When I was introduced to cannabis over five decades ago, I was really only interested in one cannabinoid: Δ9 Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. The primary cannabinoid responsible for intoxication or “getting high”. It is what I’ve learned in the ensuing years that has developed my passion for, and interest in, the cannabis plant.
My fascination comes from the myriad of changes that occur in the plant and its range of cannabinoids. THC actually begins as THCA (tertrahyrdocannabinolic acid), which itself is derived from cannabigerolic acid (CBGA). When we apply some heat through a process called decarboxylation, the THCA molecule is transformed into THC.
The THCV Molecule
What does this have to do with the question of the day: “What is THCV?” Well, the THC molecule looks very similar to the THCV molecule, but THCV has a slightly shorter hydrocarbon chain than THC. The path to THCV is also different, beginning with cannabigerovarinic acid (CBGVA). It still requires decarboxylation for the transformation to THCV but its boiling point is lower than THC.
Our endocannabinoid system provides the entry for cannabis in our bodies through two primary receptors: CB1 and CB2. It is the location of these CB1 receptors in the brain that allows THC to give us that intoxicated feeling.
THCV’s Effects at Different Doses
THCV exhibits biphasic behaviour meaning it has different effects at lower doses than it does with higher doses. At low doses, THCV acts as a CB1 antagonist, making it more difficult for THC to bind with the receptor and thereby reducing the intoxicating effect. It is the inhibition of these receptors that makes part of the focus for research on appetite control. This is why many refer to cannabis with significant amounts of THCV as “diet weed”.
At higher doses, THCV is an agonist that shares the same receptors as THC so it can contribute to a shorter but more energetic high. Slightly higher doses of THCV may assist in the regulation of blood sugar levels which could have implications for insulin therapy in the future. In addition, THCV has been researched for anti-inflammatory properties and its ability to reduce anxiety.
Now that we have a bit of a foundation of THCV and its effects, the next question may be: “Where can I get some THCV?”
A Google search for “Cannabis cultivars with THCV” returns over 90,000 results so there are a lot of options out there. Honestly, until we have readily accessible cannabis in Canada with significant amounts of THCV, much of what we discuss will remain theoretical. Following are some high THCV cultivars:
- Durban Poison – this was the number one result for most searches. Originating in Durban South Africa, Durban Poison is effective at suppressing appetite along with the energizing focus of a sativa. THCV concentrations of 1%.
- Doug’s Varin – purported to be the highest THCV strain available today. A family of strains with THCV concentrations from 3% to 6%.
- Pink Boost Goddess – sun grown to stimulate THCV production – purported to contain over 4% THCV.
- Pineapple Purps – dubbed a “super sativa” for its energetic, euphoric and low-anxiety effects. It has a high THCV concentration of over 4%.
As a layperson, reading the documentation and research on THCV can be a bit daunting. As a cannabis enthusiast, I’m excited by the new discoveries about the cannabis plant and the many effects of its cannabinoid components. I’m especially excited about what we may learn about THCV and its many effects. As more THCV rich cultivars hit the consumer market, more anecdotal stories will emerge of the impact they are having at both low and high doses.