In 1970, researchers at the University of Oxford stumbled upon a cannabis compound that would remain shrouded in mystery for decades: tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV).
THCV has acquired a mythical status among cannabis enthusiasts due to its rarity and the psychedelic effects attributed to it in high doses in certain African landrace varieties. However, recent developments in California’s legal cannabis market have removed the conundrum surrounding THCV and made it more accessible than ever.
The Changing THCV Landscape in California
With California being one of the largest US cannabis markets, it is not surprising to see that THCV is slowly infusing its market, with a notable increase in THCV-infused products. The federal legalization of hemp in 2018 played a critical role in expanding the availability of synthetic cannabinoids, including lab-produced THCV. But also because cannabis cultivation companies have made considerable progress in cultivating plants naturally rich in THCV, meeting the demand for this elusive compound.
Some brands like Kiva, known for its cannabis-infused chocolate bars, are now marketing different THCV-based products, in the form of gummies, called “Focus” and “Energy”. These products combine THCV with THC and other energetic ingredients such as B vitamins, L-theanine and caffeine.
The Science Behind THCV
Understanding the science behind THCV provides insight into its potential effects. Unlike THC, which partially activates a specific receptor associated with processes such as memory and pain, THCV appears to have the opposite effect, deactivating that receptor. This could explain the reported “anti-high” effects, such as increased alertness and reduced hunger. Limited clinical trials suggest that THCV may reduce short-term memory loss and cause “energetic” feelings.
On the purely medical side, THCV raises intriguing possibilities. Studies in rodents indicate that THCV can reduce appetite, body weight, and resting glucose levels, suggesting its potential in treating metabolic disorders such as diabetes. Although promising, it is essential to emphasize that conclusive results on the effects of THCV in humans are lacking due to the paucity of in-depth studies.
Despite its potential benefits, THCV comes with a hefty price tag, ten times higher than conventional THC. Nicole Daryanani, sales manager at Kiva, acknowledges the high cost but points out that a steady supply from Phylos Bioscience, an Oregon-based breeding company, has contributed to the influx of THCV products into California.
Phylos Bioscience is a key player in the THCV market, breeding cannabis plants with an unprecedented potency of 20% THCV. Company CEO Ralph Risch says the focus is on energizing and uplifting benefits, to meet the needs of consumers who are looking for more than just a traditional “high.” Phylos is even financing a clinical trial in California to unravel the mysteries of the effects of THCV on humans, the results of which are expected in early 2024.