What is THCA? (+Benefits, Side Effects & Legality)

by Kat Austin September 29, 2023 4 min read

What is THCA? (+Benefits, Side Effects & Legality) - Vida Optima™

THCA, or tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, is one of many compounds found in cannabis plants–but it’s catching the public eye lately due to it’s increased legality and purported versatility. The compound, which is non-psychoactive in it’s raw form, transforms to THC when heated, and in both forms it has many potential benefits. 

As a result, many people are curious about its potential benefits and side effects, as well as its legal status. In this article, we'll break down what THCA is, it’s current legal status and potential benefits, as well as the THCA side effects to be aware of. 

Ready? We’ll start with the basics:

Table of Contents
What is THCA?
Potential Benefits of THCA
THCA Side Effects
How to Use THCA

Key Takeaways

  • THCA, or tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, is a compound found in cannabis with potential health benefits.
  • Potential benefits of THCA include anti-inflammatory properties, neuroprotective potential, and aiding nausea and appetite.
  • While generally safe, THCA side effects may include digestive issues, dry mouth, dizziness, and increased heart rate. 

What is THCA?

An indoor grown-cannabis plant before harvest when THCA content is the highest.

THCA is a precursor to the cannabinoid THC, the well-known psychoactive compound found in cannabis. In its natural state, the cannabis plant doesn't contain THC–it contains only THCA. When cannabis is heated or undergoes a process known as decarboxylation, THCA converts into Delta-9-THC, the compound responsible for the euphoric "high" associated with marijuana. 

THCA is typically found in the raw, unheated cannabis plant, especially in the leaves and flowers. It's important to note that THCA doesn't produce the intoxicating effects associated with THC. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t offer any other benefits, though.

In fact, it’s lack of psychoactive effects may be a benefit in itself, especially if THCA is capable of providing similar therapeutic effects to THC without the high. 

Let’s take a look:

Potential Benefits of THCA

While research on THCA is still in its early stages, there is some promising evidence suggesting potential health benefits:

  • Anti-Inflammatory Properties:THCA has shown anti-inflammatory effects, which could potentially be beneficial for various inflammatory conditions like arthritis.
  • Neuroprotective Potential: Some studies indicate that THCA may have neuroprotective properties, potentially aiding conditions like Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's.
  • Nausea and Appetite: THCA might help in alleviating nausea and stimulating appetite, which could be beneficial for individuals undergoing treatments like chemotherapy.
  • Metabolic Benefits: THCA may help to stimulate metabolism and prevent metabolic disease due to diet-induced obesity. 
  • Anticonvulsant Effects: Some evidence has found THCA to provide anitconvulsant effects in animal seizure models. 

These potential benefits make THCA an area of active research and exploration.

Exploring the Side Effects

As with any substance, it's essential to be aware of potential side effects. While THCA is generally considered safe, individuals should be mindful of the following:

  • Digestive Issues: In some cases, consuming large amounts of THCA may cause digestive discomfort or mild nausea.
  • Allergic Reactions: People with cannabis allergies could experience allergic reactions when exposed to THCA, although such cases are rare.
  • Lack of Research:Due to limited research, the long-term or cumulative effects of THCA are not yet fully understood.

Because THCA may potentially induce some of the same side effects of THC, here are other potential THCA side effects you should be aware of:

  • Dry mouth (cottonmouth)
  • Red eyes
  • Dizziness
  • Increased heart rate
  • Fatigue
  • It's crucial to consult a healthcare professional before incorporating THCA into your wellness routine, especially if you have any underlying health conditions.

    Legal Status of THCA

    The legal landscape surrounding THCA is complex and varies from region to region. In some places, THCA is considered a controlled substance due to its association with cannabis. However, as research progresses and understanding of its potential benefits deepens, some jurisdictions are revisiting and reevaluating its legal status.

    In the U.S., THCA obtained from hemp plants (containing less than 0.3% THC) is often considered legal, aligning with broader hemp-related laws. However, understanding the source is crucial because THCA derived from marijuana is a Controlled Substance and is only legal to purchase at state-licensed dispensaries. 

    Read about hemp THC laws to learn more. 

    A row of rainbow colored THCA infused gummies

    How to Incorporate THCA into Your Routine

    Utilizing THCA can be an exciting addition to your wellness regimen, and there are several creative ways to integrate it into your daily life. Here are some popular methods:

    • THC-A Diamonds:One of the widely embraced methods to experience THCA is through a pure extract fondly known as “diamonds.” Dabbing and vaporizing these crystalline structures offer a potent way to reap the benefits of THCA efficiently. This is one form of hemp concentrate, similar to Delta-8 concentrates
    • Juicing Raw Cannabis: Eating raw cannabis is another avenue to ingest THCA. Juicing raw cannabis and blending it with ingredients like spinach, almond milk, and banana can yield a delightful powerhouse beverage.
      Additionally, incorporating raw cannabis into salad dressings, sauces, and other culinary staples is a creative way to consume THCA without experiencing the typical "high."
    • Transdermal Patches and Topicals:For those seeking a more discreet option, transdermal patches or cannabis-infused topicals containing THCA can be applied directly to the skin. It's essential to ensure that the topical product lists THCA as an ingredient, not THC, to avoid unintended intoxicating effects.


    THCA, while relatively lesser-known than its counterpart THC, holds promise in the realm of health and wellness. Research into its benefits and effects is ongoing, and we're only beginning to scratch the surface of its potential.

    Remember, if you're considering incorporating THCA into your health regimen, it's essential to consult with a healthcare professional to ensure it's suitable for you and won't interfere with any existing medications or conditions.

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    1. “ Anti-Inflammatory Activity in Colon Models Is Derived from D9-Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid That Interacts with Additional Compounds in Cannabis Extracts” https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/pdf/10.1089/can.2017.0027
    2. “Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid is a potent PPARγ agonist with neuroprotective activity” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5731255/
    3. “Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid A (THCA-A) reduces adiposity and prevents metabolic disease caused by diet-induced obesity” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31706843/
    4. “Evaluation of the Possible Anticonvulsant Effect of Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid in Murine Seizure Models” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8864425/

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