Non-activated, non-psychoactive — but full of benefits
Within the cannabis plant lays a wide range of different chemical compounds, including terpenes and cannabinoids. Of the cannabinoids, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) and the most well known and well studied. And while millions use these two medicinally and recreationally every day, you may be surprised to learn that these compounds must undergo a chemical reaction before they can take their effects on the body and brain .
Raw cannabis, which consists of the iconic flowers, trichromes, and green-to-purple hues, contains cannabinoid acids. These acids are converted into the types of cannabinoids you are most familiar with through a series of biosynthetic steps.
This process begins with cannabigerolic acid (CBGA) and cannabigerovarinic acid (CBGVA), which have been called the “mother” cannabinoids . CBGA and CBGVA are formed through the synthesis of phytochemicals. Depending of the type of enzyme (THCA/CBDA synthase), these chemical precursors can be transformed into tetrahydrocannabinolic-acid (THCA) and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA), as well as several other acids. From there, through a process called decarboxylation (loss of carbon dioxide), THC and CBD are born.
Heat and UV light can be used to decarboxylate THCA and CBDA . The most common way to achieve this transformation is by lighting up the cannabis plant, a method that has been used for many, many years. Of course, if you are consuming a cannabis concentrate, all of this processing has already occurred before you’ve purchased your product.
One of the most important distinctions between non-activated cannabinoid and activated cannabinoids is their effects – while THC is psychoactive, THCA (and the other acids) are not. But these acids also contain a host of benefits, some of which are similar to that of CBD and THC and some of which are unique .
Preliminary studies on THCA have shown that this acid may be an effective anti-inflammatory, antiemetic, and neuroprotective agent; in fact, THCA may be a promising novel compound to treat Huntington’s disease [5-7]. Research on tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) has shown that it may be effective as an anti-obesity treatment, since, in stark contrast to THC, THCV appears to actually suppress appetite .
Cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) may have therapeutic potential in preventing the spread of breast cancer . Additionally, cannabichromenenic acid (CBCA) may possess antifungal and antibacterial properties .
We have a long way to go to better understand the potential of these non-activated compounds. For so many years, we heated cannabis to inhale its vapors or create concentrates without even considering its properties in raw form – but, now with renewed interest and advancements in cannabis science, we certainly will not let these the potential of these unique properties go up in smoke.
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