Author: Luke Sholl
THCV is one of over 100 cannabinoids produced by the cannabis plant. Scientists are currently probing the molecule for potential therapeutic effects. Research is still early, but the cannabinoid has displayed some interesting properties so far. Get to know THCV below!
THCV—or tetrahydrocannabivarin—is a close relative of THC, and it shares a similar molecular structure. Both cannabinoids bind to CB1 receptors of the endocannabinoid system. THCV and THC work as agonists of these receptors, meaning they increase the rate of firing. CB1 receptors are located throughout the central nervous system and are associated with the psychoactive effects of cannabinoids. However, unlike THC, THCV exerts a dose-dependent effect on these receptors.
Low doses of the cannabinoid actually block CB1 receptors and may inhibit the psychoactive effect of THC. In contrast, high doses appear to activate these sites and produce a psychoactive effect. The “high” produced by THCV is different than that of THC; effects don’t last as long and are more stimulating and lucid.
THCV also targets CB2 receptors of the endocannabinoid system. These sites are found throughout the immune system and appear to play a modulatory role in models of inflammatory diseases.
THCV is a minor cannabinoid in most cannabis cultivars. However, it appears in relatively large quantities in certain South African cannabis chemotypes. Breeders have also managed to selectively breed strains that possess 16% THCV by dry weight.
THCV still holds many untapped secrets. We’re in the early days of cannabis science, and human trials are needed to paint a clear picture of THCV’s effect. For now, we have to rely on animal and cell research as clues to the molecule’s potential. Let’s check out some possible side effects of THCV, then review the latest research.
We don't know much about the effects of THCV in humans. Therefore, science is still unfamiliar with possible side effects. Because THCV can activate CB1 receptors at high doses, it makes sense that it could share some of the potential side effects of THC. These include anxiety, paranoia, dry mouth, red eyes, short-term memory loss, increased heart rate, and slowed reaction time.
It won’t come as a surprise to hear that THCV seems to hold therapeutic potential. Every cannabinoid studied thus far appears to show promise in one arena or another. THCV is no exception, and early research shows the cannabinoid may help with appetite suppression, seizures, inflammation, and neurodegenerative diseases.
THCV may act to promote weight loss by suppressing appetite. THC is famous for its appetite-stimulating properties, and while this mechanism might be of use for some conditions, THCV can be used to achieve the opposite. By blocking CB1 receptors, THCV reduces feelings of hunger. This suggests the cannabinoid could be of future use in regards to eating disorders. Furthermore, the molecule may help to burn fat. Research has shown that THCV can reduce body fat while boosting energy expenditure in mice.
Researchers state that the endocannabinoid system is known to play a significant role in the regulation of body weight and metabolism. Phase I human trials are currently being performed to determine the safety and tolerability of THCV.
THCV also appears to produce anticonvulsant effects. The molecule may join the ranks of other cannabinoids—namely CBD—in treating disorders such as epilepsy. Early research published in the journal Epilepsia tested THCV against a seizure model in rat brain tissue. The cannabinoid significantly reduced activity associated with epilepsy. The researchers concluded that THCV could be used as a possible therapeutic when treating hyperexcitable states.
Animal studies have found THCV to possess both anti-inflammatory and painkilling properties. A 2010 study administered the cannabinoid to mice to test its effects on hind paw swelling. The researchers found that THCV was able to decrease pain and ease inflammation, possibly by activating CB1 and CB2 receptors.
THCV also poses as a potential treatment for neurodegenerative diseases. Upon administering THCV to animal models of Parkinson’s disease, researchers concluded, “Given its antioxidant properties and its ability to activate CB2 but to block CB1 receptors, Δ9‐THCV has a promising pharmacological profile for delaying disease progression in PD and also for ameliorating parkinsonian symptoms”. Researchers also consider the CB2 receptor to be a promising pharmacological target for neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Therefore, THCV may prove to be a treatment option in the future.
THCV occupies somewhat of a grey area when it comes to the law. The molecule isn’t widely recognised or prohibited specifically, but it is illegal by default in various places. The Psychoactive Substances Act in the United Kingdom bans any substance capable of producing a psychoactive effect, thereby criminalising THCV. The United States government doesn't specifically classify THCV as a Schedule 1 substance. However, “Marijuana Extract” is considered illegal at the federal level, making possession of THCV illegal as well. Despite federal law, cannabis is legal in many states throughout the US. Here, individuals can purchase high-THCV products from legal dispensaries.