Throwing THC in reverse

Meet the minor cannabinoid helping people feel more energetic, control their appetites and make better food choices

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The concept of using cannabis in the sport
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The perception that cannabis-use isn’t conducive to a healthy lifestyle is still alive and well. Partly because smoking (anything) on the regular isn’t great for your lungs. Partly because there are a lot of users who enjoy cannabis as a means of relaxation, to wind down, enjoy a movie, play a video game or sleep. And, of course, there is the all-too-common side-effect of “the munchies.” 

It’s a combination of effects that have all contributed to the stereotype of the “lazy stoner.” But as cannabis integrates deeper into the lifestyle of more people, and as more research comes out describing its actual effects and potential uses, that stereotype is starting to falter. There are now cannabis brand-sponsored pro-athletes like Boulder’s Flavie Dokken with Wana (Boulder Weekly, “Running on CBD,” April 4, 2021) or Timberlin Henderson, with Stigma Activewear. 

And some brands are taking it a step further, developing cannabis products that do exactly the opposite of what’s come to be expected from THC. Products like Wana’s new “Fit” gummies actually increase your energy and help regulate (or even reduce) users’ appetites.

It’s the next evolution of cannabis: as a lifestyle supplement, instead of just a recreational drug. 

“THC is known to increase appetite, it’s intoxicating and euphoric, it can be sedating, and high doses can also be anxiety inducing . . . THCV does the opposite of THC,” says Mike Hennesy, vice president of innovation at Wana. “This is a pretty hot area of research in the endocannabinoid and cannabinoid industry right now.”

Like other “minor cannabinoids,” THCV (or tetrahydrocannabivarin) is not as common or as well understood as THC and CBD. To most casual users, it’s just another acronym for a complicated sounding molecule. However, THCV has some very particular and potentially useful effects that other cannabinoids don’t.

Hennesy likens the endocannabinoid system to a car’s gear-shift system. He says when a cannabinoid like THC activates our endocannbinoid’s CB1 receptors, the car goes into first gear and starts moving forward (producing the psychoactive effects that smoking weed has become synonymous with). Other synthetic cannabinoids out there can kick it up into second and third gear, Hennesy says. 

THCV, on the other hand, throws the car into reverse.

“It’s an inverse agonist of the receptor,” Hennesy explains. “It can reduce appetite, it can increase focus and it can be very energizing.”

In a study published in the Journal of Cannabis Research titled “THCV: a commentary on potential therapeutic benefit for the management of obesity and diabetes,” researchers found evidence to back up Hennesy’s statement. They observed that THCV does decrease appetite, increase satiety and up-regulate energy metabolism—suggesting that it might be useful for weight-loss as well as managing Type 2 diabetes. 

Another study, published in Nutrition and Diabetes, examined the potential for THCV to be used to regulate diets and energy levels among people with diabetes. It concludes, “THCV is a new potential treatment against obesity-associated glucose intolerance with pharmacology different from that of CB1 inverse agonists/antagonists.”

THCV doesn’t just decrease appetite, but it can also help people make better choices about what to eat, according to Hennesy. Because unlike THC, THCV isn’t psychoactive. So even if you do decide to have a snack, you still have the wherewithal to pick fruit instead of candy.

“[THCV] increases your executive functioning so that you’re thinking more about your food choices,” he says. “We’ve been describing [it] as something that is helping you to break some unhealthy eating habits . . . to put you back in control over your diet without any cognitive impairment.”

All of this is why Wana recently launched its new Wana Optimals Fit gummies. With 10 mgs of CBD and .5 mgs of THCV, Wana designed this new active lifestyle product to be a daily dietary cannabis supplement that doesn’t get users high. Instead of an intoxicant, they’re meant to be taken more like a vitamin. 

“This is something that you take every morning or every evening before or after a meal and something you want to build up in your body,” Hennesy says. “Taking on it on a regular basis over time is where we see the most effects.”

As Hennesy stated, this is a very hot area of cannabis research right now. As more science is done to explore the nearly 100 cannabinoids present in cannabis, more specific uses for them will become clear. And as we combine that knowledge with what we know about the entourage effect, the possibilities are seemingly endless.  

“There’s a lot more to learn about the [endocannabinoid] system. Cannabis has so many different components from cannabinoids and terpenes and flavonoids,” Hennesy says. “We will see the endocannabinoid system be targeted in a lot of new cannabis products and potentially even pharmaceutical products.”

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