THC. The psychoactive cannabinoid in cannabis. Researchers continue to examine the effects of THC on the body and mind. Whether you have experienced the effects of THC, or disagree with its use, THC does play an important and vital role in the medicinal effects we see when cannabis is used for a range of medical conditions.
What exactly is THC? And why is it still so controversial to use?
Let’s start from the beginning.
Cannabigerolic acid (CBGA) conversion into delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid – THCA.
CBGA is a precursor molecule to help in the formation of other cannabinoids.
CBGA is the third most common form of cannabinoid within the plant. It gradually gets converted into other cannabinoids, and eventually the levels of it drop to around 1% within the plant.
Through biosynthesis pathways
“CBGA acts as a substrate for C. sativa specific oxidoreductoses CBDA.”http://www.sciencedirect.com
A substrate is a substance on which an enzyme can act upon, grow and obtain nourishment.
It was discovered that CBGA was able to be converted into THCA through the production of independent catalyzed enzymes, then decarboxylated to form THCA.
The carboxyl group of CBGA is critical for cannabinoid synthase.
The purification process known as oxidocyclization takes CBGA, and is aided by the enzyme THCA-synthase to form THCA.
Basically, as the cannabis plant matures, CBGA is exposed to three different enzymes that assist with the conversion process for the specific cannabinoid it aids converting into.
In this case, it is the enzyme THCA-synthase that is responsible for the conversion of CBGA into THCA.
From there, THCA is converted into the active cannabinoid THC when it is cured, dried and smoked.
THC is known for its psychoactive properties; however, there are other actions that result from its ‘active’ properties.
THC unlocks and binds to CB1 receptors aiding in the treatment of pain, insomnia, nausea, increasing the appetite, and reducing muscle spasms. Because it binds to receptors it can affect the memory, perceptions, co-ordination, concentration, movements and sensory perceptions.
Additionally, THC activates parts of the brain that contains the majority of the brain cell receptors, which produces the psychotropic effects.
THC may affect the development of a young brain, resulting in impaired memory and cognition, possibly due to either the stimulation or the blocking mechanisms of cannabinoids on cells and receptors. However, individuals have responded differently across broad spectrums. And it seems it is more about the frequency of use than the occasional puff.
There have been drugs produced from THC for the treatment of nausea and vomiting, especially for those receiving chemotherapy, and other cancer medications. It is also useful for helping those with cancer and other conditions to increase their appetite.
THC’s actions also tend to affect the functioning of the areas of the brain responsible for memory and attention. Additionally, it affects areas of the brain like the cerebellum and basal ganglia that assists with proper balance and co-ordination. It may also affect someone’s reaction time, meaning it could impact a person’s ability to drive while under the effect of THC.
However, there are also actions that can cause a positive effect. As THC activates the reward system, it can cause the rush of dopamine. Not only resulting in a ‘high’, it can help motivate people to perform tasks as well.
THC can affect people in different ways. Because of its psychotropic effect, a person may experience intense laughter and happiness. It can also help relieve stress through helping with relaxation. And may even increase sensory perception.
Another action THC exhibits is relaxing a person enough to ease insomnia.
Some research has suggested that in some incidences, THC may have a greater medicinal benefit than CBD due to its ‘active’ properties, and the ability to unlock and bind to receptors in a similar manner to endocannabinoids.
In addition, THC may even help to increase inspiration and creativity, as well as motivation.
There can also be effects with THC in regards to being more social, being able to see things from a different perspective, coming up with new ideas, and the ability to calm the mind.
With small doses of THC, it can help reduce inflammation, chronic pain, and may ease anxiety (especially social anxiety), and depression.
THC may even help to regulate the immune system and its response to infection.
Some studies have suggested that its properties may help to reduce intraocular pressure.
However, when used in too high of a dose, or too frequently, our own endocannabinoids may not be as effective. A person may even become cannabis-dependent as the body begins to rely heavily on cannabinoids to activate receptors, instead of our endocannabinoids.
Conclusion? THC carries a range of benefits both physically and mentally. Research seems to suggest that the negative effects of THC is more about the frequency and amount used. Understanding the way THC works in the body enables the user to benefit from its effects, without encountering too much of the negative effects THC is commonly associated with.
The next article looks at the effect THC specifically has on the different regions of the brain, and the therapeutic benefits of CBD.