THCa vs THC-O: Similarities and Differences You Need to Know
THCa vs. THC-O, which one is best for you, and when should you use them? These are the kinds of questions that many cannabis users ask themselves whenever faced with any one of the many available cannabinoid options today.
While THCa occurs naturally in wild cannabis, THC-O is synthetically processed. Each one of these compounds affects your body and mind differently. The question now is: which one should you choose between THCa and THC-O?
Let's take a quick look at both and learn about their differences as well as similarities.
What Is THCa?
Scientifically known as tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, THCa is a compound that naturally occurs in the cannabis plant. THCa is the natural precursor to THC, which is the compound that is responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis. THCa, therefore, is a non-psychoactive compound that is acidic in nature.
When THCa is exposed to heat, it becomes THC or delta-9 THC in a process known as decarboxylation, which involves the loss of the carboxyl group. While there are many notable differences between THCa and THC, the most important scientific one is the presence or absence of the carboxyl group.
In its natural state, THCa has an extra COOH attached to the compound. Whenever you introduce heat to the mix, this extra COOH group is subsequently released, resulting in the compound THC, which is psychoactive.
While THCa doesn't give you the same buzz that THC would, research shows that it does have its own benefits for the human body. For one thing, it has anti-inflammatory properties, which can help with inflammation. It also has neuroprotective and antiemetic properties, which can help protect your brain cells and reduce nausea levels, respectively.
What Is THC-O?
THC-O, or tetrahydrocannabinol-o-acetate, is a synthetic compound and a type of THC that has gained massive popularity within the cannabis community thanks to its powerful effects. THC-O has a chemical structure that is remarkably similar to that of THC.
The difference between the two is that there's an additional acetate group in the THC-O formula that markedly increases its lipophilic properties. This allows it to permeate the blood-brain barrier a bit more easily than THC.
Thanks to this difference, THC-O has psychoactive properties that are similar to those presented by THC. However, users have reported a slight delay in the onset of the effects as well as a heightened intensity.
Because it's synthetically manufactured, THC-O's chemical structure is much more difficult for the human body to break down. As a result, its effects can last longer than those of regular THC.
Here are some of the most common similarities between THCa and THC-O.
Both compounds originally occur naturally in the cannabis plant. Their chemical structures are remarkably similar, with the key difference being that THCa has an additional carboxylic acid chain while THC-O has an additional hydroxyl group. These additional groups give them their own unique properties and abilities to interact with our bodies. THCa is non-psychoactive, while THC-O is psychoactive.
While THCa is non-psychoactive (doesn't give you a buzz) and THC-O is psychoactive (gives you a buzz), they both can interact with our bodies' endocannabinoid systems. This is the system that regulates functions like pain perception, mood, appetite, memory, and so on.
Whenever either one of these compounds is introduced to the human body, you can begin feeling its therapeutic effects, such as inflammation reduction and pain relief, to varying degrees.
Both THCa and THC-O are considered non-toxic and safe for human consumption. That being said, as is the case with all cannabis products, you are advised to exercise caution and prudence when using them.
It's important to stick to the recommended dosage and instructions to avoid any negative side effects. It's important to also note that the safety of your THCa and THC-O often depends on how potent the strain of cannabis used is from the onset. That's why it's highly critical to always buy your products from a reputable source.
THCa vs THC-O: Differences
Just as there are similarities between THCa and THC-O, there are some remarkable differences as well. Here are some of the most notable differences between the two.
This is a big one. The DEA has classified THC-O as a Schedule I substance, which makes it illegal in America. The main argument for this classification was hinged on the fact that THC-O isn't exactly a naturally occurring compound as much as it's produced from one.
The fact that THC-O is synthetically processed means that it's not a natural cannabinoid in and of itself. THCa, on the other hand, is federally legal as it naturally occurs in the hemp plant and doesn't need any synthetic interference.
By their very nature, THCa and THC-O are both non-psychoactive and psychoactive, respectively. This means that while THCa won't give you a buzz (causing euphoria and intoxication), THC-O will, and depending on the manufacturer, the buzz can be intense.
A compound's bioavailability is basically how quickly it can be absorbed into your body. Since THC-O is synthetically produced, its bioavailability is higher than that of THCa. This is mostly because it can easily permeate the blood-brain barrier, not only giving it a faster onset but also a more heightened potency.
While this is a fact, some variables come into play. Depending on how you choose to take your THCa or THC-O, their bioavailability rates will vary. For example, if you choose to take edibles, it is estimated that only 5–10% of the THC in the edibles gets to your bloodstream. This is mostly because edibles have poor water solubility and a rather sluggish digestion rate.
Vaporizing and inhalation boost absorption rates by 30% or more. Being that THCa is non-psychoactive and insoluble in water, it generally offers a very low bioavailability rate when compared to THC-O.
This is yet another big difference between THCa and THC-O. Since THCa is non-psychoactive, it carries a much lower risk of addiction than THC-O, which is psychoactive and can bring about intoxication and euphoria.
The battle of THCa vs. THC-O can rage on and on, but the bottom line is that both have some positives and some negatives.
THCA can bring about certain therapeutic effects, such as nausea and pain relief. While THC-O can offer the same benefits, it tends to be a bit more intense, has intoxicating properties, and carries a greater risk of addiction.
Which you choose will depend on your specific needs, but if it's a simple matter of health and safety, THCa wins simply because it's a naturally occurring compound as opposed to its synthetically produced cousin, THC-O.