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How much do you know about THCV? Research suggests that this cannabis molecule may help with weight loss, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease.

Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) is one of the most medically important of the known cannabinoids. It is thought to act as an antagonist of the cannabinoid receptors at low doses, but surprisingly, it may act as an agonist at high doses, giving effects similar to THC. Since its discovery in 1973, THCV has gradually grown in importance within medical circles.

Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) is one of the better-studied and most medically important of the known cannabinoids. It is thought to act as an antagonist of the cannabinoid receptors at low doses, but surprisingly, it may act as an agonist at high doses, giving effects similar to THC.

Since its discovery in 1973, THCV has gradually grown in importance within medical circles, and over the last ten years or so, research into its pharmacological properties has started to intensify. Like CBD, it is thought to have important roles to play in the regulation of the immune system, particularly with regards to inflammation and inflammatory pain.

There are many reasons why THCV is a hot topic in cannabis research. Similar to other cannabis compounds, THCV has show potential as an:

  • Antioxidant
  • Anti-inflammatory (including experimental inflammation of the gut)
  • Painkiller

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.

  • 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 may help with Parkinson’s disease. THCV has also shown promise in animal studies of Parkinson’s Disease. A 2011 study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology wanted to see if THCV would improve the motor function of rats with an experimental form of Parkinson’s Disease. As mentioned above, THCV can block certain cell receptors that are targeted by THC. In certain doses, THCV decreases the activation of the CB1 receptor. The CB1 receptor is a location on the surface of a cell that contributes to the psychoactive effects of cannabis. While THCV can block the CB1 receptor, it also triggers the CB2 receptor. The CB1 receptor is primarily concentrated in the nervous system, and the CB2 is concentrated in the immune system. Researchers speculated that these unique properties of THCV would make it a particularly useful Parkinson’s medication. According to this rodent study, they were right. Treating rats with THCV improved motor control. It also seemed to delay the progression of Parkinson’s Disease. After repeated doses, the cannabinoid also seemed to prevent the death of key brain cells. Parkinson’s symptoms present when these brain cells die off.
  • 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.
  • THCV may help with convulsive disorders. Several different compounds in the cannabis plant have shown powerful effects against seizure and epileptic convulsions. The two most common cannabis compounds for epilepsy are CBD and THC. Now, early research shows that THCV has anti-convulsant properties as well. In rodent models, THCV has successfully quelled seizure activity. Researchers think that this is because of the way THCV engages the nervous system. Similar to psychoactive THC, THCV binds to special cell receptors (the CB1 and CB2 receptor) that may play a role in managing excessive excitement in the brain. An overly excited brain contributes to epilepsy.

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.
  • 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. Ask your medical cannabis dispensary 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.

The Importance of THCV in Medicine

THCV, along with several other cannabinoids, binds to special “receptor” sites in the body that are located in the brain, within the major organs, and throughout the cells of the immune system. These “receptors” are specialised proteins situated at the presynaptic junctions between neurons (nerve cells). So far two major receptors associated with cannabinoids have been identified – cannabinoid receptors type I & II, or CB1 and CB2.

THCV is capable of binding to both the CB1 and CB2-receptors. Interestingly, it also seems that THCV exerts either an agonising or antagonising effect on the CB1-receptor, depending on dose. In small doses, THCV appears to antagonise (block) the CB1-receptor, while in higher doses it actually appears to have an agonising effect similar to THC!

Thus, there is a strong argument for considering THCV to be another psychoactive compound – and there is evidence to suggest that its effect can in some respects be complementary to that of THC itself. According to Steep Hill Labs, THCV has a more energetic and active effect than THC, and also appears to counteract the “couch-lock” effect of the monoterpene myrcene.

Studies on THCV demonstrate that it has strong potential as a means of treating obesity-related glucose intolerance in diabetics, as well as having marked anti-inflammatory effects. It also shows that THCV has the ability to significantly reduce seizure activity in rats, similarly to CBD, which indicates its value as a target of research for disorders such as epilepsy.

A study published in the American Journal of Botany in 2004 tested landrace populations from across the world to determine their cannabinoid content and ratios. THCV was found to be present in all varieties, with higher concentrations in feral C. indica populations originating in central/southeast Asia and southern Africa.

In another study conducted in 1973 by the pharmaceutical company Syntex, one South African strain is found to have THCV levels of a staggering 53.7 percent!