What is THCV?
THCV is one of the few psychoactive cannabinoids in cannabis (alongside THC). However, it's thought to be less psychoactive than THC.
What's so special about THCV?
THCV might be useful in the treatment of diabetes and obesity. It might do this by increasing insulin sensitivity in those with dietary-related obesity. This quality makes it of particular interest in diabetes, a disease that's nearly reached epidemic status worldwide.
What are some strains high in THCV?
You'll find THCV primarily in African landraces like Durban Poison, and also in the Skunk family. Skunk #1 has the best THCV concentrations in the Skunk family but its descendants are thought to have higher THCV concentrations, too.
Remember when we thought cannabis was just cannabis? Then, between the 40s and 60s, we realised there’s cool stuff in cannabis — like THC and CBD. But since opening that proverbial can of worms, we’ve discovered that cannabis is way more than just THC and CBD. The more we pick apart the cannabis plant, the more constituents we find.
Now, we happen to know that cannabis has over 400 chemical constituents.
THCV is one of those chemical constituents, and specifically, it’s a cannabinoid. We’re still just learning about this miraculous, psychoactive cannabinoid. But what we’re learning about is promising — potential applications in diabetes, obesity, epilepsy, and osteoporosis.
In general, cannabis contains smaller amounts of THCV than it does of other cannabinoids like CBD and THC. Nonetheless, there are multiple strains with high THCV content (which we’ll also be covering in this article).
On top of that, folks, it’s important to remember that cannabis is complex. Just because a certain strain has a high amount of THCV, doesn’t mean that those characteristics will dominate the effects. Rather, it’s about how the different ratios of cannabinoids interact with each other that creates the overall cannabis effect.
So in this article, we’re honing in on THCV, its sciency stuff, its benefits, and some of the strains you can try with high THCV content.
Let’s get started.
What is THCV?
We thought it best to get the sciency stuff out of the way first. So to start with, THCV is a cannabinoid found exclusively in the cannabis plant. Its chemical formula is C19H26O2, which is very similar to the chemical structure of THC.
THCV joins THC as one of the few psychoactive cannabinoids. That means that yes, it does get you high.
THCV is considered a major phytocannabinoid, alongside THC, CBD, CBN, and CBG.It is among the most abundant cannabinoids, but cannabis still typically yields less THCV than CBD or THC.
How it works in the endocannabinoid system
Although THCV looks almost exactly the same as THC in terms of chemical structure, the way it interacts with the endocannabinoid system is quite contrary. For example, while THC is a weak partial agonist of the CB1 and CB2 receptors, THCV is a CB1 and CB2 antagonist.
Well, what does that mean?
A receptor agonist is one that binds to the receptor and through doing so, activates it and produces a biological response. Therefore, when THC binds to the CB1 receptor, it partially activates it, and produces a biological response. THCV does the opposite at the CB1 receptor; when it binds, it dampens the activity of the receptor and therefore lessens the biological response.
It’s for this reason that THCV might mitigate some of the negative effects of THC, although it is also psychoactive.
Beyond the endocannabinoid system, THCV is also thought to act on the 5HT1A receptor. It is a subtype of serotonin receptor, and it’s thought that through this receptor, THCV has antipsychotic actions. We’ll elaborate on this more when we talk about the therapeutic potential of THCV.
As is always the case with cannabinoids, THCV’s story is complex. Many theorize that THCV mitigates negative effects of THC, but the way it does that is somewhat complicated. As we mentioned, it antagonizes the CB1 receptor (which is the opposite to THC), and it may dampen THC’s effects thi way. But we also know THCV is psychoactive, so other mechanisms might be at play, such as its behaviour at the 5HT1A receptor. In one study, the researchers theorized that THCV’s actions are generally dependent on the presence of other cannabinoids, as this generates competition at cannabinoid receptors.
As we can see, THCV’s role in the endocannabinoid system is extremely intertwined with the concept of the entourage effect. That’s to say, we can look at what THCV does in a petri dish. But once we introduce that to the human body, alongside the many other chemical entities found in cannabis, it seems to behave differently. Welcome to the complexity of cannabis.
The potential therapeutic uses of THCV
One of the most common therapeutic uses you’ll see throw around about THCV is that it is appetite suppressing. But that’s not entirely true. It is currently being researched for its potential in the treatment of obesity, but not because it’s appetite suppressing. In one murine study, researchers found that THCV didn’t really affect weight gain or food intake. However, it did produce a transient increase in energy expenditure. It also reduced glucose intolerance in a dose-dependent manner, and increased insulin sensitivity in subjects with dietary induced obesity.
So - it’s not that clear cut.
For the same reasons we just mentioned, THCV might also have a role to play in the treatment of type 2 diabetes. As type 2 diabetes is characterised by an insulin insensitivity, THCV’s potential to increase insulin sensitivity makes it of particular interest in the treatment of diabetes.
When it comes to anxiety, THCV might also have something to say — but it’s not exactly clear what. It has been touted as a good remedy for panic-attacks, but so far, science has just confirmed that it does not have anxiogenic properties (i.e., it doesn’t produce anxiety).
There is a lot of faith in THCV as a target for epilepsy. It is actually considered to be one of the four anti-epileptic cannabinoids alongside CBD, THCA, and CBDV. In one scientific study, researchers were able to demonstrate the antiepileptiform potential of THCV in vitro, as well as in vivo in murine subjects. Epileptiform are brainwaves that resemble those of epilepsy, suggesting that THCV might help to prevent the onset of seizures, or the frequency of them.
As we previously mentioned, THCV might also have antipsychotic effects. This is especially interesting considering that it is also psychoactive. However, it doesn't exert its anitpsychotic effects through the endocannabinoid system, but through the nervous system. In this study, researchers found THCV to have antipsychotic effects thanks to its actions at the 5HT1A receptor. This receptor has to do with serotonin release, which plays an important role in mood and mental health.
Finally, though not fully understood, THCV might have beneficial effects on bone production, giving it potential uses in osteoporosis. This hypothesis stems from the concept that the endocannabinoid system plays an indirect role in bone formation, and several cannabinoids have been implicated in this hypothesis.
Where can I find THCV?
You might have decided by this stage that THCV is something you want to get your hands on. It’s one of those cannabinoids that’s usually only found in trace amounts in strains, and therefore doesn’t usually show up on lab tests. At this stage, most research is taking place using isolated THCV, that can then be administered in specific doses.
However, THCV might typically show up in African landraces. It’s also generally thought that THCV typically shows up in sativa strains, but especially the landraces.
Durban Poison is one example of an African sativa landrace that is loaded with THCV (P.S., My Supply Co stocks Durban Poison in its store).
If you’re searching for a bigger variety, you can consider strains with African landrace genetics. So, for example, any strain that is a descendant of Durban Poison, such as Durban Cheese or Cherry Pie, theoretically might contain higher levels of THCV than other strains.
Skunk #1 is also a strain high in THCV, and we know that Skunk #1 has parented many strains such as Lime Skunk and Chocolate Skunk. So these strains are also more likely to contain higher levels of THCV.
It’s going to be a while before we have THCV tinctures like we do with THC and CBD. In fact, the last decades of cannabis breeding focused almost exclusively on maximising THC and CBD production. As we learn more about different cannabinoids, cannabis breeding might evolve to maximising cannabinoids like THCV, too. But for now, this cannabinoid is under the microscope more than it is anywhere else.
Have you tried Durban Poison or other high-THCV strains? We’d love to know your experience. Let us know in the comments!