Research, Treatment

Uncovering THC: The Cannabis Plant’s Most Famous Cannabinoid

August 12, 2020 12:27 pm ET
Uncovering THC: The Cannabis Plant’s Most Famous Cannabinoid

THC used to be something that was referenced when talking about hippies or stoners. Today THC has made its way off the couch and out of basements into medical conversations and scientific observations. THC is the most commonly known member of the cannabinoid family. The abbreviation THC is actually short for the scientific name Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol.

THC, in part, is responsible for the intoxicating effects felt when someone consumes cannabis. Many people refer to Rafael Mechoulam as the grandfather or founder of cannabis. While he played a vital and pivotal role in the understanding and identification of THC, the first individual to receive credit for this was Roger Adams in 1942. Adams was awarded a patent for his particular method of isolating CBD, and Adams was also the first person to identify THC.

Moving on from who gets the credit for THC’s discovery, we watch decades of use and research start to tell a tale of how this widely misunderstood cannabinoid works. For many years people would believe that THC was the culprit found in cannabis that would make people stoned and lazy. Reefer madness had painted a picture that stoners were lazy long-haired jobless individuals with no plans or future. However, time would prove to tell a different tale.

What is THC and What Does It Do

Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC for short is one of the intoxicating compounds produced by the cannabis plant. It is one of many phyto-cannabinoids or plant-based compounds found in the cannabis plant. Different varieties of cannabis have different levels of THC. Some contain virtually little to none such as specific cultivars of hemp and cannabis strains. But it plays a pivotal role in the intensity of the buzz from cannabis. A strain that tests with an average THC level of 11% typically will not be as strong as one testing at 18 or 24%.

When you see a percentage of THC, it is in reference to the amount of it in a gram of cannabis. If you buy a gram of cannabis testing at 24%, that means that you have 240 mg of THC per gram. 13% THC would be 130 mg of THC per gram. That doesn’t mean this is how many milligrams you will consume. Some will be lost in heat transfer, and some will go up in smoke.

The THC level of a particular strain of cannabis is an excellent guide for the strength of the strain but shouldn’t be the staple of what you look for in cannabis. There is more to cannabis than just Delta 9 THC; there’s Delta 8 THC, Hydroxy 11 THC, and others. We will dive into this together in just a moment, but first, let’s look at some of the reported benefits of THC.

Potential THC Benefits:

  • Reduces Nausea and Vomiting
  • Relieves Chronic Pain
  • Improves Appetite
  • Fights Insomnia
  • Relieves Inflammation
  • Reduces Menstrual Pain and Discomfort

Wait, There’s a Delta 8 THC? 

Delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol is relatively new to most people. Delta-8 THC and delta-9 THC have a remarkably similar chemical composition and are only different by an atomic bond or two. Delta 8 is only found in very miniscule amounts in comparison to Delta 9. It does, however, have its own unique, intoxicating effect. Some extraction companies produce distillate cartridges rich in Delta 8 THC. The buzz is very similar to Delta-9 but not quite as strong.

To give you an idea, you can find typical levels of THC or delta-9 THC in cannabis, averaging anywhere from 15 to 30%. It is extremely rare to find any form of cannabis flower containing more than 1% Delta 8 THC. To achieve high levels of Delta 8 THC, extraction must happen. A product called AquaTek D8 distillate cartridges was tested, having 58% Delta 8 THC and only 7.9% Delta-9 THC.

Delta 8 may be a pain reliever in terms of what effects it has. Many believe that it helps build on Delta 9 to intensify the effects. The entourage effect is held in high regard by many who believe it is more effective than isolated cannabinoids such as high THC concentrates.  The entourage effect happens when a wide variety of full spectrum of cannabinoids work synergistically together to produce optimal results. It’s but one of many cannabinoids. There’s cannabidiol (CBD), Cannabinol (CBN), Cannabigerol (CBG), Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), Cannabichromene (CBC), and Cannabidivarin (CBDV) just to name a few.

Cannabis Research Will Open Doors to New Discoveries

With cannabis legalization occurring in more places, research is beginning to expand. Much of this research is limited to the private sector due to the federal legality of cannabis still being a level 1 controlled substance with a high addiction rate and no medical value, according to the US Federal Government.  It is time for the US Federal government to admit they were wrong about cannabis. They were told they were wrong by the LaGuardia Committee in 1942 and again in 1972 by one of their own, former Pennsylvania Governor Raymond P. Shafer. Raymond was the head of The Shafer Commission, formally known as the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse.

Instead of beating down cannabis like Nixon was counting on, Mr. Shafer had this to say about cannabis:

“A careful search of the literature and testimony of the nation’s health officials has not revealed a single human fatality in the United States proven to have resulted solely from ingestion of marihuana. Experiments with the drug in monkeys demonstrated that the dose required for overdose death was enormous and, for all practical purposes, unachievable by humans smoking marihuana. This is in marked contrast to other substances in common use, most notably alcohol and barbiturate sleeping pills.”

A Brighter Future For All

Cannabis and cannabinoid therapies are still widely misunderstood by much of society and the medical community. Some things aren’t meant to be replicated in a lab. Cannabis and how it works is still a bit of a mystery. What works for one person may not work for another. Perhaps this is why there are as many different types of cannabis strains as there are different types of people. What we do know is that cannabis is working for and has worked for millions of people around the globe for many years, despite the government’s best effort to totally eradicate this amazing plant. Power to the people and THC!

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