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Primary Cannabinoid present in Marijuana – Tetrahydrocannabinols (THC)


Before we find out what is THC, we will understand the term Cannabinoid, which is a term used to refer certain chemicals compounds present in the weed plant.


Understanding the name of this weed plant in technical terms, we call it phytocannabinoid. When one ingests (smoke) marijuana, these chemicals interact with certain cells present in the body to yield medical benefits.

Now what is THC? It is the primary psychoactive drug found in cannabis. Let us look at its medicinal benefits. THC synthetics is available in pharmacies and many pharmaceutical companies have come up with drugs like Marinol, which is a prescription medication that helps increasing appetite, decreases nausea especially in cancer patients. Sativex, which is a drug used for treating Multiple Sclerosis is made of THC, which is extracted from cannabis plant.

THC, along with its double bond isomers and their stereoisomers, is one of only three cannabinoids scheduled by the UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances (the other two are dimethylheptylpyran and parahexyl). It was listed under Schedule I in 1971, but reclassified to Schedule II in 1991 following a recommendation from the WHO.

Based on subsequent studies, the WHO has recommended the reclassification to the less-stringent Schedule III. Cannabis as a plant is scheduled by the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (Schedule I and IV). It is specifically still listed under Schedule I by US federal law under the Controlled Substances Act for having “no accepted medical use” and “lack of accepted safety”. However, dronabinol is a synthetic form of THC approved by the FDA as an appetite stimulant for people with AIDS and antiemetic for people receiving chemotherapy. The pharmaceutical formulation dronabinol is an oily resin provided in capsules available by prescription in the United States, Canada, Germany, and New Zealand.

THC’s ability in animals to fight tumours was studied and the results were incredible. Again this cannabinoid has one more superpower. THC is a powerful anti-inflammatory. Inflammation is a major factor that contributes to a wide range of diseases. The three major diseases that are elevated by inflammation are neurogenerative disease, autoimmune disease and depression. THC potential to fight inflammation makes the herb help treat a wide range of health ailments.

Mechanism of action

The actions of THC result from its partial agonist activity at the cannabinoid receptor CB1 (Ki = 10 nM), located mainly in the central nervous system, and the CB2 receptor (Ki = 24 nM), mainly expressed in cells of the immune system. The psychoactive effects of THC are primarily mediated by the activation of cannabinoid receptors, which result in a decrease in the concentration of the second messenger molecule cAMP through inhibition of adenylate cyclase.

The presence of these specialized cannabinoid receptors in the brain led researchers to the discovery of endocannabinoids, such as anandamide and 2-arachidonoyl glyceride (2-AG). THC targets receptors in a manner far less selective than endocannabinoid molecules released during retrograde signaling, as the drug has a relatively low cannabinoid receptor efficacy and affinity. In populations of low cannabinoid receptor density, THC may act to antagonize endogenous agonists that possess greater receptor efficacy. THC is a lipophilic molecule and may bind non-specifically to a variety of entities in the brain and body, such as adipose tissue (fat).

Due to its partial agonistic activity, THC appears to result in greater downregulation of cannabinoid receptors than endocannabinoids, further limiting its efficacy over other cannabinoids. While tolerance may limit the maximal effects of certain drugs, evidence suggests that tolerance develops irregularly for different effects with greater resistance for primary over side-effects, and may actually serve to enhance the drug’s therapeutic window.  However, this form of tolerance appears to be irregular throughout mouse brain areas. THC, as well as other cannabinoids that contain a phenol group, possesses mild antioxidant activity sufficient to protect neurons against oxidative stress, such as that produced by glutamate-induced excitotoxicity.

List of medical conditions that can be treated using THC are

  • Arthritis
  • Autism
  • Glaucoma
  • Lupus
  • migraine
  • fibromyalgia
  • ADHD
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • hepatitis
  • insomnia
  • PTSD
  • stroke
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • muscular disorders or multiple sclerosis
  • Tourette syndrome
  • Cancer: breast, brain, skin and pediatric cancers
  • sleep apnea
  • Crohn’s IBD, IBS
  • neuropathic and chronic pain


General benefits – THC

  • relaxation
  • social bonding
  • stress relief
  • laughter
  • improved mood
  • fun
  • pain relief

Some short term effects – THC

Taking THC makes you feel a little different from how you feel normally. There are a few side effects that are associated with THC. Well, it is not necessary that everyone experience these side effects as you might not experience all these side effects at once. Many of the possible side effects are dependent on patient’s response to stress.

For many people the positive effects of cannabis are higher than the negative effects.

The following side effects can stay for maximum 3 hours after inhalation. These side effects disappear once THC diminishes.

  • Pain relief
  • Euphoria
  • Relaxation
  • Hunger
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Tremor
  • paranoia, Anxiety
  • increased heart beat
  • sensation of heavy body
  • dry or red eyes
  • body temperature decreases
  • a sense of energy or uplift
  • laughter
  • seems like time has slowed down

If you are ingesting cannabis through an edible, it can take between 30minutes to 2 hours to get the full effects of THC. The instant THC effects can vary from person to person depending on each individual’s cannabis strain which depends on factors like total %age of THC, %age of other primary cannabinoids that exist in a particular strain.


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