This compound interacts with the human body in such a way as to produce a complex signature of effects—a “high” unlike any other.
From the hundreds of different chemical compounds that have been isolated from the cannabis plant, cannabinoids are undeniably the most important. One of the most abundant in Marijuana is THC. What is THC but more importantly, what does THC do to the brain?
Cannabis is a fascinating plant genus best known for its mind-altering and medicinal properties. Its use and cultivation date back as far as written language itself, and its therapeutic and spiritual utility spans many cultures around the world throughout history.
When cannabis is consumed, cannabinoids bind to receptor sites throughout our brain (receptors called CB-1) and body (CB-2). Different cannabinoids have different effects depending on which receptors they bind to. There are 483 different identifiable chemical constituents known to exist in cannabis. The most distinctive and specific class of compounds are the cannabinoids, there are only 66 known to exist in the cannabis plant.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the most abundant and widely known cannabinoid. It has been the most extensively studied component of cannabis and it is responsible for many, if not most, physical and psychoactive effects of cannabis. It is the main cannabinoid involved in producing the “high” sensation in the body but also has multiple medically proven healing effects.
It is a very good appetite stimulant and reduces nausea and vomiting, for these two reasons it is widely used in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. It has anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties that, in synergy with the Cannabidiol (CBD), potentiate its effect against pain. Other effects include relaxation, alteration of the visual, auditory, and olfactory senses. THC is neuroprotective and causes enough antioxidant activity, that has been shown to stimulate neurogenesis. It produces a strong bronchodilator effect and its usefulness in mitigating spasms and tremors has also been proven.
THC is an agonist (that is, an activator) of CB1 cannabinoid receptors, mainly present in the brain, so its main effects are on the functions developed by this organ. Its effect are markedly mental, increasing sensory functions such as vision, hearing, sensitivity to colors, it also increases the sexual arousal of men and women and modifies the perception of space and time. It produces powerful euphoria, mental well-being and refines the mind, favoring curiosity and creativity.
In general, we have the conviction that acute cannabis poisoning or its chronic use produces alterations in episodic memory in the short term and in working memory. In addition, too high levels of THC can cause the following side effects: space-time disorientation, tachycardia, nervousness, anxiety, paranoia. For this reason, people with predispositions to schizophrenia, bipolarity or anxiety should avoid consuming marijuana strains with high levels of THC. These side effects are, in general, limited by the presence of other cannabinoids such as CBD or CBN.
It is important to know that raw cannabis does not contain THC. Instead, it contains THCA, or tetrahydrocannabinoic acid, a non-psychoactive compound. During the process of curing and drying marijuana, THCA is slowly transformed into THC. The heat accelerates this process, which is why we heat cannabis (either by burning or smoking it) in order to enjoy it.