Another day, another new cannabinoid in the news. These days it feels like scientists are learning something new about various cannabinoids each week. The latest to be put under the microscope? Tetrahydrocannabivarin or THCV, which is sending waves of intrigue through the cannabis community for its potential as an appetite suppressant to naturally combat obesity and its ability to help manage diabetes.
THCV is an extremely close cousin of the most famous cannabinoid, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), though there are significant differences between the two. THCV is practically identical to THC in its chemical structure, but it’s formed differently in the cannabis plant. This results in THCV producing divergent effects.
Both THC and THCV work with the same CB1 and CB2 receptors in our natural endocannabinoid system. Although, the big difference here is that THC is an agonist (a chemical substance that initiates a physiological or pharmacological response) and THCV is an antagonist (which inhibits or interferes with the physiological or pharmacological response of other substances).
While all cannabis strains contain minimal amounts of THCV, it’s found most abundantly in sativa strains from central and south Africa, and parts of Asia. Because of its potential, commercial producers are examining THCV’s medicinal advantages, and are starting to breed strains with a higher percentage. Durban Poison, Doug’s Varin, Black Beauty and Malawi Gold are the most common strains with increased levels of THCV.
Both THCV and THC are psychoactive and affect the same receptors in the endocannabinoid system and in the brain (though you’ll need far more THCV than THC to experience any effects). There’s also a difference in the high. THCV creates a high that is more euphoric and clear. THCV is also believed to encourage THC to hit much faster, resulting in a quick, energizing rush — this means the THC high will fade faster, too.
Medicinal and Therapeutic Benefits
A big difference in THC and THCV is THCV’s specific possible medical use, which is exciting scientists and researchers. THCV’s potential to treat obesity and diabetes is particularly compelling, as both afflict increasing numbers of the population. According to a 2016 report from the World Health Organization (WHO), 1.9 billion adults — or 39 percent of the world’s adult population are obese.
While most of us know that THC stimulates appetite (as in, a case of the munchies), recent studies have found that THCV suppresses appetite. Additionally, animal studies have found that THCV counteracts THC by reducing its ability to makes us hungry. This means that medical marijuana researchers are looking more closely at the potentially significant impact THCV can have for people suffering from conditions that cause weight gain.
Research is also confirming that THCV has properties to help regulate blood sugar levels and curb the rewarding effects we feel from eating unhealthy foods. It’s also showing promise in promoting bone cell growth and having anti-anxiety and antioxidant properties. (Of note: those suffering from have anorexia or needing to gain weight, should avoid high-THCV strains).
In addition to weight loss and diabetes, medical marijuana researchers are looking at THCV’s anticonvulsant properties and its potential ability to help reduce tremors and seizures and improve motor control — which may lead to future treatments that include THCV for conditions including epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease.