With the hemp market boom following the plant’s federal legalization in 2018, several compounds have shared the spotlight as consumers’ favorite cannabinoids. From the relaxing delta 8 to the energizing delta 10, you may have already heard of, or even tried, some of these compounds.
While hemp-derived products are certainly popular, critics of the compounds often disregard hemp-based cannabinoids for their lack of potency. We in the hemp community hear those haters, and we raise them two compounds strong enough to knock their socks off and put them back on inside out: THC-O and THCP!
Both analogs of delta 9, these two compounds are most notable for their intense potencies and strong psychoactive effects. But there’s also much more to THC-O and THCP than just their gargantuan strength. They each have their own individual sets of effects, benefits, and histories that make them what we know today. Let’s unpack the complexities surrounding two of hemp’s most potent cannabinoids!
What is THC-O?
THCO stands for tetra cannabinoid-O-acetate and is also referred to as THC-O acetate or THCOA. Although it isn't yet particularly mainstream, the compound is increasing in popularity among cannabis consumers. THC-O is an ester of THC. In essence, it is an acetic cannabinoid achieved by converting hemp-derived CBD into a potent psychoactive compound.
After CBD is extracted from the raw hemp plant, usually via CO2 extractions, it is converted into delta 8 through a process known as isomerization. All cannabinoids share a similar molecular structure, so isomerization simply consists of rearranging these existing molecules and turning the initial compound into a new one—in this case, isomerization turns CBD into delta 8.
After the delta 8 conversion is achieved, chemists add a chemical known as acetic anhydride, making THCO a semi-synthetic analog of THC. THCO is not a naturally occurring cannabinoid; instead, it is made in a lab from natural hemp. But its classification as a non-natural cannabinoid doesn’t necessarily make it dangerous.
Acetylation is a simple form of drug synthesis that doesn’t require the same dangerous substances commonly associated with other synthetic medications. In fact, THCO is only lightly synthesized, as it is made from hemp-derived CBD. This acetylation results in heightened potency, estimated to be around three times that of regular delta 9.
Benefits of THC-O
While not much is yet known about this cannabinoid, its main benefit is its potency. Because it is an analog of delta 9, it’s more than likely that the two compounds share many of the same benefits, but THC-O delivers them in a manner three times stronger than delta 9. Some anecdotal evidence suggests that the cannabinoid can help relieve pain, boost appetite, and reduce anxiety.
It is also a widely accepted notion that THC-O is all about euphoria. Because THC binds to receptors that control mood, pain, and other feelings, using THCO results in a euphoric and happy high. Additionally, some users report THC-O as containing hallucinogenic properties when taken at higher doses, oftentimes causing auditory or visual hallucinations. So, its appeal to users it not only its intense high, but also the possibility to take a little trip.
Other than that, THC-O is believed to have the following potential benefits:
- Increased appetite
- Sleep supportive properties
- Pain and stress relief
- Bodily relief
- Anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) properties
What is THCP?
Tetrahydrocannabiphoral, or THCP for short, is a cannabinoid with close relations to THC that is found in extremely low natural concentrations in the cannabis plant. While the cannabinoid is relatively new, meaning we don’t yet know too much about its benefits and effects, what we do know is that the compound has a strong affinity to CB1 endocannabinoid receptors, giving it remarkably strong psychoactive effects. As a matter of fact, this compound is thought bind to CB1 receptors over 33 times as strongly as delta 9, making it potentially up to 33 times as potent as regular THC.
Because we don’t have much to go off scientifically,
Although THCP can be found naturally in cannabis plants, it can also be made by chemically manipulating hemp-derived CBD—just like THCO. In nature, enzymatic reactions in hemp use CBGA, known as “the mother of all cannabinoids,” to create another molecule called tetrahydrocannabiphorolic acid, or THCPA. Similar to how THCA is the acidic precursor to THC, THCPA is the equivalent to THCP. So, THCPA is converted into THCP through a process called decarboxylation. In a lab environment, chemists recreate this process.
Benefits of THCP
THCP is still very new to the world of cannabis, so no significant studies exist on the compound outside of the observations made by the original team that discovered it. Despite this lack of scientific evidence, the compound’s potential medical applications are promising.
Of course, its main and most attractive benefit is its gargantuan potency. THCP may provide more relief to patients who require high levels of THC for their treatment, such as those who use high-THC oils to fight cancer. Higher levels of THCP could also potentially produce sedative effects capable of soothing insomnia or relieving intractable pain.
Some other ways THCP could potentially be helpful include:
- Stretching tight ligaments (Hypomobility)
- May lower body temperature, especially in the rectum
THCP and THC-O both have pretty rich histories, but in our opinion, THCO’s background is much more interesting than THCP’s. Check them both out and you can be the judge.
THC-O was originally researched by the United States Army between 1948 and 1975 in a series of classified studies now known as the Edgewood Arsenal Experiments. They tested the substance on animals with the purpose of assessing it as a weapon, or more specifically, how the cannabinoid could serve as a non-lethal incapacitating agent. While the studies eventually stopped and the army abandoned the idea of using THC-O for violent purposes, their research did reveal that dogs were twice as incapacitated by THC-O than just regular THC. So, even though this compound is just now beginning to bleed into the mainstream cannabinoid market, it is actually much older than many believe.
THCP, on the other hand, was discovered only a few years ago in 2019 by a team of Italian researchers—and it was a complete accident! The team was originally attempting to analyze some cannabis samples up close, but they made a mind-blowing discovery and soon published their findings in the Scientific Reports, a peer-reviewed journal covering all areas of the natural sciences. This team of scientists noted that THCP works similarly to THC with the endocannabinoid system, but that it is able to bind to CB1 receptors at a rate 33 times higher than THC.
Although both now known for their intense potencies, THC-O and THCP have vastly different historical backgrounds, and they were discovered decades apart. Even so, the two cannabinoids may have more in common than originally meets the eye.
Can They Both Be Found in Marijuana, or Only Hemp?
THCP is a naturally occurring cannabinoid in all cannabis plants, meaning it exists in hemp and marijuana plants alike. The only difference between a hemp plant and a marijuana plant is each plant’s THC contents, but apart from that, the two types of cannabis are virtually the same. While THCP exists in all cannabis plants, it can only be found in trace amounts naturally, which is why chemists and manufacturers prefer to take the CBD conversion road to achieve the compound.
THC-O, on the other hand, is not a naturally occurring cannabinoid in hemp or marijuana. The compound was born in a lab after adding acetic anhydride to THC, which wouldn’t happen organically in any cannabis plant. That said, THC-O can technically be made from CBD or THC from either type of cannabis but is most commonly derived from hemp-based CBD.
Which is Better for Sleep?
While research on both compounds is still limited, there currently exists no indication that THC-O has any particularly sedative properties. As a matter of fact, THC-O has been known to enhance the world around its users, making them more talkative, gigglier, and more aware of the colors and sounds that surround them. These characteristics are typical of sativa strains, which are commonly associated with boosts of energy and focus. That said, THC-O has also been demonstrated to boost GABA production. GABA is a special inhibitory neurotransmitter that prevents nerve cells from becoming hyperactive—or in other words, it slows the brain down. Using THC-O, especially accompanied by CBD, can offset its intense psychoactive high and enhance its overall effect on sleep.
THCP, on the other hand, has some more lightly indica-leaning effects. Indica strains are commonly used to treat pain, insomnia, and other bodily discomforts. Some research suggests that THCP may be beneficial to adults by helping induce sleep, especially for people struggling with physical pains. So, if you’re looking for a good night’s sleep delivered in an insanely potent way, THCP is more than likely the way to go, but THC-O could also be helpful when taken in unison with CBD.
THC-O vs. THCP
So, we’ve already been over the two compounds individually, from which we learned when they were discovered, how they are made, and what exactly gives them their potency at the chemical level. But now, it’s time to do what we came here for, comparing the two cannabinoids.
THC-O vs. THCP: Comparison Table
Aids with hypomobility
Mild to severe pain relief
Helps lower body temperature
Potential side effects
Does it occur naturally?
Yes, but only in trace amounts.
Everything You Need to Know About THC-O and THCP
Although THC-O and THCP both belong to the family of tetrahydrocannabinols, they each have similar molecular structures to delta 9 with different variations. These unique variations can determine the way they behave in your body, as well as the subsequent effects they may produce.
Both compounds can help with pain relief and better sleep at lower doses. In higher doses, they also share some negative similarities, such as producing paranoia, anxiety, confusion, and nausea. That said, THC-O and THCP are actually quite different.
While THC-O is a semi-synthetic cannabinoid, THCP occurs naturally in cannabis plants. THC-O is also a prodrug, meaning it only becomes fully active after the metabolization process, unlike THCP, which is already active before entering your body.
THC-O is thought to be around three times as potent as THC, which is certainly a feat of its own. THCP, however, is in a whole different league potency-wise. The cannabinoid is estimated to be around twice as strong as THC-O and roughly 10x more potent than delta 9, although its psychoactive effects still have the potential to be even stronger than we currently think. That said, even though THCP is much stronger than THC-O, the compound does not cause psychedelic effects in any dose, while THC-O is known to produce hallucinations in users at higher doses.
At the end of the day, the key facts to take away from this THC-O vs. THCP comparison are:
- THCP is naturally occurring, while THC-O is semi-synthetic.
- THCP is stronger than THC-O.
- THC-O produces psychedelic hallucinations at higher doses, but THCP does not.
- They can both help with sleep, pain relief, and relaxation.
The Legality of THC-O vs. THCP
The legality of THC analogs like THC-O and THCP is largely debated, and frankly, their legal status depends on where you are and who you ask. To make things simple, let’s begin at the federal level. In 2018, the Farm Bill, also known as the Agriculture Improvement Act, legalized hemp and hemp derivatives at the federal level.
As previously discussed, the only difference between hemp and marijuana is their THC contents. Under federal law, hemp refers to cannabis plants containing 0.3% THC or less on a dry-weight basis, while marijuana refers to any cannabis plant that exceeds that 0.3% THC cap. The bill also removed hemp from the definition of marijuana from the country’s Controlled Substances Act, meaning that while marijuana remains illegal, hemp products are free to use, possess, manufacture, and sell.
So, technically, compounds like THC-O and THCP are legal in the eyes of the United States government as long as they are made from hemp and therefore contain 0.3% THC or less. When we reach state-level legality, however, things get a little trickier. Many states have placed restrictions or bands on hemp-derived cannabinoids, so even though the compounds are legal under federal law, they may not be in your state.
At this time, THC-O and THCP may be illegal in the following states:
- New York
- Rhode Island
THC-O vs. THCP - Comparing the Highs
While THC-O and THCP can seem pretty similar, the two highs can feel very different. Apart from their distinct potencies, how else do the two cannabinoids differ in experience?
THCP’s main selling point seems to be its heightened potency, which makes users feel intensely blissful and happy, with the additional effect of a mellow vibe, making THC-P great for evening use. Users report the THCP high as being insanely strong and long-lasting, so don’t expect to take a few hits and walk out the door like nothing happened. Because of its intense effects, many users choose to take the compound in lower concentrations—a little goes a long way.
THC-O is also popular due to its strength, but that strength is nothing compared to that of THCP. Apart from that, THC-O’s high is all about euphoria and relaxation. It will make you feel happy and content. You may catch yourself getting a little too talkative or laughing a little louder and a little longer than usual. You may notice colors look brighter and music sounds better when high on THC-O, as it works to make you more sensitive to the world around you. Another important aspect of THC-O’s high, of course, is that it may cause psychedelic effects when taken in higher doses.
So, in essence, THCP’s high is more intense than THC-O’s, but THC-O can potentially cause hallucinations. While THCP is perfect for nighttime use and unwinding after a long day, THC-O has been found to make you feel more sociable and sensitive to the things you once saw as mundane.
What Happens If You Combine Both Cannabinoids?
You’re gonna get real damn high, that’s what’s gonna happen.
Although we don’t have sound scientific proof of what exactly happens when you combine THC-O and THCP, it’s more than plausible that mixing two super strong cannabinoids is just going to lead to a more intense psychoactive experience. Apart from just getting you higher, taking the two cannabinoids together could possibly trigger the entourage effect, a phenomenon that occurs when different compounds and cannabinoids interact with each other in order to heighten one another’s effects and benefits.
But before you go around creating cannabinoid cocktails, be warned: taking THC-O or THCP individually, or let alone, combined, is not recommended for beginners or novice cannabis users because of the compounds’ extremely intense psychoactive natures. If you think your mind and body can handle either of these cannabinoids—or both of them together—go ahead and give it a try, but don’t say we didn’t warn you you’d probably be on your way to the edge of the known universe!
How Do THC-O vs. THCP Interact with the Endocannabinoid System?
All tetrahydrocannabinols work the same way: by interacting with endocannabinoid receptors in the body. These neurotransmitters influence a plethora of bodily functions, including mood, sleep, and pain regulation. This is why THC can be so beneficial in treating chronic pain, alleviating stress, or getting you to go to bed at a reasonable hour.
THC-O causes similar to delta 9 in the sense that it binds to the endocannabinoid receptors in your brain, but the difference is that THC-O’s slightly different molecular shape gives it the ability to bind directly to your brain’s sensitive CB1 receptors, giving it a strong binding affinity and the resulting extremely powerful effects.
THC is known to have a relative strong binding affinity to CB1 receptors due to its five-atom side chain. This molecular structure helps explain its psychoactive effects on the body and mind, as well as its ability to reduce nausea, promote pain relief, and lead to better sleep. When scientists discovered that THCP has a seven-atom side chain, however, they knew they were in for a real treat. Because of the added atoms to THCP’s carbon tail, the compound is much better suited to securely bind to CB1 receptors, making its effects much more potent and prolonged than those of THC.
Although consuming THC-O and THCP may have some incredible benefits, there do remain some significant safety concerns surrounding the consumption of these cannabinoids. They’re unregulated and complicated to produce, two factors that, when combined, just invite a general lack of safety surrounding these products.
Creating THC-O and THCP products isn't as easy as extracting them from cannabis plants and packaging them. THCP only occurs in trace amounts, and THC-O doesn’t occur naturally at all. So, producers are in charge of chemically synthesizing THC-O and THCP from other cannabinoids in laboratory environments. Because these processes are not regulated by the FDA, finding a cannabinoid source that takes your health and safety seriously is extremely important.
Making THC-O, as previously mentioned, requires acetate anhydride, a highly flammable chemical that can sometimes be dangerous. During the purification process, manufacturers must remove any traces of acetate anhydride because it has corrosive properties that can severely damage your body.
You may be comfortable buying an eighth of weed from your local dealer, but compounds like THC-O and THCP simply aren’t as straight up as growing a plant in your backyard and selling its yields. When it comes to synthetic cannabinoids—or even natural cannabinoids— it is extremely important to find a trustworthy, reputable manufacturer that understands the importance of a product’s purity and a consumer’s safety.
At CBD Mall, all of our products are made from organic, non-GMO hemp using cutting-edge technology that allows for a careful and precise production process. Additionally, all of our products are third-party lab tested to ensure they contain no contaminants, impurities, or other harmful additives.
THC-O and THCP can both be incredibly beneficial (and potent) cannabinoid products. Although THCP is never psychedelic like THC-O, it is still stronger than the acetate compound. Both of these cannabinoids can help with a plethora of discomforts, from better sleep to the mitigation of pain. Psychoactively speaking, THCP is much stronger than THC-O—and all other cannabinoids, for that matter.
Whether you choose to try THC-O or THCP, please remember that the most important safety aspect of these compounds is finding a reputable and trustworthy retailer that guarantees a safe and positive overall psychoactive experience. If your product doesn’t come with a third-party lab test, it’s better not to buy it at all. Getting high feels great, but getting high while staying safe is even better!