Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, better known as THC, is the chemical in marijuana responsible for the infamous psychoactive effects of the cannabis plant. This is probably what most people know about it. But what is THC? What does it do and how does it work? What are the consequences and risks? Does THC really have medicinal properties or is it just hype?
It doesn’t matter if you are a longtime THC consumer or simply interested in it. We’ll tell you everything you need to know about this amazing herbal product.
What is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)?
THC is one of many chemical compounds known as cannabinoids found in the dried resin of the female cannabis plant. Resin is secreted by glands located primarily around the reproductive organs of the plant. It is not the only chemical compound contained in this resin. There are about 85 other cannabinoids, including cannabidiol (CBD), which is perhaps the most well-known along with THC. Male cannabis plants produce mild THC, but only in very small amounts.
Thus, THC is not found in the “raw” cannabis plant. It is the result of various reactions and changes that the plant goes through. The cannabis plant produces a cannabinoid called cannabigerolic acid. Some of this acid is then converted to carboxylic acid (THCA), which is only formed upon drying or under UV light. Because of this decarboxylation, most of the THC consumed by the cannabis plant begins as THCA, not THC.
The discovering of THC
THC was first discovered in 1964 by an Israeli biochemist born in Bulgaria named Dr. Raphael Meshulam, isolated and synthesised from the cannabis plant. The biggest problem is that Dr. Rafael Machulam had the fact that he kept asking himself where he could legally obtain cannabis for research purposes.
Answer? From the police!
While it is hardly a suitable supplier in today’s legal and political environment, the five kilograms of hashish Meshulam received from the Israeli police has helped pave the way for some of the revolutionary discoveries in marijuana and biochemical research to date.
Meshulam was the first person to isolate delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive compound in cannabis.
Of the over 85 cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, the most studied are THC and CBD (cannabidiol). The only intoxicating effect is the well-known THC. But this is not the only thing that THC does, it has many more properties, including therapeutic ones.
What effects does Delta9-Tetrahydrocannabinol have on the human body?
THC attaches to cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) in the body and activates them. CB1 receptors are mainly located in areas associated with memory such as time perception, coordination, thought and pleasure, as well as in the central nervous system. THC mainly activates CB1 receptors and thus affects the affected areas in different ways. Connection / activation of CB1 receptors is also responsible for the psychoactive effects of THC.
Tetrahydrocannabinol also stimulates brain cells, releases dopamine, and creates a state of euphoria. This can affect the perception of new memories by disrupting information processing in the hippocampus.
Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol can also cause hallucinations, delusions, and altered thinking. These effects usually last for about two hours, starting about 10-30 minutes after ingestion. THC can be swallowed in many different ways. Probably the most famous is smoking (weed). It can also be taken orally, as drops, or as an injection (always under medical supervision).
With high THC intakes, there may be mild side effects such as anxiety, euphoric emotions, burning eyes, dry mouth, tremors / tremors, heart palpitations and / or shortness of breath (or at least the perception of them), as well as problems with short-term memory. Smoking or inhaling too much THC in a very short time can intensify and reverse these effects.
What are the risks?
The aforementioned intoxicating feelings and euphoria (also called “highs”) that occur with cannabis containing THC have made it the most popular substance in the world. Just because THC is all natural doesn’t mean there are no risks involved.
- Induce a relapse of schizophrenic symptoms.
- Determine motor skills and make driving or operating vehicles and machinery especially dangerous.
- This can be the cause of decreased IQ, loss of memory and cognition in young people who have not yet fully developed their brains.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse of America reported that rats that were injected with THC before or shortly after birth, or when they were growing up, had memory and learning problems. The study authors also noted that the effects of long-term use of THC need more research. They emphasized that this should not only happen during the life of a living being, but it will also require research on future generations to better understand how this might affect humans.
The endocannabinoid system and THC
Although THC was first isolated in 1964, it was not until 1988 that Dr. Allin Howlett of Wake Forest University discovered THC binding sites in the human brain. What she found was revolutionary: THC was attached to specific areas of cells in the hippocampus (responsible for memory), the cerebral cortex (where we think), and the cerebellum (responsible for movement).
These cells are called cannabinoid receptors, and each acts as part of the endocannabinoid system (ECS). ECS is part of the nervous system and regulates many bodily functions. Helps Maintain Homeostasis
This receptor network sends and receives signals that allow larger, more complex chemical reactions to take place. Certain cannabinoid receptors are most abundant in the central nervous system. However, these cells can be found throughout the body. Many of them are found in our digestive tract, skin and even in our reproductive organs.
THC binds to the cannabinoid receptor and triggers a series of chemical reactions. They cause changes in the brain and body.
Anandamide: Our Natural THC
Some people will now ask themselves: yes, if the body and its system metabolises THC so well, then a person must be born to use cannabis, right?
Unfortunately, the short answer is no. THC only activates a system that is already present in the body.
Once scientists were able to figure out how THC is used by the body through the endocannabinoid system, it took them another 5 years before they could isolate the THC-like substance naturally produced by the body. This substance, which can be described as the human version of THC, is called anandamide. Scientists are still trying to understand what complex role anandamide plays in the human body, but one important function sets this compound apart from all others.
Anandamide helps us get rid of all the clutter so that we can only remember the important things.
Understanding the basic functions of anandamide is extremely helpful in understanding how THC affects our body. This, in turn, provides a little more clarity regarding the role of THC in the treatment of certain psychiatric disorders, such as PTSD, where patients struggle to overcome negative memories of a traumatic event.
There are several differences between THC and anandamide. For example, THC works much longer than our own natural endocannabinoids. Anandamide begins to break down within minutes of being attached to the cell. This means that the effects are very short-lived. Unlike THC, which, as described above, can remain in the system for several days. This is a very big difference.
Medical Benefits of Delta9-Tetrahydrocannabinol.
As cannabis continues to gain acceptance, more and more studies are emerging that reveal the medicinal value of THC. Most notable are the THC studies that see it as a potential cancer treatment. Researchers at the Complutense University in Madrid have found that THC causes tumor cells to automatically process themselves in animal models, which means THC may play a critical role in significantly reducing tumor size and spread.
The ability of THC to fight tumors in animal models is incredible. But this is not all that TGC has in stock. Delta9-Tetrahydrocannabinol also has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. In many modern diseases, inflammation is the decisive factor in their occurrence. Autoimmune diseases, neurodegenerative diseases, and depression are three diseases most commonly caused by inflammation. The reason THC can help with many diseases is because of its natural ability to fight inflammation.
Here is a short list of conditions for which THC treatment can be very effective:
- Cancer (cancer of the brain, breast, in children, skin, etc.)
- Crohn’s disease
- Chronic and neuropathic pain
- Multiple sclerosis and other muscle diseases
- Parkinson’s disease
- Post-traumatic stress
- Sleep disorders
- Tourette’s syndrome
Another example in which the therapeutic properties of THC are evident is in the treatment of Crohn’s disease. A recent study published by Meir Medical Center and Sackler School of Medicine showed that THC may actually improve Crohn’s disease.
Research suggests that it is the interaction between Delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol and the CB2 receptor in humans that minimizes the inflammation caused by Crohn’s disease.
In terms of the CB1 receptor, a study by the University of Haifa in Israel showed that THC can help minimize the negative effects of stress.
In addition, THC has been shown to have a positive effect on brain cells. While most other recreational drugs are “neurotoxic”, which means that they alter the normal functioning of the nervous system in ways that damage nerve tissue, THC is considered a “nerve defense agent”. In other words, it can protect brain cells from damage caused by oxidative stress and inflammation.
Scientists from the University of Saskatchewan (Canada) have even been able to prove that THC can promote the growth of new brain cells through a process called neurogenesis.