We’ve all heard of CBD and THC. But cannabis also contains dozens more so-called minor cannabinoids, which are found in much smaller amounts. One such compound is tetrahydrocannabivarin or THCV for short.
Despite its name, THCV is quite different from its big cousin THC. It’s gaining recognition as an appetite suppressant and may have many more potential benefits ranging from blood sugar control to brain health.
What is THCV? What are its effects? Keep reading for a science-based introduction to the “diet weed” cannabinoid.
What is THCV?
THCV is a compound found in small amounts in cannabis. Like other cannabinoids, it can interact with our body’s endocannabinoid system receptors (CB1 and CB2).
THCV belongs to a subgroup of cannabinoids called varins, which have fewer carbon atoms than their regular brethren and are derived from cannabigerovarin acid (CBGVA) instead of cannabigerolic acid (CBGA).
As an analog of THC, THCV has a similar molecular structure. But in many ways, THCV’s effects are the opposite of its better-known cousin.
Whereas THC is a CB1 receptor agonist, which means it activates the receptor and produces a response, THCV acts as a CB1 receptor antagonist and inverse agonist. In other words, THCV either blocks the receptor or causes the opposite effects.
That’s why, unlike THC, THCV won’t get you high. And since the CB1 receptor is also involved in appetite, THCV can make you feel less hungry, whereas THC is known to stimulate appetite.
In fact, THCV is closer in effects to CBD, another non-intoxicating cannabinoid that’s been shown to suppress appetite in human studies. Another similarity is that they both affect many “off-target sites,” meaning they also interact with non-cannabinoid receptors, such as the serotonin 5-HT1a receptor.
THCV Effects & Benefits
Research into THCV’s effects is still in its infancy but the findings are promising, especially for appetite suppression and blood sugar control. We’ve summarized the key research findings below.
THCV and Appetite
THCV is best known for its appetite-suppressing effects. A study of mice reported that THCV reduced food intake and resulted in weight loss.
Additionally, a 2014 clinical trial tested how THCV affected brain responses to rewarding and aversive food stimuli. For the reward test, people looked at pictures of or tasted chocolate.
For the aversive test, they looked at pictures of moldy strawberries or ate a medicinal-flavored strawberry mixture. In both cases, THCV increased the brain responses to food stimuli, leading the researchers to conclude that it has a good safety profile and has potential in the treatment of obesity.
THCV and Diabetes
THCV may also be beneficial for diabetes. In a 2016 clinical trial, researchers examined the benefits of CBD and THCV in 62 people with type 2 diabetes. The THCV treatment (5 mg twice daily) reduced fasting blood sugar levels and improved pancreas cell function, adiponectin, and apolipoprotein A.
The researchers concluded that “THCV could represent a new therapeutic agent in glycemic control in subjects with type 2 diabetes.”
THCV May Counter THC’s Effects
Studies also suggest that THCV can counteract some of the psychoactive and physiological effects of THC. In one 2015 clinical trial, 10 male cannabis users took 10 mg of THCV or placebo for 5 days before being injected with 1 mg of THC.
THCV suppressed short-term memory recall problems and increased heart rate caused by THC. The men also rated THC as weaker and less intense after taking THCV.
Other Potential Benefits
Studies of THCV also suggest other beneficial properties, including:
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Does THCV Promote Weight Loss?
There’s been much hype around THCV thanks to claims that it can promote weight loss and tackle obesity. Some people even call it “diet weed” and you can find a growing number of THCV-rich tinctures and other products marketed for weight loss.
Although there is some evidence that THCV can reduce appetite, it’s far too early to say anything concrete. Randomized clinical trials (RCTs) are needed and you should be wary of any products that make exaggerated claims about weight loss or boosting energy levels.
Although most cannabis plants contain small amounts of THCV, some strains are bred for higher concentrations. African sativas, such as Doug’s Varin, Dayslayer, Jack the Ripper, Pineapple Purps, Malawi Gold, Durban Poison, and Power Plant seem to have particularly high levels.
If you’re interested in buying THCV-rich flower, be sure to look for independent test results to confirm the THCV potency.
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Is THCV Safe?
THCV is relatively safe since the few published human studies have not reported any serious side effects. Decreased appetite was the most common adverse effect reported in the diabetes study.
Researchers also highlight that THCV is a safe alternative to rimonabant, another CB1 receptor blocker that was previously used to treat obesity but withdrawn due to causing depression and other significant side effects.
Still, further research on THCV is needed and we recommend talking to your doctor before trying any new supplement.
How to Use THCV
You have a variety of options for using THCV. One of the most popular methods is to use a THCV tincture, which is taken under the tongue, the same way as CBD oil. You can also take THCV gummies and capsules or smoke THCV-rich cannabis flower.
Keep in mind that most products will either contain pure THCV (isolate) or a full-spectrum cannabis extract containing THCV and other beneficial cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids.
Full-spectrum cannabis products are considered more effective than those containing a pure cannabinoid thanks to the entourage effect.
Given the scarcity of studies, there’s no recommended dosage of THCV. Researchers also suggest that THCV’s effects can change depending on the dose; for example, it might switch from an agonist to an antagonist of CB2 receptors.
We recommend starting with 5-10 mg doses (the amount used by human studies) of THCV and slowly raising the amount until you achieve the desired effects.
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Gleb Oleinik is a freelance CBD & cannabis writer from Vancouver, Canada. He’s read thousands of studies about cannabinoids and other beneficial natural compounds, helping him translate complex science into plain language. He’s also written third-party lab test reports of CBD products and knows the industry inside and out. When he’s not writing, Gleb likes to spend his time in the gym and out in nature.
When comparing THCV vs. THC you might expect similar effects because of their similar names and structure. But THCV is quite different; it’s non-intoxicating and appears to reduce your appetite, whereas THC has the opposite effects.
THCV is legal in the United States as long as it’s derived from hemp, the legal variety of cannabis with low (no more than 0.3%) THC levels. Its legal status in other countries depends on the legality of marijuana and hemp.
Your best option is to look online. You can either find CBD brands that sell hemp-derived THCV-rich tinctures and other products or cannabis producers offering THCV-rich flower in legal states.