Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is undeniably the most interesting compound in cannabis. It’s the one that gets you ‘high’, producing the curious psychoactive effects that are so unusual and difficult to explain. THC is typically discussed as an amazing recreational substance, that makes for good times alone or among friends; or, it’s talked about as a danger to mental health.
What gets less attention, especially with the emergence of non-intoxicating and therapeutic properties of another cannabinoid, cannabidiol (CBD), is that THC is teeming with health benefits. Indeed, it is the THC that has always been crucial to the advancement of medical marijuana legislation.
This cannabis ingredient is vital for amping up the pain relief and anti-inflammatory that users can get from a strain. And as CBD becomes more popular, it’s critical that advocates, politicians and the media don’t lose sight of the fact that just because THC gets you ‘stoned’, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have medical benefits, too.
This article is going to focus on the value of THC for medical cannabis. We’re going to look at several conditions, including the following:
- THC for migraines
- THC for pain
- The anti-inflammatory effects of THC
- THC for the skin
- THC for appetite
We’ll also talk about how to use THC most effectively. The ‘entourage effect’ is critical to bringing out the true power of medical marijuana. This is achieved through one-to-one strains, which balance CBD and THC levels. These cannabinoids have a moderating influence on each other. Therefore, in many cases, one-to-one strains are better than high-THC recreational weed.
What makes THC an effective medicine?
Many people wonder just exactly why THC, which is essentially just an obscure plant compound, can have such a profound effect on health. The answer lies in the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is where THC’s major effects are produced.
Research has shown that THC is the plant-based version of a compound produced by the human body, called anandamide. Both THC and anandamide are agonists of the two main cannabinoid receptors in the ECS. CBD also has a positive effect on the ECS. Scientists first discovered and isolated THC in the 1960s, and became aware of anandamide and the ECS in the 1990s. Now let’s get stuck into the effects of cannabis.
THC for pain
Medical marijuana is used to manage pain more than anything else. Despite the psychoactive side effects of THC, it’s not addictive or possible to overdose on, as opposed to opioids. Therefore, users can enjoy safer pain relief by vaping or smoking cannabis, or by taking it an edible, than they can with traditional painkillers.
How does THC work to relieve pain? As a CB1 receptor agonist, THC is directly involved with the process of pain sensation regulation. THC is also thought to administer an analgesic effect via the serotonergic and dopaminergic systems. Some users prefer indica-dominant strains when treating pain, as this delivers a more sedative effect. However, for chronic pain sufferers who need daytime relief without feeling fatigued, a sativa-dominant strain will likely be better.
THC for migraines
Migraines are another condition that people are turning towards cannabis for, due to the failings of prescription medicine. Current migraine drugs can help with the pain, but are notorious for causing confusion, fatigue, dizziness and concentration issues. Cannabis experts are hopeful that a combination of THC and CBD can combat migraine symptoms, without the downsides. Ancient medicinal texts prove that cannabis has been used for migraines for centuries. Western medicinal practices also used marijuana for migraines until prohibition.
Those researching dysfunction in the ECS may have hit the jackpot. Studies have found that natural anandamide levels are lower in migraineurs, compared to those who don’t suffer. Supplementing the body with THC helps to address this issue. The unusual and troublesome ‘aura’ symptoms that some migraineurs experience, which causes a spike in light and sound sensitivity, may be treatable through CB1 receptor regulation.
Another study has demonstrated that a cannabis medicine can be just as effective for migraines as current drugs. And overall, cannabis is the better treatment thanks to fewer side effects. Next, scientists must determine which works best: a high-THC mix, a high-CBD mix, or a THC-CBD combo. A product with equal amounts of THC to CBD is great for capitalizing on the ‘entourage effect’, a synergy that happens among cannabinoids.
THC for the skin
Cannabis skin care is becoming one of the hottest markets in the wellness world. Many marijuana brands, and even established cosmetic brands, are looking at producing infused lotions, balms and gels to help enhance skin quality, slow aging and tackle inflammatory skin disorders.
Topical products are effective because THC influences the skin via cannabinoid receptors. For example, the skin contains CB2 receptors, which are entwined with the immune system. Applying a THC-rich cream to the skin sends a wave of immunomodulatory messages. For psoriasis, an autoimmune disease, this works to slow down skin cell production, and treat patchy, red and flaky skin.
THC is also a strong antioxidant. These compounds help to avert extrinsic aging caused by free radicals. When free radicals attack the skin, they degrade its DNA, which inhibits the skin’s ability to generate new cells. This accelerates aging. Have you ever wondered why smokers seem to age more quickly? It’s likely due to oxidative damage caused by free radicals. THC creams provide an important layer of protection from free radicals, which are found in smoke, UV rays, exhaust fumes and x-rays.
THC for mood and depression
The main reason why people use cannabis products to get ‘high’ is so that they can enjoy the euphoric effects. The euphoric effects may help with elevating mood and treating depression. Anandamide naturally improves mood, and THC has the same effect just much more potently. Again, cannabis produces this via CB1 receptor activation.
The giggles and funny times that a few hours being high provides is enjoyable. However, if using cannabis to manage depression, then it’s important not to fall into the trap of being ‘high’ all the time. The body quickly become tolerant to THC, and in regular, high doses, the cannabinoid may adversely affect the brain. Responsible use and perhaps rotating THC products with full-spectrum CBD oil, is a more sustainable way to boost mood long-term with cannabinoids.
THC for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
PTSD is a mental disorder that impacts millions of Americans, and veterans in particular. Antidepressants are prescribed to PTSD patients. But for most, these are ineffective. Hence, among other avenues, researchers have started to look at the medical benefits of THC for PTSD. And there is reason for encouragement.
PTSD symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares, and emotional numbness. There is optimism that cannabis may help to eliminate the bad memories that cause these symptoms. This may sound a little too good to be true, but the available research is compelling. Studies have shown that PTSD sufferers may have lower levels of anandamide. This, as you may have noticed, is a common theme in conditions that may be remedied with cannabis. CB1 receptor agonists appear to help with switching off traumatic memories.
Cannabis also limits the amount of time spent in rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep. This is the phase where people dream, and when PTSD patients experience nightmares. The regulating effect that cannabis has on the circadian rhythm and sleep may be key to banishing these memories. A study revealed that more than 70 percent of PTSD patients suffered from fewer nightmares after being given nabilone, a cannabinoid receptor stimulant. The study’s participants had all previously been using antidepressants. The question is whether patients would benefit most from a natural cannabis extract, or an artificial stimulant.
THC pills for appetite
Anybody that has used cannabis before knows all about getting the munchies. It’s one of the funniest things that can happen as a recreational user. Before you know it, you and your friends have ordered a massive fast food delivery to gorge on. Anyway, cannabis makes you hungry – we all know that. But could this appetite stimulation effect also be useful for those suffering from eating disorders?
The spike in appetite generated by THC comes from CB1 receptor activation. The strong effects of THC in comparison to anandamide is what makes the hunger pangs more intense than usual. Researchers have found that THC changes parts of the brains, putting them into ‘hungry mode’. Cannabis releases the hunger hormone ‘ghrelin’. Studies on rats have demonstrated that cannabis leads to more regular eating. Human studies often replicate initial findings in rats. But a study on giving cannabis to humans with a disorder such an anorexia will be needed next.
In addition, another cannabinoid, tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), seems to function as an appetite suppressant. Research suggests that THCV is an antagonist of CB1 receptors. Having the opposite effect to THC at this receptor may explain why THCV lowers appetite, while THC increases it.
THC for brain injuries
Calls for medical marijuana to be allowed have come from several ex-National Football League (NFL) players. And it’s not just to relieve pain. Many NFL players who suffered concussions during their career are affected by memory and cognitive problems later in life. Traumatic brain injuries occur relatively often in American football due to the extreme physicality of the sport.
Cannabis advocates in the NFL argue that medical marijuana can reduce the long-term effects of TBIs. They point to studies which show the neuroprotective properties of CBD on rodents, and there are signs that THC may be vital, too. Cannabis may help to reduce the spread of excitatory brain chemicals following an injury. THC can also limit free radicals as an antioxidant.
The NFL has not moved on the issue. Active players cannot use marijuana, at all. But if the research keeps flowing in, that may have to change.
THC for creativity
Some use THC when in need of a creative spark. The psychoactive effects are key to providing this unique effect. While not a medical condition per se, a lack of creativity can cause someone to become stuck in their ways and not perform at their best, whether at work or simply in their day-to-day lives. Cannabis can help to change perspectives through its mind-altering effects. We know that marijuana can help to form new brain patterns, from neuroimaging, too. This is an area worthy of much more research in the next few years.
THC’s health benefits are really exciting, and experts still have so much to explore. Whether it’s for mental or physical conditions, the signs are that THC and CBD, too, can help to reduce a large range of symptoms. Users looking to take cannabis should read up on the benefits of indicas compared to sativas and hybrids. This is crucial to finding the ideal cannabis product.