What is THC?

A cannabis plant will create over 400 types of chemical compounds over the course of its life. However, it is just a single one of these compounds that has made this plant illegal for almost the past century.
You will be hard-pressed to find many other plants that have received this level of persecution. This single compound has been perceived to be bad due to the effects it has on the body which lead to the creation of a high for the person consuming it.
This compound is known as THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). There are a total of 113 different chemical compounds in the cannabis plant which are known as cannabinoids, with THC being one of them. The differentiating factor that THC possesses is that it is the most psychoactive of all of them.

A lot of people will have heard THC being demonised by the media, politicians and medical professionals for many years. However, there are a lot of people who don’t really know how it works and in what ways it actually affects the human body. People don’t really believe that it is anywhere nearly as bad as the likes of heroin, despite both of them being on the schedule 1 drugs list for many years.
Amongst all of the misinformation, confusion and unanswered questions, the public perception of both THC and cannabis has been distorted, despite the fact that they have a wide range of potential benefits.
This article will look at how THC works, what effects it has on the human body and what the future might hold for both it and the cannabis plant.

What is THC?THC basics

THC is the chemical compound found in weed that makes the consumer high. Before the myriad of potential health benefits of cannabis consumption that have been observed in recent times were discovered, the main reason people consumed weed was due to the high that they received.
This psycho-activity comes from the THC in cannabis as it stimulates numerous psychological responses in the mind. As the body and mind are, of course, connected, this psycho-activity will affect both physiological and psychological aspects. It was in 1988 that THC was shown by Dr. Allyn Howlett to be the main psychoactive compound in cannabis. She observed how it attached to the human brain and discovered the link between the human endocannabinoid system (ECS) and THC.
Using an analogy, the ECS can be seen as a large combination of locks (the chemical receptors) while the chemicals that bind with these receptors are the keys. There are natural ‘keys’ in the human body called endogenous cannabinoids, which work on many locks in the body, but the cannabinoids found in the marijuana plant can also utilise these receptors.
When you have been exposed to cannabis, the cannabinoids enter the body and will be brought into the bloodstream. Here, they bind with CB1 and CB2 receptors, which are mostly found in the central nervous system and brain. The CB1 receptors are mainly found in the brain, with the CB2 receptors usually seen in the immune system’s cells. When THC binds to these receptors, dopamine is released throughout the brain thanks to the ECS. This leads to the feeling of relaxation and euphoria that is known as a high.
The CB1 receptors look after cognition, memory, movement and sensory perceptions. When THC is consumed, the ECS-governed functions tend to become over activated, including perception, cognition, appetite and mood.
The culminating effect of these actions creates the high sensation. This is also why one high person’s experiences will be different to the next person; there are always different factors in the equation depending on the individual. Some people might feel relaxed and calm, whereas others will be anxious and uncomfortable after consuming THC.
There are also effects on the body – it’s not just the mind that THC triggers. While the majority of the sensations you feel in your body after consuming marijuana are due to brain changes, ECS receptors are also affected by cannabinoid receptors located all around your body.
Most importantly, the immune system receptors will receive these benefits. This is the reason THC is used for its powerful anti-inflammatory benefits, at the same time as lowering the performance of the immune system.
THC often stimulates ghrelin release, the hormone for hunger within the digestive system, which is also why it can help with nausea. Even the skin has CB2 receptors, which is why topical cannabis creams have become increasingly popular. Absorbing cannabinoids in this way means you can get the benefits without getting any of the psychoactive effects.

What does the future look like for THC?

Cannabis plant breeders will often have different varieties of plants and strains. One may be higher in CBD, whereas others might focus on maximising THC content. Concentrates of THC are becoming a fast growing trend.
Compounds are kept intact through concentrate production. There have been certain synergistic relationships seen between terpenes, THC and other types of cannabinoids. Therefore, through concentrates you won’t be just dealing with THC vapour, but they will be able to combine all of these chemicals together.
There is still a lot of uncertainty about how these compounds interact with one another, which is why there are numerous ongoing studies looking into these effects. Having said this, concentrate demand has been rapidly growing and is the reason for many innovations being created with vaping techniques and extraction.


You should now have a better idea of what THC is and how it works in the human body. It is clear that there are many benefits that can be gained from the consumption of THC, whether they are psychological or physiological in nature.
As the general population becomes more educated about these benefits and learn more about what THC actually is, there will be more of a widespread acceptance and adoption going forward. There are certainly some interesting trends abound in this field and many studies are underway which should showcase beyond all doubt what benefits can be derived from THC and cannabis consumption.