Anyone who has ever wondered why people dry and cure marijuana before smoking it or using it to make edibles will know after reading this. The reason for the drying and curing process is simply to turn tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, the non-psychoactive compound called THCA, into tetrahydrocannabinol, the more famous psychoactive molecule known as THC.
THCA is the natural precursor to THC in cannabis plants. Prior to its conversion into THC, THCA is found in abundance in both live marijuana plants and freshly cut harvests. Despite its similarity in name, THCA is not nearly as trippy as one would expect. In fact, THCA is just one of many cannabinoids in marijuana plants, and it is non-psychoactive, which means that it will not make you stoned.
THCA only converts into THC after decarboxylation, which is really just a word that describes the process that occurs when you smoke a joint. As we all know already, THC is the chemical constituent that gives an euphoric high after smoking or ingesting it, but THCA, on the other hand, does not have such mind-altering effects. However, as the most potent cannabinoid in cannabis, it is powerfully therapeutic.
Marijuana plants produce THCA up until the moment of harvest or death, at which point, all THCA in the plant goes through a chemical process that converts it into THC. The longer it dries and cures, the more THC it will contain, and the more psychoactive it will be. If you know the difference between these two chemical constituents, you will have a much easier time understanding your way around a dispensary.
Because of federal prohibition of marijuana, researchers have limited capacity to study the marijuana plant. However, studies do exist, and some of them provide crucial insight into both the role and capability of THCA as a valuable therapeutic target for an array of medical conditions. People have recognized marijuana’s medical potential for centuries, and now, more states are legalizing its use.
THCA is a cannabinoid found only in living marijuana plants, and because it only exists in its pre-decarboxylation form, it is even more potent than THC, but without any of the psychoactive effects typically associated with it. Existing studies on THCA suggest that its medical value includes the following health benefits:
THCA is a neuroprotective agent. This means that it can both protect against some of the worst neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and help to treat the condition itself.
As a cannabinoid, THCA is among the most powerful anti-inflammatories of them all. It can treat inflammatory diseases, such as lupus and arthritis, and alleviate swelling, redness and other symptoms.
In numerous studies, THCA displays powerful anti-proliferative properties, which means that can aid the fight against prostate and other cancers.
Additionally, THCA inhibits inflammation-causing COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes in colon cell cultures.
This cannabinoid is also antiemetic, which simply means anti-nausea. THCA can effectively treat gastrointestinal issues, including vomiting, nausea, and even loss of appetite.
Scientists are still uncovering all the benefits of THCA. Research is still necessary and currently underway to identify every possible use for it. As researchers continue to study this cannabinoid in the future, more information will become available about its medical properties and the conditions it may be able to prevent, treat, and perhaps one day even cure.
As mentioned above, THCA is the chemical precursor to THC. Found in living and freshly cut marijuana plants, THCA naturally converts into THC after harvest. It is possible to speed the conversion process up significantly simply by exposing buds to light, heat, or vaporization. This is the process of decarboxylation, and it changes the cannabinoid’s carboxyl groups.
The moment you ignite, cook, vaporize, or leave cannabis out to dry, the carboxyl disappears, along with roughly 30 percent of its weight. Both THCA and THC are medically beneficial, but the main difference between them is their psychoactive effects. If you are consuming THCA online marijuana for medical reasons, it should not matter much. However, if you specifically want to get high, then only THC will do it for you.
The vast majority of pot consumers have never experienced the effects of THCA, as it is only present in raw and fresh marijuana flowers. Most users smoke, cook, or vape weed, which means they only experience the effects of THC. However, despite THC and THCA being different forms of the same molecule, this difference can cause immense confusion deciphering the results of laboratory testing.
The law requires all marijuana sold in dispensaries anywhere in the United States to undergo laboratory testing for purity and potency. Despite this testing being required, however, there is no universal standard for it. This means that the moment two different laboratories use two different methods of testing, confusion reigns supreme.
Most laboratories use one of two common testing methods, though. They are gas chromatography, or GC, and high-performance liquid chromatography, or HPLC. Under gas chromatography, testers use heat to speed the decarboxylation process and turn the THCA into THC so that they can label the psychoactive value of the strain’s potency.
However, studies have proven the method of gas chromatography unreliable. They show that as much as 70 percent of THCA does not convert into THC during this method. For this reason, anyone smoking, cooking or vaporizing the product may experience more effects than the lab-tested potency would imply. High-performance liquid chromatography attempts to eliminate this discrepancy.
HPLC uses a more refined formula that allows the laboratory to consider both the levels of THCA and THC. The most common formula for this method is: (%THCA) x 0.877 + (%THC) = THC Total. This formula promises a more accurate reflection of the actual potency contained in the marijuana flower. However, there are other possible confusions to be aware of too.
In some cases, under the assumption that weed will be vaporized, smoked, or combusted anyway, the entire quantity of THCA may be inaccurately labelled as THC potency. Even if people do smoke, vape, or bake it, there will likely always be some THCA that fails to convert and therefore does not enhance its psychoactive effects or the potency of them.
It is for this reason that this type of laboratory reporting is extremely inaccurate, misleading, and outright confusing. Whenever you purchase marijuana from a lab-tested dispensary, always be cognizant of the method used for detailed reporting of potency and cannabinoid content. Labels are not always reflective of the product’s actual contents, despite extensive testing in a laboratory.
Your choice of THCA or THC will depend on your specific individual needs and preferences. If you want to feel stoned afterward, then you will need THC. If feeling high is not your motivation and you are using marijuana for medical purposes, then it may be wiser to forego THC and consume THCA instead. You should base your decision on whether you enjoy the high or not.
Because you cannot smoke, cook, or vape THCA without converting it into THC, those wanting to take advantage of the medical value of THCA should consume marijuana fresh and raw. To do this, simply juice fresh cannabis flowers to enjoy the benefits of THCA without the high. However, the psychoactive effects of THC have medicinal value, as well, particularly for those using it to fight pain and anxiety.
Regardless of whether you actively want to get high on THC or just take advantage of all the medicinal properties of THCA, it is imperative that you are aware of the discrepancies between laboratories and their reporting methods, particularly if you are shopping for marijuana at a lab-tested dispensary that labels its products accordingly.
John Levy is a blogger for Pot Valet, a leading weed delivery service provider. John is a cannabis supporter and supports its legalization for medicinal purposes. You can follow Pot Valet on Google+, Twitter, and Facebook.
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