As the legalization of recreational weed and medical marijuana continue to spread in many countries, the curiosity about THC and CBD products is on the rise. These natural compounds found in the cannabis plant are responsible for the psychoactive effects and the THC high after consumption.
But unless you are a weed connoisseur, THC remains a rather elusive compound. If you are a cannabis consumer, whether for recreation or medicinal or otherwise, would it not be cool to know what this compound is all about and how it works in the body?
With that out of the way, here’s THC explained.
What is THC
THC meaning is Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or Δ-9-THC. It is the main psychoactive compound out of the 113 compounds found in the plant Cannabis Sativa.
Similar to other pharmacologically active lipids, THC chemicals in weed are believed to be involved in the revolutionary adaptation of the cannabis plant – against environmental stress, UV light and insect predation.
The discovery of THC in weed is attributed to Raphael Mechoulam, a Bulgarian-born chemist, in 1964. THC was included in Schedule IV of the Expert Committee on Drug Dependence in 2003 by the WHO.
THC chemical structure is C21H30O2, which is – 21 carbon, 30 hydrogen, and 2 oxygen atoms. THC shares very similar chemical properties in clinical psychopharmacology with another popular cannabis compound, CBD. However, the arrangement of atoms differs slightly in THC vs. CBD, so they have different effects on the body.
In the cannabis plants, THC occurs as THCA, 2-COOH-THC or tetrahydrocannabinolic acid and can also be produced in clinical chemistry using modified yeast. THC does not dissolve well in water but has high solubility with alcohols, organic solvents, and lipids.
THC concentration depends on several factors and varies from one product to the other. In recreational marijuana, THC concentration is about 1 to 5% and is the highest in hashish oil at about 20%. THC is found in a number of different strains.
As the main psychoactive compound in the cannabis Sativa plant, THC is more powerful than other cannabis-derived compounds. It allows the user to experience the “high feeling“. It can bind very quickly with the CB1 or cannabinoid receptors, which are naturally present in the cerebellum, basal ganglia, cerebral cortex of the brain.
The primary function of these parts of the brain is coordination, memory, thinking, pleasure, and movement.
THC in medical marijuana may be used to treat other health conditions such as insomnia, nausea, relief anxiety, and glaucoma and to control pain.
Overconsumption of THC is known to cause certain side effects, including dry mouth, memory loss, coordination problems, and weight loss. Other cannabis use disorders include red eyes, increased heart rate, and anxiety.
The negative effects of marijuana and THC are well documented in medical journals. However, adverse events of death due to cannabis overdose are not known.
THC is a cannabinoid present naturally in the body. Therefore, even if you consumed hemp-derived CBD products with minimal or no THC, it could still show up in drug tests. The use of cannabis-related products can also be stored the compound as body THC, and the compound can show up in drug screening even after several days or weeks.
Different Ways in Which THC is Consumed
Smoking cannabis products and substances derived from cannabis is the most common form of THC consumption. The psychoactive effects of THC are the quickest when it is smoked.
In addition to smoking, vaping or dapping through cannabis extract vape pens is also very popular. Vaping THC oil is shown to have safety risks in recent clinical trials but not enough research is available currently.
Oral ingestion of medical cannabis is another popular way to consume CBD and THC. For oral ingestion of THC, controlled substances such as capsules, oils, tinctures, and edibles are common. Some products with THC help as dietary supplements.
Consumption of THC and medical cannabis by this method can take longer to experience the psychoactive effects, but they also last longer.
Medical marijuana is also consumed as dissolvable strips placed under the tongue and lozenges.
Bath oils, soaps, salves, lotions and balms infused with CBD and THC used for topical applications are also common. The psychoactive effects and THC effects are not common or available when used in this method.
However, the use of THC products for topical application mainly targets complementary and integrative health. So topical application of THC-derived products can help ease inflammation and chronic pain.
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