A Complete Guide to THCP Research, Potency & Effects
Three years ago, Italian scientists discovered THCP by complete accident. They were exploring a medical strain known as FM2 provided by the Military Chemical Pharmaceutical Institute in Florence. To everyone’s surprise, they found a compound that acted on endocannabinoid receptors with incredible efficiency. This minor phytocannabinoid, Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabiphorol (THCP), displayed an even stronger binding ability than Delta-9 THC, the plant’s most abundant and powerful psychoactive agent.
Today, THCP is more than just an intriguing cannabinoid with the potential to rival Delta-9’s effects. It is the latest minor cannabinoid, like Delta-8 and Delta-10, to take the hemp industry by storm. Here we’ll review everything you need to know about THCP effects, products, legality, and laboratory testing.
THCP Research Findings
Until 2019, experts believed THC was cannabis’ most biologically active psychoactive compound. However, once researchers discovered THCP, everything changed. Based on its molecular structure, THCP exhibited 33 times stronger binding affinity to CB1 and CB2 receptors throughout the Endocannabinoid System.
CB1 receptors occur primarily in the brain and nervous system, binding to THC to activate the body’s reward system and regulate functions like sleep, mood, and appetite. CB2 receptors exist primarily in the immune system, regulating key anti-inflammatory processes.
Researchers found that:
- THCP is 33 times more active on CB1 receptors than THC
- THC is 63 times more active on CB1 receptors THCV
On the surface, these findings imply that THCP could be exponentially more psychoactive than THC. However, that’s not exactly the case.
Is THCP 33 Times Stronger than THC?
THCP is, in fact, stronger than THC, but it doesn’t mean the effects are 33 times stronger. That’s because there’s a limit to any cannabinoid's ability to activate endocannabinoid receptors before overloading the system. At a certain point, the body will eventually experience diminishing returns. Nevertheless, the few people who’ve tried it say THCP felt 5 to 10 times stronger than regular Delta-9 THC.
THCP’s powerful properties make the compound a promising discovery for medical cannabis research and consumer product development.
THCP vs. THC: Molecular Difference
Δ9-THCP and Δ9-THC are homologs, meaning they have the same chemical structure but with a different number of atoms on their alkyl side chain. This difference may explain their distinct ECS actions.
Phytocannabinoids need a minimum of three carbons on their alkyl side chain to bind to CB1 receptors. Delta-9 THC has five. Before the THCP discovery, Delta-9’s alkyl side chain made it the most psychotropic agent. However, THCP has seven atoms, making it far more psychoactive and pharmacologically active.
How Much THCP is in Cannabis Plants?
The Italian research team quantified the phytocannabinoids in the FM2 ethanol extract using an LC-HRMS potency testing method. Among other compounds, they examined Delta-9 THC and Delta-9 THCP potency.
- The extract contained 39 milligrams/gram of THC
- The extract contained 29 microgram/gram THCP
To put into context, each milligram equates to 1,000 micrograms. So this quantification shows that THCP appears in almost negligible amounts in cannabis plants.
How Is THCP Made?
Because of THCP’s trace quantities in cannabis plants, high-THCP strains and natural extracts don’t exist today. Instead, most manufacturers make THCP using similar processes as Delta-8 and Delta-10. First, they extract CBD naturally from hemp or cannabis strains. Then processors convert CBD to THCP through a chemical reaction involving acids and solvents.
Once they create the THCP extract, manufacturers typically create blended cartridges for vapes. Other THCP products include disposable vape blends, THCP edibles, concentrates, and even flower sprayed with THCP distillate.
Since Delta-9 THC is the only federally illicit compound, Delta-9 THCP is technically legal nationwide. Additionally, most manufacturers produce THCP from hemp-derived CBD. Hemp is federally legal as of the 2018 Farm Bill, whose language includes all hemp derivatives and extracts.
Some states are enacting legislation to ban psychoactive hemp products, which could include THCP in the future. However, as of today, hemp-derived THCP is legal to buy and sell in nearly every state except Idaho, which doesn’t allow any consumer hemp products.
The hemp-derived minor cannabinoid market has exploded in recent years–think Delta-8, Delta-10, THC-O, and HHC–because consumers want the Delta-9 experience without legal ramifications. THCP, known colloquially as Delta-P, is the next minor cannabinoid to offer that value, with products appearing across various categories.
That said, THCP is still relatively expensive to produce because only a few suppliers are making these products. As a result, consumers won’t find as many pure THCP vapes and edibles as they do Delta-8 and Delta-10. Instead, they’ll find several THCP blends–a more cost-effective alternative.
- Binoid produces various THCP blends, including a vape cartridge using THCP distillate paired with Delta-8 and cannabis terpenes for added flavors. Other products include THCP wax dabs, tinctures, and disposable vapes.
- Danklite produces THCP Gummies, each infused with 1 gram of the compound. Danklite also produces THCP pre-rolls and a Super-6 tincture containing 6,000 mg of Delta 10, HHC, THC-V, THC-O, THCP, and Delta 8.
- Koi’s THCP Vape Cartridges include one-gram distillate blends combining THCP, Delta-8 THC, and THC-O. They offer “indica,” “sativa,” and “hybrid” blends based on varying terpene profiles.
While there is no clinical research behind THCP’S effects, Binoid describes its vapes as delivering an “intense body and head buzz.” It also advises consumers to proceed cautiously due to the compound’s potent properties. Binoid reviewers left comments like:
“The cart is relaxing, and it does help you sleep peacefully. Felt relief from my headaches from them busy days of hard work.”
“Got me zonked. Fell asleep pretty quick.”
“Smooth hit that punches a blow to help you chill out and relax.”
THCP Therapeutic Potential
To be clear, no clinical research exists yet on THCP. However, the team of Italian researchers who discovered THCP conducted an in vivo pharmacological test on human cells. They found that Δ9-THCP induced similar effects as Δ9-THC at about half the dose.
- Analgesia (pain relief)
- Hypomotility (slowing of movement)
- Catalepsy (trance-like state)
- Decreased rectal temperature
For this reason, the team thinks agricultural genetics research should focus on creating high THCP strains while scientists continue exploring the compound's medical value.
The Italian research team said: “In our opinion, this compound should be included in the list of the main phytocannabinoids to be determined for a correct evaluation of the pharmacological effect of the cannabis extracts administered to patients. In fact, we believe that the discovery of an extremely potent THC-like phytocannabinoid may shed light on several pharmacological effects not ascribable solely to Δ9-THC.”
THCP Potency Testing
Accurate THCP potency testing is essential due to the strength of this psychoactive compound. Yet quantifying this minor cannabinoid is also challenging due to its chemical structure that nearly mimics Delta-9 THC, Delta-8, and Delta-10. Only laboratories with slow and precise methodologies can accurately distinguish this compound from its homologs on chromatogram test results.
We’ve been developing a THCP potency testing method at ACS Laboratory for several months due to high client demand. We’re excited to announce that we finally added Delta-8 THCP and Delta-9 THCP to our Potency 23 panel. Using Ultra High-Performance Liquid Chromatography incorporating ultra-violet (UV) spectroscopy (HPLC-UV), we can precisely determine THCP concentration in flower, derivative products, and edibles.
The Bottom Line
There is still so much more to learn about THCP’s effects and therapeutic potential. That said, initial research and user reviews indicate this powerful compound easily rivals Delta-9 THC, which is worthy of attention. At ACS Laboratory, we’re excited to be at the forefront, and we look forward to raising the bar on product quality by testing THCP products for potency, terpene content, and potential contamination.