THCV has recently gotten attention for weight loss applications. The mechanisms for how THCV assists in weight loss are potentially multi-fold. The difference in behavior of THCV and THC boils down to a small difference in molecular structure, which effects how the cannabinoids bind to receptors in the endocannabinoid system. Where THC has a C5H11 hydrocarbon tail, THCV has a shortened C3H7 hydrocarbon tail, which effects their behavior significantly:
Agonists and Antagonists
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is packed with CB1 and CB2 receptors that are dispersed throughout the body. When discussing interactions with the CB1 and CB2 receptors, it’s important to note that there is more than one way a molecule interacts with a receptor. In the case of an agonist, a molecule binds to the receptor and a cascade of chemical reactions lead to observable side effects. As an antagonist, a molecule instead binds to the receptor and blocks the cascade of chemical reactions that would have lead to observable side effects.
THC as an appetite stimulant
THC as a cannabinoid agonist interacts with the ECS by binding to both the CB1 and CB2 receptors. THC has a much stronger affinity for the CB1 receptor, which appears to mediate it’s psychoactive properties. Once THC binds to the CB1 receptor, an onset of chemical reactions causes side effects in the body. One of these reactions ultimately leads to the production of the hormone ghrelin, which stimulates appetite.
THCV as an appetite suppressant
THCV, on the other hand, is a cannabinoid that behaves as an antagonist. When it encounters a CB1 receptor in the body, it also binds, but in this case it inhibits the onslaught of chemical reactions that produce ghrelin and stimulate appetite. The ultimate effect is that THCV behaves as an appetite suppressant.
Exactly how each of these cannabinoids binds to the CB1 and CB2 receptors is the topic for another day. It is pretty fascinating that just 2 carbons and 4 hydrogens can impact the bio activity of such a large molecule so profoundly. To learn more about the cannabinoids, check out our blog posts on hexahydrocannabinol (HHC), brewing cannabinoids, and delta 8 THC.