Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol commonly referred to as THC, is the most famous and most researched cannabinoid today. Dr. Raphael Mechoulam discovered it in 1964, where THC is believed to be the reason for the euphoria sensation most people describe as ‘high.’ Regardless of the negative stigma commonly associated with this compound, research has it that the mind-altering cannabinoid offers health benefits. It is therefore believed to be a remedy for most related symptoms and conditions. Since the stigma surrounding cannabis is slowly decreasing, more research has been focused on this compound. What is THC anyway, and why are we yet to understand its full potential? Keep it here if you wish to learn what is THC oil and its role in different medical applications.
What is THC?
Tetrahydrocannabinol, THC, happens to be the primary intoxicant that is found in cannabis plants. It is the molecule responsible for the intoxicating ‘high.’ This cannabis compound is commonly inhaled by smoking or vaporizing cannabis. All the same, THC can be ingested in drinks and foods, not forgetting that it can be applied on the skin topically. THC is among the natural chemical compounds that are found in cannabis. It is good to note that cannabis plants produce more than 113 chemical compounds, commonly referred to as cannabinoids. All these chemicals are very vital to the survival of the plant. They are responsible for fending off parasites, bacteria, and many other natural predators.
In humans, THC will produce some recognizable changes in your cognition. For this reason, cannabis plants producing THC are under strict regulation than those plants that have no THC. If a cannabis plant produces more than 0.3% of THC, it is regarded as marijuana. On the other hand, cannabis plants with less than 0.3% THC are known as hemp. With this legal definition, only marijuana plants will produce a substantial THC amount.
How Does THC Work?
After the question of- what is THC, the next thing you want to know is the manner in which THC works. Of all the cannabinoids (more than 113) present in marijuana, only one of them produces the psychoactive effects, THC. The reason for that, its shape. THC has a molecular structure that fits well in the particular landing sites on your body cells known as cannabinoid receptors. Essentially, THC works by taking over the landing sites of cannabinoid receptors that sit on the cells’ surfaces. This particularly happens in the brain nerve cells. After this, THC will alter the chemical activities of these cells and later produce different psychological changes. Among these will be the familiar psychoactive ‘high’ feeling. These receptors are just part of the extensive system known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS)
THC and Endocannabinoid System
We can explain the relationship between THC and the ECS in a simple analogy of the locks system. In this case, you all know that there are keys made to open specific locks while others fit different lock systems, commonly known as universal keys. The body produces its own ‘keys’ called endogenous cannabinoids for its ‘locks.’ What THC does is mimic endogenous cannabinoids produced naturally by the body. This way, THC gets to bind to the CB1 and CB2 receptors. The structure of THC is similar to that of anandamide, the endogenous equivalent. All the same, THC has a more substantial effect on the body. THC modulates the body’s chemical messages (neurotransmitters) produced in the brain and the nervous system. It is these neurotransmitters that influence different body functions. These functions include pleasure, thinking, memory, time and pain perception, concentration, and other functions.
CBD vs. THC
What is THC’s relationship with CBD, you are all asking. As we have discussed previously, THC is the primary psychoactive compound in marijuana. So, what is the difference between THC and CBD? You ought to know that CBD is the second marijuana cannabinoid that is mainly discussed. However, as opposed to THC, the cannabinoid is not psychoactive at all. What will surprise you even more is the fact that CBD can lower THC’s psychoactive effects.
We have learned that THC directly engages with the cannabinoid receptors in your body. However, CBD will not bind to these receptors well. Instead, CBD works by inhibiting the enzyme responsible for destroying anandamide in your body (FAAH). This will increase the amount of the natural endocannabinoids that will be present in your system. Since the enzyme will no longer destroy these endocannabinoids, they only become more abundant. There are other ways CBD interacts with the body that scientists are still trying to understand.
THC vs. THCa
What is THCa? Most people get surprised that THC will only be present in small amounts in growing cannabis plants. On such raw plants, THC appears as the non-intoxicating acid known as tetrahydrocannabinol acid (THCa). THC’s psychoactive form will only come to be after cannabis ages and when it is heated. When heated to high temperatures, the tail-end molecule of THCa breaks off and transforms it into the intoxicating THC. It is for this reason why people smoke, vaporize or bake marijuana in tasty treats. With no heat, cannabis products will never have any psychoactive effect.
THCa is most abundant in the trichome resin glands sitting on the plant material top for cannabis flowers and leaves for a better understanding. This resin shelters so many molecules, including aroma molecules, flavonoids, and other cannabinoid flavors. You will learn that the aromatic resin makes it simple to distinguish various strains from each other.
How Long Does THC Stay in Your System?
With time, THC will build up in your system. In this regard, the number of times that you use THC will determine the period that it will remain in the body. Generally, THC can be detected among the infrequent users for 1-3 days after they last used it. For chronic users, THC will be detectable 30 days later and even longer. The consumption method also plays a role in the period that THC remains in the system. For instance, the body will take longer to process THC in its edible form. This means that THC will remain in your system much longer than other consumption methods like vaping or smoking.
It will be impossible to flush out THC from your system via drinking water or sweating as opposed to the popular myth. Instead, experts claim that the sole way of detoxing THC is by simply waiting it out and quitting using it.
Benefits of THC
You might be wondering, what is THC used for? Despite being a psychoactive compound, THC is used medically to relieve symptoms of different conditions. All the same, since cannabis has not been federally legalized in the US, research about THC is minimal. Below are some of the benefits that researchers have so far for THC.
Pain Alleviation- The main reason why people seek medical marijuana is chronic pain relief. According to studies, patients suffering from chronic pain found THC helpful in improving pain management by 40%. Clinical trials, therefore, support the use of cannabis in chronic pain management. All the same, more studies will be needed to determine the dosage, forms, and combinations that will be beneficial for such patients.
Reducing Muscle Spasms- Studies show that THC products could reduce muscle spasms. This is a common symptom that is experienced by individuals suffering from paraplegia and Multiple Sclerosis. According to a specific systematic review in 2015, THC was concluded to be effective with other cannabinoids in reducing muscle spasms.
Reducing Chemotherapy Nausea- Two oral drugs contain THC used to treat nausea and vomiting induced by chemotherapy. These drugs are dronabinol and nabilone and have been in use for not less than 30 years. A study in 2010 revealed that people who used THC-containing medication and standard medication experienced strong protection from nausea and vomiting. This was way much better than people who relied on the standard treatment alone.
Sleep Improvement- Sleep disturbances are widespread among people living with health issues such as chronic pain and MS. Studies reveal that products containing THC could improve short-term sleep issues, decrease the time you take to fall asleep, and lower sleep disturbances. All the same, it remains unclear whether THC directly affects the quality of sleep or it is a result of improved chronic symptoms.
Side Effects of THC
The common side effect of THC is known: the high. It is, however, good to note that this high will not last forever. This comes as a good thing for THC users to enjoy the relaxing and enjoyable feeling that THC brings along. For some people, the compounds cause uncomfortable anxiety, sleepiness, and paranoia. Below, we have a look at the long-term and short-term THC effects.
THC Can Affect Memory- Certain studies have shown that heavy cannabis users experience a decreased verbal memory with time. For every five years of THC use, herb lovers lose an average of one word.
Tolerance- When you take too much THC regularly, the body builds a tolerance to that compound. In turn, the herb becomes less effective, making you use much of it to discover its effects. In case this happens, consider taking a tolerance break.
Chronic Bronchitis- This is a side effect that is brought about by heavy smoking of cannabis. All the same, the side effect is not from THC directly. A byproduct of smoking causes it. Smoking too much leads to lung irritation with time. The symptoms will, however, disappear when you quit smoking or change the consumption method. Edibles and vaporizers take good care of your lung health.
Psychosis- If your family has a history of psychosis, you might need to rethink using THC. According to research, people with genetic vulnerability for psychosis and schizophrenia develop symptoms when they use THC regularly.
Using THC will make you feel a bit different from the usual self. In this regard, some short-term effects are associated with THC. It is, however, important to note that not everyone will experience these effects. These side effects include:
- Red and dry eyes
- Increased heart rate
- Poor spatial memory
- Lowered body temperature
Immediate THC effects will slightly vary based on the individual cannabis product. Factors such as the total THC percentage and the percentage of other dominant cannabinoids present greatly influence.
By now, we believe that you got answers for what THC is. Just as a simple reminder, THC is the psychoactive compound in cannabis plants. It is responsible for the high feeling that one experiences after using marijuana. It is not solely known for its negatives since it has its benefits too. Some studies reveal that it helps to relieve chronic pains and other health issues. THC treatments, therefore, have the potential of being a safe and practical option for vulnerable patients.
The more people learn THC, the more they appreciate the gift bestowed upon them by nature. Research is, however, ongoing to learn what the compound can do for humans. THC is, however, not all good since it tends to be addictive and the fact that it has side effects. This is especially the case when you consume a large dosage. If you are convinced that THC will be good for you, make sure to consult the physician on how you can incorporate it into your wellness routine.