Delta THC | Science

THCP: An Exciting New Phytocannabinoid

Dr Abraham Benavides

MEDICALLY REVIEWED BY

Dr Abraham Benavides

Medical Doctor

In late 2019, Italian researchers discovered two new cannabinoids, Δ9-THCP (Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabiphorol) and CBDP (Cannabidiphorol).

While both of these are interesting, Δ9-THCP has taken center stage due to its jaw-dropping psychotropic potency 33 times that of Δ9-THC in research estimates. It was also noted to be about 63 times more powerful of a psychotropic than THCV.

Below, we’ll dive deep into the discovery of Tetrahydrocannabiphorol and why it’s such an important stepping stone in cannabis-derived science.

TCHP discovery illustration

What Is THCP? 

THCP stands for delta-9-tetrahydrocannabiphorol or Tetrahydrocannabiphorol.

THCP falls into the category of phytocannabinoids and in research, it’s been extracted and also synthesized from the Cannabis Sativa family of plants.

We’re already familiar with popular phytocannabinoids like THC and CBD. Some other cannabinoids to keep note of include:

  • Cannabigerol (CBG)
  • Cannabichromene (CBC)
  • Cannabidivarin (CBDV)
  • Cannabinol (CBN)
  • Tetrahydrocannabavarin (THCV)
  • Other Delta THCs (Δ-8-THC, Δ-10-THC)

We already know each cannabinoid works its effects on the human body through the endocannabinoid system (aka ECS).

So, what makes THCP stand apart?

First and foremost, according to a 2019 study, the effects of THCP are far stronger than Δ-9. 33x more potent as a matter of fact. 

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The Discovery Of THCP

How can we maximize the potential therapeutic effects of the Cannabis plant? 

Well, first, we need to study the chemical structure of the active compounds to guide our understanding of Cannabinoids.   

Advanced technology such as mass spectrometry allows researchers to dive much deeper. The goal is to learn more about cannabinoids that are lesser known and occur in only minor concentrations. That’s pretty much how THCP was discovered.

On December 30th, a 2019 edition of Scientific Reports introduced the newly discovered cannabinoid to the world based on breakthrough Italian research.

In the Italian strain studied, the levels of THC were 39 mg/g vs. only 29 mcg/g of THCP. Notice it’s milligrams vs. micrograms!

Also, the team of Italian scientists leading the research announced the discovery of another new cannabinoid – CBDP. (Psst, we’ll get into more details on THCP and CBDP below).

Now, let’s focus on what makes THCP unique.

The Secrets Of THCP: (Or Why Size Matters!)

The detection of THCP is nothing less but groundbreaking.

This is the first naturally occurring cannabinoid ever found to contain more than 5 carbon atoms in its alkyl side chains.

So, why does the size of the cannabinoid molecule matter so much?

The size and shape of the molecule impacts the effects of cannabis.

Most cannabinoid molecules share a common feature. They include something called alkyl side chains, where alkyl side chains consist of a string of carbon atoms. 

Think of the carbon atoms as pearls on a string. Research shows you will get more psychoactivity, or bang for your buck, when more carbon pearls are present on each string.

The molecules of THC and CBD contain 5 carbon atoms. These atoms are attached to the alkyl side chain of the molecules.

The alkyl side chain plays a critical role. It’s through this side chain how cannabinoids bind with CB1 and CB2 receptors.

Picture this as a key and a locker. Cannabinoids are the keys, and the CB receptors are the lockers.

The binding to a receptor allows the cannabinoid molecules to impact neural and cellular activity through the endocannabinoid system.

Cannabinoid receptors are located in many different parts of the body, nerves, and the brain. This is why the effects of cannabis are so broad and interlinked within our bodily systems. 

THC VS THCP illustrated

5 vs 7-Chain Carbon Atom Tail: Differences Explained

The effects vary due to cannabinoids’ binding affinity for particular receptors.

Of course, the effects do further vary based on highly individual factors. Think of metabolism and cannabis tolerance, to name a few.

Let’s take, for instance, THCa (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid). THCa converts into THC once subjected to heat (the process of decarboxylation).

A 2017 study shows that the binding affinity of THCa greatly differs from that of THC. So, THCa exhibits no psychoactive effects, quite contrary to THC.

Now, you see why the seven-term side alkyl chain of THCP is a massive breakthrough. This particular structure affects the cannabinoid receptors differently than other cannabinoids.

So far, scientists have managed to create synthetic cannabinoids with a longer alkyl chain than traditional THC.

However, THCP is the first organically extracted compound that matches this unique chemical structure.

The 7-chain carbon atom tail is what influences the unique biological activity of THCP.
Just 2 chains longer than the side chain of cannabinoids like THC, right?

But that’s a game-changer.

Does THCP Get You High?

Yes, THCP will get you high. Being more psychotropic than D9, the compound will likely elicit a much more potent set of effects.

The big question is: How and Why the high with THCP differ from anything we’ve known so far?

THCP VS THC: Comparison 

Potency


Even in smaller amounts, THCP was found to be more active than THC.

According to the Italian researchers’ study, THCP has more cannabimimetic activity.
It exhibits a particularly greater efficacy in activating the CB1 receptor. 

That’s similar to the way some synthetic analogs of THC work.

To explain greater psychoactivity, think of alkyl side chains as pearl necklaces and receptors as pawn shops. 

The pawn shop receptors will usually only buy pearl necklaces between 3 and 8 pearls, or carbon atoms, long. Fewer than that, and the shop won’t be interested. More than that, and the shop can’t afford it.

Giuseppe Cannazza, one of the authors of the study, shares the following in an email to New Atlas:

“THCP was tested in vitro on CB1 and CB2 receptors proving to have a 33-fold affinity for CB1 compared to the data on THC reported in the literature.”

THC Analogs

Effects and Duration

According to Cannazza, THCP demonstrates higher psychoactive properties than THC. That’s all based on the existing animal studies so far, though.

At this point, there is no solid evidence on how exactly THCP affects humans. It also remains unclear whether different strains of cannabis produce varying levels of the newly discovered cannabinoid.

In three of the four tests conducted, 10 mg/kg of THC produced the same effects as 5 mg/kg of THCP in mice.

The sedative effects of THCP also increased at higher doses. This made mice display a trance-like state, and their bodies would become unable to move. Couchlock maybe?

Yet, these highly sedative doses also appeared to relate to higher pain-killing properties in the same piece of research.

How long does the effect of THCP last? 

How much do you need to medicate or recreate effectively and responsibly?

All of these are questions that science is bound to answer soon enough. 

Important Note

THC is regarded as relatively safe to use because the CB1 receptor does not suppress breathing like opioid receptors do in the brainstem. But greater efficacy could still mean potential dangers, too, including psychiatric, neurodevelopmental, and cardiovascular.

New cannabis varieties are created with a mind to increase the levels of minor cannabinoids like CBGV. That’s the case with many high CBD strains, too.

This is a huge leap into the genetic treasures that cannabis compounds have in store for us.

However, there is a dire need to keep evaluating the effects of cannabis extracts to understand the potential dangers. 

In short – we’re very early in this journey, and we all need to keep an open mind to changing our opinion based on data derived from these new cannabinoids. 

THCP And CBDP Unleashed 

THCP and CBDP (Cannabidiphorol) were both discovered at the same time.

The Military Chemical-Pharmaceutical Institute supplied the team of researchers based in Florence, Italy, with Cannabis.

The goal was to study the cannabinoid profile of a medical cannabis strain named FM2.

After the discovery of THCP and CBDP, the team went on to synthesize the two cannabinoids artificially. 

They did so to verify the natural expression of these cannabinoids in the medical cannabis cultivar studied.

Currently, researchers are more interested in studying deeper the potential benefits and effects of THCP rather than CBDP.

Why is that so?

The researchers’ tests revealed something astounding.

THCP showed an extremely high binding affinity with CB1 receptors. More precisely, it’s estimated to be 33 times stronger than THC!

This means that the effect of THCP in the brain can be especially significant for the cannabis industry.

The dedicated work of the research team suggests that THCP is just the beginning, and it’s probable we’re just starting to peel back the onion.

As of now, research on CBDP is not a top priority. Certainly, this cannabinoid may hold incredible potential for use. But CBD is known to bind poorly to both cannabinoid receptors.

So, there’s an assumption that the longer side chain of CBDP will not dramatically assist in more efficient absorption. Likely, research into CBDP activity will someday catch up while THCP is first investigated.

The Question: Is THCP Natural?

THCP is an all naturally occurring compound within Cannabis. It was about 1,333x less common than THC from one studied Italian strain, FM2. 

To confirm the existence of THCP, it was also synthetically replicated in a lab for further validation and study.

As a comparison, THC-O Acetate is a manufactured cannabinoid produced by the chemical manipulation of D9 or D8. 

Is THCP Legal?

Similar to the case with CBD, THCP products fall into a gray area in line with the 2018 farm bill, similar to other cannabis compounds such as D8. 

Remember to do your own due diligence; individual state laws may vary.