Cannabis Science

22 August 2019

What are the health benefits of THC?

CBD and THC are the two most widely recognised cannabinoids found in marijuana plants. While the emerging medicinal potential of CBD has seen it rapidly corner the health and wellness market, tetrahydrocannabinol THC remains somewhat stigmatised by its reputation for providing the famed psychoactive effects cannabis is best-known for.

Indeed, while the benefits of CBD and CBD products like CBD oil have made it a safe and viable alternative medicine, the availability and understanding of THC as a health treatment remains much more limited. However, thanks to increased levels of cannabis research and the growing prevalence of medical marijuana, a far greater understanding of the positive health effects of THC and cannabis has begun to emerge in recent years.

Whether flying solo or In synergy with other cannabinoids like CBD, studies suggest that BOTH THC and CBD can provide several health benefits but to understand the full effects of cannabis and THC, let’s take a closer look at the compound and what health benefits it can offer.

THC Provides Pain Relief

Perhaps, the most famed benefit of cannabis is its ability to relieve pain, and this, is in small part, down to the presence of THC in cannabis plants. No matter which part, organ, or system of the body is affected, chronic or recurring medical conditions can have debilitating effects on both physical and mental well-being. While traditional pain management treatments can be useful in reducing pain, many come with the significant risk of adverse side-effects and a potentially life-threatening addiction.

However, the anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties found in THC offer similar benefits that provide relief from chronic pain or neuropathic pain, without a similar risk of negative health effects.

Clinical research has shown that the effects of cannabis THC can activate certain cannabinoid receptors, typically found in both nerve cells and immune cells. However, when it activates the one in the nerve cells, it can provide significant pain relief.

THC can Protect the Brain

Alcohol, cocaine and opiates can have damaging effects on the brain. On top of suppressing the production of new brain cells, these neurotoxic drugs can cause the release of an excitatory chemical acid called glutamate. This chemical compound is, first and foremost a “good” and essential neurotransmitter for our cells to communicate. Nonetheless, it is also the main contributor to early-stage damage after brain trauma, which increases over time and in excessive amounts, can cause severe brain damage (by killing brain cells) and can prove to be fatal.

However, studies suggest that THC is a neuroprotectant and thought to reduce the harmful effects of glutamate release in the brain. CB1 and CB2 receptors are efficient regulators of glutamate release, but the presence of THC directly activates these CB receptors, which enables the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects of THC.

THC Eases Nausea and Vomiting

Another area THC can help with is nausea and vomiting — a biological defence mechanism designed to protect us from eating poisonous or spoiled foods. These symptoms can be caused by a range of conditions or may even be the side effects of taking certain pharmaceuticals.

By activating cannabinoid receptors found in our endocannabinoid system, cannabinoids like THC can help alleviate these symptoms. THC is a full agonist of CB1 receptors, and when it binds to these sites in specific parts of the brain, it can reduce the vomiting and sensations of nausea. In other words; by antagonising the CB1 receptors, THC can help to ease both nausea and vomiting.

THC Stimulates Appetite

Perhaps one of the more famous effects offered up by THC is its ability to increase appetite. Anyone who has consumed recreational marijuana will tell you that some strains of cannabis can invoke a rapid and powerful increase in hunger. This biological process is commonly referred to as “the munchies”. However, despite its association with stoner culture, this effect can be harnessed in medical cannabis and health care to aid those who are suffering from appetite or weight loss as a result of appetite-reducing treatments including chemotherapy.

High levels of the appetite-suppressing hormone, leptin can cause you not to feel hungry. Luckily, THC’s propensity for stimulating appetite can treat appetite loss at the source. By interacting with our pre-existing cannabinoid receptors, THC can inhibit the production of leptin, which sends signals to our brain that we may need to eat.

THC can Relax Muscles

THC also works well as a muscle-relaxing cannabinoid. One of the most common neurodegenerative diseases after Alzheimer’s is Parkinson’s disease, which affects areas of the brain that control movement. The condition can cause a litany of symptoms including of rigid muscles, tremors and shaking limbs, impaired posture, extreme stiffness, bradykinesia and even loss of automatic movements usually via neurological impulses sent from the central nervous system.

However, studies examining the effects of cannabis and THC shows the cannabinoid has great neuroprotective potential, able to help reduce symptoms in PD, as well as cerebral palsy, Multiple Sclerosis and fibromyalgia.

THC for Insomnia

There are some pretty devastating consequences in the quality of life when your sleep gets disrupted. Biologically, it seems that the human body’s CB1 receptors are involved in sleep regulation and their activation by endogenous cannabinoids like THC.

THC is a sedative and appears to work as an effective sleeping aid due to the way that THC reacts with our CB1 receptors and triggers melatonin producers in the brain. Although long-term use may affect your natural sleep cycle in which the body begins to create a dependency on THC to help it sleep. However, evidence on the impact of cannabinoids like THC and sleep is anecdotal and mixed, so it’s difficult to conclude on the full medical benefit of using THC to treat insomnia.

Does THC Induce any Negative Side Effects?

THC may offer some remarkable benefits and effects, but as with any medicine, THC found in cannabis induces its own unique set of side effects. As a psychoactive compound, the side effects of THC are unique and may come as a surprise if you are new to consuming the cannabinoid. Unlike CBD, THC is the reason why the consumption of cannabis leads to a “high feeling”.

As such, consuming large amounts of THC or a cannabis product that contains THC can cause temporary side effects, including:

  • Red eyes
  • Increased heart rate
  • Memory loss
  • Coordination problems
  • Dry mouth
  • Slower reaction times
  • Possible feelings of anxiety or paranoia

You may also experience some side effects with THC such as dizziness, shortness of breath, and headaches, although these are less common. While it is possible to over-consume the cannabinoid, it will not result in a fatal overdose like that of alcohol or narcotics. Nonetheless, it’s important to familiarise yourself with any risks to ensure a comfortable and relaxing experience.

What is the Correct Dosage for THC Administration?

Everyone responds to THC differently, so the dosage will also be different for novice consumers just starting, compared to seasoned marijuana users who consume the compound regularly. It’ll also be different depending on the method of consumption you choose to deliver THC. You can now find THC present in several products like cannabis oil and cannabis extracts.

As a general guide, here are the typical doses of THC listed in ascending order:

  • Microdose: 2.5 – 5 mg.
  • Standard dose: 5 – 10 mg.
  • High dose: 15 – 20 mg.

In some cases, people taking THC made need a higher dose, depending on the medical conditions or level of experience with the compound. However, if you are new to cannabis, we recommend that you stick with smaller doses when first starting. This means administering an amount (about 5 mg or less) that measures below the microdose range, and slowly increase your intake over time while also monitoring the effects.

The Bottom Line on THC

There’s so much to appreciate about THC as alternative medicine, and while it remains famed for its psychoactive effects, a greater understanding of its potential health benefits are beginning to emerge.

However, despite our increased knowledge on the health benefits of both THC and CBD, and the known positive effects of medical marijuana, cannabis is still considered a Schedule 1 drug by the U.S Federal Drug Administration. Despite improved medical marijuana laws at the state level, the lack of THC legality at a federal level continues to severely inhibit both the levels and depth of clinical research that can be conducted on cannabis and cannabinoids.

Indeed, you suspect that with THC and cannabis, full and unfettered legality must be achieved before a true understanding of its potential as a medicinal treatment can be fully established.

If you’re new to cannabis and would like to see how you can benefit from from the effects of medical marijuana and THC, we suppose the only real way to know is by putting the cannabinoid to the test yourself. Before doing so, make sure to check the local medical marijuana laws in your state (or country) and make sure to get medical advice from your doctor before you decide whether or not THC is right for you.

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