Think the powerhouse ingredients in cannabis begin and end with THC and CBD? Think again. Cannabis plants contain over one hundred minor cannabinoids, each with potential health benefits.
One of these lesser-known cannabinoids is tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV). It belongs to a group of cannabinoids known as varins, which have a different structure from most of their brethren (1).
THCV is currently being studied for several therapeutic uses, including obesity and diabetes. What should you know about THCV? Can it really help with weight loss? Below, we’ll discuss the current evidence.
Table of Contents
- What’s the Difference Between THCV and THC?
- Potential Effects & Benefits of THCV
- Does THCV Help With Weight Loss?
- Is THCV Safe?
- THCV Dosage
- Types of THCV Products
- My Experience with THCV
- Cannabis Strains High in THCV
- THCV: An Emerging Cannabinoid with Multiple Benefits
What’s the Difference Between THCV and THC?
|Main Potential Benefits||Anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, appetite suppressant, neuroprotective||Anti-inflammatory, sleep aid, pain relief, neuroprotective, appetite stimulant, anti-nausea|
|Main Mechanisms||CB1 antagonist/reverse agonist, CB2 agonist/antagonist||CB1 & CB2 receptor agonist|
THCV is a homologue of THC, meaning the two cannabinoids have a similar molecular structure. But despite this similarity, there are some crucial differences:
- Unlike THC, THCV doesn’t produce any intoxicating effects. This is helpful for those who wish to use cannabinoids for medical purposes.
- THCV interacts with cannabinoid receptors differently than THC. THC is an agonist to both CB1 and CB2 receptors, meaning it activates them directly. In contrast, THCV is an antagonist or reverse agonist to CB1 receptors, meaning it has the opposite effect. It can be an agonist or an antagonist to CB2 receptors depending on the dose (2).
- THC can increase hunger by activating CB1, whereas THCV appears to suppress it instead.
- THC comes from CBGa (cannabigerolic acid), whereas THCV comes from CBGVa (cannabigerovarinic acid), the varinic version of CBGa.
Potential Effects & Benefits of THCV
THCV appears to have a host of potential benefits, including suppressing appetite, regulating blood sugar, and protecting against neurodegenerative conditions, acne, and the side effects of THC.
Weight Loss Support
Research on THCV and weight loss is still in its early stages, but the cannabinoid appears promising. For example, a 2009 study found that THCV reduced appetite and promoted weight loss in mice that had free access to food (3).
Another 2014 human study looked at the effects of THCV on the brain’s response to rewarding (chocolate) and aversive (moldy strawberries) food stimuli (4). Twenty people were given 10 mg of THCV or placebo. THCV increased both responses, with the researchers concluding that THCV may have “therapeutic activity in obesity.”
THCV may help regulate blood sugar, which could be helpful for those with diabetes. A 2016 study found that THCV significantly reduced fasting blood glucose levels in patients with type 2 diabetes compared to placebo (5). It also improved pancreatic cell function and levels of certain diabetes markers.
Neuroprotective & Pain-Relieving Effects
A 2022 mouse study tested the effects of THCV and CBD neuropathic pain. Although both cannabinoids provided neuroprotection, the combination treatment had much greater effectiveness, providing more evidence for the cannabis entourage effect (6).
Meanwhile, a 2011 study in mice and rats found that THCV may delay the progression of Parkinson’s disease and alleviate its symptoms through antioxidant and neuroprotective effects (7).
Multiple studies have found that CBD can help fight acne by reducing oil production and reducing inflammation. Now evidence is growing that other cannabinoids like THCV also have skin-protective effects.
For example, a 2016 petri dish study found that CBC, CBDV, and THCV all helped fight acne by reducing inflammation (8). THCV in particular was very effective at slowing oil production and reducing cell growth in sebocyte cells.
May Reduce Effects of THC
THCV may also minimize the side effects of THC. A 2015 placebo-controlled study in 10 male cannabis users found that dosing with THCV for five days before injection with THC reduced delayed verbal recall issues and elevated heart rate caused by THC (9). Nine out of the 10 men also said THC felt weaker or less intense when taking THCV compared to placebo.
Does THCV Help With Weight Loss?
If you struggle with controlling your appetite, the idea of a cannabinoid that can suppress it might sound like a dream come true. While the jury is still out on how THCV affects appetite and metabolism in humans, studies on rodents have found that it can reduce food intake, decrease body fat, and boost energy expenditure (10, 3).
But before you go stocking up on THCV in hopes of shedding pounds, remember that animal studies don’t necessarily translate to humans. So while THCV’s potential appetite-suppressing effects are intriguing, more research is needed before we can endorse it as a “diet weed” weight-loss aid.
Is THCV Safe?
THCV appears to be well-tolerated with minor side effects. The diabetes study reported reduced appetite in 4 out of 12 and diarrhea in two out of 12 people taking THCV. The researchers concluded that “Both CBD and THCV were well tolerated, with the majority of patients experiencing AEs that were mild in severity” (5).
Still, proper safety studies need to be done. It’s always wise to practice caution when adding a new product to your wellness regimen. Observe how your body responds after each dose, and take only as much as needed to get the desired results.
The clinical studies we discussed above found THCV doses of 5-10 mg to be effective, so this dosage makes a good starting point.
Keep in mind that the effects of cannabis products like THCV can vary from person to person. As with any cannabis product, the best practice is to start with a low dose and work your way up slowly until you find the dosage that gives you the desired effects.
Types of THCV Products
You won’t find too many THCV products on the shelves yet, but some CBD brands are introducing products containing higher concentrations of THCV. Some THCV-rich products you can find online include:
- Oil tinctures
- Gummies and other edibles
If you prefer your cannabinoids in cannabis flower form, THCV-rich strains are also available at dispensaries or online.
My Experience with THCV
In my experience testing 10 mg THCV gummies (pictured above), I felt slightly reduced appetite about 60 minutes after eating them, but it wasn’t a huge effect. I also felt somewhat increased energy and focus, almost like a light version of caffeine.
So THCV is worth a try but I wouldn’t make any grand claims about it until more research is done.
Cannabis Strains High in THCV
THCV is present in most cannabis plants but only some strains have high enough levels to offer benefits.
Strains that originate in Asian countries including China, India, and Nepal, and strains from the southern regions of Africa have been shown to have the highest THCV content (11).
Durban Poison is one of the most common strains that contain high levels of THCV (~1%), thanks to its South African origins. Other strains to look for include:
- Jack the Ripper
- Pineapple Purps
- Durban Cheese
- Doug’s Varin
- Willie Nelson
- Red Congolese
When in doubt, opt for cultivars originating from African countries. You can also go for hybrids that include African sativa in their lineage, like Skunk #1 and Cherry Pie.
THCV: An Emerging Cannabinoid with Multiple Benefits
THCV appears to have various exciting benefits, including appetite suppression, neuroprotection, blood glucose control, and alleviating the side effects of THC. It may be one of the only cannabinoids that can help with diabetes and obesity.
If you want to enjoy your cannabis without fighting the munchies, high-THCV products may be for you.
But before you look to THCV as a miracle weight loss aid, keep in mind that researchers are only scratching the surface of this lesser-known cannabinoid. More clinical studies are needed to understand its effects fully.
- Walsh, Kenneth B., Amanda E. McKinney, and Andrea E. Holmes. “Minor cannabinoids: biosynthesis, molecular pharmacology and potential therapeutic uses.” Frontiers in Pharmacology 12 (2021): 777804.
- Abioye, Amos, et al. “Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV): a commentary on potential therapeutic benefit for the management of obesity and diabetes.” Journal of cannabis research 2.1 (2020): 1-6.
- Riedel, Gernot, et al. “Synthetic and plant‐derived cannabinoid receptor antagonists show hypophagic properties in fasted and non‐fasted mice.” British journal of pharmacology 156.7 (2009): 1154-1166.
- Tudge, Luke, et al. “Neural effects of cannabinoid CB1 neutral antagonist tetrahydrocannabivarin on food reward and aversion in healthy volunteers.” International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology 18.6 (2015).
- Jadoon, Khalid A., et al. “Efficacy and safety of cannabidiol and tetrahydrocannabivarin on glycemic and lipid parameters in patients with type 2 diabetes: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel group pilot study.” Diabetes Care 39.10 (2016): 1777-1786.’
- Kalvala, Anil Kumar, et al. “Role of Cannabidiol and Tetrahydrocannabivarin on Paclitaxel-induced neuropathic pain in rodents.” International immunopharmacology 107 (2022): 108693.
- García, C., et al. “Symptom‐relieving and neuroprotective effects of the phytocannabinoid Δ9‐THCV in animal models of Parkinson’s disease.” British journal of pharmacology 163.7 (2011): 1495-1506.
- Oláh, Attila, et al. “Differential effectiveness of selected non‐psychotropic phytocannabinoids on human sebocyte functions implicates their introduction in dry/seborrhoeic skin and acne treatment.” Experimental dermatology 25.9 (2016): 701-707.
- Englund, Amir, et al. “The effect of five day dosing with THCV on THC-induced cognitive, psychological and physiological effects in healthy male human volunteers: a placebo-controlled, double-blind, crossover pilot trial.” Journal of Psychopharmacology 30.2 (2016): 140-151.
- Russo, Ethan B. “Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid‐terpenoid entourage effects.” British journal of pharmacology 163.7 (2011): 1344-1364.
- Hillig, Karl W., and Paul G. Mahlberg. “A chemotaxonomic analysis of cannabinoid variation in Cannabis (Cannabaceae).” American journal of botany 91.6 (2004): 966-975.
Gleb is a freelance writer from Vancouver, Canada specializing in CBD and cannabis. He’s read thousands of studies on CBD and other supplements, helping him translate complex science into plain language. Gleb has tried and reviewed dozens of CBD brands and products, written third-party testing reports, and knows the CBD industry inside and out. When not writing, he likes to kickbox, travel, and tell everyone how awesome intermittent fasting is.