Cannabis Science

22 August 2019

What are the health benefits of THC?

By Mell Green

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), also known as delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol, is the most widely recognized component of cannabis. THC is the same compound responsible for the “high” consumers feel when consumed. While cannabis-naysayers have criticized THC to have little to no medicinal value, science has demonstrated that this might not be the case. The extraordinary molecule offers far more than a psychoactive high, no matter if you’re a medical or recreational consumer. 

In conjunction with other cannabinoids, THC has proven to help people deal with a number of ailments — when taken at just the right dosage — making it an effective supplement for optimal health. In this article, we would like to shed some light on several health benefits of consuming THC, dosing information, as well as potential side effects typically associated with this compound.

THC protects the brain from injury

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 important 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 even death. Cannabis’ THC is considered 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 treats insomnia

There are some pretty devastating consequences in the quality of life when your zzz’s are 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 the true nature of these findings.

THC eases nausea & vomiting

Another area THC can help with is nausea and vomiting — a biological defense 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 antagonizing the CB1 receptors, THC in essence  reverses nausea.

THC stimulates appetite

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 has the ability to inhibit the production of leptin, which sends signals to our brain that we may need to eat. This biological process is commonly referred to as a case of the “munchies” — a side effect of consuming cannabis’ THC. 

THC provides pain relief

No matter which part, organ, or system of the body is affected, medical conditions like arthritis, chronic migraines, neuropathy, etc. can have debilitating effects on your physical abilities as well as your emotional state. While traditional painkillers can be effective, many come with the significant risk of negative side-effects, addiction, or even death due to substance abuse. The anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties found in THC offer similar benefits that provide relief from chronic or neuropathic pain, without risk of consequent health issues.

THC relaxes 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 disease 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. Studies examining the efficacy of THC shows the cannabinoid has great neuroprotective potential, able to help reduce symptoms in PD, as well as cerebral palsy, MS, and fibromyalgia.

Does cannabis’ THC induce any negative side effects?

The short answer to this question is yes. THC may offer some remarkable therapeutic benefits, 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 quite 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”. Although not fatal, consuming large amounts of THC can cause temporary side effects. If you’re interested in cannabis, here is a list that cites the most commonly experienced that you should know about:

  • red eyes
  • increased heart rate
  • memory loss
  • coordination problems
  • dry mouth
  • slower reaction times
  • possible feelings of anxiety or even paranoia 

You may 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 caffeine. Nonetheless, it’s important to familiarize yourself with any and all risks to ensure a good experience. 

So, what is the proper dosage for THC administration?

Everyone responds to THC differently, so dosage will also be different for novice consumers just starting out, compared to seasoned cannathusiasts who consume the compound regularly. It’ll also be different depending on the method of consumption you choose to deliver THC. 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.

Now, in some cases, people may need a higher dose of THC depending on their medical situation or level of experience with the compound. However, if it’s your first rodeo, we recommend that you stick with smaller doses when first starting out. 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 how you feel.

The bottom line on THC

There’s so much to appreciate about THC, and we’ve just given you several reasons why it can offer you far more than just its psychoactivity in the right dosage. If you’re new to cannabis and would like to see how you can benefit from THC, we suppose the only real way to know is by putting the cannabinoid to the test yourself. Ideally, speak with your healthcare provider before you  decide whether or not THC is right for you.

We also advise to read our previous article “Tips for first-time cannabis consumers”, to get a better understanding what to expect and how to deal with the possible negative side effects. 

Post author
Mell Green
Mell Green is an enthusiast of all things cannabis and writes content that represents some of the best things that we as a people can strive for: good health and happiness.
See more from Mell Green

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