A Cannabis plant through all its existence produces more than 400 different compounds that we know of, but THC or Tetrahydrocannabinol is the one that branded Marijuana as a troublesome plant. The only reason for coming to believe this is the one compound that interacts with the human body producing a “high” and for close to a century, give or take, Cannabis became one of the most chased-down plants on earth. So now we ask, "What is THC Exactly?
But what is THC exactly and how does it work on the brain?
Tetrahydrocannabinol is one of 113 chemical compounds found in the Cannabis plant. It is found in the plant genus and is called Cannabinoids. What makes THC different is that is also psychoactive and potently so.
For many years of misinformation, misunderstanding and the distorted believe by the Federal Government, Marijuana was listed as one of the most illicit drugs in the world, even on the same level as heroin.
Understanding the Fundamentals of THC opened a whole new perspective on recreational and medicinal levels. Getting a bit technical Tetrahydrocannabinol in its chemical way can be broken down to (–)-Trans-delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol. The delta 9 is what makes it psychoactive. Awesome as it might sound; THC activates specific psychological responses in the brain that can be associated with a state of euphoria, but not always. Some people might have a different experience all together. Because our mind and our body are connected, the effect is not just psychological but also physical.
In order to understand the effect of THC we have to go a little into the biochemistry of the Cannabis plant. As we all know, we have an Endocannabinoid system. It functions as a vast system of keys, locks and/or chemical receptors. Some keys activate specific locks and other keys function on multiple locks. The human body is so evolved that it produces its own keys in the form of endogenous cannabinoids for those locks. An athlete has a good understanding of what this means because when a runner has the desire to run more and more, it is because Anandamide (the key) binds with Cannabinoid receptors (the locks) in the nervous system that produces a state of well-being or “high” This “high” is produced by the athlete’s body.
The keys (THC) from the cannabis plant fit the locks of our own ECS (Endocannabinoid System). Our ECS takes advantage of the keys produced by Cannabis for health and pleasure.
When Cannabis is consumed, the cannabinoids are metabolized and it enters into the bloodstream. Once inside the bloodstream they bind with either CB1 (found in the brain) or CB2 (found in the immune system) receptors.
How does THC make you high?
When THC binds with the CB1 and CB2 receptors the Endocannabinoid System stimulate the release of dopamine in the brain. This gives you the feeling of joy and euphoria. Many factors are involved in getting you high and everyone’s experience is unique. The CB1 receptors in the brain modulate movement, sensory perceptions, memory, time perception and cognition. THC over-activates the functions typically regulated by the ECS.
It is not just the CB1 receptors that are affected, THC works also on receptors all over the body and this leads to many additional benefits. Let us look at some of the benefits of THC for the body:
- Reliefs pain – THC compounds activates pathways in the Central Nervous system that block pain signals
- Combats Nausea and Vomiting – this is especially good news for cancer patients that often have to use medication to help them through Chemo.
- Protects brain cells – THC is a neuro-protectant and it means that it actually protects the brain cells where most other chemicals kill brain cells
- Fights Cancer- promising studies show cancerous tumors shrinking when Cannabis is used as a treatment
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