THCA vs. THC: What’s the Real Difference Between Them?

Contrary to belief, eating raw, freshly picked weed won’t get you high. None of the famous psychoactive cannabinoid, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is present at the time of harvesting, but tetrahydrocannabinol acid is abundant (THCA). This inactive compound is found in the trichomes of living cannabis plants. THCA doesn’t have psychoactive effects but is the precursor to psychoactive THC. This is due to the shape of the THCA molecule. Because it’s a larger molecule that doesn’t fit into the body’s natural cannabinoid receptors, specifically the CB1 receptors, the cannabinoid is unable to achieve an intoxicating effect.

How does THCA become THC?

There are hundreds of cannabinoids produced by the cannabis plant which are responsible for the therapeutic and psychoactive effects of cannabis. THCA is the precursor to THC and undergoes a heat and light process called the process of decarboxylation. This process alters the THC chemical structure within THCA so that it fits into the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and CB1 receptors. This will result in the famed high sensation after consuming THC. Raw cannabis that hasn’t been heated is considered a superfood that’s used for health enhancement. Raw cannabis may have therapeutic effects on arthritis, chronic pain, fibromyalgia, and other medical conditions.

Cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) and tetrahydrocannabinol acid (THCA) both come from the cannabis plant and are precursors to cannabidiol (CBD) and THC. CBD Nerds offers a comprehensive look at these cannabinoids and explains the basics of CBDA vs CBD and THCA vs THC. Cannabidiolic acid is the non-psychoactive cannabinoid precursor to cannabidiol contained in the raw cannabis plant. Its benefits include analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antioxidant, and cancer cell properties.

Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid is the precursor to THC found in raw cannabis plants. The easiest way to consume THCA is to juice raw cannabis flowers and include them in smoothies. There are no psychoactive effects with THCA, and its benefits include anti-emetic, anti-inflammatory, anti-proliferative, antioxidant, appetite stimulant, and neuroprotective properties.

How are THCA and THC decarboxylated?


The most common decarboxylation process uses high temperatures to convert THCA into THC. When a cannabis plant is exposed to warm sunlight for a long period of time, the THCA molecules slowly turn into THC. Cannabis stored at room temperature with minimal light exposure will convert THCA into THC over time. When holding a flame to dried, cured bud, the short exposure to high temperatures causes THCA to rapidly morph into THC. Vaping heats THCA at a low temperature which causes the cannabinoids acids to change. Increasing the heat ensures the maximum of THCA is converted while maintaining terpenes and flavors.

What are the benefits of THCA?

THCA is thought to have health benefits when used as a nutritional supplement or dietary enhancement. One of the many benefits of THCA is its ability to treat inflammation due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Research has shown that THCA can help protect against neurodegenerative diseases. It’s anti-emetic, meaning THCA can increase appetite and decrease nausea more so than THC and CBD. Studies have also shown that THCA can help reduce obesity and associated diseases such as diabetes and fatty liver disease.

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THCA and THC go hand in hand. THCA won’t get you high in raw form, but through a conversion process, it results in psychoactive THC.