Cannabinoids, the miracle molecules that provide cannabis with its medical efficacy — in addition to its euphoria — number more than 111. First discovered in 1964 in Israel, cannabinoids have been found to work synergistically with the human body and, more specifically, the endocannabinoid system.
The body produces its own cannabinoids, called endocannabinoids. The cannabinoids from a plant like marijuana, officially known as phytocannabinoids, are a perfect fit for specialized receptors found throughout the brain, nervous system, and immune system of the human body. In addition, cannabinoids do more than work independently to deliver a particular therapeutic effect. Cannabinoids also work in tandem to regulate one another, something that has been labeled the entourage effect.
Precursor to THC
THC-A, or tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, is one of the most valuable cannabinoids found in marijuana. THC-A is a precursor to THC, meaning that a slight modification to the THC-A molecule produces THC. Think of THC-A as the “larval form” of THC. Nearly all cannabinoids are present in the plant in acidic form.
It’s not until heat is applied via combustion or vaporization, a process called decarboxylation, that THC-A is converted to THC. In fact, it is estimated that 80-90 percent of the THC in raw cannabis is stored in the form of THC-A (minor decarboxylation also occurs during the drying phase of harvesting). When burned or vaped, about 95 percent of the THC-A in raw cannabis is converted to THC.
Until decarboxylation and the conversion of THC-A to THC occurs, cannabis delivers no euphoria. Thus, patients who juice with raw cannabis leaves derive no high from the experience. Likewise, those who eat raw cannabis in hopes of getting high will always be frustrated. However, despite providing no psychoactive effect, THC-A is highly therapeutic. Like its cousin THC, it provides ready relief for a variety of conditions and ailments.
The conditions for which THC-A provides relief include insomnia, muscle spasms and seizures, and nausea/vomiting, making it very effective for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. It also relieves pain, acts as an appetite stimulant (perfect for wasting syndromes), and—possibly of most value—is believed to slow or stop the growth of cancer cells. A 2013 study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology found that THC-A may be especially effective in fighting prostate cancer.
THC-A also provides neuroprotective benefits, meaning it may help sufferers of multiple sclerosis, dystonia, and epilepsy. A 2012 study revealed that THC-A provides neuroprotective properties for certain brain cells, giving it tremendous potential for diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. This precursor to THC can also modulate the immune system, meaning it has the ability to suppress or enhance to achieve the necessary effect and help the body reach homeostasis (balance).
In addition, THC-A effectively reduces inflammation, making it well suited to treat arthritis and lupus.
Juicing for THC-A
Some doctors and patients advocate juicing raw cannabis, specifically the fan leaves, for THC-A. Dr. William Courtney treated his wife, who was suffering from systemic lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, endometriosis, and autoimmune disease, with juiced cannabis. After about two months of juicing, Courtney’s wife was able to wean herself off of 40 pharmaceutical drugs (many of which provided negative side effects) and experienced an almost complete remission of her symptoms.
Courtney claims that 99 percent of the value of cannabis is lost when it is burned or vaporized. Although controversial and purely anecdotal, the results produced by Courtney point toward the value THC-A—not necessarily the juicing of cannabis leaves. More research is obviously necessary before the benefits of juicing and those of THC-A, regardless of the form or consumption method, are understood.
THC-A is effective at treating the following conditions:
- Relieves pain (analgesic)
- Reduces vomiting and nausea (anti-emetic)
- Reduces inflammation
- Combats insomnia
- Inhibits cancer cell growth (anti-proliferative)
- Reduces muscle spasms (antispasmodic)
- Modulates immune system
- Slows or repairs damage to the nervous system and brain (neuroprotective)
Photo credit: Fullmeltbubble.com
This post was originally published on June 24, 2015, it was updated on October 5, 2017.