As we’ve seen over the last decade, there is always more to learn about the weed. Aside from emerging research on different potential therapeutic benefits, it seems like scientists are always uncovering new compounds within various parts of the cannabis plant, from the flowers, to the stems, to even the pollen. One of the most recent to be isolated is THC-B, or tetrahydrocannabutol, which was first noted by a group of Italian researchers in late 2019.
There are over 120 known cannabinoids at the moment, 15 of which are different types of THCs (tetrahydrocannabinols). THC-B is a phytocannabinoid, found naturally in cannabis in very minimal levels. From a chemical standpoint, it’s very closely related to Delta 9 THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), with only some slight differences in structure. Research is extremely limited on this compound, but below is what we know so far.
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What makes THCs different from one another?
By now we’re all relatively familiar with Delta-9 THC. When discussing the high caused by cannabis and tetrahydrocannabinol in general, most people are referring to Delta 9 THC. Nearly all consumers are familiar with the existence of D9 THC, but what is less common knowledge is the fact that many, many more types of THC exist.
The latest industry trend (in the world of alternative cannabinoids, anyway) is to synthesize and isolate as many new cannabinoids as possible, both those found naturally in the cannabis plant, as well as various synthetic analogues and isomers. The possibility of different types of THC, has opened the discussion in some circles regarding how to create these compounds via differing chain lengths and types.
In chemistry, “delta” refers to the location of the double bond on a molecule’s carbon chain. In the case of THC, we have many different variations. With delta-9 THC, the double bond is on the 9th carbon chain. Move that bond over one spot to the 8th chain, and now we have delta-8 THC. Keep moving that double bond and you get a variety of different delta THCs. Another way that we get variation in THCs is through differing types of side chains. Most delta THCs have alkyl side chains, but change them to hexyl or butyl and you get completely different compounds again, such as THC-P, THCV, THC-H, THC-O, THC-B, and so forth.
This chain variation can be applied to other psychoactive cannabinoids like hexahydrocannabinol (HHC, also known as ‘HXC’). And we have been seeing more of this with the emergence of HHC-O/HXC-O and HHC-P/HXC-P.
Now, keep in mind that these are all synthetic cannabinoids – but the definition of ‘synthetic cannabinoids’ can mean one of two things. First, synthetic cannabinoids are compounds that do not exist in nature and must be created in a lab, like THC-O. Also, a synthetic can be a cannabinoid that does exist in nature, but in such minimal amounts that in order to manufacture enough for it to be used in consumer products, it must still be synthesized in a lab, like Delta 8 THC. So whether the cannabinoid in question is actually found in the plant or not, you’re likely getting a synthetic version of it in the products available today.
Tetrahydrocannabutol (THCB) is a homolog of delta-9 THC with the main difference being a butyl side chain replacing the alkyl chain. There is very little information available on this cannabinoid, other than the discovery that it has an affinity for both CB receptors.
A formalin test in vivo was performed to determine whether THC-B had any analgesic and/or anti-inflammatory properties, which it does both: help relieve pain and reduce inflammation. Additionally, the report stated that THC-B slowed reaction time and could be used to improve sleep and reduce symptoms of anxiety and related disorders such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
The butyl homologues of Delta 9 THC and CBD (cannabidiol/cannabidibutol) were both isolated from the cannabis plant, inflorescence, in trace amounts. THC-B is metabolized like all other THCs, and it also has 7 double bond isomers and 30 stereoisomers.
Effects of THC-B
Since THC-B is new and somewhat niche, it hasn’t been tried and reviewed by a large group of consumers. That said, it’s believed that THC-B is not as potent as Delta 9 THC, and does not produce the same wide range of psychoactive effects. Those who have tried THC-B (myself not included) claim that it can produce feelings of relaxation and sleepiness, so it can be helpful for those with anxiety or insomnia.
According to a handful of redditors, THC-B has somewhat of a “headband” effect. Headband is a specific type of hybrid marijuana strain created by cross-breeding OG Kush and Sour Diesel. The effects of this strain are said to be relaxing but exceptionally clear-headed.
Regardless, this was another area where information on THC-B was lacking. Because it’s so new and barely any products containing only THC-B even exist, it’s no surprise that the general public is wildly unfamiliar with how this cannabinoid feels and what exactly the effects are.
Is THC-B legal?
This is where things always get a bit complicated when introducing new cannabinoids. For years now, all these alternative, hemp-derived compounds have fallen into a type of quasi-legal grey area; and THC-B falls into that category, as it’s not listed specifically as a schedule I narcotic, but it may be regulated under local analogue laws. That said, THC and all of its isomers and analogues were considered illegal for a long time in the U.S., but when the US Farm Bill was revised in 2018, it allowed for the cultivation of hemp and production of hemp-derived products.
The main provision there was that products sold could not have more than 0.3% delta 9 THC, but analogues were not explicitly mentioned. This led to the assumption that products containing trace cannabinoids can be sold legally under this loophole, but things remained convoluted for quite some time. Then in 2020, the DEA released its Interim Final Rule to clarify some points of confusion in the farm bill. One of the main topics in this document, was synthetics. The Final Rule maintained that “All synthetically derived tetrahydrocannabinols remain schedule I controlled substances.”
What it did not clear up, nor did the USDA Final Rule which came out the following year in 2021, is whether human processing of a trace compound constitutes “synthetic”, or if the fact that they do appear in nature allows them to still belong to the category of “naturally occuring”. Many of these compounds, like THC-B, appear in such low amounts in the plant that you couldn’t simply extract enough to use in products, it would need to be synthetically produced.
Where to find THCB
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New cannabinoids are fun. And they don’t have to be the most potent and intoxicating to be relevant to the conversation. THC-B fits the bill here: it’s psychoactive, but not more so than Delta 9 THC, but it has it’s interesting to learn more about as it comes with its own unique effects and potential benefits. Remember to subscribe to the newsletter to learn more and get access to product deals as they become available.
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