We’ve all heard about how THC can give you the munchies, but did you know there is another cannabinoid that can give you the un-munchies, the unchies? Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCv) has shown such promise for controlling diet and weight loss that it has been patented for it.
The Discovery of THCv
While THCv wasn’t one of the first cannabinoids discovered like CBN or CBD, it was part of the second wave of cannabinoids identified during the 1960s and 1970s, like CBG. Specifically, THCv was first discovered by Edward Gill and a team of researchers in 1970, who found it in a sample of cannabis tincture, which was a legal medicine in the UK at the time. The name Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCv) was coined by Merkus in a study the following year.
Does THCv Get You High?
Sources online are mixed when it comes to the purported intoxicating effects of THCv. A chapter in the 2016 book The Analytical Chemistry of Cannabis is clear that “High doses of Δ9-THCV have been reported to produce a psychoactive effect characterized as mild intoxication.” The authors noted a dose dependent effect, where THCv was “capable of behaving either as a CB1 antagonist or, at higher doses, as a CB1 agonist in vivo.” A 2023 study is the most recent to find “THC-like effects” at higher doses, “though mild and not associated with impairment.”
On the other hand, a literature review released in 2020 was unambiguously clear, “The main advantage of THCV over THC is the lack of psychoactive effects.” The authors addressed the mechanism through which THCv affects the body, furthering their argument, “Unlike THC, which is psychoactive and an agonist at the CB1 and CB2 receptors, THCV is a non-psychoactive, neutral CB1 antagonist.” Additionally, in a 2021 article Jonathan Vaught, PhD, the CEO of Front Range Biosciences, said “People report that, when [THCV] is used in combination with THC, THCV can mitigate [the intoxicating] effects of THC.”
One related and unique finding about THCv came from this 2023 study, which found “THCV and its metabolites were endowed with the advantage of blood-brain barrier (BBB) penetration compared to THCA.” In other words, THCv had an easier time passing through the blood-brain barrier than THCa (the precursor of THC). So whether or not THCv produces feelings of intoxication, it does seem to have an easier time impacting the brain than THCa.
The Unique Medical Effects of THCv
Since its discovery more than fifty years ago, much has been learned about the medical effects of THCv, with the bulk of research focused on its ability to combat obesity and aid people suffering from diabetes. In 2013, a team of researchers from GW Pharmaceuticals (GW) found “THCV is a new potential treatment against obesity-associated glucose intolerance,” which could make it a benefit to people with type 2 diabetes. Some of the same researchers followed up on their study with a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study and found that “THCV [helped with] glycemic control in subjects with type 2 diabetes.” Since then, multiple teams of other researchers have added to the growing body of evidence that THCv is a benefit to those with type 2 diabetes.
GW’s researchers also highlighted THCv’s benefits to those with obesity or looking to diet, “THCV is a novel compound with hypophagic properties and a potential treatment for obesity.” In 2015, other GW-affiliated researchers found that THC had “therapeutic activity in obesity, perhaps with a lowered risk of depressive side effects.” That mention of depression is a reference to Rimonabant, a CB1 antagonist and inverse agonist that was briefly on the market before being pulled in 2008 because it caused depression and suicide. Another team of GW researchers were the first to find that THCv “decreases resting state functional connectivity in the default mode network” of the brain which “suggests possible therapeutic activity of THCv for obesity.”
Additionally, THCv has been shown to have benefits to those suffering from Parkinson’s Disease, schizophrenia, cancer, pain, inflammation, and untreatable epilepsy. Finally, some research has indicated that both THCv and CBD can “modulate the effects of THC via direct blockade of cannabinoid CB1 receptors,” similar to Rimonabant, but without the unwanted mental health impacts.
GW Holds Many Medical Patents on THCv
Given all the promising research on THCv, it should come as no surprise that there are several patents on this cannabinoid and plants that produce it. As much of the research on THCv was done by GW, they hold many of the patents. In 2002, GW first applied for their patent on THCv extracts, which they reapplied for several times before ultimately withdrawing it. In 2005, they applied for two still-active patents on THCv in the treatment of “obesity, schizophrenia, epilepsy, cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s, bone disorders, bulimia, obesity associated with type II diabetes (non-insulin dependant diabetes) and in the treatment of drug, alcohol and nicotine abuse or dependency.” In 2009, GW applied for a still pending patent on using THCv and CBD to treat epilepsy. In 2011, they applied for a now published patent on THCv in production of insulin and blood glucose (diabetes).
Growing Interest in THCv Cultivation
While for years THCv was a relatively rare cannabinoid, found in Durban Poison and few other cultivars, in the past few years there has been a surge of breeding for THCv. First, cultivars like Black Beauty and Doug’s Varin were developed, and earlier this year GTR Seeds released multiple THCv cultivars.
In 2021, the furor over THCv hit its fever pitch, and the world’s first THCv plant patents were issued to GenCann, LLC (GenCann) for three different cultivars, V1, V2, and V3. To learn more about GenCann’s plants and patents, High Times spoke to Mike Kahn, their Chief Cannabis Officer. “I believe we are the only ones in the world to have both plant and utility patents,” said Kahn, “The plant covers any clones and the utility covers anything derived from the plants.” Each cultivar is a little different, but Kahn said “V1 and V2 are both higher THCv than THC.”
Until Phylos Bioscience got a plant patent for a THCv cultivar last year, GenCann’s patents were the only ones to mention THCv. Kahn was critical of Phylos’ propagation methods which relied on “selfing,” which Kahn described as “rubbing colloidal silver on a female plant which causes it to produce male pollen to impregnate that plant or another female, like feminized seeds.” Kahn says that selfing produces less stable genetics than GenCann’s more natural method of open pollination and selection of phenotypes for linebreeding, though their method also came with risks. “A bear came and destroyed all but eight plants,” said Kahn, but thankfully they could salvage those plants and didn’t lose their genetics.
Kahn was an advocate for growing THCv outdoors, “speak to anyone working with THCv, they all say it needs to be grown outdoors,” as the landrace genetics at the root of most THCv cultivars tend to produce very large plants. He was also a strong advocate for quality, organic sourcing, “Where is the COA should be the first question asked about THCv flower,” Kahn also was skeptical of THCv converted from CBD (like delta-8) or made by yeast. When it came down to the debate around THCv being intoxicating, Kahn said “It is like CBD, it is psychotropic but not psychoactive.”
Whether you are looking to try something old school, like Durban Poison, or something more modern like V1, thankfully there are a lot more options out there for THCv-rich flower and manufactured products.