Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid A (THCA-A) is the acidic precursor of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive compound found in Cannabis sativa. THCA-A is biosynthesized and accumulated in glandular trichomes present on flowers and leaves, where it serves protective functions and can represent up to 90% of the total THC contained in the plant. THCA-A slowly decarboxylates to form THC during storage and fermentation and can further degrade to cannabinol. Decarboxylation also occurs rapidly during baking of edibles, smoking, or vaporizing, the most common ways in which the general population consumes Cannabis. Contrary to THC, THCA-A does not elicit psychoactive effects in humans and, perhaps for this reason, its pharmacological value is often neglected. In fact, many studies use the term "THCA" to refer indistinctly to several acid derivatives of THC. Despite this perception, many in vitro studies seem to indicate that THCA-A interacts with a number of molecular targets and displays a robust pharmacological profile that includes potential anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, neuroprotective, and antineoplastic properties. Moreover, the few in vivo studies performed with THCA-A indicate that this compound exerts pharmacological actions in rodents, likely by engaging type-1 cannabinoid (CB1) receptors. Although these findings may seem counterintuitive due to the lack of cannabinoid-related psychoactivity, a careful perusal of the available literature yields a plausible explanation to this conundrum and points toward novel therapeutic perspectives for raw, unheated Cannabis preparations in humans.
Keywords: THC; THC-COOH; THCA-A.