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What is Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV)? [A Multi-Purpose, Appetite-Suppressing Cannabinoid]

THCV stands for tetrahydrocannabivarin. It is a chemical compound found inside the cannabis plant. There is much interest in THCV as an appetite suppressant and a treatment for weight loss and diabetes. This means that THCV could be of interest to those who wish to use cannabis to control and maintain their weight. THCV is a very unique cannabinoid (cannabis chemical), because it has different effects at different dosages. THCV has both non-psychoactive effects and psychoactive effects, depending on dosage. Low doses of THCV has an anti-psychoactive effect; larger doses have a psychoactive effect.

THCV could be seen as a cannabinoid that’s “in-between” THC and CBD, because it shares some of the same effects as both of these compounds. However, this is an oversimplification, and there is more to THCV than it just being an “in-between” cannabinoid. Read on to learn more about this distinctive cannabinoid.

Download Free Guide to THCV

If you are having trouble with any of the terminology in this article, please check out our glossary.

Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) structure, C19H26O2 - a cannabinoid in the cannabis plant that is both a CB1 receptor agonist and antagonist.
THCV (tetrahydrocannabivarin). C19H26O2. Author: Panoramix 303. From https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Thcv.svg. Public domain picture. See the two “V”s on the bottom right? That’s the alkyl group side-chain. Generally, the longer this side-chain, the more psychoactive a cannabinoid usually is.

 

What Effects Does THCV Have?

THCV has what we call a biphasic effect, meaning that it has different effects at different dosages. Many cannabinoids have biphasic effects, including THC and CBD, but THCV displays the meaning behind biphasic most clearly. To put it simply, in low doses, THCV is not psychoactive, has an appetite-suppressing, energizing effect, and blocks THC. In high doses, THCV is psychoactive and combines with THC for even greater psychoactive effects.

THCV can therefore have the following effects:

  • Reducing appetite and reversing insulin resistance – low doses – useful for obesity and diabetes
  • Energizing – low doses – useful for depression
  • Antipsychotic – low doses
  • Psychoactive – high doses – a more “clear-headed” and less sedative effect compared to THC
  • Anti-inflammatory

What’s the Difference Between THC and THCV?

THC and THCV are both psychoactive, but in slightly different ways. THC has a more sedative-type effect, whereas high doses of THCV have a more energetic psychoactive effect. Low doses of THCV are not psychoactive, and can actually dampen THC’s effects. There is some science to understand why this is, so strap in!

THC and THCV share the same parent compound in cannabigerol (CBG) and have similar structures to one another. THCV has less carbon and hydrogen in it. THCV therefore produces very different effects from THC.

Chemical structures of THC, THCV, CBG, CBDV and CBGV
THC and THCV at the top. You can see that they are structurally similar, with THC having a longer alkyl group side-chain making it more psychoactive. By Serena Deiana. July 2011 Psychopharmacology 219(3):859-73
DOI: 10.1007/s00213-011-2415-0
Source: PubMed

 

To translate: even though THC and THCV share many of the same properties, even slight differences in the structure of these compounds can make a difference in terms of the effect they have. Think of cannabinoid receptors as doors, and cannabinoids as keys. Each cannabinoid is a different set of keys that open different doors on cannabinoid receptors. Going through different doors has a different effect.

In this case, low doses of THCV locks the door and prevents a psychoactive effect. Higher doses of THCV unlock the door, and produce a more clear-headed, energetic high that is different from THC’s more sedative effects.

Potential Medical Uses of THCV

THCV, Diabetes, Obesity and Weight Loss

Many are surprised to learn that cannabis can help treat diabetes and obesity. Most people associate cannabis use with the munchies. This effect is usually associated with THC. THCV, meanwhile, can actually curb appetite. This helps explain why many people who use cannabis show a lower body-mass index (BMI) and are less likely to be overweight. The differences in BMI are usually small, but significant enough to help in an overall weight loss regime (i.e. healthy eating, sleeping and exercising).

Research also shows that THCV may help regulate blood sugar levels and reduce insulin resistance. A combination of THCV and CBD may therefore be very useful for those with diabetes, whether it is autoimmune-related (type I diabetes) or due to being overweight (type II diabetes).

Weight loss. Cannabis / weed / marijuana and weight loss.
Author: Tumisu. From https://pixabay.com/photos/lose-weight-weight-loss-belly-1968908/. Public domain picture.

 

THCV, Anxiety and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

THCV could be of particular use for anxiety and PTSD. Moreover, for those who are prone to anxiety when using THC, a small amount of THCV may actually reduce the duration of the THC high. A higher dose, however, may increase THC’s psychoactive effects.

THCV does not seem to suppress emotions, but does have an effect on the emotions associated with flight or fight response. This can be very useful for those who suffer from anxiety and/or PTSD, but do not want to experience the flattening of emotions that can occur due to antidepressant and benzodiazepine use.

THCV and Alzheimer’s Disease

THCV may be used to minimize the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, where the combination of THC and THCV may help reduce inflammation, remove the plaque-causing protein beta-amyloid, and help reduce the anxiety associated with Alzheimer’s. Combined with CBD and CBC, THCV may also have neurogenic effects.

THCV and Neuropathic (Nerve) Pain

THCV’s ability to help treat conditions like diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease gives it an additional use – that of treating nerve pain. THCV’s broad range of effects on both CB1 and CB2 receptors can make it particularly useful for the treatment of neuropathic pain.

THCV and Bone Injuries

THCV can stimulate bone growth and nodule formation. Because of this, THCV is being investigated for the treatment of osteoporosis and arthritis. THCV may also be useful for the treatment of broken and fractured bones as well.

THCV and Cancer

THCV may be of use for various kinds of cancer, in particular ones where too much THC may be an issue (e.g. for estrogen-positive breast cancers). THCV may also be very useful for the treatment of glioblastomas.

Which Strains Are High in THCV?

Varieties from the equatorial regions, in particular varieties from Africa, tend to contain more THCV compared to varieties from other regions. Durban Poison is known for containing high amounts of THCV, and varietals that contain Durban Poison (e.g. Girl Scout Cookies) are also likely to contain THCV. Other varieties that are said to contain high amounts of THCV include Doug’s Varin, Jack the Ripper, Pineapple Purps, Tangie, and Dutch Treat. THCV is usually associated with sativa varieties with energetic and “up” effects.

Download Free Guide to THCV
Durban Posion - a cannabis strain that can be high in tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV).
Durban Posion – a cannabis strain that can be high in tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV). Photo by Panoramix, from seedfinder.eu | CC BY-NC-SA

 

Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) – Overall

THCV is a very interesting cannabinoid with a wide range of uses. THCV’s varying effects sets it apart from THC and CBD, and because of this it has the ability to be used for a number of conditions in a way that THC and CBD cannot. THCV can also be used to modulate the effects of both THC and CBD in various ways, making it a very useful addition to the cannabinoid milieu.

Free Infographic Guide to Cannabinoids
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Written by
Dipak Hemraj
Dipak Hemraj - Chief Research Officer

Dipak Hemraj is a published author, grower, product maker, and Leafwell’s resident cannabis expert. From botany & horticulture to culture & economics, he wishes to help educate the public on why cannabis is medicine (or a “pharmacy in a plant”) and how it can be used to treat a plethora of health problems. Dipak wants to unlock the power of the plant, and see if there are specific cannabinoid-terpene-flavonoid profiles suitable for different conditions.

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