For a while now, CBD and THC have been the cannabinoids bossing up to answer the demand for more holistic approaches to health and well-being. Very recently, cannabigerol (CBG) has been bringing it to the cannabinoid stage. So convincing are the therapeutic implications of CBG that breeders are hustling to produce high-GBG hemp flower strains. And farmers and manufacturers are scrambling to be the first to bring them to market.
But don’t worry … we are far from exhausting the types of cannabinoids the cannabis plant has to offer, nor the potential benefits those hemp extracts can impart. It seems likely scientists will be visiting the fountain of cannabinoids for decades in order to carry out the seemingly endless research and discovery that can be tapped into.
So, what else have you got, hemp plant?
Turns out there’s a whole parade of minor cannabinoids that the industry is hustling to find a way to learn more about and to make more of. CBG, CBC, CBN, and the impressive cannabinoid subject of this article—THCV, which stands for tetrahydrocannabivarin. The effects of this cannabis compound are on a mission, one that could potentially treat obesity, diabetes, Parkinson’s, and more.
What Is the THCV Cannabinoid?
So far, in cannabinoid science, THCV is an all-star. Sure, it’s considered a minor cannabinoid, but that’s because it’s so rare, not because it’s effects are unimpressive. Unfortunately, it only shows up in low concentrations in certain sativas. Aside from that, there’s nothing minor about THCV.
Fortunately, there are cannabis breeders (think and thank Oregon) that have been focusing on breeding minor cannabinoids for the last 15 years for medical marijuana. It appears that their R&D may be able to translate to hemp strains and farming hemp crops that could be rich in minor cannabinoids like THCV.
So why is THCV so special? Let’s take a look.
THCV vs. THC
Don’t let the names fool you. Although they sound similar, tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) is more than just one letter away from being delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). In fact, these similar-sounding cannabinoids are completely different molecules with completely different chemical structures.
Their differences start in how they are formed during the phases of the cannabis plant’s life cycle. THCV is derived from divarinic acid, in which, through a series of complex conversions, THCV is formed during the flowering stage. CBD and THC on the other hand, are formed through olivetolic acid. Oddly, THC is more closely related to CBD than THCV. Go figure. But such are the wonders of the hemp plant.
Is THCV Intoxicating?
THCV will not get you high like THC. Interestingly, though, it does have, only at higher doses, a clear-headed energizing, euphoric effect that comes on quickly and doesn’t last as long as a THC high. But you won’t have to worry about couch-surfing with a case of the munchies, though. In fact, the THCV compound has quite the opposite effect on appetite, which is one reason for a wide interest in its possible applications. But before we go into the benefits of THCV, let’s review some cannabinoid basics.
Cannabinoids are chemical compounds that have a wide range of therapeutic effects. They are produced in three main places:
- In plants, like cannabis (marijuana, industrial hemp). These are known as phytocannabinoids (THC, CBD, CBG, THCV, etc.).
- In the brain of all mammals (you, your dog, the insane squirrels in your yard). These are known as endocannabinoids (anandamide, 2-AG).
- In the lab. These are known as synthetic cannabinoids (dronabinol and nabilone).
Cannabinoids are molecules that interact with receptors found throughout the body. These receptors (CB1 and CB2), along with cannabinoids, make up the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS regulates things like sleep, mood, appetite, production of hormones, and immune and nervous system responses.
There are over 100 known phytocannabinoids, which can have a variety of effects while interacting with your ECS. THCV is one of the cannabinoids that produces an impressive number of health benefits, just doing what it was naturally designed to do.
The THCV Cannabinoid at Work
Just like CBD and THC, THCV works in the body and interacts with the ECS in a way that is similar to other cannabinoids, but distinct in its own unique way. At low doses, the THCV cannabinoid binds to and blocks the CB1 receptor and no psychoactive effects are produced. These blocking behaviors make it what is referred to as an antagonist in the cellular scheme of things. Interestingly, when doses are increased, THCV becomes an agonist of the CB1 receptor. When it’s being this agreeable version of itself, a very stimulating and clear-headed euphoric state occurs. This happens more quickly than with THC, but does not have its longevity.
It is the low-dose THCV, however, when it’s acting as an antagonist of the CB1 receptor, that produces some pretty impressive effects that could potentially treat a wide range of conditions.
What Is THCV Good for?
THCV is thought to have quite an array of medicinal applications. We’ve even asked the question if THCV could be an all-natural alternative to Metformin, a widely used anti-diabetic drug used to treat type 2 diabetes. While only you and your doctor could ever make such decisions, we believe it’s important to ask and discuss these possibilities, especially if they could reduce side effects and improve quality of life.
It’s important to remember that the majority of cannabinoid research has been preliminary. This means that it’s performed in the lab on animal models or human tissue. Human trials have been done with THCV, but much more are needed. Unfortunately, after nearly a century of cannabis prohibition in the U.S., science is still catching up and will be for a while. Fortunately, there’s so much to learn and look forward to about cannabinoid science.
That being said, the amount of anecdotal evidence suggesting that cannabinoids have real game-changing medical applications is likely unprecedented and should not be ignored.
If many parents of children with intractable forms epilepsy had waited for CBD to be tested in human trials, their children may not have survived. Some of them even moved to states where CBD was legal to be able to treat their children without being harassed by child services or being arrested. It’s true that CBD does not work in every case, but it has helped so many. And that logic doesn’t stand as an argument. It’s like saying we shouldn’t use chemo because it doesn’t work for every cancer patient.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who changed his mind about medical marijuana in 2013, admitted what many doctors, legislators, and average Joes admit once they see how cannabinoids can help patients.
“I was too dismissive of the loud chorus of legitimate patients whose symptoms improved on cannabis. … Instead, I lumped them with the high-visibility malingerers, just looking to get high.”
Thankfully, we’re moving past the stigma and our negative cannabis history and into a future that embraces the preventative health and therapeutic potential of cannabis. High-quality cannabinoids are known for their favorable safety profile, but there is so much more that can be learned from clinical trials. If they’re helping so many people now, imagine how we’ll be able to fine-tune cannabinoids with more substantiated human testing evidence.
The Potential Therapeutic Effects of THCV
THCV is believed to have benefits that may prevent and help with an array of conditions and diseases, including:
Managing diabetes: Studies have shown that THCV has the ability to regulate blood glucose levels. Through this, it could help reduce resistance to insulin.
THCV may help curb potential panic attacks: This is a condition predominant in patients who have frequent anxiety attacks and in PTSD patients. Unlike traditional prescription medications, the THCV compound is thought to do this without suppressing emotion.
Like other cannabinoids, THCV could prevent and treat Alzheimer’s: Alzheimer’s disease is associated with symptoms such as tremors, brain lesions, and poor motor control. Studies have shown that THCV improves these symptoms. Research is still in progress, though.
Feel it in your bones: THCV promotes the development of new bone cells. Because of this property, it is being studied as a treatment for osteoporosis and other bone-related conditions.
THCV exhibits antioxidant properties: Because of its possible neuroprotective properties, THCV may be a good candidate for treatment to delay the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and other neurodegenerative ailments.
Reduces swelling and pain: In a study by Bolonini et al., published in 2010, the research team found that THCV reduces swelling and pain in mice. These are two of the main symptoms of inflammation after exposure to inflammatory chemicals.
It has stimulant effects: As earlier alluded to, THCV gives an energetic and clear-headed experience in higher doses. This may be ideal for patients who suffer from sluggishness and lack of energy.
Other conditions that may be treated by THCV include:
- Chronic pain
- Opiate dependence
- Crohn’s disease
Can THCV Be Used for Diabetes?
We already know that type 2 diabetes is a manageable, even preventable, disease. However, these are no easy feats considering the host of lifestyle dynamics and medical conditions that can contribute to the development of diabetes. The endocannabinoid system (ECS) plays a huge part as contributor or inhibitor. It can work with or against the patient, depending on its regulation. The effects of THCV on diabetes, both in mounting anecdotal evidence and studies, point to this cannabinoid as a potential treatment and prevention for type 2 diabetes.
As previously mentioned, it is the low-dose THCV, acting as an antagonist of the CB1 receptor, that produces the effects beneficial to type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes patients. THCV has been found to be well-tolerated in clinical studies with diabetes patients.
THCV for Glucose Intolerance
A 2013 study discovered that THCV improves insulin sensitivity in obese mice. Researchers observed the following metabolically beneficial effects:
- Reduced glucose intolerance
- Improved glucose tolerance
- Increased energy expenditure
- Improved liver triglyceride levels
- Increased insulin sensitivity
Based on their data, researchers concluded that THCV may be used to treat metabolic syndrome (pre-diabetes) and/or type 2 diabetes.
Another study in 2016 found similar results. Looking at the efficacy and safety of THCV on type 2 diabetes patients, researchers discovered that THCV:
- Significantly decreased fasting plasma glucose
- Improved pancreatic ß-cell function
- Improved levels of other proteins affecting glucose and good cholesterol
- Was well-tolerated in patients and no new safety concerns were found
They concluded that THCV could be a new treatment for glucose control in patients with type 2 diabetes.
THCV for Weight Loss
THCV does not produce those infamous “munchies” THC is known for. Quite conversely, THCV reduces hunger. As a CB1 antagonist, THCV acts as an appetite suppressant and reduces food intake, resulting in weight loss. With obesity being one of the greatest risks for type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes, this cannabinoid could help prevent and treat these diseases, and address obesity in general.
THCV to Prevent Oxidative Stress
Oxidative stress is increased in diseases like diabetes. The body has more toxins to clean and clear from the body. The cascade of inflammation causes eventual cell death. This demands another process of healing which puts greater demand on an already weak body.
THCV has anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and has been shown to reduce inflammation and swelling in animal models.
THCV’s Real Potential to Treat Diabetes
There is more and more evidence proving that cannabinoids like THCV have therapeutic properties. THCV could have a real effect on quality of life for people who have or who are on their way to developing type 2 diabetes. Diabetic burn-out is a real condition that often cause patients trying to manage diabetes to give up.
If we continue to educate ourselves about this natural way to treat and manage diabetes along with diet and exercise, we could make THCV accessible to the patients and potential patients in order to prevent it. With THCV, it may be possible to regulate the ECS and make it work for our health and well-being.
How to Use THCV
Hemp-derived THCV is not yet widely available for consumer purchase. At The Hemp Haus, we are working with breeders and chemists to curate our own line of tinctures and raw hemp flower high in some of these incredible and rare minor cannabinoids. We hope to have a high-THCV tincture in the near future. Tinctures are hemp extracts in oil that are taken orally, usually sublingually to get into your bloodstream more quickly through glands in your mouth. When available, you’ll be able to use THCV daily, adding it to your full or broad spectrum CBD regimen to really round out the synergistic power of your cannabinoids and the entourage effect.
Why Go Full Spectrum?
With the full spectrum cannabinoid experience, you get the pure extracted oil of the hemp plant that contains unmodified cannabinoids and compounds. This means it contains an array of cannabinoids, vitamins and minerals, fatty acids, flavonoids, and terpenes.
Choose full spectrum for what experts in cannabinoid science call the “entourage effect.” When all these cannabinoids and whole-plant players are presented together, they work synergistically to optimize relief and well-being.
Full spectrum CBD is what we choose when we want the most holistic, maximum form of relief.
Broad spectrum gives you the whole plant, but without the THC. We now have broad Ananda Hemp Broad Spectrum CBD available in softgels at The Hemp Haus.
Quality Matters Most
As you probably already know, cannabinoids are known to have a good safety profile with minimal and tolerable side effects, when experienced. But that can only be said for high-quality cannabinoid products.
Recently, there have been some scary media pieces about CBD and liver toxicity that do not always give the whole picture. A few studies in animals and humans have shown that very high doses of oral forms of CBD may cause liver toxicity. These doses are drastically more than would usually be therapeutically recommended. If you’d like to learn more about this, please read our article, Can CBD Oil Cause Liver Toxicity?
We are also troubled by the unfortunate situation in the vape industry. At The Hemp Haus we continue to believe that vaping as a form is a safe, effective, clean way to get CBD and beneficial hemp actives into your system. This is why we can’t insist enough that consumers only use high-quality, reputable, proven products that are completely transparent about their sources, ingredients and manufacturing processes. Never use black market CBD, hemp, or cannabis vape products.
While industrial hemp-derived cannabinoids are legal, they are not currently regulated by the FDA. This means that the quality assurance of the product is left up to the manufacturers. Transparency of a cannabinoid product is very important for several reasons. Here’s just one very important reason: Industrial hemp is a bioaccumulator, which means that it will absorb heavy metals and chemicals from the soil. In some countries, like China, farmers will plant a crop of hemp to clean out their soil, and then sell the tainted hemp to be used for CBD.
You can learn some quick, simple tips here that will ensure you are getting only high-quality cannabinoid products.