Medical Research

Meet THCP: The Most Potent Cannabinoid

Written by Nick Congleton

Delta-9 THC is the most potent naturally-occurring cannabinoid, right? Well, new research proves that’s not the case, not by a long shot.

Researchers have discovered a previously unknown cannabinoid in the the cannabis sativa plant, and it’s estimated to be 33 times more potent than delta-9 THC. Meet THCP, the undisputed champion of cannabinoids. [1]

 

What Is THCP?

To understand what THCP is, you need to take a step back and understand how it was discovered. A group of Italian researchers was analyzing samples of medical grade marijuana to get a clearer picture of the combination of cannabinoids present. They were looking to get a better grasp of how medical cannabis has the effects it does, and since there are over 150 known cannabinoids, they were hoping to study how they interact with one another and the body’s endocannabinoid system. [1]

As they were breaking down the cannabis plant and extracting pure cannabinoids to study, they found that there was more than the usual THC, CBD, THCV, CBDV, CBG, and the other more common cannabinoids. In fact, they discovered four new cannabinoids, not just THCP. [1]

First, the group of researchers identified both THCB and CBDB, both of which were previously unknown. Of course, this pair wasn’t as interesting as the THCP and CBDP. [1]

It might be confusing to hear the acronyms THC, THCV, THCB, and THCP thrown around.  After all, what’s the difference?

Whenever these acronyms are used, they’re likely all talking about variations of delta-9 THC. Actually, these names don’t have much of anything to do with delta-8. Delta-8 is an analog of delta-9 which has a double bond between atoms in a different place than delta-9.

So, the differences between THC, THCV, THCB, and THCP all come down to a tail of carbon atoms sticking off the side of the molecule called a alkyl chain. All of these cannabinoids are chemically the same, with the exception of that chain, making them homologs. [1]

Standard delta-9 THC has an alkyl chain of five carbon atoms. THCV only has three. The newly discovered THCB has four. What makes THCP so astounding is, it has seven. [1]

THCP is a cannabinoid, chemically very similar to delta-9 THC, but it has an alkyl chain of seven carbon atoms instead of standard delta-9’s five. [1]

 

What Makes THCP So Potent?

It’s hard to fully comprehend that THCP is potentially 33 times as potent as standard delta-9 THC. The number sounds almost too large to be true. However, the team of Italian researchers tested THCP to see how potent it actually was, and that number comes from their findings. [1]

It’s been known for some time that the alkyl chains that differentiate THC from THCV and THCP are responsible for the potency of those cannabinoids. The longer the chain is, to a certain point, the more potent the cannabinoid. Since THC has five carbon atoms in the chain, it’s fairly potent; more potent than THCV, which only has 3. THCP, on the other hand, has seven, making it significantly more potent than THC. [1]

Research suggests that the length of the alkyl chain directly corresponds to how well the cannabinoid binds to CB1 endocannabinoid receptors in the body. In essence, THCP is a better fit, so it binds more readily and delivers a bigger punch. [1]

If you were wondering, that 33 times number comes from THCP’s higher affinity for binding to the body’s CB1 and CB2 receptors. In the researchers’ tests, they found THCP bound to the body’s endocannabinoid receptors 33 times more than standard delta-9 THC. [1]

 

What Are The Effects Of THCP?

Since THCP was newly discovered in late 2019, there hasn’t been much research yet into its effects.  The initial research team that discovered THCP did some preliminary tests, and their findings seem to be in line with standard THC, only magnified. [1]

The Italian researchers tested the impact of THCP on mice, so their findings were limited.  They did, however, compare those findings to other tests of THC on mice and found a similar pattern. [1]

They found that the mice experienced hypomobility, meaning the mice didn’t move much. This fits with the classic description of someone on too much THC being exceedingly lazy or unable to get off the couch. [1]

They also found that THCP relieves pain, similarly to THC. [1]

Oddly, the third criteria they tested for was decreased rectal temperature, which the mice also exhibited. [1]

While it may be too soon to tell the full extent of THCP’s effects and properties, it appears as if it really is just a stronger form of the more familiar THC.

 

Resources:

1- Citti, C., Linciano, P., Russo, F. et al. A novel phytocannabinoid isolated from Cannabis sativa L. with an in vivo cannabimimetic activity higher than Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol: Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabiphorol. Sci Rep. 2019;9(20335) https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-56785-1

 

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Nick Congleton

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