^ ^
Try CBD Risk-Free with our 60-Day Money-Back Guarantee
Shop Now
Up to 30% Off CBD Awareness Day Sale! CBD2024
Promo Details
30% Off Sitewide! Coupon Code: 30FORALL
Shop Now

Exploring the Potential Benefits of THCA: What Is It and How Does It Work?

Written By Ellese Symons Feb 14th 2024
Table Of Contents
Related Products

For decades, most of the research investigating the impact of cannabis on the body and brain focused on the dominant cannabinoids in marijuana and hemp, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). Minor cannabinoids like CBN and CBG were treated as little more than a curiosity. The acidic precursors of today's most in-demand cannabinoids were essentially ignored. It was commonly believed that cannabinoids had little value in their non-active, pre-evolved forms.

Current research adds a new chapter to that story. Now that THCA flower, tinctures, and gummies are sold alongside hemp-derived CBD products in convenience stores and specialty shops, people are naturally curious. Most want to know what it is, how it works, and if it's something they should try. After a brief comparison to Delta-9 THC, we'll take a look at its possible benefits, potential risks, and safety guidelines; in other words, provide the details you need to decide if THCA is an option you want to explore. 

Understanding the Origins of THCA  

THCA is the non-intoxicating precursor of Delta-9 THC, the cannabinoid that produces the type of "euphoria" marijuana is known for. Like most "novel" minor cannabinoids capturing consumer attention in recent years, THCA evolves from the "mother" of all cannabinoids, CBGA (cannabigerolic acid).2 

 As plants mature, naturally occurring enzymes convert CBGA to CBDA (cannabidiolic acid), CBCA (cannabichromenic acid), and THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid). The plant enzyme orchestrating the conversion of CBGA to tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, THCA synthase, achieves its objective by adding a carboxyl group to the CBGA molecule.3   

How the Effects of THCA Compare to Delta-9 THC  

THCA and THC are chemically similar, but THCA's molecular weight and size render the cannabinoid incapable of binding with the same receptors activated by THC. Although the acidic precursor has not been studied as extensively as Delta-9 THC, current research suggests THCA asserts its influence on your serotonin system receptors (5HT1A), modulates TRP (transient receptor potential) channels, and inhibits the expression of the COX 1 and COX 2 enzymes involved in inflammation and pain pathways.

The molecular shape of Delta-9 THC, on the other hand, allows the cannabinoid to interact with CB1 receptors, a specific target of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) messengers in your brain, connective tissues, and nerve cells.5 Activating that cannabinoid receptor temporarily modifies the flow of information between nerve cells while increasing the amount of dopamine circulating through your system,6 which is how the cannabinoid produces the state of relaxed euphoria it's known for. 

Differences in Legality Between Hemp-Derived THCA and Delta-9 THC 

According to the terms of the 2018 Farm Bill (and its 2021 amendment), the legislation playing a definitive role in hemp legalization, hemp and its derivatives are federally legal provided the final products contain no more than 0.3% Delta-9 THC (by weight). Products testing above that threshold are still considered controlled substances. That precise definition enables manufacturers to enhance the amount of THC in a variety of full spectrum hemp-derived products while remaining within established parameters. 

However, claims that THCA falls within some kind of legal loophole are misleading. On June 9, 2023, the Drug Enforcement Administration issued a letter confirming that Congress determined hemp's Delta-9 THC concentration should be determined with post-decarboxylation standards applied to hemp pre-harvest.7 Since decarboxylation occurs when THCA is smoked, vaped, or exposed to high temperatures, several states prohibit the sale and purchase of THCA. The topic is still highly debated in others. Consumers are advised to confirm the legality of THCA in their area before purchasing. 

Exploring the Therapeutic Potential of THCA  

THCA is just one of more than 113 potentially beneficial minor cannabinoids in hemp flower extract. Like CBG, CBN, CBC, and THC, THCA contributes to the health and wellness potential of full spectrum hemp-derived products through a property observed in cannabis called an "entourage" effect. The theory is used to explain how the combined impact of the plant's many minor cannabinoids and terpenes contribute to the potency of full spectrum CBD products by optimizing the synergistic contributions of each plant component.8 

Each minor cannabinoid brings something different to the table. THCA's reported impact on serotonin receptors and COX 1 and COX 2 enzymes suggests considerable health and wellness potential. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter essential for sleep cycle regulation, metabolic function, emotional equilibrium, and more.9 Although THCA has not been studied as extensively as THC, preliminary lab results suggest the cannabinoid could have a positive effect on sleep, relaxation, cognitive function, mild or temporary anxiety, activity-induced inflammation, and waning appetites.10 

Exploring THCA's Possible Risks and Potential Side Effects  

The possible risks and potential side effects of THCA are generally mild and similar to hemp's many other cannabinoids. After grinding hemp flower into your morning smoothie or swallowing a serving of a THCA tincture, you could experience dry mouth, fatigue, nausea, or changes in appetite. The risks change considerably if you smoke hemp flower, vape a THCA cartridge, or the cannabinoid degrades faster than you've realized. 

At that point, decarboxylation converts the THCA to Delta-9 THC. Even mildly intoxicating amounts of Delta-9 can cause sedation, impair motor function, alter time perception, increase your heart rate, and heighten sensory awareness. Exceeding your tolerance level can lead to impaired judgment, memory lapses, panic attacks, paranoia, or hallucinations.11 

Which Hemp-Derived Cannabinoid Is the Best Fit for Your Cannabis Journey?  

At CBDistillery®, we believe in providing the details people need to make informed decisions about hemp-derived products. Although many people are clearly embracing the health and wellness potential of THCA, it's not ideal for everyone. 

If you're looking for an alternative, consider browsing our selection of CBDA, CBN, CBG, and delta-9 THC products. If you have questions we haven't covered or just aren't quite sure where to start, consider taking our 3-minute CBD Quiz or setting up a personal consultation. Our hemp-derived products are rigorously tested, quality-assured, and we offer a 60-day, hassle-free satisfaction guarantee. 


  1. Formato M, Crescente G, et al. (2020) Cannabidiolic Acid, a Still Overlooked Bioactive Compound: An Introductory Review and Clinical Research. 25(11) Molecules 2638. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules25112638 

  1. Toth J, Smart L, et al. (2021) Limited Effect of Environmental Stress on Cannabinoid Profiles in High-Cannabidiol Hemp (Cannabis Sativa L.) 13(10) GCB-Bioenergy 1666-74. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/17571707 

  1. Tahir M, Rondeau-Gagne S, et al. (2021) The Biosynthesis of Cannabinoids. 7(3) J Cannabis Res https://doi.org/10.1186/s42238-021-00062-4 

  1. Walsh K, Kinney A, et al. (2021) Minor Cannabinoids: Biosynthesis, Molecular Pharmacology and Potential Therapeutic Uses. 12 Front Pharmacol. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2021.777804. PMID: 34916950; PMCID: PMC8669157. 

  1. Mackie K. (2008) Cannabinoid Receptors: Where They Are and What They Do. 20(1) J Neuroendocrinol 10-14. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2826.2008.01671.x 

  1. Currin, G. (2020) How Does Cannabis Get You High? Live Science. https://www.livescience.com/how-cannabis-high-works.html 

  1. Urness H, Stafford M. (2023) Is THCA Legal? The State Line Is the Bottom Line. JD Supra.com 

  1. S Gupta. (2014) Medical Marijuana and "the Entourage Effect." CNN Health 

  1. Jonnakuty C, Gragnoli C. (2008) What Do We Know About Serotonin? 217(2) J Cell Physiol 301-06. https://doi.org/10.1002/jcp.21533 

  1. Laderer A. (2021) Why People Are Eating Raw Weed Buds for the Health Benefits. Business Insider. 

  1. McParland J, Pruitt P. (1999) Side Effects of Pharmaceuticals not Elicited by Comparable Herbal Medicines: The Case of Tetrahydrocannabinol and Marijuana. 5(4) Altern Ther Health Med 57-62. PDF https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10394675/