What is THC?
What is THC? THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is one of the most (if not the most) widely recognized major cannabinoids within the cannabis plant species. It is the molecule that is responsible for making people feel ‘high’ after smoking or ingesting marijuana.
Due to the psychoactive nature of THC, it is illegal in most regions of the world. That being said, there has been a lot of movement towards decriminalization of this compound within the last ten years in the United States.
THC, double bond isomers, and their stereoisomers, actually fall under a category of cannabinoids listed by the UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances. There are currently two other compounds that fall under this category: dimethylheptylpyran (DMT) and parahexyl (a synthetic homolog of THC).
THC was classified as a Schedule I substance in 1971 under the UN Convention but reclassified to Schedule II twenty years later in 1991.
How Does THC Work?
The psychoactive effects that it is responsible for are produced by the activation of cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2), which result in decreased levels of a second communication molecule known as ‘cyclic adenosine monophosphate’ through the blocking of adenylate cyclase.
What Benefits Does THC Provide?
Since THC binds to the cannabinoid receptors in the body, it is effective for many different conditions.
THC has been shown in studies to provide pain relief from both regular and neuropathic pain. It was found to be just as effective as traditional pain medications and exerted its effect through different pathways than traditional medications. In another study, THC blocked pathways in the central nervous system that are responsible for transmitting pain.
THC and CBD were found to be the two most effective cannabinoids for protecting brain cells. THC was shown to prevent oxidative damage regardless of whether it had bound to CB receptors, showing that the compound itself possesses strong neuroprotective qualities.
PTSD and Anxiety Relief
THC has been shown to be an effective treatment for millions of people worldwide who suffer from PTSD and anxiety. In one study oral THC was given to 10 patients who had chronic PTSD. The study found that there was a significant improvement in symptom severity, sleep quality, frequency of nightmares, and PTSD hyperarousal symptoms.
According to research compiled by the University of Washington, THC appears to decrease anxiety when used in low doses. It’s important to note that this research also showed an increase in anxiety when using high doses of THC.
THC was shown in a 2015 study to alter the gut microbiome due to antibacterial effects. These gut microbiome changes alter the endocannabinoid tone in the GI tract and fat tissue leading to significant weight loss. These effects only seemed to take place in obese rats. Lean rats maintained healthy body weight levels without losing extra weight.
Research shows that THC may be a powerful anti-inflammatory compound. THC can suppress an overactive immune system by triggering apoptosis in T cells and dendritic cells, which benefits auto-immune conditions. THC was also found to change molecules known as histones, which helps suppress inflammation throughout the body.
Lowering Blood Pressure
THC and other cannabinoids are thought to lower blood pressure due to their vasorelaxant effects. These cannabinoids bind to the CB1 and TRPV1 receptors and are hypothesized to interact with the NO (nitric oxide) systems in the body.
Interesting Fact: WHO has put the recommendation forward to change THC to schedule III, which is a less strict regulation.
It is still classified as a Schedule I substance by US Federal Law under what’s called the Controlled Substances Act due to it having having “no accepted medical use” and “lack of accepted safety”.
Interestingly, dronabinol, a pharmaceutical form of tetrahydrocannabinol, has been approved by the FDA as an appetite stimulant for people suffering from AIDS. It is also used as an anti-nausea medication for people undergoing cancer treatment via chemotherapy. The trade names of these drugs are Marinol and Syndros.