What is THCA?

Cannabis plants produce a variety of cannabinoids, although not all of them are psychoactive. It could be a real bummer to hit a cannabis joint and sit expecting a high that will never come–and sometimes, it’s not because your favorite dispensary is dealing you blanks. Your edibles might just have more THCA than THC.

Many organic molecules obtained from plants are only available in their inactive precursor forms. Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, or THCA, is the precursor molecule an acidic form of the more psychotropic tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that induces the high you experience after hitting your favorite Blue Dream edibles.

Here’s more on what THCA offers and how it differs from any other compound in cannabis.

Photo of fresh cannabis buds and storage jars.
THCA is different from other psychoactive cannabinoids.
Source: Wesley Gibbs unsplash

What is THCA?

Cannabis plants produce about a hundred cannabinoid compounds. You must be familiar with the more popular cannabinoids CBD and THC, but they are simply end-products in a long chain of cannabinoid synthesis.

THCA–tetrahydrocannabinolic acid–refers to one of the primary cannabinoids produced by the cannabis plant when it synthesizes its terpenes. As we stated above, it is not psychotropic, meaning that you will never get the expected high from a THCA-infused product. On the other hand, THCA retains some of the properties of THC, as research studies have shown that THCA can still be used to treat conditions like seizures, anorexia, and inflammations.

THCA is just one step away from THC’s chemical compound. The process of converting THCA to THC is called decarboxylation (‘decarbing’), and exposing THCA to direct sunlight or heat can convert it to THC. In other words, lighting up your weed joint can activate the THC, especially if the buds are still fresh.

Since THCA is a precursor in the cannabinoid series, your best bet for getting it is from raw cannabis plant material. Cannabis leaves, flowers, and buds contain lots of THCA when they are plucked fresh. Any later you will be getting increasing levels of the more psychoactive THC in your extracts/infusions.

Does THCA Produce a High?

So you’re on your date with Mary Jane, over three hours in, and still no high. Well, now you know better than to expect psychoactive effects from consuming THCA.

Short answer; no, THCA will never produce a high, so long as it’s just THCA you are consuming. Why? Your endocannabinoid system is responsible for interactions with cannabinoid compounds. The cannabinoids bind to receptors distributed across several organs in your body including your brain, digestive canal, and blood.

Now, the cannabinoid receptors in the brain are called CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are where THC molecules bind after being consumed, whether via smoking or eating cooked or baked edibles, causing the stimulatory ‘high.’ CB2 belongs to cannabidiol (CBD); so when you take in high CBD strains like Harlequin Medical, you get into the desired relaxed state.

In contrast, THCA doesn’t fit into any of these receptors because it is a carboxylic acid. Generally, drug molecules have to fit into receptors at their target sites to elicit any effect there; since there are no cannabinoid receptors for THCA in the brain, it cannot generate psychoactive effects like THC and CBD.

Well, the long answer: if you leave your THCA product–whether THCA diamonds or THCA powder–lying around, you’re bound to get some THC in it. Especially when the infusion is where sunlight gets to it. So whenever you choose to take your ‘THCA’ product, you could get a lot more than you bargained for.

How Powerful is THCA?

Except for the absent psychotropic effects, THCA has pretty much the same effects as THC. Some studies suggest that it has neuroprotective properties, so THCA would be instrumental in treating neurodegenerative diseases like Huntington’s disease and stroke.

Other effects of THCA include:

  • Anti-inflammatory activity.
  • Reduce seizures and tremors.
  • Treat medical conditions like colitis and diarrhea.
  • Cancer treatment, due to its cytotoxic activity.
  • Appetite loss (anorexia).

As you already know, THCA converts to THC when it is heated, so it might be tough to get THCA from smoking weed blunts. The heat will decarb the THCA, and you will get the intoxicating properties of THC in the mix.

How to Get Pure THCA Extracts

So how do you get pure THCA extracts? By juicing raw cannabis products. Juicing gets you the natural components of fresh marijuana plant material before their THCA changes to THC. That way, you get the health benefits of cannabinoids without having to deal with their intoxicating properties.

However, recent studies have shown that THCA can even decarboxylate at temperatures as low as 4 to 18 degrees Centigrade and from passive exposure to direct light. This means that there are no means of juicing or storing pure THCA extracts–your THCA products will always have some THC in them! The question is how much?

Side Effects of Taking THCA

THCA infusions and edibles have different percentages, and the higher the percentage of THCA, the more therapeutic effects you will get. Since you cannot get high on THCA, the side effects will only range between nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and dizziness, although even these can present in very severe forms.

Even though you can’t get high on THCA, there’s the chance that your THCA concentrates might decarboxylate while you are heating them to form THC. This is one of the reasons it is advisable to start with low levels of THCA before moving to higher percentages. If the THC gets activated before you finish with your THCA diamonds, you will most likely experience the psychotropic effects of THC on the side.

Overall, THCA doesn’t produce a high and is not as powerful as THC, but there are still risks of taking THCA overdose amounts and decarboxylation to consider. Start with small THCA percentages, then increase them as you can accommodate.

What is the Hype About THCA?

THCA has been at the center of news among cannabis users since research uncovered even more benefits of the cannabinoid. Since it has zero psychoactive properties, THCA is quite the choice for medical cannabis prescriptions.

Modern medical practices in some parts of the US have legalized the use of cannabis as an addition to the treatment regime for several medical conditions. From alleviating neurological pain in stroke and post-surgical procedures to reducing inflammation, medical practitioners have started to see the therapeutic potential of cannabinoids.

THCA is a superior treatment choice to the other popular cannabinoids (THC, CBD, and CBG) because of its lack of intoxicating effects. Since it doesn’t interact with brain receptors, THCA cannot cause addiction, hence making it significantly more appealing for use in disease treatment.

Forms of THCA Extracts

Now, it is difficult to get pure THCA infusions because most of the processing stages cannabis passes through would have activated the THCA to THC. But here are some other infusions that make THCA available for users.

  • THCA Diamonds

THCA diamonds are high-quality cannabis distillates containing very high levels of THCA. Diamonds are excellent dab choices, as they require only a little heat to release their cannabinoids. The heat you need to melt the diamonds is not enough to decarboxylate the THCA, so you still get the beneficial effects without getting high.

  • THCA powder

The THCA powders are not as pure as their diamond counterparts. The powders are obtained by grinding the unheated cannabis plant material and crystallizing it into fine green powder. They can be heated but you get the therapeutic effects even more when you use THCA powders sublingually or orally.

  • THCA crystalline

The THCA crystallines are the purest form of extracted THCA, achieving over 99% purity. They melt at lower temperatures than THCA diamonds and can be vaporized for the best results.

THCA flowers are another form of THCA infusions common in the market today. They look like regular hemp-derived products, but they are more like THC concentrates. Smoking THCA flowers activates THC by decarboxylation, resulting in intoxication.

Close-up photograph of cannabis gummies.
Smoking is not the only way to take cannabis. Definitely not the best way to take THCA.
Source: Elsa Olofsson unsplash

Is THCA Better Than Delta-8?

Delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol, or simply Delta-8, is arguably the most popular compound in cannabis and one of the most potent synthetic cannabinoids. Still, they are all derived from THCA, and they differ in molecular structure from THCA in that they are psychotropic.

As for which is better, that will depend significantly on what you want from the cannabinoids. If you want the high from Delta-8 products, you can get THC concentrates–edibles, weed buds–and enjoy the Delta-8 experience.

Or better yet, you can get THCA products and activate the THC by heating them. Heating Delta-8 products directly could destroy some of the cannabinoids in the concentrate. But THCA simply gets converted to other THCs post – decarboxylation.

On the other hand, if you need the beneficial effects of cannabinoids without the intoxicating high, THCAs are your best choice.


EffectsTHCA products don’t have any psychoactive properties, so they can produce any high.THC infusions and edibles are responsible for the high you get when you smoke weed or take edibles.
PotencyTHCA products are a far more potent source of cannabinoids since heating them releases even more active forms of THC.THC infusions are quite potent, but they can’t be compared with their THCA counterparts.
Legal statusTHCA products don’t require medical cards in most states in the US but the situation on them is pretty dicey.THC concentrates are still banned at the federal level, but some state laws allow over-the-counter sales of THC.
AvailabilityTHCA has gained more recognition recently, so you’re more likely to find more THCA diamonds and crystallines in weed dispensaries.THC concentrates are still popular among marijuana users, although state and local laws might affect their availability in most regions.
SourcesTHCA is formed in the growing cannabis plant and is available in the freshly harvested plant parts.THC is obtained from heating THCA, a process that decarboxylates THCA and forms the psychoactive compound.
Chemical StructureTHCA is primarily a carboxylic acid. It’s carboxyl group prevents it from binding to either of CB1 or CB2 receptors in the brain.THC is an alcoholic form of THCA. Their molecular structure differs because of a single carboxyl group attached to THCA.


Sometimes, you just want that bit of cannabinoid that gets you on a relaxed ‘high’ after a long day/week. Other times, you’d wish you didn’t have to deal with the psychoactive effects of your Purple Elephant cannabis buds.

Well, THCAs take care of your cannabis needs without the extra burden of getting high, especially at the wrong times. Using THCAs is also a win-win; in case you really do want to follow through on your date with Mary Jane, all you need to do is heat the THCA infusion, and voila! Your reality is about to shift.

At Growers Choice, we deal in the best marijuana seeds for your cannabis farm. Check our new arrivals and popular seed strains here and take your cannabis cultivation a step further in quality today.

Picture of a cannabis bud at the apex of the plant.
The experience hits best when you get your cannabis plant parts right from your garden.
Source: Esteban López unsplash


  1. What is THCA?

THCA refers to tetrahydrocannabinol acid, a precursor cannabinoid molecule produced in cannabis plants. It can be gotten pure from fresh cannabis plant extracts and heating THCA gives you THC.

  1. Can THCA produce a high?

THCA is popular for its lack of psychoactive properties. As long as you are taking pure extracts of THCA and you aren’t heating them, you can’t experience any intoxication since THCA doesn’t interact with the brain.

  1. What are the biological effects of THCA?

Taking THCA can offer relief from pain in neurological conditions, inflammatory diseases, and gastrointestinal conditions like colitis and diarrhea. THCA also has a cytotoxic activity that makes it useful in cancer treatment.

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