What is THC Tetrahydrocannabinol?


What is THC Tetrahydrocannabinol?

THC Tetrahydrocannabinol is the most common cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. THC is a psychotropic compound and affects our brain and perceptions. It is the cannabinoid responsible for getting you “High” since it often causes a euphoric effect. It can be found in both its natural form or can be synthesized in a laboratory (dronabinol or marinol are synthetic forms of THC)

THC Tetrahydrocannabinol molecule

Discovery of THC Tetrahydrocannabinol

Roger Adams an organic chemist first discovered THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) in 1940 at the University of Illinois. He was seeking to identify the active pharmacological agent in the cannabis plant, a contribution to what was then a major chemical and medical challenge: to explain how marijuana actually affects the brain.

Roger Adams discovered THC tetrahydrocannabinol in 1940
Roger Adams discovered THC in 1940

Professor Raphael Mechoulam,  the “Grandfather of Cannabis Research” first isolated THC  Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol in 1964 with Yechiel Gaoni & Habib Edery at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel.

Effects of THC Tetrahydrocannabinol on the body

THC stimulates cells in the brain and body known as cannabinoid receptors.

Type 1 cannabinoid receptors (CB1) are mostly found in the brain. When THC attaches to a CB1 receptor, it temporarily changes how a brain cell functions. These changes create the feeling of being high.

THC also causes significant changes in the body. The cannabinoid receptors in the body are known as type 2 cannabinoid receptors (CB2). CB2 receptors are found on all kinds of cell types, including gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, liver, kidney, bone, skin, lung, and immune cells.

THC stimulates cells in the brain to release dopamine, creating euphoria It also interferes with how information is processed in the hippocampus, which is part of the brain responsible for forming new memories . THC also influences movement, cognition, concentration, coordination, and sensory and time perception.

How does THC affect brain behavior

Common side effects of THC:

  • Anxiety
  • Increased heart rate
  • Red/bloodshot eyes
  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Sedation
  • Cognitive impairment (memory and attention)
  • Motor impairment (coordination, reaction time, driving)

High Doses of THC can can induce hallucinations, panic attacks and delusions and in some cases nausea and vomiting. These effects are often modulated by CBD in a natural whole plant extract that contains both THC and CBD and other terpenes (compounds that produce flavor and fragrance in plants).

Medicinal Benefits of THC Tetrahydrocannabinol

Alzheimer’s Disease

In 1997, the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry investigated if THC could help Alzheimer’s patients. The researchers found that THC improved appetite loss and behavioral disturbances associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Brain Injury

In a 2014 review, scientists found that patients who suffered from a traumatic brain injury were more likely to survive if THC was present in their system at the time of the injury. This effect is thought to be due to the neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory effects of THC.


A 2006 trial found that THC reduced symptoms of pain in fibromyalgia. Patients who received THC reported lower daily scores of pain intensity than those given a placebo. The researchers believe that THC helped to reduce the perception of pain in the patients.


A 1980 trial published results that indicate THC can reduce intraocular pressure in patients with glaucoma. They found that smoked THC reduced blood pressure in the eye after 60-90 minutes. This could benefit patients with glaucoma because reduced intraocular pressure can reduce damage to nerves in the eye and slow the progress of vision loss.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

A 2013 trialfound THC from marijuana can help patients with Crohn’s disease, a type of inflammatory bowel disease. After taking 115 mg of THC twice a day for 8 weeks, 45% of patients achieved complete remission, meaning they were effectively cured of all their symptoms. Other patients found that marijuana relieved some, but not all, of their symptoms.

Multiple Sclerosis

The British Medical Journal published a 2004 trial showing that patients with multiple sclerosis could benefit from THC. The researchers concluded that patients had significantly lower pain intensity after treatment with THC. Other studies  reportthat THC can improve spasticity in multiple sclerosis.

Pain and Inflammation

A 2015 reviewof clinical studies evaluated 6 trials with 325 patients to determine THC’s effect in treating pain. They found that using THC for chronic pain and neuropathic pain was “supported by high-quality evidence.”

THC can also help reduce inflammation, according to a 2009 study. The findings suggest THC can slow the body’s production of inflammatory chemicals, known as cytokines and chemokines.

Sleep Apnea

2013 triallooked at whether THC might help sleep apnea sufferers. The findings, published in Frontiers of Psychiatry, showed that THC significantly improved breathing quality in patients with sleep apnea. The study also found that THC did not interfere with overall sleep cycles and had minimal side effects.

The difference between THC Tetrahydrocannabinol and CBD Cannabidiol

THC will get you high and CBD won’t. THC and CBD interact with the body differently. THC activates CB1 and CB2 receptors, while CBD exerts its effects more indirectly.

Cannabinoids interact with cannabinoid receptors throughout the body in the endocannabinoid system. Because THC binds with CB1 receptors so easily, it stimulates the body in a specific way. The results are general relaxation, altered senses, fatigue, and hunger. The “munchies” are a direct side effect of THC.

Unlike THC, CBD does not directly stimulate CB1 and CB2 receptors. Instead, CBD can interact with CB1 and CB2 receptors indirectly — what scientists call modulation.

In addition to its less direct interaction with CB1 and CB2 receptors, CBD can increase the levels of the human body’s own naturally-produced cannabinoids (known as endocannabinoids) by inhibiting the enzymes that break them down.

Part of why CBD’s therapeutic effects are so widespread is its ability to influence a wide range of receptor systems throughout the body.

Marinol VS THC: What’s The Difference?

Marinol is a legal prescription drug that contains synthetic THC dissolved in sesame oil. The generic name for Marinol is dronabinol, and it’s considered a cannabinoid.  Marinol and THC are structurally very similar. Marinol, however, does not contain any natural plant-based THC.


Marinol is approved by the FDA for two different conditions:

Wasting Syndrome in HIV/AIDS Patients:

Marinol is prescribed to HIV/AIDS patients in order to stimulate appetite and encourage weight gain. As it turns out, natural THC and other plant-based cannabinoids may be just an effective alternative for regulating metabolism and encouraging appetite

Nausea and Vomiting From Cancer Chemotherapy:

Extreme nausea and vomiting are common experiences for nearly everyone undergoing chemotherapy. Marinol is one of the drugs doctors can prescribe patients undergoing chemo to prevent upset stomach. Because of its strong side effects, however, it’s usually only prescribed after other anti-nausea medications have failed to work.

Marinol is actually a stronger psychoactivethan natural THC.  In fact, feeling “high”, hallucinating, and paranoid reactions are all listed side effects.










Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *