Reports estimate that 20 million people in the United States suffer from neuropathic pain, like fibromyalgia, sciatica, and carpal tunnel syndrome. This complicated condition has many symptoms and causes, making it challenging to treat.
One of the most promising cannabinoids making headlines for pain relief is THCA, an inactive compound in cannabis plants that transforms into THC when heated. The dual wellness opportunities of raw and heated THCA give it a lot of potential for treating neuropathic pain and its symptoms.
This article investigates what consumers need to know about potential neuropathic pain relief using THCA.
What is THC-A?
Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA, THC-A, or THCa) is the acidic, inactive form of THC that appears abundantly in freshly harvested hemp and cannabis. Chemically, it is almost identical to THC and shares many of its health benefits, such as helping with pain and inflammation and as a sleep aid. However, THCA vs. THC have some notable differences:
- THCA does not bind with receptors in the brain as THC does in its original acidic state. Thus, THCA is non-psychoactive–until it’s exposed to heat.
- THC-A is federally legal when harvested from hemp plants, which can make it more accessible for some consumers than THC.
How THCA Converts to THC
THC-A products for sale online capitalize on the fact that hemp-derived THCA converts to THC through decarboxylation, a natural process caused by heat and oxygen that alters THCA’s chemical structure.
- Rapid decarboxylation occurs when applying heat to THCA, such as smoking, vaping, and baking edibles.
- Heating THCA converts almost 90% of it into THC, giving it the same psychoactive properties as high-THC cannabis strains.
What is Neuropathic Pain?
Neuropathic pain, also called peripheral neuropathy, is a complex state of nerve pain that happens when the nervous system malfunctions.
People with neuropathic pain have damaged nerve fibers that send the wrong signals to pain centers in the body. They often experience pain throughout their central nervous system, including the spinal cord, brain, and peripheral nerves, that spread to organs, arms, legs, fingers, and toes.
Neuropathic pain can be unrelenting and severe. It will come and go in some people, but most experience it as a chronic condition that significantly affects their quality of life.
📖 Recommended Reading: If you’re looking for more useful information, check out How THC Can Help Improve Your Wellness.
Neuropathic pain symptoms may include one or more of the following:
- Spontaneous pain that happens for no apparent reason
- Extreme sensitivity to touch, such as pain caused by cold, pressure, or something brushing against the skin
- Extreme or increased pain sensations, such as a pinprick or heat hurting more than it should
- Decreased pain response, such as not feeling a pinprick
- Unexpected sensations that feel strange, unpleasant, or painful
- Insomnia and difficulty sleeping
- Emotional stress and anxiety
What Causes Neuropathic Pain?
Neuropathic pain often seems to have no apparent cause. Many neuropathy cases occur due to diseases or health issues; some medical treatments can contribute.
Common causes of neuropathic pain include:
- HIV infection or AIDS
- Central nervous system disorders, like stroke, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Nerve or spinal cord compression, such as from herniated discs or arthritis in the spine
- Thyroid problems
- Chemotherapy drugs
- Radiation therapy
- Trauma or surgeries with resulting nerve damage
- Tumors that press on nerves
How Raw THCA Can Help With Neuropathic Pain Relief
Research shows THCA has many health benefits despite not interacting with cannabinoid receptors in its raw form. THCA’s anti-inflammatory, anti-seizure, and neuroprotective properties could all indirectly support neuropathic pain relief.
THCA demonstrates powerful anti-inflammatory properties, even greater than CBD and THC. For example, THC-A binds with and suppresses COX-1 and COX-2 pathways, areas in the body that support the inflammatory process and are common targets of inflammatory drugs. By fighting inflammation at the source, THCA can:
- Reduce neuropathic pain stemming from conditions where inflammation spikes or is out of control, such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and Crohn’s disease
- Ease muscle spasms and pain caused by diseases like multiple sclerosis and thyroid disease
Seizures and motor function
THCA displays anticonvulsant activity, giving it potential as an anti-seizure medication. THCA studies in mice also show it effectively increases mitochondria, the essential compounds in virtually every human cell that drive cellular function and power all biological processes.
- THCa is a great candidate to fight disorders like epilepsy and multiple sclerosis, some of the most common diseases that cause neuropathic pain.
- Doctors often prescribe anti-seizure medications to ease pain caused by damaged nerves because they appear to interfere with the overactive transmission of pain signals.
THCA has neuroprotective capabilities, giving it applications in treating neurodegenerative diseases that often cause neuropathic pain symptoms, including:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Huntington’s disease
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
Heated THCA & Neuropathic Pain Relief
THCA has dual wellness applications depending on whether people consume it raw or smoke it. Smokable THCA, which converts to THC, has significant neuropathic pain relief potential.
According to a NASEM report on randomized clinical trials, THC reduced pain by 40% in the following neuropathic cases:
- Peripheral neuropathy (nerve pain from diabetes)
- Spinal cord injury
- HIV or complex regional pain syndrome
- Muscle and joint problems
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Multiple sclerosis
How THC works for neuropathic pain
THC works to relieve pain when it binds to the body’s natural cannabinoid receptors within the nervous system and brain, primarily ones called “cannabinoid receptor type 1” (CB1 for short). This action causes several effects that can help those dealing with neuropathic pain:
Regulates pain signals: THC affects how the mind interprets pain signals and can regulate pain thresholds, possibly replacing addictive opioid drugs as a neuropathy treatment. Studies, such as this one with smoked cannabis, show THC significantly reduces average pain intensity in people with chronic post-traumatic or postsurgical neuropathic pain.
Reduces inflammation: THC also displays anti-inflammatory actions that can help people with neuropathic pain feel more comfortable.
Enhances mood: According to the Annals of Internal Medicine, THC’s psychoactive effects that affect the mind play a pivotal role in pain relief.
- THC causes brain cells to release dopamine, a feel-good brain chemical. Inhaled THC travels throughout the body via the circulatory system to improve mood quickly, often within 15-20 minutes.
- Positive mood changes caused by THC have an antidepressant-like effect, which can significantly improve the overall quality of life in those dealing with neuropathic pain.
The Bottom Line
Neuropathic pain happens when various factors, such as trauma, infections, or inherited conditions, damage the nervous system. THCa is a promising therapy to treat multiple symptoms of neuropathic pain, relieving inflammation, muscle spasms, seizures, and insomnia in its raw, non-psychoactive state.
THCA also decarboxylates via smoking or vaping into regular THC, its psychoactive form, which can alter pain signals and provide an essential mood boost. Either THCA consumption method can improve the quality of life in neuropathy patients.
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Last Updated on February 1, 2024