MOCA - Modern Cannabis Blog

What is THC, and What Are the Medical Benefits?

What is THC?

If you’re even passingly familiar with the chemical composition of cannabis sativa, you likely know that THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is a compound responsible for the psychoactive effects one feels after smoking or ingesting the plant. However, as knowledge grows about the medical applications of THC, doctors have realized that there’s much more to the story.

How Does THC Work?

The human body has an endocannabinoid system: a network of cannabinoid receptors throughout the body, as well as endocannabinoids that bind to these receptors. Endocannabinoids are cannabinoids that the body produces naturally. For example, exercise increases endocannabinoid production, thereby resulting in the “runner’s high.”

Since your body already has these receptors, phytocannabinoids—or cannabinoids produced naturally by a plant—have a ready-made system that is capable of producing feelings of euphoria, sociability, and creativity, as well as medical benefits such as the alleviation of pain and relief from insomnia.

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What People Might Consider Using THC?

The medical benefits of THC have been heavily studied, with positive outcomes for those with a wide range of ailments. While the many benefits patients report are still being tested in humans, there is strong scientific evidence that THC:

  • Provides analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects in patients with Crohn’s Disease, chronic pain, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, and more
  • Relieves central pain in patients with central nervous diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and Parkinson’s Disease
  • Stimulates appetite in patients with cancer-related anorexia
  • Treats motor disorders such as spasticity, Tourette Syndrome (TS), and dystonia
  • Has mood-elevating effects that can help with mental illness such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Improves sleep, aiding those with insomnia, nightmares, and pain 
  • Establishes neuroprotective effects following brain injuries

What Are the Side Effects?

Side effects of THC include mental sedation or drowsiness. A particular strain’s cannabinoid profile will combine with your own body’s endocannabinoid system to create a unique experience for each user. Some patients do not tolerate THC well, and experience side effects such as anxiety, tachycardia (rapid heartbeat), and racing thoughts. These effects can be somewhat mitigated by taking THC in conjunction with CBD (such as in a 1:1 ratio product), or by microdosing. Taking cannabis in small, steady doses throughout the day can allow someone to receive the medical benefits of THC without becoming mentally impaired.

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The Entourage Effect

The “entourage effect” refers to how many different components of the marijuana plant (THC, CBD, terpenes and minor cannabinoids like CBN and CBG) work together to create relief for patients who use cannabis. Many of these chemical compounds have similar effects on the human body and may offer only minimal relief when isolated. However, when patients receive a broad spectrum of these plant-derived compounds, they report greater relief than when they received only one or two isolated major cannabinoids.

“We need to understand which constellations of plant chemistry are best suited for which indications and which kinds of patients, and which form of the CB1 receptor you happen to carry, because there are lots of mutations in that gene,” Adie Wilson-Poe, a researcher at Washington University, told WIRED. “So understanding these mechanisms is absolutely crucial for providing these patients with personalized medicine that alleviates their symptoms without producing the unwanted side effects.”

How Do I Take THC?

Most medical cannabis products will contain at least trace amounts of THC (or the precursor, THCA). We recommend that patients work with our friendly and knowledgeable budtenders to determine what treatments and dosages are right for them.