Delta9-Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC for short, is one of the most abundant cannabinoids found naturally in the cannabis plants. THC is responsible for producing the high commonly associated with cannabis, but the compound also has therapeutic uses.
The discovery of THC
In 1964, Israeli chemist Raphael Mechoulam successfully isolated THC from Lebanese hashish. In the process, Mechoulam discovered how cannabinoids bind to certain neuroreceptors.
Mechoulam’s discovery has prompted decades worth of cannabis research, much of which is still going on today. Many of these studies have confirmed THC’s efficacy in treating symptoms of arthritis, insomnia, anorexia and sleep apnea, and new discoveries about the cannabinoid continue to be made every year.
How does THC work?
THC binds with many of the cannabinoid receptors in our brains and central nervous systems to produce its euphoric and psychedelic effects. Its effects are known to vary by strain and by method of consumption (for instance, vaping or ingesting oils or capsules).
THC content can differ from strain to strain. Certain strains have upwards of 30 per cent THC content, while others contain no THC whatsoever. Some more potent cannabis extracts, like shatter and wax, can have upwards of 90 per cent THC concentration. However, these products are not yet legally available on the Canadian market.
Is THC safe?
THC is considered to be safe for human consumption, although over-ingestion can lead to paranoia, anxiety, nausea, delusions and even hallucinations. Despite these more uncomfortable side effects, no one has ever died from consuming THC. That is because it is practically impossible to overdose on the cannabinoid. According to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, one would need to ingest 20,000 times the amount of THC in an average joint (or to smoke roughly the equivalent of 1,500 pounds in a 15-minute span) to fatally overdose!
Recent research has shown that THC can aid many conditions and illnesses, including:
It’s worth noting that cannabis strains consisting of THC and other cannabinoids have been shown to be effective in treating a much broader range of conditions than those listed above, which are specific to the THC molecule.
Promisingly, some studies have shown that THC can stop the spread of – and in some instances, even kill – human cancer cells in Petri dishes. These results show promise for THC as a potential cancer treatment. However, research and studies on this subject are still in their earliest stages, and more clinical trials are needed.