What Is the THCV Cannabinoid and Should You Try It?
Like many people, right now you’re probably asking yourself, what is THCV? Well, the little-known cannabinoid actually boasts many possible benefits.
But if that’s true, then why haven’t we heard about it before? Right?
Unfortunately, because THCV is considered a minor cannabinoid (meaning it’s usually found in low concentrations in the Cannabis sativa plant) and is difficult to use in large quantities, thus far it's just hitched a ride with other cannabinoids into products like CBD oils. But thanks to the rising popularity of CBD and a few of the other hundred or so cannabinoids, more attention is being paid to those little-known hitchhikers.
Since we’ve recently covered CBG (cannabigerol) and CBN (cannabinol) in past articles, it’s only fair that we branch out to a few of the other lesser cannabinoids that we include in our broad spectrum CBD formula and/or our full spectrum products. Which, as usual, probably leaves you with many questions such as:
- What is THCV?
- What does it do?
- Is THCV the same thing as THC?
- Is THCV legal in the US?
- Does THCV have any side effects?
- Does it get you high?
- What kind of cannabinoid is THCV?
- How does THCV interact with your endocannabinoid system?
What is THCV?
Tetrahydrocannabivarin, THCV, is just one of the over one hundred cannabinoids found in the Cannabis sativa plant. Yes, that means that like CBG and CBN, THCV is the latest cannabinoid to step into the spotlight. So what exactly makes this particular cannabinoid so special?
Well for one, like CBG, THCV has a very close molecular structure to THC (just as the name suggests). Also like CBG, THCV can interact with both your CB1 and CB2 receptors, as we’ll dig further into below. While THCV has many proposed health benefits, unfortunately, many studies that aim to answer the question “what is THCV” are still in their infancy. That being said, the studies performed on rodents have displayed some promising results.
THCV is considered a minor cannabinoid because it is found in lower concentrations than the other major cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD. While genetics play a part in determining the ratio of cannabinoids in a particular strain of Cannabis sativa, the best way to know if a particular product contains THCV is to look at the label and verify with the company’s ISO-certified third-party lab test results, or Certificate of Analysis.
What Does THCV Do?
A number of studies have suggested that THCV, despite its similarity to THC, interacts quite differently with your body. Rather than give you the munchies, it may actually result in appetite suppression and weight loss. And rather than mellowing you out, it is often reported to give users a burst of energy. However, it is important to remember that the above mentioned studies have only been completed with rodents, and human trials have not yet occurred.
Nonetheless, THCV does seem to have in common with most other cannabinoids that people use it to relax and relieve stress.
Of the studies done involving THCV, none have pointed to any major side effects. But if you were to go looking for a THCV extract, or Cannabis sativa products high in THCV, you would likely be disappointed that they’re not very common, and the few that do exist are quite expensive.
THCV vs. THC: Does THCV Get You High?
While THCV does have a similar molecular structure to THC (minus a longer hydrocarbon chain), and therefore contains some psychoactive properties, you would have to consume an abnormally large amount of THCV in order to get high. What this means is that while it’s included in a majority of common CBD products, the THCV content is far too low to get you high.
THCV also differs from THC in how it interacts with CB1 receptors. While THC activates the CB1 receptor (often stimulating your appetite), THCV actually blocks it (leading to appetite suppression). THC is well known for using the CB1 receptor to create a psychoactive reaction known as a “high,” but some preliminary studies show that THCV may in fact counteract the psychoactive properties of THC.
Is THCV legal in the US?
Yes, thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, THCV is not a prohibited substance on the federal level so long as it comes from industrial hemp rather than marijuana.
In fact, both our broad spectrum CBD products as well as our full spectrum CBD products contain a small amount of THCV. There isn’t enough of it in our current products to yield the sort of results that appeared in studies (so don’t use our products as weight loss pills or anything), but its presence supports the entourage effect that contributes to whole-body wellness.
What Are Cannabinoids?
In simplest terms, a cannabinoid is a chemical substance that joins or otherwise interacts with the cannabinoid receptors in your endocannabinoid system. Regardless of origin. Yes, that means that cannabinoids are not only found in the Cannabis sativa plant but can actually be manufactured by your own body. The difference being that the cannabinoids your body produces are called endocannabinoids (hence the name of the endocannabinoid system).
Those produced outside of your body, such as the cannabinoids derived from the Cannabis sativa plant are known as exogenous cannabinoids, or more specifically, phytocannabinoids. By definition, exogenous refers to something that grew or originated outside of an organism. In this case, that organism is you.
All of this is to say that your internal endocannabinoid system operates on a daily basis with or without the introduction of CBD, THC, THCV, or any other exogenous cannabinoid. On their own, cannabinoids are not bad or dangerous for you, they just affect how your body functions, and are largely responsible for helping you to maintain homeostasis as part of a negative feedback loop.
Try to think of homeostasis as a balance scale: when an internal or external factor is applied to one side, your body responds by creating the endocannabinoids needed to return the two scales to equilibrium. Only when one side of the scale changes does your body respond to balance it out. Exogenous cannabinoids can then be used as a way to help boost your natural endocannabinoids through the use of your body’s natural endocannabinoid system.
Some of the most popular phytocannabinoids used to help boost your endocannabinoid system include CBD, THC, CBN, and CBG. CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) are the cannabinoids that get the most press time, but that’s quickly changing now that more and more studies surrounding CBN (cannabinol) and CBG (cannabigerol) are being conducted. THCV may also rise to the ranks of one of the top five most well known cannabinoids, but only time will tell.
The Endocannabinoid System
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a complex network that allows your brain and body to communicate on a higher level. Made up of endocannabinoids, enzymes, and cannabinoid receptors, your ECS monitors and regulates everything from your mood and energy level to your sleep habits and immune system. Contained within both your central nervous system (CNS) and your peripheral nervous system (PNS), the ECS helps your body function on a day to day level.
But the ECS doesn’t just help us maintain homeostasis and function properly: it actually plays a key role in our survival as a species by telling us when to sleep or eat, experience the correct emotions at the right time, and even regulate your body temperature. Some scientists have even gone so far as to suggest that low levels of endocannabinoids can lead to clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CECD), otherwise known as ECS dysfunction, a circumstance in which your well-being starts to deteriorate.
The endocannabinoid system is a very, very busy physiological structure that functions at all hours of the day and night when needed, whether by using your body’s natural cannabinoids or those found in the Cannabis sativa plant, such as CBD and THCV.
CB1 and CB2 Receptors
At this point, we’ve mentioned CB1 and CB2 receptors quite a few times, so here’s a rundown on how they function within your endocannabinoid system and what their primary purposes are. Cannabinoid receptors are located all throughout your body and are split into two types: CB1 receptors, which are active almost exclusively through your central nervous system, and CB2 receptors, which are predominantly found within your peripheral nervous system.
Cannabinoids in turn can bond to either CB1 or CB2 receptors, and sometimes both. Depending on the type of cannabinoid receptor and the location of that receptor in your body, a particular cannabinoid can have varying effects.
Between your CNS (including the brain and spinal cord) and PNS (comprised of nerve fibers and immune cells), cannabinoid receptors function within your body by impacting your mood, appetite, immune system, memory retention, muscles, skin, respiratory system, and so much more. And their main job is to transmit information between your cells in regards to potential changes in your health and wellness, a.k.a. homeostasis.
So when it comes to questions like “What is THCV?” and “How will a particular cannabinoid affect me?” a large part of the answer can be found in determining which cannabinoid receptor(s) they bind to, block, or generally interact with. THCV, for example, interacts with both CB1 and CB2 receptors, but as we mentioned above, THCV binds with CB2 while it simultaneously blocks CB1 receptors.
In fact, one major reason that THCV can suppress appetite is thanks to its relationship with the CB1 receptors. Or more specifically, its ability to block said receptor. By blocking CB1 receptors, which are largely involved in stimulating the body’s appetite response, THCV is thought to actually suppress the body’s natural appetite signals.
Unfortunately, despite everything we know so far about the endocannabinoid system, cannabinoids, and cannabinoid receptors, there is still so much more to learn about the role these systems play within our bodies. So much so that we’ve barely even scratched the surface on what our endocannabinoid systems can do.
Endocannabinoids, a.k.a. Naturally Occurring Cannabinoids
Remember when we mentioned that your own body actually produces cannabinoids on a regular basis? Because your body only produces endocannabinoids on an as needed basis, and they have an exceptionally short half life, it can be difficult to judge a baseline for a person’s typical endocannabinoid levels.
While endocannabinoids are naturally produced all throughout your body, they don’t become active within your endocannabinoid system until they bind with a cannabinoid receptor. That being said, what we do know is that the two key endocannabinoids, or endogenous cannabinoids, that keep your body functioning are anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). Both of which have a special and significant relationship with your CB1 and CB2 receptors.
Anandamide is referred to as the “bliss molecule” because it is responsible for mood control, and interacts with your cannabinoid receptors in a similar manner to THC. Your body actually creates anandamide on an as-needed basis to help with mood regulation, binding with both your CB1 and CB2 receptors. However, anandamide has a stronger relationship with CB1 receptors. It is also quickly broken down once it’s served its purpose.
A 2015 study conducted on both mice and humans found that higher concentrations of anandamide may not only increase your mood but also help regulate your fear response. A 2020 study discovered that anandamide levels are also found to increase after exercise, giving some credence to the idea that exercise can actually improve your mood.
2-Arachidonoylglycerol, on the other hand, is the primary binding molecule for CB2 receptors and is the most abundant endocannabinoid in your body. 2-AG’s main responsibilities are pain management, appetite regulation, management of your immune system, and regulation of your circulatory and cardiovascular system.
For more information on how cannabinoids function within your endocannabinoid system or questions like “What is THCV?” keep an eye on our frequently updated blog. Interested in staying up to date on the latest CBD news and cbdMD’s upcoming special offers? Connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, or chat with someone live today!