis extract or oil that includes THCV in its cannabinoid profile.