Potency Testing: THCA

Testing for THCA-A as Part of a Potency Test 

THCA-A, or tetrahydrocannabinol acid, is a cannabis compound that’s also a precursor to the more commonly referenced cannabinoid, THC. While the two are chemically similar, there are several molecular differences that account for major differences in how the brain is affected by THCA-A.

Why Our Potency Test Reports Both THCA-A and THC

Due to the differences in molecular structure, measurement of one in a laboratory test does not constitute an accurate representation of the other. In fact, a lab test for both THC and THC-A will almost always show a dramatic difference between the two. When we test cannabis or hemp for potency, we always test for both THC and THCA.

Unlike THC, THCA-A is non-intoxicating and is usually found in much higher concentrations in live and raw cannabis. While THC is known for providing a “marijuana high”, the quantity of THC commonly  found in live marijuana plants is not enough to provide quantifiable altering effects on the brain.

THCA-A and the Endocannabinoid System

In contrast, THCA-A does affect the brain, just in different ways. Rather than a high, THCA-A provides therapeutic benefits to the body, mostly due to the CB-2 receptor.

The receptors in our brains are referred to as CB-1 receptors and those in our bodies are called CB-2. The effects that cannabinoids produce biologically are generally mediated here. For a receptor and molecule to connect at all, the molecule must have a shape suitable for matching the binding sites. The structure of the THC molecule is a perfect match for the CB1 receptor’s binding site.

THCA-A to THC Conversion

When THCA-A is heated, is smoked or vaporized for instance, it turns into THC and will then induce a high. THCA-A can also convert to THC when stored at room temperature but over a long period of time. Because of this, some may consider THC and THCA-A to be the same molecularly, only with properties differing based on ingesting heated or unheated. Perhaps the more-true statement is that in carboxylated cannabis, THCA-A is one of the most prominent cannabinoids, once heated (decarboxylated), it is no longer, technically, THCA-A.

This has caused a differing of opinions across the industry. Some will list the amount of THC in a strain on a cannabinoid profile, in place of the amount of THCA-A. It’s understandable why companies might do this as the THCA will convert to THC before being inhaled, regardless if the strain showing low amounts of THC on its label. Regardless, it’s more accurate to list the presence of THCA-A and THC seperately. Your more educated consumers will appreciate it.

As part of the USDA’s 2019 Hemp Rules, they’ve confirmed THCA is to be counted in the “Total THC” measurement and THCA is to be calculated at a conversion rate of 87.7%, THCA to THC.

Total THC potency must be calculated by following equation: THC = (%THCA) x 0.877 + (%THC)

Getting the Most Out of THCA-A

THCA-A is in the early stages of research. Early testing shows promise that THCA-A may be pivotal in the forward movement of cannabis medicine. Research has shown that THCA-A has anti-inflammatory properties to help in the treatment of arthritis and lupus, as well as analgesic, or pain-relieving qualities.

It has also been suggested that  THCA-A has neuroprotective properties, which can help protect against neurodegenerative diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, and Huntington’s Disease. 

THCA-A may help in the treatment of nausea, loss of appetite as well as possibly having anti-proliferative properties that have been noted in prostate cancer studies. THCA shows promise in treating muscle spasms, insomnia, and pain

Levels of THCA-A are especially high in freshly harvested or live plants. To reap the rewards of THCA-A, raw cannabis is used in smoothies, raw salads, steamed greens, garnish, sauces, and dressings.

The Value of Reporting THCA-A in Your Lab Tests

As consumers become more educated, their hunt for the perfect cannabinoid profile is growing evermore specific. Some want to ingest raw flower to receive the therapeutic benefits of THCA-A without the psychoactive effects of activated THC and therefore need to know, specifically, how much THCA-A is in the product.

While it may not be required to report THCA-A and THC separately, your customers, both commercial and consumer, will appreciate the additional insight and transparency.

At ACS Laboratory our team’s deep scientific background enables us to uniquely guide clients to the lab testing services which will satisfy regulatory requirements, but also go beyond what’s required to elevate your product’s value in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Our scientists develop protocols beyond industry standard in our ISO 17025 certified facility.

In fact, our consulting scientists help other labs develop protocols and procedures, nationwide. As the largest dedicated cannabis, hemp and cbd testing laboratory in the Eastern United States, we’re deeply invested in setting the pace for keeping the industry above board.

Have a question about testing? Give us a call at (813) 634-4529 or go here to contact us online.

FAQs About THCA

THCA is a cannabinoid that is non-psychoactive. It is produced from the plant in the form of acid. When THCA is heated, it converts into THC which can be vaporized, smoked or orally ingested.

Once THCA has been created, its crystalline can then be extracted and consumed in dabs. When dabbing, decarboxylation happens quickly, converting the THCA into active THC.

Yes, THCA can help dogs with relief of pain, inflammation and rashes that may have been caused by chewing or scratching sensitive areas.

THCA diamonds is a term often used to describe THCA crystalline. They develop at the bottom of their container and are usually coated in a residual sauce. Although non-intoxicating on its own it can be reverted into THC when exposed to heat in the process called decarboxylation.

THCA becomes THC when exposed to high heat over a short period or simple light exposure over a prolonged period. A carboxylic acid group of atoms are removed from THCA when heated, altering the chemical structure. This allows it to fit into the CB1 receptors that run through the central nervous system, creating the experience of feeling elevated.

THCA can be found in blood and urine samples. Standard hair tests will not detect THCA, but forensic hair analysis are capable of measuring THCA in hair samples.

Yes, THCA can be found in tinctures. It can also be found in the forms of topicals, capsules and raw juice.

THCA has been used for a wide variety of purposes. It is frequently used to help inflammation, pain, muscle spasm and insomnia. Its neuroprotective properties have been found to be helpful in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases and its anti-emetic properties can be useful in the treatment of appetite loss and nausea.

THCA is no better or worse than THC. The desired outcome should dictate which you choose.  The use of THC offers a mind-altering high, while THCA does not. Rather than affecting the brain, THCA affects the body, helping with a wide variety of issues, ranging from pain to appetite loss.

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