The world that we are living on, is very complex and evolve every nanosecond from the very first day especially in case of living organisms from mammals like humans to the smallest microbes and micro–organisms like Viruses and Bacteria which infect humans and animals from all types of illness and diseases, sometimes had a serious effect resulting in neurological and psychological problems.
So, it is imperative to discover and invent new medicines and techniques to save the humankind.
This is not a new dilemma, these type of situations were also faced in ancient times and to tackle them, researches and experimentations were also conducted and studied in many ancient civilizations like Greeks, Egyptians, Indians and Romans etc. Take Opium, in many ancient civilizations, people used them to induce sleep and give relief to bowels. It was also used as surgical analgesia (anaesthetic) to relieve from pain and induce sleep in patients and soldiers suffering from battle wounds. In ancient civilizations such as Greeks and Egyptians, it was also used in various religious ceremonies.
In modern era, because of various successful published researches and experimentation, people and most importantly, the government started considering the medicinal benefits of Psychoactive (Opioids), CNS (Central Nervous Stimulant) & Hallucinogen drugs.
After a sudden boom in the pharmaceutical and medical industry, the demand for opioid based drugs start emerging fastly and continuously.
In opioid, cannabis has a great demand and potential to explore and seek new variants and strains.
Here, we will be briefly discussing on Cannabis, especially its new compound called THCA.
For beginners, Cannabis is a genus (binomial name) of plant species native to Central & South Asia known majorly for its psychoactive components such as THC, Cannabinol (CBN) and Cannabidiol Acid (CBD). There are mainly three recognized species – Cannabis Sativa, C. indica and C. ruderalis.
All the recreational, entheogenic and medicinal properties that makes the cannabis what it actually is derived mostly through female cannabis plant due to their ability to produce high potent THC buds.
Male cannabis plants have low potency and have non–psychoactive compound for being used as a recreational drug, but it has medicinal properties too, due to the presence of non–psychoactive compound, they have therapeutic and medicinal properties, particularly to treat conditions such as treatment of anxiety and depression etc.
Males are mostly being used for pollination and breeding purposes apart from their medicinal properties.
In cannabis plants, there are total 113 identified cannabinoid compounds that are present in the plant such as: THC (Delta–9–THC), Cannabidiol (CBN) and Cannabinol (CBN) and Cannabidiolic Acid synthase (CBDA) etc.
Cannabinoids are the several structural classes of compounds in the form of carboxylic acid.
Cannabis–use has psychoactive effect due to its components; it has been used for recreational, entheogenic and medicinal purposes (used as traditional medicines) for centuries. It can be consumed by snorting, vaporizing, smoking, cooking with food (food containing cannabinoids), or as an extract of concentrated cannabis in alcoholic drink (Tincture of Cannabis).
In cannabis, Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the main psychoactive compound that is responsible for causing psychoactive effects resulting in various mental and physical effects such as changes in mood, relaxation, euphoria and altered state of mind and thoughts etc. It is one of the many compounds in the plant, including at least 65 other cannabinoids, such as cannabidiol (CBD).
One such compound that has gained significant attention among the researchers and amateur enthusiasts is THCA (Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid synthase), a precursor or parent compound called Tetrahydrocannabinol.
To understand it briefly, we have to first understand the concept of isomers.
So, Isomers are those chemical compounds that have same molecular formula but have different molecular structure resulting in totally different properties such as the change in location of the bonds.
Isomerism is the phenomenon in which more than one compounds have the same chemical formulae but has different arrangement of molecules or different chemical structure meaning, an event where the chemical formula of more than one compound remains same, only the structural change in the molecular level differs, then this event or phenomenon is called as Isomerism.
In the case of THC, there is a change in location of the double bond which result in two different compounds: Delta–9 Tetrahydrocannabinol and Delta–8 Tetrahydrocannabinol.
THCA is the acidic form of Delta–9–THC and is considered one of the most prominent intoxicating compound in cannabis.
Delta–8 Tetrahydrocannabinol is also derived from THCA and now, companies have been able to legally produce Delta–8 THC products from hemp plants (cannabis grown specifically for industrial or medicinal use), which by law must contain atleast less than 0.3% Delta–9 THC.
As the plants gradually started to mature and buds started sprouting, the content of cannabinoids and terpene (large group of unsaturated hydrocarbons), an organic compound begin to develop and gradually increases with the time and growth of the plant.
The first cannabinoid that the plant starts developing in early stages is CBG (Cannabigerol) known as – ‘mother of all cannabinoids’ also called as parent molecule from which all the other cannabinoids are synthesized. Cannabigerol is the decarboxylated form of Cannabigerolic acid. As the cannabis plant gradually starts developing, it starts converting most of the Cannabigerol into other cannabinoids, primarily in the form of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), THCA (Acidic form of THC), Cannabidiol (CBD), CBDA (Acidic form of CBD) and other cannabinoids, leaving just about 1% Cannabigerol that is required as per the conditions of the plant. The cannabinoids, then converted into non–acidic compounds through a process called decarboxylation only in the presence of heat or light, same as photosynthesis with the only difference is that, in photosynthesis, CO2 is being absorbed and O2 is released by the plant while in decarboxylation, O2 is being absorbed and CO2 is being released – reverse mechanism of photosynthesis.
On the other hand, Delta–9 Tetrahydrocannabinol has known for its highly potential therapeutic benefits, THCA is the non-psychoactive precursor to THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).
THC naturally occurs as Tetra–Hydro–Cannabinolic Acid synthase (THCA, 2–COOH–THC), a conjugate base of THC.
THCA is found in fresh, undried cannabis, but is progressively decarboxylated (chemical reaction that removes carbon atom from its chain and releases CO2) to THC mainly due to drying naturally or if it is subjected under intense heating such as smoked cannabis and cooking cannabis with food. THCA must be heated to create THC. THCA is highly unstable and volatile in terms of THC contamination even under controlled storage conditions which makes THC contamination in THCA nearly unavoidable. Even THC itself slowly degrades to CBN (Cannabinol), which has potential immunosuppressive and anti–inflammatory abilities.
THCA readily decarboxylated into THC due to exposure through light and heat which means the chemical gets activated through heat or light and starts converting itself (degrading) into THC in order to produce a feeling of ‘high’.
Uses of Delta–9–THC and THCA:
- Treating loss of appetite and loss of weight by stimulating the appetite in people suffering with HIV/AIDS and Eating Disorders such as Anorexia–Nervosa, Bulimia–Nervosa and Cachexia classified under ICD–10 & DSM–5 of Mental Disorders.
- Treating by controlling effects of chemotherapy–induced nauseas and vomiting in cancer patients.
- Treating sleep apnea that causes loud snoring (Sleep Disorder).
- Treating addiction from cannabis and, marijuana to some extent, as it has been showing successful results in terms of reducing craving and withdrawal symptoms.
- Helps as an analgesic medication and pain reliever through various research and experimentation for controlling chronic pain and relieve inflammation to control symptoms of various conditions such as arthritis and seizures etc.
- Helps in treating conditions gastrointestinal disorders like Colitis, IBS (Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome) and other IBDs (Inflammatory Bowel Diseases).
- Treating individuals with MS [THC & CBD in form of Nabiximols] to alleviate neuropathic pain, spasticity, overactive bladder, and other symptoms.
- Treating certain symptoms of MS (Multiple Sclerosis) and several other neurological diseases through cannabis extracts can be possible according to the strong evidence supporting its effectiveness through research conducted by the American Academy of Neurology (AAN).
- The research was conducted on medical effectiveness of marijuana which was successful and later confirmed that medical marijuana was effective in treating spasticity in MS and chronic pain, by managing certain short–term symptoms such as dizziness.
- There are researches being conducted whole over the world to see effectiveness of Cannabis Extract and THC and most of them has shown promising evidence for THCA to be an effective neuroprotectant (neuroprotective qualities) to treat rather complex neurodegenerative disorders such as: Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, Parkinson’s, Tourette Syndrome, Cervical Dystonia & other neurological disorders.
How THCA gets converted into THC and interacts with our body?
So, what happens to our brain is, when someone smokes bong, THCA content is already present in the cannabis and when we lit, the THCA interact with the heat to produce THC. This conversion alters the structure of THCA at a molecular level by removing a carboxyl ring (removal of carbon atoms from its chain and releases CO2). When THC molecules entered into the bloodstream and travels through all over in the brain (CNS), attaching itself to endocannabinoid (CB1) receptors located in the cerebral cortex, cerebellum, and basal ganglia in the brain that are primarily responsible for thinking, memory, pleasure, coordination and movement etc. resulting in producing the psycho–active effects in our body.
How THCA is different from THC is terms of inducing psycho–active effects?
THCA is a non–psychoactive component because of the fact that, THCA does not bind to CB1 receptors, the receptors have a high binding affinity (high degree of attraction) for only THC, so the subject will not experience any psycho–active effects and feeling when consuming it.
Like Methadone is said to be “Heroin without the High”, THCA is an inactive compound form of THC, so THCA is “THC without the high”.
THCA is often found in major quantities in cannabis resin concentrates (Cannabis Sap) weighing ~ between ≈ (approx.) 50%–90%, when producing drugs such as Hash (Hashish) and Hash Oil (Extract of Hash).