And what makes THC so controversial?
THC is a controversial topic for most, directly linked to the marijuana industry and generally associated with recreational use. Users consume this psychoactive ingredient to enjoy the effects of its elusive reaction with the endocannabinoid system in the body.
THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is only one of the 400+ compounds found in the cannabis plant and its effects on the human body and mind are far more complex than a simple body or head high. THC has chemical properties that scientists believe could help relieve pain, discomfort and even reactive stress on the body.
THC can be administered in a number of ways, the most popular for recreational use is by smoking or ingesting while the medical application lies more towards tinctures and vaping.
So what is THC, exactly?
THC is a cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. Its chemical structure C₂₁H₃₀O₂ interacts with a certain area in the brain, the endocannabinoid system, and gives users the feeling of being high. This elated feeling is what attracts users to this smoking culture.
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) occurs naturally in our body. It is a system that processes functions such as memory, appetite, temperament, sleep as well as reproduction and fertility. The ECS is always present and active in the human brain, but with the use of cannabinoids, such as THC or CBD, found in the cannabis plant, the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the ECS are triggered to produce an effect in the body. This reaction could include relaxation on the positive side, or perhaps increased anxiety on the negative spectrum of use.
What does it feel like to be high on THC?
The high you experience when smoking a joint or hitting a bong is different, so the first aspect to understand is that the method or vessel you use to inhale THC and smoke weed greatly alters your experience. Some positive or neutral experiences include:
While some negative or uncomfortable experiences could include:
● increased heartbeat
● dry mouth or eyes
These experiences, both positive and negative all depend on a variety of factors such as:
● the user’s age, gender, physiology,
● the user’s tolerance to marijuana,
● the way the user chooses to consume cannabis.
● whether the user consumes alcohol or uses drugs while using cannabis,
● the dose, strain and potency of the cannabis used.
Do different strains of THC cause different effects?
A strain is a type of cannabis plant – a breed belonging to the same family of plant, but with specific traits and characteristics unique to the strain in question. Different strains can be classed in 3 main groups: indica, sativa and hybrids.
Cannabis strains that are predominantly indica are known to induce a relaxed and euphoric feeling with a body high, while sativa strains produce an active, alert and more physical high. Hybrids are cross-bred sativa-indica strains that blend both characteristics of their parent plants into their psychoactive properties.
Master Kush is a THC-dominant indica strain that is known to help relieve chronic pain. This strain is said to give users suffering from pain a full-body relaxation feeling without the mind-numbing effects generally associated with marijuana use. This strain is also recorded to help users suffering from stress, anxiety, insomnia and depression.
So how can a natural plant whose chemical structure is noted to help with so many ailments, such as PTSD, epilepsy, cancer and discomfort, like migraines and suppressed appetites be subject to so much criticism?
How is THC used?
The taboo behind marijuana is primarily centred around its chemical presence of THC. And its lack of acceptance in the majority of the globe is the way it is consumed.
THC can be obtained in liquid form as a tincture that prescribed users ingest orally, or as a vape that is smoked by means of a vape pen. These practices are greatly linked to the medical cannabis industry. Other medical applications include topical creams, edibles, capsules and other treatments. More commonly, THC is consumed for recreational purposes in the form of water pipes, joints, blunts, pipes, dry vape pens, edibles such as brownies, butter, oils and drinks.
The same can be said for CBD (cannabidiol), a compound cannabinoid that is also found in the cannabis plant, produces similar effects compared to THC but does not produce a head high, nor a body high. It also reacts with the endocannabinoid system due to its chemical structure. CBD is known to balance out the psychological effects of THC on the body and mind – so taking a balance of the two could be more beneficial to the endocannabinoid system.
THC vs CBD: what’s the difference?
When comparing THC and CBD, there are a myriad of different aspects to consider questioning. The primary factors to debate include the medical benefits, the chemical structure, the psychoactive components, the side effects and most importantly, the legality.
First off, CBD and THC are different. Primarily in their psychoactive aspect – THC gets you high and CBD doesn’t. But both THC and CBD have documented (although not extensive) positive results on users, the both help with pain, anxiety and nausea; they each offer a slightly different package to the other when taken separately.
Apart from their common factors, THC uniquely helps with:
● muscle spasticity,
● glaucoma and
● low appetite.
While CBD is known to have benefits that help with:
● mental disorders or psychosis,
● migraine and
● inflammatory bowel disease.
Understanding the difference between the two chemical compounds and appreciating their positive effect on the mind and body is what modern medicine is pushing towards, but finding resistance from pharmaceutical companies and their governing bodies.
What are THC Levels?
According to Leafly, a tech driven company focused on innovation and understanding of the cannabis industry, have found that Girl Scout Cookies, Kosher Kush, Ghost OG, Bruce Banner, Ghost Train Haze, Chemdawg and a few other breeds are among the most recorded THC-dominant strains of cannabis.
THC is the active chemical compound that promotes the euphoria and elation, but it’s not the only factor that gets users stoned. Terpenes play a big role in elevating the THC levels in a joint or brownie.
Since the cannabis industry is not as regularised as it should be, especially with the great consumption of the plant and its by products, a general level system is not entirely achievable. Percentages in weed vary from 0-5% to greater than 20%. These would be the major peaks and lows of THC’s presence in the plant.
Death Star, a strain known to relieve chronic pain and produce a relaxed and happy feeling, is recorded to have a 19% THC, that by comparison to other strains would set it on a rather high THC level scale. Death Star is an indica strain that stems from the Sensi Star and Sour Diesel strains.
The terpenes found in Death Star include Limonene, Linalool, Beta Myrcene and Terpinolene to mention a few, these terpenes contribute to the colour, flavour profile, optimum heating, therapeutic value and aroma of the cannabis you are ingesting.
Myrcene for example notes aromas of cardamom and clove, with a musky and earthy tone and herbal accent. It carries a blue hue and produces a sedating and relaxing effect when burned at 167ºC. This terepen promotes treatment for insomnia, pain and inflammation and is an antioxidant terepen that is also present in mango, lemongrass, thyme and hops.
Understanding the different aspects and the pure science behind THC, CBD, terpenes, strains and the entire cannabis industry, both medical and recreational, the world’s population will begin to understand how complex and precise the plant is and how beneficial it can be to the population.