THCA: What Is It & What Does It Do?

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Added 24 October 2022

If you’ve been reading about cannabis, you would’ve come across the term THCA. 

Or, you’ve heard about it in your local cannabis dispensary. 

THC is pretty famous and common. 

But what exactly is THCA? 

If you’re intrigued, just like us, dig in and know all about THCA in this article. 

What is THCA and What Does it Do?


Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid or THCA is the precursor to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient of cannabis that gets you high.

When a cannabis plant grows, it starts producing many cannabinoids, most of which are developed as carboxylic acids. These carboxylic acids later turn into non-acidic cannabinoids through a process called decarboxylation. THCA is no different.

As the plant grows, it produces THCA in the buds, which is in an acidic form and nonpsychoactive. It will not produce any high at all. This is because it has an additional molecular carboxyl ring, compared to THC, which prevents it from binding to CB receptors in your brain responsible for producing the high. 

So far, experts believe that THCA does not seem to bind to either CB1 or CB2 receptors in the brain, which are the two primary cannabinoid receptors.

THCA vs Delta-8 or Delta-9

The THC we know is delta-9 THC, but its sibling, delta-8 THC also exists. The two types of THC differ in their molecular arrangement, thereby producing different effects. This is why various cannabis sellers have been successful at selling THC products since they don’t contain more than 0.3% delta-9 THC.

As for the difference between delta-8 and THCA, it stays the same. THCA is the precursor to both delta-8 and delta-9 THC. 

Can THCA Be Used for Health Benefits?

Cannabis buds flowering

While THCA is non-intoxicating, some research and anecdotal evidence suggest that it may have some medicinal benefits for users, such as the following:

  1. THC is not recommended use for seizure disorders, but in its stead, THCA may be helpful according to some research.
  2. Cannabis products with high THCA content are known for their anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties.
  3. Some studies have even found that THCA can reduce symptoms of vomiting and nausea.
  4. A 2021 study on mice shows that THCA can also help treat fatty liver disease.
  5. Another 2017 research published in the British Journal of Pharmacology suggests that THCA can help against various neurodegenerative diseases.
  6. A 2020 study published in Biochemical Pharmacology showed that THCA can even reduce obesity and related diseases like diabetes.

While research suggests various health benefits, there is no conclusive evidence on how helpful THCA can be. So, more research is required in this context to come up with a definitive answer, as experts have with the health benefits of THC and CBD.

How to Use THCA?

THCA crystals

If you have consumed cannabis with THC before, you have already used THCA in its non-acidic form by vaping, dabbing, or via edibles. But the community grows keener to understanding THCA and its benefits, and is open to trying out THCA without converting it to THC first.

One of the most popular ways of consuming THCA is to just eat cannabis buds raw without decarbing them first. Yes, you just pop a small bud in your mouth and you will consume THCA. But many THCA users also add cannabis buds (non-decarbed) to their juicing routine or make THCA tinctures and topicals for regular consumption.

So, if you want to consume THCA, try out the various ways of consuming cannabis, either through edibles, topicals, or tinctures. Just remember to NOT decarb the cannabis first. If you heat THCA, it loses its acidic property and converts to THC, which will defeat the purpose of wanting to consume THCA.

Also, if you want to purchase THCA products, you can do so in your local dispensary. But only choose products with high THCA numbers — THC content does not matter as long as THCA content is high. 

Can THCA Be Stored for Long?

Whichever method you choose to consume THCA, avoid storing the product for a long, and do not expose it to light or heat. Both light and heat can quickly decarb THCA and convert it to THC.

According to one study, THCA can naturally get decarbed even if it is stored in a temperature range of 4 to 18 degrees Celsius

How to Turn THCA into THC?

how to turn THCA to THC

Yes, THCA has its own perks, but what if you want to convert it so you can get high properly since THCA will not get you high?

You’re in luck! THCA is easy to convert into THC, especially if you are smoking it. 

If you use joints, dabs, vape pens, or any other method of consumption where cannabis is heated, you don’t have to worry about converting THCA into THC. The heat does that for you within seconds. 

However, if you want to mix THC into your edibles or topicals, you need to decarb the cannabis buds first. Here is how to decarb cannabis to convert THCA into THC:

  1. Grind the cannabis buds to a coarse consistency, neither too big nor too tiny, using a cannabis grinder
  2. Preheat your oven to 230°F to 245°F or 110°C to 118°C 
  3. Spread the cannabis pieces on a baking sheet evenly
  4. Bake the cannabis pieces for 30 to 40 minutes and don’t forget to stir every five minutes so it heats up evenly 

When decarbing cannabis, it is essential that you do not overheat the buds as it may degrade the cannabinoids, including THC, making them less potent. Stick to the recommended range and within half an hour, the THCA in cannabis will be converted to THC.

From there, you can make cannabutter, oil, or tincture, and make hundreds of variations of edible or topical cannabis products that are high in THC content. 

Is THCA Legal?

Is THCA legal

The legality of THCA is tricky — even though it does not produce a high, it is still considered a variation of THC, the primary psychoactive cannabinoid in cannabis. So, if your local law states THC is illegal, there is a high chance THCA is also illegal.

For instance, if you live in a region where THC is illegal and get caught in possession of cannabis, you are in trouble even if you merely wanted to consume THCA, not THC. The cop won’t take into account whether raw cannabis is intoxicating yet or not, and will charge you with possession. 

After all, it’s super easy to convert THCA into THC. 

You need to check your local laws regarding cannabis consumption to know whether it is legal or illegal.

In case it is legal, you don’t have to worry about consuming it. You can even find over-the-counter THCA products in your local dispensary that probably won’t even ask for a prescription before selling you the products. 

Does THCA Show Up in Drug Tests?

Even if cannabis is completely legal in your region, many employers still conduct drug tests to prevent you from consuming cannabis — which they deem to be a harmful drug. While the cultural perception of cannabis is evolving, it is not worth the risk to your career.

So, to answer the question, THCA does show up in drug tests. This applies to whether you are consuming THCA or THC. For instance, if you are smoking THC, you are still inhaling some amount of THCA because not all of it gets converted to THC the moment you light your joint.

If you are worried about THCA showing up in your drug tests, you should act accordingly. You can even enquire with your employer to know if THCA is a problem if it comes up in a drug test or if they are only worried about THC. 

Summary: THCA: What Is It & What Does It Do?

What came first — chicken or egg? In the case of cannabis, the answer is straightforward — THCA came first. But our perception of it as a helpful cannabinoid developed a little late. Only now are experts realizing the potential of THCA, and so far, the findings seem quite promising.

THCA has the potential to give you some benefits of THC (and even more) without actually getting you high — it is a potential treatment for various conditions like fatty liver disease, seizures, obesity, diabetes, and many more. 

But only time can tell how helpful THCA is.

Until then, if you are consuming cannabis to get high and are worried about THCA in your edibles, your worries have come to an end. THCA can easily be converted into THC by the process of decarboxylation. Heat ground-up cannabis at around 240°F or 115°C for 30 minutes and you will end up with potent cannabis rich in THC. 

Lastly, know your legal laws either way. If your local region does not allow the consumption of cannabis in any form, you should act accordingly. Possessing cannabis for THCA may still get you in trouble. 

And if you want to consume THCA in a region where it is legalized, you can either extract for yourself or buy THCA products at your local cannabis dispensaries. 

THCA is only one small part of the cannabis plant, but it has over 200 cannabinoids. All of which can benefit you in various ways. 


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Interesting article, so I wonder if there are any benefits for Neuropathic Pain from THCA? Thinking back years when I used to eat the occasional piece of Hash, I assume that I got Stoned as ***k because Hash is already Decarboxylated? So if I troughed a load of buds in my morning smoothie I wouldn't be mashed off my face while at work?! I didn't think that Hash was Decarboxylated and it still required heating, hence my confusion. So is it like literally the heat of the hand and oxidation during the hash-making process that Decarboxylate?