What is THCV? The skinny on the appetite suppressing cannabinoid

What is THCV?

Restrictions on the cannabis plant are lifting, and as they do, society gains more understanding of its possibilities. Like how medical marijuana could potentially help prevent and treat Alzheimer’s disease, or help people with insomnia get to sleep.

But not every strain, compound, or product interacts the same with the body and mind. Cannabis is complex. Each strain is a unique composition of countless cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other compounds.

People are interested in one of the minor cannabinoids in particular because it’s said to create a reduced appetite, while many others are known to evoke a ravenous glutton. That cannabinoid is tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV). So, what is THCV?

What is THCV?

THCV and THC have a similar compound structure, but the effects differ. Consuming THC activates CB1 and CB2 receptors found in the brain—this is one reason we feel high after a toke.

What is THCV?

But THCV is said to antagonize CB1 receptors, and research suggests it could have the same effect on CB2 receptors. This mechanism supports the belief that it is non-psychoactive by itself for most people. But in high doses, the cannabinoid may feel almost hallucinogenic.

Benefits of THCV

A double-blind study in 2015 showed that THCV could protect cannabinoid receptors from some of the psychoactive effects of THC.

Ten men split into two groups were given either pure THCV for five days, with THC added to the mix on the final day, or a placebo. When given psychoactive cannabinoid THC, only the placebo group responded to questions more slowly after THC consumption. Nine out of 10 participants reported a weakened high when given THCV and THC rather than a placebo.

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By itself in small doses, THCV is said to bring mental clarity and could work as an appetite suppressant. Studies have established some of the mechanisms at play after consuming the compound.

A UK team of research scientists studied the role of THCV on appetite using free-feeding rodents. Both fasting and non-fasting rodents in the groups reduced their food ingestion after administration.

The results have supported inquiry into the use of THCV for medically required weight loss. But the potential benefits of THCV go beyond that. In fact, there are multiple studies supporting a positive response from type 2 diabetes patients.

THCV and Type 2 Diabetes

Another set of research scientists sought to understand the possible pharmacological use for THCV and CBD for patients with type 2 diabetes. The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled 13-week study split 62 subjects into five groups. Treatments of 100mg CBD, 5mg THCV, combination of the two, or a placebo were administered.

Good cholesterol levels in patients were used as the main marker to understand the effect of each treatment. These levels mark “good” cholesterol, so, the higher, the better. For secondary analysis, the team took note of insulin sensitivity, body weight, the distribution of fat tissue, appetite, anti-inflammatory effects, gut hormones, a profile of lipids like triglycerides and cholesterol, liver triglycerides, and more.

Results were mixed but ultimately positive. On the mixed side, levels of HDL in plasma didnt rise, but apolipoprotein levels increased. Apolipoprotein is found in HDL, which would lead one to believe levels of the good cholesterol would be higher, but that wasn’t the case. This requires more research, but as promised, there are positives to report.

What is THCV?

The cannabinoid also lowered high fasting plasma glucose levels, which reduces a diabetic’s risk of cardiovascular disease. That’s not all, either. The THCV participants showed better functioning pancreatic beta cells, which store, synthesize, and release insulin.

CBD had some intriguing results, promoting lower levels of resistin compared with the baseline but not the placebo. This hormone plays a role in building insulin resistance. CBD also increased a hormone found in the small intestine that enhances insulin release after eating. There was nothing notable about groups taking combinations of the two cannabinoids.

The study concluded that THCV may be useful in glycemic control treatment plans for patients with type 2 diabetes, and research on the cannabinoid continued.

In 2023 a research team got cellular, studying the way THCV treatment could impact cellular mechanisms that play into the development of type 2 diabetes. When the endoplasmic reticulum gets stressed out, it impairs how cells function which can trigger a slew of metabolic diseases.

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They used cell cultures and stem cells to understand what was at play when THCV was introduced to a stressed-out cellular structure. It ended up countering the effects of stress on adipose tissue, meaning that the compound hindered the ability of cells to trigger type 2 diabetes. On top of all that, neither study reported negative side effects of THCV administration.

More possibilities for the compound

Though the subject is not widely studied, some anecdotal evidence suggests topical application could impact the peripheral nervous system, reducing neuropathy. When it comes to the role of the compound in the central nervous system, a 2016 study showed the effect of how THCV interacts with the endocannabinoid system.

Nineteen participants took part in the double-blind, placebo-controlled study on THCV. As a cannabinoid receptor antagonist, THCV decreased the amount of time the brain went into rest mode. Specifically, it reduced the resting state functional connectivity, leaving the brain in a task-focused state. This has interesting implications for treating depression without the negative side effects commonly associated with traditional antidepressants.

These mechanisms account for why THCV-heavy strains and products can induce a chore frenzy or help break through writer’s block. And it’s always novel that in a world of indica strains increasing appetite, there are some cannabis products that won’t deplete the pantry stores.

Where can you find this minor cannabinoid?

After all, it doesn’t grow in highly saturated amounts in most cannabis plants like its cousin THC. Keep an eye out at the dispensary for ingestible products, and for strains that have naturally tested high for the cannabinoid, or have been bred to do so. Durban Poison, Tangie, and Pink Boost Goddess are three sativa strains that commonly test with notable levels of the coveted compound.

THCV is a minor cannabinoid with major possibilities. All kinds of research support its use in treatments for type 2 diabetes, neuropathy, and overall ennui. Though THCV products aren’t as readily available as CBD oil or THC flower, it’s worth it to seek them out for the burst of energy alone.

Cara Wietstock is Senior Content Producer of GreenState.com and has been working in the cannabis space since 2011. She has covered the cannabis business beat for Ganjapreneur and The Spokesman Review. You can find her living in Bellingham, Washington with her husband, son, and a small zoo of pets.