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Understanding Cannabinoids: THC

Cannabinoids are a fancy term for the compounds secreted by the flowers of the cannabis plant. These compounds are responsible for the pharmacological effects on the body. In this article, we’ll examine the cannabinoid called tetrahydrocannabinol — commonly referred to as THC.

What is THC?

THC is likely the cannabinoid you have heard the most about as it’s responsible for many of the psychological effects that make it appealing to cannabis users. Chemically, the isomer of THC we are most familiar with is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (or Δ9-THC), but there are a number of other THC isomers as well.

How Does THC Work?

To understand how cannabinoids work, it’s helpful to first know about our bodies’ endocannabinoid system. More formally referred to as the endogenous cannabinoid system, this internal system maintains homeostasis in our bodies.

Every human body has naturally occurring endocannabinoids which bond to cannabinoid receptors and provide relief from ailments such as pain, inflammation, depression and more.

Anandamide is an endocannabinoid that some have come to call the “bliss molecule”. This compound is responsible for the blissful euphoria experienced by runners (aptly named the “runner’s high”).

Anandamide is our bodies’ natural equivalent of THC, as this little molecule bonds to the same receptors as THC. Similar to its sister chemical THC, anandamide has been proven to provide a wide range of effects.

The Effects of THC

When cannabis flowers are consumed by ingestion, smoking, vaporizing, or even topically, they are done so to replicate our natural endocannabinoid system for their medicinal effects. One of the most common effects is euphoria. Some other common short-term effects of THC include:

  • relaxation
  • sedation
  • memory impairment
  • hunger
  • drowsiness
  • dizziness
  • increased physical and mental energy

In short, THC can provide a wide variety of effects, some of which are more positive for some patients than others. This is why it is important to start slowly with any new strain or preparation of cannabis, as you can’t be sure what effects might come from the potency of the variety of cannabinoids in that strain.

A number of beneficial medical effects from THC have been found, and research is ongoing. The American Cancer Society’s page about cannabis is a fantastic source for information about its effects in relieving pain, nausea, aiding sleep, and a variety of other benefits.

Closing Thoughts

There is still a long way to go before we know all of the possible risks and benefits of THC. As with every aspect of cannabis use, it’s most important to do your own research. Every person is likely to react differently to different strains of cannabis, so be sure to take time and start slow any time you are using a new kind of cannabis or trying a new method of consumption.

Leafist provides a comprehensive database of over 2,000 cannabis strains with side effect information that you can browse to find the strain that works best for you.

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