CSG MedLab

5 March 2019

What is THCV? – A scientific update

A scientific summary of what we know about THCV so far

By Fran Cà

A simplified summary of THCv (Tetrahydrocannabivarin)

For the full and scientific summary, scroll down.

THCv is a minor cannabinoid found in dried and cured cannabis flowers. Even though any one flower only contains a small amount of THCv, the compound is earmarked for major therapeutic potential. THCv was first discovered in 1970, by Edward Gil and colleagues and is most abundant in African landraces strains.

THCv is almost identical to THC, but not all the way

THCv’s chemical structure and psychoactive effects are similar to that of THC. That is why THCv is also known as a “propyl-tailed analogue” of THC. The main difference between these two compounds, however, is that THCv’s interaction with the CB-receptors changes in regards to the dosage. Where THC triggers the behavior of all CB-receptors – both in the body (CB-2), as well as in the brain (CB-1) – THCv blocks the behavior of the CB-1 receptors in the brain at low doses (incl. the psycho-activity of THC), while at higher doses, it reverts back into a trigger for the CB-1 receptors.

Medicinal benefits of THCv

Despite the similarities with THC, the medicinal properties of THCv do not translate quite the same. The medicinal benefits of THCv are;

– Reduction of inflammation and inflammatory pain.
– Reduction of Parkinson’s disease symptoms, due to its anticonvulsant and neuroprotective properties.
– The decrease of body fat and the regulation of feeding behavior through its influence on insulin and glucose levels.
– The beneficial effects on bone formation and fracture healing.
– The potential ability to relieve some of the symptoms related to schizophrenia.

A scientific summary of Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCv)

Detected for the first time by Edward Gil and colleagues in 1970, Δ9-tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) is a minor cannabinoid and one of the primary medical ingredients in cannabis. It appears as a fractional component of many (Southern) African cannabis chemotypes. Similar to the other cannabinoids, cannabis creates this compound through biosynthesis, from an acidic precursor named tetrahydrocannabivarinic acid or THCVA. When heated, dried or exposed to light, THCVA is converted into THCV through a reaction known as decarboxylation, which involves the loss of a carbon dioxide (CO2) molecule.

Propyl-tailed analogue of THC

This compound is a close relative of THC in its molecular and psychoactive properties. From a structural point of view THC and THCV are indeed extremely similar, except for the side-chain, which is shorter in THCV and is called “propyl-tailed” (figure 1). Therefore, THCV can be defined as a “propyl-tailed analogue” of THC, extremely similar in structure but different in function.

The dual function of THCV

This structural difference between THC and THCV translates into a different pharmacological profile at certain molecular targets. Compared to THC, which behaves as agonist (1) of both endocannabinoid receptors CB1-R and CB2-R, THCV has shown a dual nature; at lower doses, this compound acts as a CB1-R antagonist (2) but behaves as CB1 agonist at higher doses. It is also a CB2-R “partial agonist” (capable of activating this receptor although only to a limited extent).

Figure 1:


Medicinal benefits of THCV

From a medical point of view, the activation and blocking of these receptors has been associated with several benefits including; the reduction of inflammation and inflammatory pain, reduction of Parkinson’s disease symptoms, the decrease of body fat and the regulation of feeding behavior.
It may also exert beneficial effects on bone formation and fracture healing by stimulating the recruitment of stem cells called mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) from the bone marrow via CB2-R activation. THCV has also shown to relieve some of the symptoms related to schizophrenia by activating a subtype of serotonin receptors called 5HT1A. It has also demonstrated antiepileptic and anticonvulsant properties potentiated by the effect of the terpene limonene (entourage effect).


(1) Agonist: a substance which initiates a physiological response when combined with a receptor.

(2) Antagonist: a substance which interferes with or inhibits the physiological action of another.


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Post author
Fran Ca
Fran Cà is Coffeeshop Guru's in-house medicinal cannabis expert and all-around science nerd. She scours the latest research papers with pin-point precision to keep you up-to-date on the most recent developments and thrilling discoveries surrounding the awesome power of cannabis.
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