THCV has many of the benefits of THC with anti-inflammation properties that can reduce nausea, obesity and protect the brain from conditions that can cause Parkinson’s disease and reduce the seizures of epilepsy. But significantly, THVC comes without the drawbacks of the ‘stoned’ experience.
Cannabis flowers are loaded with chemical complexity. Although THC and CBD often receive the limelight, over 100 cannabinoids and 200 terpenes are found in the resin produced by these blossoms.
Among these molecules stands THCV, or tetrahydrocannabivarin. While similar in name to the better-known cannabinoid THC, THCV offers some unique effects of its own. It displays promise as a therapeutic for common diseases and may serve up some interesting psychoactive properties.
While THC and CBD provide relief for a long list of health conditions, THCV may help to fill in the gaps and even offer a better option for some maladies.
The therapeutic potential of THCV
The science behind THCV remains early and lacks human trials. However, cell and animal models are shining a light on how the molecule might serve to treat common chronic diseases.
Research published within the British Journal of Pharmacology explored the effects of THCV in an animal model of Parkinson’s disease. Characterised by progressive neurodegeneration, the devastating condition results in involuntary shaking, slow movements, and muscular stiffness.
The researchers found that the cannabinoid helped to delay the onset of the disease. THCV managed to preserve neurons by working as an antioxidant. It also achieved this effect by activating CB2 receptors while blocking CB1 sites. Both of these receptors contribute to the human endocannabinoid system — a body-wide network tasked with maintaining biological balance.
CBD partly gained mainstream traction because of its ability to reduce the symptoms of epilepsy. THCV also appears to produce anti-seizure effects, which make it another cannabis-derived candidate for treating the condition.
A paper within the Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics displays the potential of THCV to reduce seizures. In cell studies, doses of 0.25mg per kilogram managed to significantly reduce the occurrence of seizures.
THC works well at reducing nausea and vomiting tied to cancer treatments such as chemotherapy. It reduces this unpleasant side effect and helps patients to keep up their appetite.
THCV also holds promise in this area of treatment. Research published in 2020 shows how THCV and CBDV work to reduce nausea.
Consuming cannabis often triggers a surge in hunger. Also known as “the munchies”, this ravenous appetite comes about through CB1 activation at the hands of THC.
THCV works to dampen CB1 activation in low doses. In doing so, the molecule manages to decrease appetite, promote the feeling of fullness, and boost metabolism — factors that may have a positive effect on weight loss and obesity.
How THCV acts in the body
THCV interacts with the body through the endocannabinoid system. The two primary receptors of this network are the CB1 and CB2 receptors. THCV binds to both of these sites to produce its unique effects.
Located mainly in the central nervous system, CB1 receptors underpin the cannabis experience. Following smoking or vaping, THC passes through the blood-brain barrier and docks with these sites within the brain.
However, THC remains a one-trick pony when it comes to the CB1 receptor. By working as an agonist, it simply boosts the activity of the site. THCV works in a much more nuanced fashion — it works to both block the receptor and activate it. What factor decides how THCV behaves? Dosage.
Low doses of THCV actively block CB1. This suggests that THCV may help to reduce the psychoactive effects of cannabis when taken alongside THC. This relationship could prove beneficial in patients that desire the benefits of THC with a minimal psychoactive experience.
In contrast, larger doses of THCV light up the CB1 receptor and elevate its activity past baseline. By revving the engine of this mind-altering site, the cannabinoid may produce some psychoactive effects of its own. However, these properties require further investigation due to the use of small sample sizes in past studies.
Anecdotal accounts report that THCV exerts more of an intense and stimulating experience. The effects are described as more clear-headed and lucid. Additionally, the effect of THCV reportedly wears off faster than that of THC, resulting in the title of the “racecar cannabinoid”.
THCV also activates the CB2 receptor. Cannabinoids that target this site typically produce anti-inflammatory effects.
A cannabinoid destined for mainstream integration
THCV has a bright future in the cannabis space. As cannabis science continues to unveil its secrets, and breeders master the art and science of producing THCV-rich cultivars, this cannabinoid is destined to play a role in medicinal preparations of the future.
Luke Sumpter is a freelance journalist that specializes in health, wellness, and alternative therapies. Currently, he’s working on a dissertation exploring the emerging role of the endocannabinoid system in orthopaedic medicine.