As cannabis science progresses, researchers are discovering the vast network of compounds present in cannabis and hemp plants. One of the latest is THCB, or tetrahydrocannabutol, a minor cannabinoid and homolog of delta-9 THC.
Preliminary research suggests THCB may have a range of potential therapeutic benefits, including anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and anticonvulsant properties. Read on to discover more about this novel cannabinoid.
Potential THCB Benefits
Like THC, THCB interacts with the body's endocannabinoid system or ECS, a complex network of receptors and enzymes that helps regulate various physiological processes. THCB binds to CB2 receptors, primarily in the immune system, and CB1 receptors, mainly in the brain and nervous system. Its CB1 affinity makes THCB psychoactive, just like THC.
Preliminary research suggests that it may have a range of potential therapeutic benefits.
For example, a 2020 study published in Scientific Reports found that THCB promotes antinociceptive activity in mice, meaning it helps manage the body’s pain response to potentially harmful stimuli like toxins and harmful chemicals. An additional 2020 study published by the Journal of Natural Products found that THCB showed promising anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects in mice.
Another 2020 study published in Pharmaceuticals demonstrates that THCB’s high CB1 affinity could benefit neurological diseases like epilepsy due to its strong anticonvulsant properties.
THCB vs THC: What’s the main difference?
THCB is a lesser-known cannabinoid found in cannabis with a distinct chemical structure compared to THC). The main difference lies in their molecular side chain length, which affects their overall molecular structure. THC has a pentyl side chain, while THCB has a butyl side chain.
The butyl side chain in THCB consists of four carbon atoms (C4H9) and is attached to the third carbon atom of the benzene ring, while the pentyl side chain in THC consists of five carbon atoms (C5H11) and is attached to the third carbon atom of the benzene ring. This difference in side chain length leads to variations in their overall size, shape, and chemical properties.
THCB’s unique molecular structure may impact its interaction with cannabinoid receptors and other molecular targets in the body, potentially resulting in similar psychoactive effects than THC. Preliminary research indicates THCB may feel exactly or even stronger than THC depending on the strain and dosage:
“In the human CB1 and CB2 radioligand receptor binding assay…Δ9 -THCB was found to bind with high affinity, exhibiting Ki values of 15 and 51 nM, respectively. Comparison of the binding affinity with… Δ9 - THC… shows that the CB1 value is similar to Δ9 - THC (5−40 nM)... With respect to CB2 binding affinity, there is no significant difference in binding affinity among Δ9 -THCB and Δ9 - THC”
Cannabis scientists must conduct further studies to fully understand the implications of the structural differences between THC and THCB.
How much THCB naturally occurs in cannabis plants?
Research indicates THCB makes up less than 0.1% of the plant’s trace composition. As a result, processors cannot extract the compound directly from the plant for commercial production.
How is THCB made?
Due to THCB’s trace quantities, manufacturers do not extract it from cannabis.
According to cannabis chemistry expert Dr. Mark Scialdone, cannabinoids, like THCB, with different carbon chain lengths at the third position, are made synthetically. Dr. Scialdone cites the THCP discovery paper in 2019 below as the basis for his assertion on THCB synthesis.
“In the 2019 paper by Citti and coworkers on the discovery of THCP, for example, the authors describe THCP synthesis in a chemical reaction that assembles the cannabinoid molecular skeleton called terpenylation reaction of heptyl (7 carbon) resorcinol with an oxygenated derivative of limonene called PMD (p-mentha-2,8-dien-1-ol). Simply put, the two-carbon longer chain at the C3 position in THCP does not come from adding two carbons to the five-carbon chain of cannabis-derived THC but rather by utilizing a synthetic precursor with the two additional carbons in the side chain already in it in the terpenylation reaction."
In layman’s terms, scientists use a reaction called "terpenylation" to combine a substance called heptyl resorcinol with a terpene derivative called PMD to create THCP, which has a longer carbon chain than THC. So, instead of adding extra carbon atoms to the THC molecule, chemists start with a synthetic substance with the correct number of carbon atoms.
Scientists utilize a similar chemical process to create THCB, along with THCH and THCV according to Dr. Scialdone. But, they use different carbon chain-length resorcinols.
For THCB, scientists need a 4-carbon chain length or butyl resorcinol
To make THCH, chemists use a 6-carbon chain length or hexyl resorcinol.
For THCV, scientists need a 3-carbon chain length or propyl resorcinol
To make THCP, scientists need a 7-carbon chain length or heptyl resorcinol
Currently, THCB is available in limited hemp-derived consumer products, made legal under the 2018 Farm Bill. As more hemp producers become aware of the benefits of THCB, brands may start to develop more formulas. Currently, consumers can find THCB in products such as:
Vapes: In cartridges or disposable vape pens, consumers can find THCB concentrates and distillates from various hemp purveyors. These products are typically blended with hemp-derived psychoactive cannabinoids like Delta-10, Delta-8, and HHC.
Edibles: Using the same distillates and concentrates in vapes, brands create THC-B edible gummies for consumers who prefer non-inhalable products.
THCB Potency Testing
At ACS Laboratory, we pride ourselves on being a trusted source for accurate potency testing. We currently quantify 25 different major and minor cannabinoids, including THC-B, using Ultra-High Performance Liquid Chromatography and other advanced methodologies. With an ever-growing market for alternative cannabinoids like THCB, brands must utilize DEA-certified labs like ACS to ensure their products are safe and high-quality.
The Bottom Line
THCB is an exciting exotic cannabinoid offering new possibilities for consumers to experience psychoactive effects and therapeutic benefits from legal hemp-derived products. Preliminary research shows THCB interacts with the body's endocannabinoid system and may offer anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and anticonvulsant properties. THCB's unique molecular structure, with a butyl side chain, differentiates it from THC and may result in slightly milder to comparable psychoactive effects. Further research and potency testing are needed to fully understand the implications of THCB and ensure product safety and quality.
Contact us to start testing your THCB products today.