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THCV: "superhero" with possible health effects


There is still much to discover in the field of cannabinoids. Different cannabinoids behave differently when it comes to how they interact with the body through our endocannabinoid system. Today, we're going to look at one of the most well-known minor cannabinoids - THCV, which could be a promising substance in promoting weight loss.  Does the name remind you of the well-known THC? But THCV, which is not to be confused with THC, is coming to the fore due to its unique properties and potential to help with disease. As curiosity drives us on, let's explore this phytocannabinoid in this article.

What is THCV?

Tetrahydrocannabivarin, or THCV, is a phytocannabionide discovered in 1971 by Frans W. H. M. Merkus. Subsequently, it was found that some indigenous African sativa varieties in particular have a high THCV content in cannabis plants.

The cannabis plant produces more than 140 different cannabinoids, of which CBD and THC are among the best known representatives. However, other cannabinoids, such as THCV, are also of interest. What is particularly interesting about THCV is its mode of action, which we will explore in more detail later in the article.

THCV can be said to be similar in some ways to other cannabinoids, as it is produced in the trichomes of the cannabis plant. And like its chemical brethren, THCV starts out as the precursor (base substance) of the cannabinoid CBGV-A. With the help of enzymes, CBGV-A is converted into THCV-A (tetrahydrocannabivaric acid) and other cannabinoids.

The cannabinoids in cannabis occur in their acidic form, i.e. as acids. It is only by decarboxylation, a chemical process of decomposition, that the carbon dioxide molecule is released (split off). This occurs naturally under the influence of sunlight and this process will hasten the heating of the plant material.

The spectrum of effects of cannabinoid acids is not the same as that of cannabinoids. This can be seen clearly in the example of THCA, because, unlike THC, this acid does not have a psychoactive effect.

Table: Basic information on THCV

Name

Tetrahydrocannabivarin, abbreviated THCV

Chemical formula

C19H26O2

Related molecular structure

THC, but with a different effect

Occurrence

Found in high concentrations mainly in African sativa varieties

Anticipated potential effects

Suppresses appetite, regulates blood sugar, anticonvulsant, stimulates bone growth

Promising health benefits

Obesity, diabetes, epilepsy, Parkinson's disease, schizophrenia, anxiety and depression

Boiling point during vaporisation

220 °C

Endocannabinoid system: How do cannabinoids work in the human body?

We've known about cannabinoids for a while, but it wasn't until the 1980s that we really started to figure out how they work in the body. Thanks to the discovery of the innate cannabinoid receptors that make up the endocannabinoid system, scientists were finally able to advance our understanding of the physiological effects of cannabinoids from cannabis.

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) regulates important bodily functions such as immunity, sleep, mood, digestion, hormone balance and more. Our body produces its own endocannabinoids that bind to CB1 and CB2 receptors. As it turns out, cannabinoids from the cannabis plant can also bind to these receptors. And it is in this way that they can cause changes in physiological function. 

Take THC, for example, which binds to CB1 receptors in the brain and produces a characteristic state that is associated with, for example, changes in time perception, euphoria, a feeling of relaxation, changes in appetite, changes in memory and coordination.

Another well-known cannabinoid, CBD, also integrates with CB1 receptors, but in a different way and without psychoactive effects. CBD prevents other substances from activating the receptor. It thus essentially regulates the effects of THC, for example, by creating a barrier to THC binding to the CB1 receptors.

Potential effects of THCV or when dose affects action

Let's now take a closer look under the microscope. It seems that THCV also acts as a CB1 receptor blocker (antagonist) at low doses. In short, it means that it suppresses the effects of THC. In contrast, at higher doses, THCV becomes an agonist of the same receptor, so it can produce similar effects to THC. 

In other words, THCV can make the effects of cannabis either more or less intense, depending on the dose. This implies that in a sense it combines the effects of THC and CBD, albeit in somewhat different ways.

Some users have described their experiences as feeling a sense of alertness and clearer thinking. The relaxing effects are also one of the reasons among users for reaching for the substance. 

Apart from this, other possible effects are also reported:

  • appetite suppression
  • stimulation of metabolism
  • faster or slower perception of time
  • different perception of sounds, music and colours
  • positive effect in type 2 diabetes
  • anti-inflammatory properties
  • anticonvulsant (anticonvulsant) properties

Table: THCV and its possible therapeutic potential

Therapeutic potential and possible health benefits

What the study says

Link to the study

Appetite

THCV reduces appetite and increases satiety, but the exact mechanisms of action are still unclear. This effect is also attributed to CBD.

THCV could help with insulin resistance. In this research, mice suffering from either glucose intolerance or insulin resistance were treated with THCV. While the mice did not lose weight, they did have improved glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity

Diabetes

THCV could help with insulin resistance. In this research, mice suffering from either glucose intolerance or insulin resistance were treated with THCV. While the mice did not lose weight, they did have improved glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity.

The cannabinoid Δ9-tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) improves insulin sensitivity in two obese mouse models

Epilepsy

Scientists investigated the potential of this cannabinoid to reduce seizures in a rat model. The results suggest that THCV may be useful in treating pathophysiological conditions of hyperexcitability.

Δ⁹-Tetrahydrocannabivarin suppresses in vitro epileptiform and in vivo seizure activity in adult rats

Antipsychotic spectrum of action (disorders of thought and perception)

THCV has the ability to bind to 5-HT1A receptors. By influencing the activity of the 5HT1A receptor, improvements in some neuropsychiatric illnesses (schizophrenia, anxiety and depression) may occur. Cognitive abilities (learning and memory) may also be positively affected.

The phytocannabinoid Δ9-tetrahydrocannabivarin may act through 5-HT1A receptors to produce antipsychotic effects

Anticonvulsant properties and neuroprotective effects

Other studies are also looking at the possible anticonvulsant properties of THCV and its potential use in diseases such as Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis.

Studies suggest that THCV has the ability to suppress tremor associated with diseases such as motoneuron disease, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease.

Symptom-relieving and neuroprotective effects of the phytocannabinoid Δ9-THCV in animal models of Parkinson's disease

It must be said that further human clinical studies are needed to confirm the effects.

What types of THCV products are available?

You can already find oils, extracts, isolates, distillates and other cannabis products containing THCV in some e-shops.

Conclusion

We are constantly learning new information about the cannabis plant, and the cannabinoid THCV is one of the amazing recent discoveries. THCV can have similar effects to CBD and, depending on the dose, can also have similar effects to THC. 

As animal studies suggest, THCV has considerable therapeutic potential. However, much research is still needed to confirm the specific modes of action of the cannabinoid. 

Author: Patricie Mikolášová, translation AI


 

Photo: Shutterstock

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