Meet THCV—Cannabis' Newest Rising Star

Photo by Eldad Carin

You’ve probably heard of THC. You’ve probably heard of CBD. But odds are you haven’t heard of THCV, a newly studied cannabis compound that might be as close to magic as you’ll ever get.

Like all plants, cannabis produces a whole host of phytochemicals, some of which belong to a class of compounds called cannabinoids. The most known of these is tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, which is psychoactive. The other well known one is cannabidiol or CBD, which is non-psychoactive.

THC and CBD both get a lot of time in the spotlight—and for good reason. They’ve been shown to help with everything from seizures and muscle spasticity to autism and brain cancer. And while these two are the most researched, they’re just two of the 113 cannabinoids in the plant.

As you can imagine, there’s been a lot more interest lately in uncovering the medicinal properties of these other cannabinoids too. Tetrahydrocannabivarin or THCV is one of them—and it is pretty darn special.

THCV is related to THC, which you might have guessed. But it differs in its molecular structure, resulting in different functions. Early studies have shown THCV to have a wide range of promising medical benefits, making it a hot topic in cannabis research.

Like other cannabinoids, THCV has therapeutic potential as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and pain reliever. And while those properties are certainly worth celebrating, there's more.

The real buzz around THCV goes back to its potential to reduce appetite and improve insulin sensitivity—potentially making it a front-runner in the treatment of both diabetes and obesity.

A clinical trial conducted by GW Pharmaceuticals to test the effects of CBD and THCV in patients with type 2 diabetes, found that this cannabinoid combination improves blood glucose levels, insulin response, blood pressure and fasting insulin levels. A 2013 study found similar effects in mice, with THCV improving both glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity.

The appetite-suppressing effects of THCV might help your waistline even if you’re not diabetic or obese—and especially, if you regularly enjoy cannabis but are prone to the munchies. THCV’s medical value doesn’t stop at weight loss and improved glucose tolerance though.

Research has shown it has anti-convulsive properties, helping to reduce the amount and frequency of seizures; it can stimulate bone growth, which might make it a viable treatment option for osteoporosis; it can improve motor function and provide symptom relief in certain types of Parkinson’s disease; it can improve memory, attention and executive functioning, leading some researchers to wonder if THCV could one day replace stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin.

So where do you get cannabis that is high in THCV? That’s a bit trickier.

The strain with the highest concentration of THCV is called Doug’s Varin. It tests at a whopping 15 per cent THCV, while most other strains considered high in THCV test around two per cent. Some of these strains are Durban Poison, Pineapple Purp, Jack the Ripper and Ace of Spades. (Oh the names.)

THCV-rich strains deliver a high that is clear-headed, lucid, energizing and stimulating, while also imparting a sense of calm. The high comes on much more quickly and its effects wear off more quickly than THC-rich strains.

So if it’s that perfect, why is it hard so find? Well, because THCV has real promise as a diabetes and obesity treatment, there's also a real potential for financial windfall. At least for now, growers are keeping it under tight wraps.

It might take a bit more effort to track down a strain that’s high in THCV, but it’s definitely worth it. With all the existing research and more to come, THCV is rising up and might just be the next cannabinoid du jour.

Just remember you heard it here first.