Get to Know THC-A: The Powerful Precursor of THC

get to know thca

At this point, pretty much anyone who has any interest in the potential benefits of cannabis is well aware of what THC is. It’s the most significant cannabinoid of them all, and it gives the cannabis plant many of its most impressive qualities. But what many people don’t know is that there is actually no THC in raw cannabis flower.   

That’s right — cannabis does not contain any delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol when it’s in its raw flower form. What it does have is THC-A — the precursor to the world’s most famous cannabinoid. 

THC-A is abundant in cannabis, and now, it’s becoming available in dispensaries all over, thanks to a newly legal method of concentrating it using hemp. But what is it exactly, and what benefits might it offer?

It’s always a good idea to learn all you can about new cannabinoid products before giving them a try. To help you do that, we’ve created this comprehensive guide to all things THC-A. It offers all the basics on this fascinating chemical compound as well as the answers to a variety of common questions like “What does THC-A stand for?” and “Does THC A get you high?” 

What Is THC-A?

THC-A, or tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, is one of the well over 100 cannabinoids found in the hemp and cannabis plants. It is the precursor to Delta-9 THC, which is the cannabinoid primarily responsible for the high cannabis offers, as well as some of the potential therapeutic effects it is known for. 

This cannabinoid is among the most abundant in the cannabis plant, as it is one of the two compounds created as a result of the breakdown of CBGA, also known as cannabigerolic acid or “the mother of all cannabinoids.” The other resulting compound is CBDA, or cannabidiolic acid, the precursor to CBD.

Although it is found in minimal amounts, THC-A is also present in the hemp plant. Methods have been developed to extract and concentrate THC-A using legally cultivated hemp, which helps make any products containing THC-A concentrates legal as well. At least, it makes them more widely legal than recreational cannabis currently is. 


You know that they’re closely related and that one is the precursor to the other, but beyond that, what’s the difference between THC and THCA?

THC and THC-A are identical in terms of their chemical structure, except for the extra carboxylic acid group in THC-A. This relatively small difference accounts for some significant discrepancies between the two compounds, and those differences are focused primarily on how consuming them might affect you.  

THC is renowned for the euphoric high it provides, and while you won’t get any of that from consuming THC-A, you may be able to enjoy more incredible therapeutic benefits from THC-A than THC in some areas. Research into the cannabinoid’s ability to help the body respond to inflammation yielded fascinating results, as did a study into its neuroprotective qualities

Additionally, while one of the original applications of medicinal cannabis may have been THC’s power to treat nausea in chemotherapy patients, THCA may be the more effective nausea-fighting compound. Both have been shown to provide this benefit, but a study of the two found that THCA was capable of reducing nausea symptoms in rats at lower doses than THC.

What Does THCA Do?

Cannabinoids tend to offer a startling array of potential benefits for people looking for relief of all kinds. While research is still being conducted into the scientific validity of the various anecdotal evidence regarding these unique chemical compounds, there have been plenty of encouraging results. 

What potential benefits does THCA offer, and what does the research say about them? We’ll look closer at the answers to these questions and more in this guide. 

Is THCA Psychoactive?

THC-A is so closely related to Delta-9 THC that it is easy to imagine it offering all the same psychoactive effects. But while it is true that it is almost exactly like Delta-9 THC, that carboxylic acid group makes all the difference. 

This acid group alters the way THC-A interacts with the endocannabinoid system, making it non-psychoactive. In other words, THC-A will not get you high the way THC will.

If THC-A were psychoactive, people might just eat their cannabis in a salad rather than smoking it or cooking it into edibles. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, so extra steps are needed to achieve those desired effects. 

Heat must be applied to THC-A for that carboxylic acid group to break off and allow the compound to convert into psychoactive THC. This process is known as “decarboxylation.” 

When you light a bowl, hold down the button on your vape battery, or heat weed at low temperature in the oven to make edibles, you are converting the THCA in your cannabis to THC through the process of decarboxylation. 

Products like tinctures and edibles contain active THC that has already been decarboxylated, which is why you can simply eat them and enjoy their effects. 

THC-A Effects

There are various potential effects of THCA, regardless of whether you decarboxylate it into psychoactive THC or not. Unconverted THCA will not get you high at all, but it may be able to offer you several beneficial effects.

Increased Relaxation

Much like some other cannabinoids, such as CBD, THCA may have the ability to help you feel more relaxed and at ease. While some people state that they enjoy this benefit from THC, the intoxicating effects of cannabis can limit the times and places where you’re capable of enjoying it. THCA allows for that potential relaxation without any impairment. 

Discomfort Relief

Research into the ability of THCA to relieve physical discomfort is ongoing, but some studies point to the cannabinoid’s potential for such an effect. We previously mentioned the research that determined THCA may help the body respond to inflammation

Inflammation can cause various forms of physical discomfort, including joint aches, muscle soreness, and more. THCA’s potential to reduce it may mean that it can lessen your physical pain. 

Positive Mental Support

The ability of THCA to protect the mind has not only been researched, but it has also returned some fantastic results. A 2017 study published in the National Library of Medicine looked at the mind-protecting abilities of six different cannabinoids and found that “THCA shows potent neuroprotective activity.” 

Nausea Relief

Like a few other cannabinoids, THCA may have the ability to ease your stomach when you’re feeling queasy. In fact, it’s speculated that THCA may be even more effective than THC and other cannabinoids at providing this helpful benefit. 

Treating Seizures

There has been a fair amount of research into the ability of various cannabinoids to provide anticonvulsant effects, and the results for CBD were so positive that it earned its first FDA approval for an epilepsy medication called Epidiolex. Research into similar capabilities from THCA has returned some positive results as well. 

Other Effects

If you were to heat up an indica strain of  THCA cannabis to the point of decarboxylation, you would then open the door to an array of other effects, such as a sense of euphoria, increased relaxation, altered perception, a stimulated appetite, and more. 

If the strain of THCA cannabis were a sativa, you would experience many of the same effects, along with some decidedly different ones. Sativas are known to provide a burst of energy and creative thinking rather than the sedative, relaxed feeling Indicas are known for. 

How to Take THC-A Cannabis

Are you curious to give  THC-A a try but not exactly sure where to start? There are several ways to enjoy this remarkable cannabinoid. Find out how exactly each of those ways works and the advantages each of them offers. 


You can inhale your THCA cannabis in one of two ways — smoking or vaping. Smoking is the most traditional method, and it has stuck around for as long as it has because it offers a gratifying overall experience that other consumption methods can’t quite provide. Vaping is far newer but is already incredibly popular, thanks to its convenience and extra discretion.

The flavor profile provided by a vape is also a big bonus. Because it doesn’t burn anything, you don’t lose terpenes or get an added smoke flavor to your hit, which means you can get a real taste of the fantastic flavor profile your THCA cannabis has to offer.

Another significant benefit of vaping is its ease of use. Smoking requires you to procure a pipe, bowl, bong, or some rolling papers, along with a lighter, while vaping requires just the vape pen and a charger to ensure it has enough battery when you need it. 


If you are not interested in inhaling your THCA, you may want to consider picking up some edibles instead. These products are THCA-infused treats like chocolates, caramels, and gummy candies. They’re super convenient, extra potent, and absolutely delicious.

Rather than entering your bloodstream through your lungs, edibles enter through your digestive system. This route may mean that you’ll have to wait a bit longer to enjoy your experience, but it also means the experience will last longer, and it can be more potent. 

With edibles, it’s essential to keep in mind that the effects take longer to kick in. New users commonly assume they haven’t taken enough and take more to compensate, only to have the original edibles kick in, leaving them with an unpleasantly potent experience. 

Always give yourself an hour to determine whether you need to up the amount you take.


A tincture is essentially liquid THCA. It’s composed of concentrated THCA oil combined with a carrier oil (most often MCT) to give it a more desirable consistency. These products offer the most incredible versatility of any mode of THCA consumption. 

There are three different ways to enjoy a tincture: drop some beneath your tongue, add some drops to a recipe or favorite drink, or apply it topically for targeted relief. 

When you drop a tincture beneath your tongue — known as taking it “sublingually” — you absorb the THCA tincture directly into your bloodstream, meaning you’ll feel the effects as swiftly as possible.

Adding the tincture to a recipe or favorite drink can create an instant THCA edible. Keep in mind that if you’re baking THCA edibles, decarboxylation can happen when it is heated. 

When you use your tincture as a topical, you can target specific parts of your body needing THCA relief, which is quicker, more convenient, and often even more effective than smoking or eating your THCA.


While tinctures can be used as topicals, that isn’t necessarily their primary intended function. If you want something specifically designed to provide targeted THCA relief, you should consider a cream, a balm, or a lotion.

These THCA-infused products can be applied to the skin in problem areas, where they will be absorbed right into the bloodstream so they can go directly to work. THCA topicals can also offer the added benefit of moisturization and the infusion of other beneficial ingredients like vitamins, essential oils, and more. 

Medical Marijuana Cards From Texas 420 Doctors

THC-A, a non-psychoactive cannabinoid in raw cannabis, offers potential anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, antiemetic, appetite-stimulating, and antispasmodic effects. It may also possess analgesic properties and show promise in inhibiting cancer cell growth. However, further research is needed to fully understand its medical applications, and legal regulations vary by location.

At Texas 420 Doctors, we put your health before all else. Our team of healthcare professionals can work with you to determine the perfect medical marijuana plan to meet your specific needs. We can provide you with a professional consultation and point you toward the resources you need to make informed decisions about your health.

If you think cannabinoid products may be able to improve your quality of life in any way, reach out today to book an appointment. We can help determine whether you qualify for a medical marijuana card. If you do, we will guide you through the process from there with expert advice and recommendations.  

Contributed and published by: Texas 420 Doctors
Published Date: January 30, 2024

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