thc vs thca

Many cannabis consumers and hemp-derived product users already know THC and CBD. But some people, including those who have smoked weed for a long time, may not be familiar with THCA.

But what exactly is THCA and how different is it from other cannabinoids like THC? In this blog post, you will learn a few similarities as well as differences between THCA and THC.


A raw cannabis plant contains more than a hundred chemical compounds like cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. The most well-known of these are THC and CBD. Many cannabis users are acquainted with THC or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol because the cannabinoid is primarily responsible for the intoxication or high you get from marijuana plants.

But what about THCA?

Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid or THCA is one of the cannabinoids that you can find in raw cannabis, specifically among the trichomes of cannabis plants. THC, on the other hand, is the psychoactive version of THCA. Unlike THCA, you cannot find THC in freshly-harvested cannabis.

From a chemical standpoint, THC and THCA are quite similar, except for the fact that the latter has an extra carboxyl group. Essentially, THCA is the precursor of THC.

Recreational and medical cannabis users are already familiar with THC and its intoxicating effects. THCA cannot make you high. The underlying reason behind this key difference is that THC binds with the CB1 and CB2 receptors endocannabinoid system of the human body.

THCA molecules cannot bind with either the CB1 or CB2 receptors because of the shape of their molecules. And because of that, THCA cannot get you high like THC does.

Another important point of differentiation between THC and THCA is that a marijuana plant does not produce the former. Raw cannabis contains THCA which will be eventually converted to THC.

Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid and Other Cannabinoid Acids

THCA is just one of the cannabinoid acids a cannabis plant produces. There are eight cannabinoid acids and varinoids found in cannabis plants, including THCA, CBDA, CBCA, CBGA, CBGVA, CBDVA, CBCVA, and THCVA.

Of these cannabinoid acids and varinoids, THCA and CBDA are the most abundant in marijuana plants. THCA, in particular, accounts for roughly 90% of potential THC in raw cannabis.

The other acids and varinoids make up the remainder. Additionally, these cannabinoid acids and varinoids have no psychoactive properties. They do, however, have other beneficial properties, including antimicrobial properties. These chemical compounds also help protect cannabis plants by acting as an insecticide.

Like tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, these acids remain inactive in a marijuana plant until the decarboxylation process.

THCA to THC Conversion

A freshly harvested cannabis plant does not contain THC. Before you can enjoy the benefits of THC, THCA needs to be converted. So how exactly does that process happen?

The process of THCA converting into THC is called decarboxylation. Decarboxylation occurs when heat and light are applied to cannabis plants. Light and heat are essential for removing the extra carboxyl acid group from THCA. Other cannabinoids also benefit from the decarbing process, enabling them to bind with the endocannabinoid receptors in your body.

Once the extra carboxyl acid group is removed from THCA, it becomes possible for it to fit into the CB1 receptors.

Decarbing - How to Convert THCA to THC

Decarbing may sound like a complicated process that only trained and experienced chemists can perform. But if you have used THC products, you have converted THCA molecules into THC. Here are just a few ways that you can decarb THCA.

Exposure to sunlight

One of the easiest ways to convert THCA into THC is to expose raw cannabis to heat or sunlight. Allowing freshly-harvested cannabis to sit in a place with ample heat and light from the sun facilitates the transformation of THCA molecules into THC.

Room temperature storage

Another simple thing that you can do to convert THCA into THC is to just leave your marijuana plant in an area with a temperature of around 25 C.

Some cannabis consumers submerge cannabis in olive oil for about 10 days. With this method, over 20% of THCA is converted. If you swap olive oil with ethanol, you can convert over 60% of THCA into THC.

Smoking, vaping, and dabbing

Don't want to wait for the THCA to turn into THC? You can just smoke your fresh buds and allow the heat to do its wonders on the THCA. However, smoking isn't the most efficient way of THCA conversion.

Compared to smoking joints, vaping is more efficient. Additionally, the effects are more intense.

Alternatively, you can try dabbing which works best with THCA crystals. But be forewarned - dabbing doesn't bring out the flavor and aroma you might be accustomed to. This is because the extraction process involved in the creation of THCA diamonds strips away the terpenes and flavonoids. You can, however, bring in flavor by adding terpenes.


Consuming edibles is a straightforward way to enjoy cannabis. To enjoy the intoxicating effects of marijuana, you will need to decarb your cannabis first. For this task, you can use either oil or butter.

Next, take your buds and grind them on top of a parchment paper-lined baking tray. Set your oven to 110 C and bake your weed for about half an hour.

As you can see, it doesn't take much to get THC out of THCA. That is because tetrahydrocannabinolic acid is quite unstable and the chemical reaction that turns it into THC will happen with minimal intervention.

THC vs THCA - Comparing the Benefits

No discussion about THC vs. THCA will be complete without discussing the benefits the two offer. Apart from providing benefits like euphoria, relaxation, and mood upliftment, THC is well-known among cannabis consumers for helping in managing various medical conditions. But what about THCA? Here is a brief glimpse of the benefits of THCA.

Although clinical research and studies on THCA remain scant, many experts are optimistic about the potential benefits of THCA.

Brain protection properties

According to current studies, THCA may help in protecting the brain against diseases like multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, and Huntington's disease. Apart from that, the cannabinoid may offer some help in managing the symptoms of these conditions.

In one study conducted on mice, it was discovered that THCA can help prevent brain degeneration. However, these studies remain inconclusive and more work needs to be done to determine the efficacy of THCA.

Anti-inflammatory properties

There are many anecdotes from medical cannabis users that THCA has been particularly helpful in managing the symptoms of inflammation and joint pain. According to these stories, the build-up of THCA through daily use produces noticeable results, especially for people who have been dealing with joint pain.

Research shows that THCA helps limit the body's production of prostaglandin which is responsible for many inflammatory conditions. In another study conducted on mice, it was discovered that THCA may help in reducing liver inflammation which is prevalent in people suffering from fatty liver disease.

Anti-nausea benefits

Nausea is one of the symptoms typically associated with undergoing chemotherapy. According to a study, THCA and another cannabinoid known as cannabidiolic acid or CBDA may offer some help in that area. THCA may also help boost appetite.

Weight gain reduction

Experts suggest that THCA has the potential to be used in reducing obesity. And in turn, weight reduction could lead to the prevention of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and fatty liver disease. Additionally, it was discovered that the cannabinoid can aid in correcting issues like glucose intolerance and insulin resistance.

THCA side effects

Are there tradeoffs to the benefits of THCA? While current pieces of information regarding the adverse side effects of THCA remain inconclusive, anecdotes from cannabis users as well as preliminary evidence indicate that there are very few potential side effects that you have to worry about when using the cannabinoid.

Most of the potential risks associated with using THCA boil down to dosage. Simply put, the more THCA you consume, the more you are putting yourself at risk for side effects.

Additionally, if you are sensitive to THC, you are more likely to experience side effects like elevated heart rate, dry mouth, paranoia, and anxiety. You can counter these negative side effects if you ingest raw cannabis. As mentioned previously, heating THCA converts it to THC. And unlike THC, THCA does not make you high, especially if you do not subject it to heat. Eating raw weed is perfect for medical marijuana users who wish to enjoy the benefits without the psychoactive effects.

How Do You Use THCA?

Another key advantage of THCA is that you can use it in a variety of ways, from smoking to vaping and even cooking.

But aside from these, there are other ways to consume THCA without necessarily heating it. For example, if you don't mind the taste and texture of raw cannabis, you can eat it straight up. However, if the taste and texture of raw plant material bother you, you can add raw cannabis to smoothies, juices, and salads.

There are also quite a few THCA products currently available now, including THCA crystals and THCA tinctures.

One important thing to remember about consuming THCA that involves heating is that you will lose a significant amount of THCA. According to preliminary studies, heating cannabis will leave you with roughly 20% THCA.

What Is A Good THCA Percentage?

Buying a THCA product for the first time? If you happen to look at the labels of cannabis products, you will see different pieces of information, especially those regarding percentages.

Essentially, THC or THCA percentage refers to the potency of the product you are eyeing to buy. And the higher the percentage, the more potent the product is.

In the United States, manufacturers of cannabis products are required to all the cannabinoids. You will see percentages for the different cannabinoids like THC, THCA, CBD, and CBDA. This list is called a potency analysis which outlines the percentages of the different cannabinoids.

The potency analysis tells you how strong a cannabis product is. If you notice that a particular product has a low THC percentage, that doesn't mean that it is not strong enough. If you look closely, you will also see a THCA percentage. This usually hovers around 20% or more. And remember, THCA is converted to THC after decarboxylation.

You might also see Total THC on a product label. This refers to the total THC percentage by dry weight after the decarbing process. One important thing to note is that the THC and THCA levels might not add up because, during the decarbing process, you can lose a small amount of THC.

The total THC content of a product will depend on a few factors, including temperature and total time exposed to heat.

But what about THCA percentages?

When it comes to determining what's a good THCA percentage for you, it will all boil down to your preference. You may have to try different THCA percentages until you find one that works for you. Also, you need to take into account the fact that decarbing THCA will affect the total THC percentage you ultimately get.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the purpose of THCA?

THCA is one of the most versatile cannabinoids, offering several benefits both for recreational and medical marijuana users. Here are a few of the benefits that you can enjoy.

For starters, this cannabinoid is a neuroprotectant. This simply means that it can help relieve the symptoms of conditions like Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and multiple sclerosis.

Early research also shows that THCA has the potential of helping in the management of diseases and conditions like anorexia nervosa, cachexia, and obesity. Experts are also looking into the possibility of using THCA in slowing down the spread of cancer cells.

Will THCA get you high?

If THCA is the precursor to THC, is it possible to get intoxicated from consuming the former?

That depends on the cannabis product you are using. If you are smoking a joint, vaping, or dabbing THCA crystals, it is highly likely that you will get high as THCA is converted to THC.

However, if you are consuming raw cannabis for its THCA, it is highly unlikely that you will get high. Freshly-harvested marijuana plants contain a marginal amount of THC. Additionally, THCA needs to be decarboxylated before it makes you high.

There have been some theories that suggest that the human digestive system can convert THCA into THC. That may be possible, but again, highly unlikely. You may have to eat a huge amount of cannabis before you experience the effects of THC. Plus, the effects of that conversion, if possible, will most likely be negligible.

How do you dose THCA?

How much THCA do you need to consume before you enjoy its benefits?

According to some studies, you don't need to consume a high dose of THCA to get the health benefits the cannabinoid offers. Compared to THC, you will need a significantly lower dose. Some studies even suggest that THCA is more potent if you use an extract sourced from a whole plant instead of using an isolate.

However, be aware that there is limited information regarding THCA. And as such, getting an accurate dosage can be quite tricky. But looking at the available information, it is possible to conclude that small doses of the cannabinoid are more than enough to enjoy the benefits it offers.

Is THCA legal?

The passage of the Farm Bill of 2018 allows the sale of hemp products that contain 0.3% Delta 9 THC and below. To ensure that they follow existing rules and regulations and guarantee consumer safety, manufacturers adhere to strong testing protocols.

Looking at the molecular structure of THCA and Delta 9 THC, it is clear that these are two different cannabinoids. As such, it is legal to buy, sell, use, and ship hemp-derived cannabinoids within the United States. Under current laws, there is no mention of the ban on THCA.

However, THCA's legality at the federal level does not necessarily cascade down to the state level. In fact, there are a few states that have banned the use and sale of THCA. These include Hawaii, Arkansas, Rhode Island, Oregon, and Minnesota. On the other hand, if you live in an area where the rules and regulations of the Farm Bill are enforced, it is highly likely that you can buy THCA products.

Before buying THCA products, make sure to check with your area's existing laws on THCA. Be aware that laws can change and as such, you should err on the side of caution.

Buy THCA from a Trusted Source

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Our team is constantly on the hunt for quality products that are selected for their efficacy and quality. Currently, Apotheca offers THCA flowers and THCA concentrates from some of the most trusted companies. Browse our selection now and experience the benefits THCA offers.