Cannabinoids are a group of more than 100 compounds from the cannabis plant. THC and CBD are the most well-known cannabinoids. But there are many others, like tetrahydrocannabivarin, or THCV for short. If you’ve ever wondered what THCV is, we’ll explain everything you need to know in this article.
A Definition of THC-V
THCV is one of the lesser-known cannabinoids. However, it has several unique properties that have attracted the attention of consumers and researchers.
In particular, THCV has demonstrated the ability to reduce appetite, improve insulin sensitivity, and promote better body composition, all of which can be beneficial for weight loss.
This has led to THCV being labeled “diet weed” by some people. And while its potential positive effects on metabolic health are impressive, the compound also has many other fascinating properties.
Interestingly, while THCV has only gained significant attention relatively recently, it’s one of the most prevalent phytochemicals found in the cannabis plant by dry weight percentage.
Some of the ways researchers and consumers have investigated the effects of THCV include:
- Consuming high-THCV strains. African sativas are generally the highest in THCV. Durban Poison is a common high-THCV strain, while Doug’s Varin and Pineapple Purps were specifically bred to contain higher levels of THCV.
- THCV derived from marijuana. Because of the relatively high levels of THCV in marijuana plants, plant-based isolated extracts can be produced.
- Hemp-derived THCV products. For consumers in states where marijuana is not legal, hemp-derived THCV products may be preferable. While not a guarantee of state legality, products produced from hemp that contain less than 0.3% Delta-9 THC are federally legal under the 2018 Farm Bill.
Like CBD, THCV is commonly described as a “non-psychoactive” or “non-intoxicating” cannabinoid. But it’s not accurate to describe THCV as completely lacking in psychoactive properties.
In fact, depending on the dose, THCV is reported to:
- Improve focus and concentration
- Provide an energizing feeling of euphoria
- Boost creativity and motivation
- Minimize possible negative side-effects of THC, like anxiety and excessive hunger<.
What researchers are getting at when they label THCV as non-psychoactive, is that it doesn’t cause a similar intoxicating effect like THC or Delta-8 THC.
THCV works by interacting with the endocannabinoid system (ECS).
The ECS is involved in a wide range of neurological and bodily systems, including mood and emotions, energy regulation, appetite, and inflammation, just to name a few.
Two types of cannabinoid receptors that regulate the ECS: CB1 and CB2.
CB1 receptors are:
- Mainly active in the brain and responsible for the intoxicating effects of THC
- Also active in the cardiovascular system, where they can impact heart rate
- Present in muscles and the gastrointestinal system, influencing energy levels and hunger
CB2 receptors are:
- Thought to be less involved in the psychoactive effects of THC and cannabinoids
- Mainly active in peripheral tissues of the body
- Able to impact the immune system
Depending on the dose, THCV can have a wide range of actions on the ECS.
The effect of most interest to researchers is that THCV can simultaneously act as an antagonist (decrease activation) to CB1 and an agonist (increase activation) to CB2. In contrast, THC mainly increases activation of the CB1 receptors, having only a minor impact on CB2.
This means, THCV could potentially provide the health benefits associated with CB2 activation, while avoiding the intoxicating effect of activating CB1 receptors.
Furthermore, THCV could also be used in combination with THC to blunt some of the less desirable side effects of marijuana, like increased appetite, anxiety (for some people), and impaired memory. This might also explain why some users prefer high-THCV strains.
Over the past decade, THCV has been studied to examine potential therapeutic effects in several different areas.
The main areas of study include:
- Inflammation – Chronic inflammation increases the risk of many diseases
- Metabolic disorders – Such as type-2 diabetes
- Obesity – THCV may help by suppressing appetite
- Reducing negative effects of THC – When administered in combination, THCV reduces some of the anxiety and memory impairment caused by THC.
While there are promising findings from preliminary studies, it’s fair to say that THCV research is still in the early stages. Most experiments so far have either been done on cell cultures or in animals, with very few human trials being completed.
Before making any firm conclusions about the effects and potential benefits of THCV, large high-quality human studies will need to be undertaken.
Unlike THC, THCV seems to suppress appetite rather than stimulate it. So it’s no surprise that to date, the biggest interest in THCV has come from its potential as a therapeutic compound in the management of obesity and diabetes (hence the nickname, “diet weed.”)
Obesity and diabetes are conditions that impact the lives of millions of people across the globe. And there is a huge need for more effective treatments.
A 2020 review provided the following summary of the potential benefits of THCV.
- In mouse studies, THCV has been shown to decrease appetite and reduce obesity
- In rats, THCV reversed the appetite-stimulating effect of THC
- Further mouse studies demonstrated that THCV improved insulin sensitivity and decreased blood glucose levels
- Several studies found increased energy expenditure, reduced weight gain from excess calorie consumption, and better blood lipid profiles (cholesterol levels) in mice and rats given THCV
- A human study found patients with type 2 diabetes treated with THCV had significantly reduced fasting blood glucose levels and better pancreatic function
THCV is a fascinating cannabinoid with a range of potential recreational and therapeutic uses.
It’s one of the most prevalent phytochemicals in cannabis. And can be taken by consuming high THCV strains of marijuana, or via THCV extracts (both marijuana or hemp-derived).
Anecdotally, THCV is reported to produce a “clean” mental effect. This can include improved focus and concentration, an energized feeling of euphoria, and a boost in creativity and motivation.
Furthermore, THCV can reduce some of the negative effects of THC, such as increased appetite, impaired memory, and anxiety or paranoia.
Finally, health researchers have been studying THCV for over a decade for several unique therapeutic properties.
Unlike THC, THCV reduces appetite and has been found to decrease obesity in animal studies. Research also suggests it can improve insulin sensitivity, help manage type 2 diabetes, improve body composition, and reduce inflammation.
However, while the initial research on THCV seems promising, only a handful of small clinical trials in humans have been conducted so far.
At this stage, the compound appears safe. But more research is needed to fully understand its effects and therapeutic potential of THCV.