THC-OH Vs. THC-COOH – An Examination of the Differences Between These Two Compounds

thc-oh vs thc-cooh

Have you ever wondered why edibles have different effects than smoking weed or what compounds are tested in a urine analysis? The answer to both questions is THC metabolites. 

THC-OH is an active metabolite while THC-COOH is inactive. The former gets you high and the later stays in your system well after the effects have worn off. (1) 

From the time cannabis is ingested, the body goes to work breaking down or metabolized the THC. Depending on how the cannabis was consumed, the body will process the compound a little differently. The difference between THC metabolites can be subtle but their interaction with our bodies is highly significant. We are going to cover the difference between THC-OH and THC-COOH as well as a few other important possible metabolites of THC. 

What is THC-OH (11-Hydroxy-Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol)? 

When THC is administered in the form of an edible, it is metabolized much differently than if it were smoked. When you eat a cannabis, it is converted into THC-OH or 11-hydroxy-THC by the liver. (2) 

The metabolite 11-hydroxy-THC is significant because it is much more potent than regular decarboxylated THC. Researchers found the metabolite to be 1.5-7 times more potent than THC in animal models. (3) 

Anyone who has experienced a high dose of THC in edible form can attest to heighten psychoactive effects of 11-hydroxy-THC. Some users even report hallucinations more like psilocybin or LSD than the traditional cannabis high and lasting for hours. 

THC and 11-hydroxy-THC affect the same CB receptors in the brain and throughout the body. However, when the cannabinoid is metabolized to the more potent compound, activation on the receptors is more efficient. Eating THC is a great way to get extended and more effective benefits for patients using cannabis as a sedative or for pain relief. Recreational users, especially those using edibles for the first time have to be cautious. 11-hydroxy-THC is much more potent and takes up to an hour and a half before the effects are noticed. 

What is THC-COOH (11-Nor-9-carboxy-Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol)? 

The next phase in THC’s metabolic route through the body is the compound THC-COOH. Unlike 11-hydroxy-THC, this metabolite isn’t active and doesn’t create a psychoactive effects. THC-COOH remains in the body long after high wears off. 

Most urine analysis tests take advantage of the slow process breaking down THC by testing for THC-COOH. Testing for THC is also done through a saliva swab test. Most labs look for THC but detecting levels is only possible for a few hours. A UA is much more efficient in determining if the subject has used marijuana in the past couple of weeks. 

The amount of time THC-COOH stays in the body is dependent on a number of factors including, how frequent THC is consumed, potency levels, the dosage amount, and individual metabolisms. The half-life of THC-COOH for an infrequent cannabis user is around a couple of days while the half-life for a frequent user can be 5-14 days. (4) 

What is THC-COOH Glucuronide? 

Another way of testing for recent THC use after intoxication is by measuring THC-COOH Glucuronide levels in the urine. Our bodies continue to breakdown the THC with enzymes creating new metabolites. 

 A study published in Pub Med evaluated levels of THC-COOH and THC-OOH Glucuronide in urine samples of frequent cannabis smokers. They found that levels of the two THC metabolites varied, especially after enzymatic hydrolysis, which resulted in no detectable levels of THC-OOH Glucuronide and an increased concentration of THC-COOH. (5) 

What is THC-OH-D3? 

Before THC is broken down into THC-OOH, it appears in blood, plasma, and urine as the metabolite THC-OH-D3. The metabolite is less significant than 11-hydroxy-THC and THC-OOH because it’s retention time and mass spectral parameters are so similar to THC. (6) 

How to Speed Up Your Metabolism Removing Detectable Levels of THC? 

The various metabolites of THC make detection very easy for drug analysis companies. Isolating the compounds we’ve discussed from blood, urine, or plasma is relatively simple with a basic understanding of chemistry. The extensive metabolic route of THC allows drug screeners a window of days if not weeks to determine if THC entered the body.

Cannabis users on the other hand and plagued by THC’s long journey through the body, especially if they are a regular user. THC or its metabolites remain in the system for up to 45 days in urine, 60 days in the blood, 120 days in hair samples, and a week in saliva. 

While most proven and dependable way to flush THC from one’s system is giving the body time to break down the compound, time is rarely available to someone scrambling to come up with a clean test sample. Various kits and home remedies are available online but aren’t guaranteed to work for everyone. 

Below are some of the most popular methods: 

  • Detox Drinks deceive lab tests by artificially adding vitamins and proteins to the sample.
  • Detox Kits speed up the metabolic process by removing toxins in fat cells.
  • Home Remedies such as lemon juice, cranberry juice, and apple cider vinegar are rumoured to help THC users pass a UA. All three are believed to speed up the process by flushing the system of toxins, however, the only research available into these methods is anecdotal. (7) 




Please note that this article was written by a 3rd-party author who is a specialist on the topic of CBD, hemp and cannabis. Any information or recommendations contained within this article, are independent to the opinion of RUDERALEX CBD and our employees. We make no claims for any of our products, please read our disclaimer for additional information.