A SHORT INTRODUCTION TO THC-Δ9
SO, WHAT IS DELTA-9-TETRAHYDROCANNABINOL?
In general, when most people think of THC, they think of the euphoria or high associated with cannabis. While it is true that THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s psychotropic effects, it is actually a lot more complex than that. In fact, it is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC) that is primarily responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis. One of many cannabinoids within the cannabis plant, to really know Δ9-THC, one must also know what cannabinoids are, how they interact with the human body, and what makes Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol unique to the other cannabinoids present within cannabis.
WHAT’S A CANNABINOID?
A cannabinoid is a secondary metabolite. This is to say that cannabinoids are chemicals which, while they have no role in the actual development of the cannabis plant, they are essential to the plant’s protection. There are over 100 cannabinoids found within the cannabis plant, present to lesser and greater degrees, and with varying effects on the human body. For example, while some strains may have higher levels of THC and lower levels of CBD, other strains have been cultivated toward the reverse. Additionally, while THC creates the well-known cannabis high, CBD has no psychotropic effects. And while THC-Δ9, or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, is primarily responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis, THC-Δ8, or delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol carries a lower psychotropic potency. All of the major cannabinoids, however, carry some medicinal weight, and their medicinal value varies.
DELTA-9-THC : MECHANISM OF ACTION
HOW DOES DELTA-9-THC AFFECT THE HUMAN BODY?
To understand how Δ9-THC influences the human body, one must first learn how cannabinoids in general interact with the human body. In short, the human body creates chemicals called endocannabinoids (cannabinoids created from within), and the cells within the human body contain receptors (CB-1 and CB-2) for those cannabinoids. Generally speaking, endocannabinoids appear to suppress inflammatory signals to varying degrees when they bind to our cells. More importantly, the efficacy of any given cannabinoid largely depends on how they are received by the human body’s CB-1 and CB-2 receptors. For example, CBD binds to both CB-1 and CB-2 receptors while Delta-9-THC and Delta-8-THC bind primarily to CB-1 receptors.
BUT WHY DOES THC-Δ9 CREATE A “HIGH” WHILE OTHER CANNABINOIDS MAY NOT?
When THC-Δ9 is introduced to the human body, either by smoking or ingesting, it attaches to cannabinoid receptors concentrated in areas of the brain associated with memory, pleasure, thinking, perception of time, and coordination – and stimulates them to release dopamine. This process creates the euphoria, relaxation, psychomotor, and other effects associated with the cannabis “high”.
WHAT ARE THE MEDICINAL USES OF DELTA- 9-THC?
Marijuana has been used in medicine for over 3,000 years, yet it has only been a few decades since researchers have really begun to explore the cannabis plant, the cannabinoids present, the mechanism of action of cannabis within the human body, and the effects of the specific cannabinoids themselves. While cannabis is generally known to reduce nausea and vomiting, and increase appetite, recent studies have shown that Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol may also be used as an analgesic (pain reliever), anti-inflammatory, and tumor growth inhibitor.
While cannabis research is still in its early stages, and new research is ongoing, it is believed that Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol may be helpful in the treatment of the following illnesses among others:
- Neuropathic and chronic pain
- Insomnia and Sleep Apnea
- Crohn’s disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Appetite loss