Similar in both structure and name to THC, tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) produces an array of effects that differ greatly from those of its more famous cousin. Typically occurring in trace amounts in cannabis, this fascinating cannabinoid has begun to attract a great deal of attention, encouraging breeders to develop cultivars that contain higher amounts of THCV.
What Is THCV?
While THC is an agonist of the CB1 receptor, THCV acts as an in inverse agonist, meaning it binds to the same receptor but produces an opposite pharmacological effect. Unlike THC, therefore, it is non-psychoactive and suppresses the munchies, with some research suggesting that it can even cancel out the effects of THC.
In one study, cannabis users were given an oral dose of THCV shortly before being injected with THC, with the result being that none of them got particularly high[i]. However, because THCV occurs in such low concentrations in most cultivars, it’s pretty hard to ingest enough of it to counteract the effects of THC in the real world.
Interestingly, THCV also binds to CB2 receptors, leading to suggestions that it could help reduce inflammation, treat pain and possibly even protect against dementia.
The Benefits Of THCV
Because it suppresses the appetite, THCV is currently being studied as a possible treatment for obesity. Research has shown that it helps to decrease food intake and trigger weight loss, while human trials have indicated that the cannabinoid alters the brain’s response to food[ii].
One study on humans with type 2 diabetes showed that THCV helps to control blood glucose levels, in part by interacting with a hormone called adiponectin, which regulates plasma glucose and fatty acid breakdown[iii]. This capacity to modulate key metabolic processes has been demonstrated in a number of animal studies[iv], indicating that THCV may well prove an effective treatment for a range of disorders, including diabetes.
A separate study indicated that the cannabinoid may also be useful in the treatment of epilepsy, after it was shown to reduce the amplitude and frequency of seizure-like activity in neurons in a petri dish. Further analysis revealed that the cannabinoid produces this effect by acting upon the CB1 receptor[v].
That it also interacts with the CB2 receptor has added to the intrigue surrounding THCV. Studies have shown that this decreases inflammation, which translated to a reduced pain response in mice. Meanwhile, separate research has indicated that THCV helps to alleviate dementia in rodents by triggering an antioxidant effect after binding to CB2 receptors. This prevented neurons from becoming damaged, leading to improved motor skills among animals suffering from a condition akin to Parkinson’s disease[vi].
Where To Find THCV
As previously mentioned, THCV tends not to occur in high concentrations in cannabis, although its impressive medical profile has generated an interest in high-THCV cultivars. As a result, it’s becoming slightly easier to come across strains that have been specifically bred to express this fascinating cannabinoid – several of which you’ll find in the Seedsman catalogue.
[i] Abioye A, Ayodele O, Marinkovic A, Patidar R, Akinwekomi A, Sanyaolu A. Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV): a commentary on potential therapeutic benefit for the management of obesity and diabetes. Journal of Cannabis Research. 2020 Dec;2(1):1-6. – https://jcannabisresearch.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s42238-020-0016-7
[ii] Tudge L, Williams C, Cowen PJ, McCabe C. Neural effects of cannabinoid CB1 neutral antagonist tetrahydrocannabivarin on food reward and aversion in healthy volunteers. International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology. 2015 Apr 1;18(6). – https://academic.oup.com/ijnp/article/18/6/pyu094/673019?login=true
[iii] Jadoon KA, Ratcliffe SH, Barrett DA, Thomas EL, Stott C, Bell JD, O’Sullivan SE, Tan GD. Efficacy and safety of cannabidiol and tetrahydrocannabivarin on glycemic and lipid parameters in patients with type 2 diabetes: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel group pilot study. Diabetes Care. 2016 Oct 1;39(10):1777-86. – https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/39/10/1777.abstract
[iv] Wargent ET, Zaibi MS, Silvestri C, Hislop DC, Stocker CJ, Stott CG, Guy GW, Duncan M, Di Marzo V, Cawthorne MA. The cannabinoid Δ 9-tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) ameliorates insulin sensitivity in two mouse models of obesity. Nutrition & diabetes. 2013 May;3(5):e68-. – https://www.nature.com/articles/nutd20139
[v] Hill AJ, Weston SE, Jones NA, Smith I, Bevan SA, Williamson EM, Stephens GJ, Williams CM, Whalley BJ. Δ9‐Tetrahydrocannabivarin suppresses in vitro epileptiform and in vivo seizure activity in adult rats. Epilepsia. 2010 Aug;51(8):1522-32. – https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1528-1167.2010.02523.x
[vi] García C, Palomo‐Garo C, García‐Arencibia M, Ramos JA, Pertwee RG, Fernández‐Ruiz J. Symptom‐relieving and neuroprotective effects of the phytocannabinoid Δ9‐THCV in animal models of Parkinson’s disease. British journal of pharmacology. 2011 Aug;163(7):1495-506. – https://bpspubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1476-5381.2011.01278.x