THC(A) vs. THC: the difference in non-active and active THC cannabinoids

THC(A) vs. THC

THC is the main psychoactive constituent contained in the marijuana plant. While most of us have heard of THC, and know what it is, many people don’t know about its non-psychoactive pre-curser “acid form” called THC(A), also known as Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (isn’t THC(A) a lot easier to say?).

What is THC(A)?

THC(A) is actually the bio-synthetic precursor to THC. What this means is, over time – and given the proper environmental conditions – THC(A) will actually convert into THC. This conversion takes place in a couple of different ways and is commonly referred to as decarboxylation, or “decarbing” your cannabis.

Properties of THC(A)

Before being converted to it;s psychoactive form, THC(A) still has many therapeutic benefits while being void of psycho-activity – such as aiding in sleep, inhibiting cancer cell growth, and suppressing muscle spasms – as you can see from the chart below.

Properties of THC

THC has many separate properties, once it has been converted from THC(A). It has been shown to reduce vomiting and nausea, relieve pain, stimulate the appetite, and also reduces muscle spasms.

cannabinoid properties pie chart

What most people don’t realize is, that cannabis actually contains very little THC in it’s natural plant form. As a matter of fact, upwards of 80-90% or so of the THC found in cannabis is actually in the form of THC(A) until it goes through a process known as decarboxylation. Since decarboxylation instantly takes place while being smoked, the differences in the THC(A)/THC levels – are not as important when dealing with marijuana that will be smoked.

Topical uses of marijuana

On the other hand, if you are using medical marijuana or an extract to make a topical application, then you will need to have a better understanding of the differences in THC(A) and THC, as well as an understanding of what decarboxylation is and how it is achieved.

When making medical marijuana preparations such as topicals, capsules, and other forms of medical marijuana that will not be heated past the decarboxylation threshold of 222 degrees Fahrenheit - it is important to know what THC(A) to THC ratio you need to achieve for the desired effects. Also important is knowing that by properly decarboxylating your marijuana, you can dial in the desired amounts of THC(A) and THC for a custom preparation that holds the benefits of both of these great cannabinoids.

For example: let’s say you want to make a topical that will be a good pain reliever, as well as having an ability to inhibit cancer-cell growth. In this case you would not want to fully “decarb” your starting material, since you would be removing the properties that inhibit cancer-cell growth. A full-decarb would change the THC(A) to THC with about 95%+ conversion rate.

If however, you were able to partially decarb your plant material before turning it onto a topical, you could dial in properties that would otherwise be lost. This would be very beneficial in adjusting the efficacy of products being used by patients with more than one condition or symptom.

With use of the above chart, as well as the information provided in the article I wrote called “decarboxylation“, you can begin to get a fuller-understanding of cannabinoids and how to use them to our advantage. By custom tuning our products to include not only different cannabinoids, but to also include different versions of the same cannabinoids we will be able to make recipes that will be perfect for almost any condition that medical marijuana is therapeutic for.

Custom decarboxylation processes for obtaining a custom ratio

By using custom ranges of temperatures and times to perform decarboxylation, you can fine tune the amount of THC(A) that is converted into THC for the perfect ratio or blend. This could be very beneficial in making products that have a broad-range of therapeutic benefits.

As we learn more about the inner-workings of one of the worlds oldest herbs (cannabis), we are coming to the conclusion that marijuana is in fact medicine, and there are many ways to use it that we just have not found yet. By tweaking, experimenting and studying this plant we will be able to find many more uses for it in the future.

Happy medicating ~ Cannabis Chris

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About the author

Cannabis Chris is a knowledge seeker in all things cannabis related. Lifetime cannabis user, Michigan medical marijuana patient, activist and truth seeking specialist. Webmaster of and

2 Responses to THC(A) vs. THC: the difference in non-active and active THC cannabinoids

  1. Rachel says:

    For many years I had chronic sinus inflammation and sneezing fits once or twice a week that would last all day. I didn’t know I had an infection because my mucus was clear, so I thought it was allergies. The first time I juiced fresh, raw marijuana, I woke up in the morning and a mass of brownish goo came out my nose. I had a sneezy day, but continued regularly with the juicing. After three weeks of blowing brown and then yellow out my nose, I started to cough up yellow stuff. I have had very severe asthma for several years but never thought I had an infection because, like the sinus mucus, my lung mucus was clear. Now I’m in the process of killing my allergies and asthma with marijuana juice.

    I used to sneeze probably about 500 times a week. Now I sneeze maybe 25 times a week. I still have asthma, but it is slowly getting better. Raw marijuana is not the same as heated or cured. It is an amazing herb for chronic infections!

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