The majority of Americans support marijuana legalization. There are many reasons why — for example, marijuana offers many health benefits. Many consumers also love using marijuana recreationally; cannabis offers a euphoric and relaxing high that will make anyone feel happy and carefree.
There are many cannabinoids in the plant that cause this reaction, but tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the most prevalent one. It’s one of the most active compounds in the marijuana plant, right next to cannabidiol (CBD).
What is THC? How do you use THC-dominant marijuana strains? Does THC offer any benefits? Read our THC 101 guide for these answers!
History of Cannabis and THC
Marijuana isn’t a new plant. While experts aren’t sure when marijuana was discovered, there’s evidence that many ancient cultures used marijuana for medicinal purposes.
From here, the cannabis plant was introduced to areas in Africa, Europe, and eventually the Americas.
While most cultures used marijuana as herbal remedies, many civilizations also used marijuana’s sister plant hemp for textiles and rope.
Did our ancient ancestors use the marijuana plant for its psychoactive properties? There is evidence that says high-THC strains were cultivated and used for healing practices and even religious ceremonies.
Not only that, but early marijuana science believed THC was the compound that hosted all of the potential health effects. While today we use non-psychoactive CBD for healing, THC does offer some benefits, including decreased nausea, reduced pain, and increased appetite.
This changed in the 20th century when political changes caused the criminalization of marijuana. However, research was still conducted on the marijuana plant globally.
In Israel, THC was officially discovered in 1964 by Dr. Raphael Mechoulam and his colleagues Dr. Yehiel Gaoni and Dr. Haviv Edery. This discovery led to more cannabis research to discover its healing benefits.
THC 101: An Overview
While the actual number is debated, there are at least 60 cannabinoids in the marijuana plant. While some have little psychoactive properties, none are quite like THC.
All humans have an endocannabinoid system where cannabis compounds activate endocannabinoids found naturally in our bodies. Endocannabinoids bind to our cannabinoid receptors, enticing the receptors to take action.
We have two types of receptors: CB1 and CB2. Most endocannabinoids bind to CB2 receptors, which are mainly found in the peripheral nervous system.
However, when endocannabinoids recognize THC, they bind to the CB1 receptor. The CB1 receptor is found in the central nervous system. While this helps relieve pain and provides other benefits, this reaction also causes the classic “high” that one gets when they use potent marijuana strains.
Delta▵9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the main psychoactive component in cannabis.
There are two other variations of the THC molecule: Delta▵8-tetrahydrocannabinol and 11-hydroxy-▵9-tetrahydrocannabinol (11-OH-THC). Delta▵8 THC is less potent than Delta▵9 THC and 11-OH-THC is responsible for the psychological effects of THC.
The majority of the THC is found in the plant’s trichomes. That’s why THC can easily be extracted and isolated (which we will discuss later in the article).
THC is also most prevalent in female marijuana plants; while it’s found in male marijuana plants, it doesn’t contain enough to produce noticeable effects.
We all know that THC-dominant marijuana strains cause that famous “high.” But what exactly is this high? Is it safe? Does THC come with any side effects?
First, let’s discuss why many people use marijuana recreationally; i.e., for the high. Many say a marijuana high provides a sense of euphoria. Not only that, but there are two different types of psychoactive cannabis strains and they both cause different sensations.
Sativa strains are more stimulating and cause an energizing sensation, often causing people to be productive and even entices creativity. On the other hand, Indica strains cause a relaxing and even a sleepy effect.
Are THC-dominant marijuana strains safe? While a toxic dose is so high and physically impossible to achieve, researchers are more concerned with long-term side effects associated with taking marijuana.
For example, most people prefer smoking marijuana. Smoking marijuana in a joint or pipe and vaping marijuana are popular among consumers. Unfortunately, smoking marijuana can cause damage to the lungs.
THC-dominant marijuana strains can also come with these side effects:
- Coordination problems
- Increased heart rate
- Red eyes
- Dry mouth
- Memory loss
- Slower reaction times
While occasional use will likely not harm you, frequent use opens up the possibilities to develop more serious side effects. Even though THC-dominant marijuana strains aren’t deemed unsafe, more research has to be done to know how one can safely use marijuana.
The Advantages of THC
Even with these possible side effects, there are many benefits of taking THC-dominant cannabis strains, besides the obvious high that you’ll receive. Here are a few advantages you’ll experience.
While getting the munchies is a joke among avid marijuana users, THC does increase appetite. Increased appetite is crucial in healing certain ailments. In addition, THC therapy can benefit those with eating disorders.
Even in small doses, THC can alleviate pain. The type of cannabis strain you use can also have additional effects. For example, a Sativa strain can prevent the mental fatigue that comes with pain and an Indica strain can help you fall asleep.
Both CBD and THC are powerful antioxidants. Antioxidants prevent free radicals from stealing our healthy molecules, so adding cannabis products to your daily dose of vitamins can only benefit your body.
CBD is touted as a powerful anti-inflammatory agent, but THC offers many of these same benefits. THC especially targets inflammation caused by pain and even depression.
All marijuana users know how great they sleep after using marijuana. There’s actually a science behind this.
Going back to the endocannabinoid receptors, this system controls many feelings and sensations, including sleep. You’ll not only fall asleep quickly but will fall into a deep sleep.
Keep in mind, this also depends on the strain you use. Sativa strains are more energetic; if you’re using cannabis for insomnia, stick with an Indica strain.
It Makes Everything Better
There’s a reason why so many users love high-THC marijuana strains. The euphoria from THC just makes everything better. Whether you’re watching TV, listening to music, or eating, you’ll enjoy what you’re doing way more when you have THC in your system.
How Does THC Differ From CBD?
THC and CBD have many similarities. They both exist in the cannabis plant and both have many of the same healing properties. But there are many differences between THC and CBD.
The biggest difference lies in which cannabinoid receptors they target.
While THC interacts with endocannabinoids that target the CB1 receptors, CBD interacts with endocannabinoids that interact with CB2 receptors. Unlike CB1 receptors, CB2 receptors that cause psychoactive effects.
Drug testing is another big difference. If you have to get drug tested for any reason (for example, a job) then they’re looking for specific amounts of THC. If you’re a regular marijuana user, THC may stay in your system for weeks.
Since most drug tests don’t pick up on CBD, CBD users may not have anything to worry about unless they use full-spectrum CBD products (these may contain a small percentage of THC).
Legality is also a big difference — THC is illegal in most states while CBD and hemp products are legal in all 50 states. We’ll go over this more in detail in the next section.
As of now, marijuana (specifically strains containing THC) is still considered a Schedule 1 controlled substance in the United States. This means that they believe there are no potential medical benefits of THC, it has a potential for abuse, and there’s a lack of safety data.
However, this is only on the federal level. As of early 2020, 11 states including Washington D.C. offer legal marijuana.
If you use marijuana in a state where it’s illegal, you could face criminal charges, depending on how much you have in possession and whether or not you’re selling it.
THC isn’t the medical miracle that CBD is hyped up to be, but there are certain ways that THC is used in the medical field. Nabiximols (known as Sativex in the EU) is a symptomatic relief agent for those who suffer from severe neuropathic pain.
There’s also a synthetic form of THC called dronabinol (Marinol) that can treat a couple of different conditions, such as chemotherapy-induced vomiting and nausea as well as AIDS-related anorexia.
Why the Controversy?
As you can see, THC has many advantages and has even been approved for some medical treatments. While recreational marijuana is only legal in 11 states, medical marijuana is legal in 33 states — many of the marijuana strains sold in medical dispensaries also contain THC.
So, why is there so much controversy surrounding THC? Why are THC marijuana strains still considered a Schedule 1 controlled substance? Even though the side effects are mild and toxicity is near impossible, more research has to be done to determine the safety.
While marijuana isn’t physically addictive, many claim it’s mentally addictive. For marijuana to become legal, it has to be controlled so users can use it safely without getting dependent.
How to Use THC
With the popularity of marijuana, there are now many ways to use THC and THC-dominant marijuana strains. Here are a few examples.
Vaping THC Oil
THC oil has many types and uses, but for now, we’ll discuss one of the most popular ways to consume cannabis: vaping THC oil. In this instance, THC oil is referred to as “hash” and other nicknames. The user ignites the hash and will breathe in the vapor.
Since the user is breathing in vapor and not smoke, the vapor is easier on the lungs and causes less damage (though it doesn’t mean vaping is completely safe).
Consumers can use hash one of two ways: by igniting the substance directly or inserting the hash into a vape pen. The method of consumption depends on the user and their preference.
Classic methods of smoking marijuana, such as in a joint and pipe, are still very popular. For a joint, you grind the marijuana plant and roll it into the joint wrapper. You light the joint and inhale.
For a pipe (also called a bowl) or a water pipe (also called a bong), just break off a piece of the marijuana and place it in the bowl. Ignite the plant and inhale from the mouthpiece.
If you don’t want to smoke, you can consume marijuana edibles. If you live in a state with legal marijuana, you can easily find edibles at your local dispensary. Or, you can make your own in the form of brownies or other treats.
Keep in mind, it takes longer to feel the effects when you ingest cannabis. That’s because the cannabinoids have to make it through your digestive system. Ingesting marijuana also releases more cannabinoids into your bloodstream, so the effects are stronger and last longer.
With the presence of medical marijuana, oil tinctures are becoming more popular. There are health benefits of THC oil; for example, users aren’t inhaling harmful smoke or vapor.
The THC is extracted and combined with food-grade oil. Many makers also include the terpenoids from the original plant to flavor the tincture and enhance the effects. The tincture is taken sublingually and can also be combined with food and drinks.
Like edibles, since you’re ingesting THC tinctures, the effects will take longer to experience but are very potent. Dose small and increase your dosage when you build your tolerance.
If you don’t want to take an oil tincture, capsules are always an option. After the THC is extracted, it’s combined with an oil-based solution and inserted into the capsules. You take the capsules by mouth, so dose small and increase your dosage when you build a tolerance.
Want to Try THC or CBD?
In our THC 101 guide, we discussed that THC is the psychoactive component in cannabis and can also offer many health benefits. But we also mentioned CBD and hemp in our article. If you want the health benefits without the high, there are many CBD and hemp products available that are made with no THC.
If you’re interested in trying CBD and hemp products, we offer these products in our Vitamins and Dietary Supplements section as well as more health products. Shop with us today!