When it comes to cannabis, THC is queen (not king, as only female plants develop THC). The molecule, known for being the “active ingredient” in cannabis, has become a worldwide sensation since its discovery. Although many people have heard about THC, they may not know what it is from a scientific and therapeutic perspective. Today, you’ll learn about the possible benefits of THC use and some of the side effects it could possess.
Molecular Lowdown: What is THC?
THC, short for delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, was first discovered in 1964. It’s a member of a group of organic compounds called cannabinoids. According to experts, more than 100 cannabinoids exist (that we know of), including CBD, CBG, and CBN.
It is commonly thought that cannabis plants develop THC as they mature. But that’s not entirely correct. Instead, one of THC’s precursor molecules, an acid called THCA, comes from cannabis plants. Once you apply heat to THCA—for example, sparking up some flower or dabbing a concentrate—it turns into THC. That’s why you can’t just eat raw cannabis buds to experience psychoactive effects.
Does THC Use Have Any Benefits?
According to some researchers, THC use may provide several benefits. They include:
- Relieving Chronic Pain: Perhaps one of the best-known possible benefits of THC is the molecule’s ability to combat chronic pain. Specifically, THC may be able to relieve a specific type of chronic pain, known as neuropathic pain. This type of pain is usually the result of a past injury damaging nerve cells.
- Improving Appetite: This should come as no surprise to anyone who’s ever heard of “the munchies.” THC may be an effective way to boost the appetites of patients suffering from several conditions. They include anorexia and cachexia, the latter is also called “wasting syndrome,” which may occur in patients suffering from cancer or AIDS. In addition, THC may be able to help.
- Reducing Nausea: In addition to boosting appetite, THC may be able to soothe an upset stomach. This appears to be particularly applicable to patients undergoing chemotherapy.
However, researchers of all types of cannabis effects note that we need more data to support these claims. As a result, we’re always on the lookout for new medical research. Although funding for this type of research has improved, the federal prohibition on cannabis has stunted the pace of scientific understanding of medical cannabis.
Does THC Have Any Side Effects?
Okay, so we’ve established that THC may have a variety of benefits. What about the other side of the coin? Could THC have any side effects?
It’s true that THC may have some side effects. It may trigger short-term dizziness, nausea, anxiety, and panic. Sometimes called “greening out,” these side effects happen primarily to inexperienced users or people who accidentally consume more than they need.
However, it’s important to note that these side effects are generally mild and always temporary. According to experts, it’s unlikely any human has ever died of a cannabis overdose. Compare that to aspirin, a common over-the-counter drug that millions of people take daily, which research suggests kills 3,000 people per year in the UK alone.
When used with care—Start with very low dosing and go slow!—THC is likely extremely safe. Because our bodies all react slightly differently to various strains and types of marijuana products, it may take some experimentation to find the cannabis that benefits you most.