Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
Cannabis has over 80 known chemical constituents, known as "cannabinoids". Two of the most active and studied constituents of cannabis are tetrahydrocannabinol ("THC") and cannabidiol ("CBD"). THC is the major psychoactive component of cannabis. CBD acts on many of the same receptors as THC, but without the psychoactive side effects.
May 23, 2017
What is THC?
THC is one of a host of chemicals called cannabinoids within the cannabis plant that can influence how we feel pain, how we perceive our surroundings, and how our bodies cope with inflammation. In the human brain, THC works by binding with cannabinoid receptors on the brain’s neurons. These receptors affect how neurotransmitters (the chemicals responsible to transmit signals from neuron to neuron) send information.
How medical cannabis works
The reasons that cannabis benefits so many different illnesses and ailments is due to the fact that some of the active pharmacological components of the cannabis plant mimic an internal chemical harm reduction system in the human body that keeps our health in balance, called the Endocannabinoid System (ECS).
The ECS is controlled by chemicals that our body produces called endocannabinoids. The endocannabinoid system, is a system of receptors found in the brain, central and peripheral nervous systems, fat, muscle, and immune cells. Our endocannabinoids are responsible for keeping our most critical biological functions in balance such as sleep, appetite, the immune system and pain. When the body gets out of balance and moves into a state of stress, endocannabinoids go to work to fix the problem. The pharmaceutically active components in the cannabis plant mimic endocannabinoids hence being effective in helping the body manage crises and restore itself after trauma when the body’s endocannabinoids are not able to restore balance alone.
Examples of how THC works in our bodies
- The cannabinoid THC has been shown to possess a very high binding affinity with CB1 receptors located throughout the brain, central nervous system, connective tissues, gonads, glands, and related organs. This is one reason that consumption of cannabis strains and plants containing a high amount of THC result in a relatively potent effect, giving patients significant relief from pain, nausea, or depression while delivering a strong euphoria to lifestyle users. Significant efficacy is gained by those undergoing chemotherapy and patients suffering conditions involving inflammation, like arthritis and lupus.
- THC has antispasmodic, analgesic, anti-tremor, anti-inflammatory, appetite stimulating and anti-emetic properties.
- THC is a strong anti-inflammatory and pain killer and has been shown to reduce the amyloid plaques in the brain that cause Alzheimer.
- In pre-clinical trials THC has been proven to reduce levels of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) in brain cancer cells. This is important because a reduction in VEGF means that brain cancer tumors are unable to grow the new blood vessels they need to sustain themselves, grow and spread. This discovery offers great promise for the treatment of brain cancer.
- THC is also a bronchodilator, anti-spasmodic, muscle relaxant, a powerful neuroprotectant and antioxidant. In fact, THC has 20 times the anti-inflammatory power of aspirin and twice that of hydrocortisone.
- CBD and THC are believed to have a synergistic effect meaning that when they are both present at therapeutic levels, they are more effective together than they are alone.
- The entourage effect refers to how all the different cannabinoids work together in the human body. The “entourage effect,” theorizes that some cannabis compounds, which have no effect in isolation, affect the human body only when combined with other components. The effect of CBD on THC is the most notable illustration of the entourage effect.
Even though our knowledge on the role of the endocannabinoid system is still evolving, the available evidence indicates cannabis acts on the endocannabinoid system. Naturally occurring substances called endocannabinoids and the cannabinoids found in cannabis are major effectors on this system. Although THC is perhaps the best-known substance in cannabis, it’s fast becoming merely one tool in the medical cannabis arsenal.