What is THCV (Tetrahydrocannabivarin)? Uses & Benefits

Area 52
September 06, 2021 | Blog

Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) is a cannabinoid compound found in cannabis and hemp plants.

It’s chemically similar to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) but with some key differences.

Here’s everything you need to know about THCV — including the risks, benefits, differences, and similarities with other forms of THC and more.

What Is THCV?

THCV is a less common cannabinoid found in some strains of cannabis, especially African sativa.

Technically speaking, THCV is a homolog of THC, which means it’s nearly identical to THC — it’s just missing two carbon atoms in its alkyl side chain.

THCV has a 3-carbon side chain rather than THC’s 5-carbon side chain.

This difference is subtle, but it has a noticeable impact on the effect profile.

THCV is somewhat psychoactive but only about 25 percent as strong as delta 9 THC and about half as potent as delta 8 THC.

Learn More: Differences Between Delta 8 and Delta 9

What Does THCV Feel Like?

THCV has a strong energy-boosting component to it, which makes it especially popular among students and athletes.

The psychoactive effects are very mild and much more cerebral than delta 8 THC. People using delta 8 described their feeling as more relaxed, having a strong sense of inner peace. With THCV, however, you feel alert, awake, and clear-headed. This cannabinoid has very little impact on headspace, which means you’re able to think and act normally, but may experience some perceptual differences.

Perceptual differences associated with THCV include: 

  • Slower or faster perception of time
  • Alterations in depth-perception
  • “Tunnel vision” effect (feels like you’re zoned into whatever you’re doing)
  • Colors appear more vivid
  • Sounds & music “feel” different

What Strains Are High in THCV?

Illustration of THCv chemical structure

THCV isn’t common in hemp or marijuana. Only a few specific strains contain THCV in concentrations over 1%.

This cannabinoid is highest in African landrace sativa plants, but even in these species, the concentration of THCV rarely exceeds 3%.

India, Nepal, Thailand, Pakistan, and western Africa are particular hotspots for THCV-rich strains. It’s unclear what biases these regions to produce plants with higher concentrations of THCV.

There’s a strain of marijuana called “Doug’s Varin” that’s being developed that reportedly contains THCV concentrations at around 6 percent — which is a long way off the 25 or 30 percent delta 9 THC in marijuana.

Is THCV Natural or Synthetic?

THCV is a naturally occurring cannabinoid in cannabis plants.

THCVA, a byproduct of cannabigerolic acid (CBGA), eventually converts to THCV when exposed to heat or light.

The process of extracting THCV requires the use of lab equipment, but there’s no synthesization process involved.

How Is THCV Made?

THCV products are made directly from cannabis or hemp plants.

Manufacturers extract THCV from the cannabis or hemp plant using a similar process as the one they would use to extract THC. This involves a process called chromatography, which separates different constituents of the plant based on their molecular weight.

While THCV products are less common than THC products, you can find many similar items containing THCV, like tinctures, tabs, vape carts, and pre-rolls.

Is THCV Legal?

THCV is not a scheduled drug in the United States, according to the Convention on Psychotropic Substances.

As such, it’s an internationally unregulated substance. Many countries differ in their treatment of THCV, meaning regulations vary depending on where you live.

In the United States, THCV regulation is nuanced. THCV is not a Schedule I Drug, but marijuana extracts are — making it somewhat ambiguous what the federal position is on THCV.

The 2018 Farm Bill states that hemp plants and all derivatives of the plants are legal on a federal level, so many companies abide by this law and still provide THCV to customers by only extracting the substance from hemp plants.

However, marijuana and THC are federally illegal in the United States. If THCV is considered a THC analog, it could be controlled in the future by the same rules as THC under the Federal Analog Act.

This act states that any substance that shares a similar molecular profile as a known prohibited substance — it’s included in the same drug Schedule classification. If THCV is considered a THC-analog, it would therefore be listed as a Schedule I drug.

With that said, THCV derived from hemp is currently legal in the United States. There are no indications the DEA seeks to change this and outlaw THCV. 

What Are the Effects of THCV?

Proponents of THCV report that it produces an intense burst of energy and makes them feel euphoric without the mental cloudiness caused by THC.

The effects are super mild compared to THC. The effects are almost exclusively cognitive — yet somehow have very little impact on headspace. It’s hard to describe — you think as though you’re sober, but you still feel the perceptual effects of conventional THC.

1. THCV & Focus

People often describe the acute effects of THCV as energizing, aiding their concentration, and boosting their productivity.

This cannabinoid creates what we consider a “tunnel effect.”

It feels like you’re extra tuned in to whatever you’re working on. We use it to enter a deeper flow state while working, studying, or exercising. It’s as if you’re in a tunnel, and the outside world is no longer able to distract you.

2. THCV & Appetite

Some THCV users claim that it curbs their appetite. This is a common effect of other focus-enhancing substances as well. It’s as though THCV removes the distraction of other bodily processes (like hunger) in order to preserve resources and attention to cognitive tasks instead.

How Does THCV Work?

Illustration of Endocannabinoid System and Human Body

Cannabinoids produce biological effects in the human body by interacting with endocannabinoid receptors.

The two primary endocannabinoid receptors are “creatively” named cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1) and cannabinoid receptor type 2 (CB2).

CB1 receptors are located in the nervous system and interact with neurotransmitters in the brain to produce mind-altering effects. Interaction with CB1 sites is what gives some cannabinoids — like THC — their psychoactivity.

THCV is a bit tricky to understand because it’s primarily a CB1 antagonist, meaning it has the opposite effect as THC. Yet somehow offers a similar psychoactive experience.

While scientists are still seeking to understand this process, it appears THCV is able to block the effects of CB1 in low doses and stimulate them in high doses.

CB2 receptors are found mostly in the immune system. THCV is a partial agonist of CB2, but the effects of this partial activity aren’t well-known, and it seemingly has no discernible impact on THCV users’ experience.

Will THCV Get You High?

Yes, but only in large doses. 

That may sound like a confusing answer, but, unfortunately, THCV’s psychoactive properties aren’t straightforward.

As mentioned in the previous section, THCV is a CB1 antagonist in low doses — which is the exact opposite effect of delta 8 and delta 9 THC. This could mean that THCV counteracts some of the psychoactive effects of THC.

This effect could explain why people who use THCV feel so clear-headed — especially compared to the notorious “fogginess” induced by delta 9 THC.

Higher doses of THCV are a little bit different. Once you reach doses of around 30 mg, the effects flip and become much more psychoactive.

THCV vs. THC: What’s the Difference?

The differences between THCV and THC stem from their different chemical structure. While THC has a 5-carbon side chain, THCV has a 3-carbon side chain.

The length of the side chain directly affects the potency. THCC, another THC-analog, only has one carbon and virtually no psychoactive effects.

THCP, on the other hand, has 7 carbons and is nearly 33 times as potent as delta 9 THC.

THCV and THC are treated differently legally as well, with regulations often being stricter for THC than for THCV.

Specific laws vary by country, but in the United States, THCV is considered legal if made from hemp and restricted if made from marijuana — even though both versions are chemically identical.

Wrapping Up: Is THCV Right For You?

THCV is a close chemical cousin of THC that shares some of its properties — albeit milder and more “clear-headed.”

People who gravitate towards THCV like it because of its milder, cleaner, more level-headed experience compared to other forms of THC.

If you decide to try THCV, make sure to check your local state laws to determine what kind of THCV is legal to buy and use where you live. THCV derived from hemp is federally legal if you live in the United States, making it as accessible as CBD in most jurisdictions, at least legally.

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