5 Potential Benefits of THC
THC, or delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol, is a cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant and best known for its intoxicating, high-inducing effects. THC has been used medicinally in cultures worldwide for thousands of years, dating as far back as 2,737 BC when the ancient Chinese used it to treat the symptoms of rheumatism, malaria, gout, and even memory loss.¹
As scientists continued to study the effects of cannabis over the years, they discovered that THC is the cannabinoid responsible for causing those potentially therapeutic high effects. In isolating it, they also discovered the endocannabinoid system (or ECS) and how interactions between it and THC may have many potentially beneficial effects on your body and mind.²
But anecdotal evidence aside, what does science have to say about the potential benefits of THC products? Here’s what you need to know.
What Is THC—And How Does It Work?
THC is one of over 100 cannabinoids found in recreational cannabis and medicinal cannabis that interacts with our ECS. The ECS is a system found throughout your body and the central nervous system responsible for helping your body stay balanced and functioning at its best.³ For example, the ECS is responsible for managing pain and inflammation responses, immune system function, sleep-wake cycles, body temperature, mood, and memory.
Cannabinoids like THC interact with the ECS and may help improve its function. Cannabinoids found within cannabis are chemically similar to the naturally occurring chemicals and hormones produced in our bodies called endocannabinoids. The ECS uses endocannabinoids as chemical messengers to help alter the body’s state to maintain its natural balance.
THC is chemically similar to anandamide, also known as “the bliss molecule.”⁴ Anandamide is released to help with mood as well as to encourage feelings of pleasure, bliss, and enjoyment. THC activates CB1 receptors found in the ECS and inhibits the release of the enzyme FAAH (AKA fatty acid amide hydrolase), making anandamide more available within the body.
Interestingly, THC is also known to trigger a dopamine release, but it’s still not considered an addictive substance.⁵ While some drugs flood your brain with dopamine, THC produces 5-10 times less dopamine than often quoted. That being said, its euphoric effects aren’t caused by a flood of dopamine—but by making your naturally occurring anandamide more bioavailable.⁶ As a naturally occurring chemical with a short lifespan within the body, it may cause short-lived euphoric effects without the crash common for drugs that flood your system with dopamine.
What Are Some Health Benefits of THC?
THC may come with potential health benefits for the body and mind, but it’s vital to remember it cannot prevent or cure any illness or medical condition. As far as science is concerned, there is evidence to suggest THC may be able to help with a few unpleasant sensations; but you should always confer with your doctor to determine if it’s right for you. Below we’ve broken down a few potential benefits of THC and the scientific evidence.
1. Pain & Muscle Spasms
One of the most studied subjects around THC is its potential therapeutic effect on pain.⁷ Many medical marijuana patients use THC products for the daily management of chronic aches and pains. Interestingly, scientific evidence suggests that THC may help with how we perceive pain. A lot of the effects of THC products can be chalked up to how it makes us feel. In many cases, it’s mind over matter. The ability to disregard unpleasant sensations may make it feel like you’re no longer experiencing as much pain.
However, THC may also activate endocannabinoid receptors in nerve cells and immune cells.⁸ When interacting with nerve cells, THC may reduce the sensation of pain by helping to limit any inflammation. In a similar fashion, THC may also bind to endocannabinoid receptors in immune cells to trigger an anti-inflammatory response from your ECS. With THC in the mix, you may be able to reduce inflammation and manage muscle spasms.
2. Nausea & Appetite
Many patients who use medical marijuana use it to help manage nausea and appetite—which may be altered by certain medications or undergoing taxing therapies like chemotherapy. But aside from the munchies phenomenon, there is some evidence suggesting that THC may help reduce nausea and boost appetite. If you’re looking to stay away from THC, however, consider how you can take CBD for appetite stimulation.
Some evidence suggests that THC interacts with the dorsal vagus nerve, which is responsible for triggering nausea and vomiting. It could limit its sensitivity to help manage bouts of nausea or vomiting. Another study found that THC may help to slow down your intestinal motility, which is the contraction of your stomach and intestinal muscles to propel your stomach contents through your GI tract.⁹ Motility may lead to nausea and vomiting if it’s too fast, and THC’s potential to slow it down may help to provide relief.
Lastly, THC may have the unique ability to improve appetite through several different avenues. One study found that THC may interact with receptors in the brain’s olfactory bulb, increasing our ability to smell and taste things more acutely.¹⁰ It may also affect the nucleus accumbens, making the physical act of eating more pleasurable.¹¹
One study found that when you eat under the influence of THC, your brain could release more dopamine than usual. A final study also concluded that THC may interfere with receptors in the hypothalamus, triggering the release of ghrelin.¹² Ghrelin is the hormone that makes you feel hungry, hence why people sometimes describe feeling “starved” while using THC.
More or less, evidence suggests THC may make food smell and taste better while physically making you feel hungrier. It could make the act of eating more enjoyable, to boot.
3. Headaches & Eye Pressure
One of the first conditions that qualified for medical marijuana was glaucoma, a disease that damages the optic nerve through increased eye pressure. Some evidence suggests that THC may help alleviate pressure in the eyes, in addition to other body parts. A study found that THC might lower eye pressure by approximately 25% for up to 4 hours in roughly 65% of people.¹³
Eye pressure aside, THC may also be able to help reduce the intensity and frequency of muscle spasms. Some studies report a 45% reduction in pain intensity and frequency of spasms within 20 minutes of ingesting cannabis.¹⁴ Research suggests that it was particularly effective against back spasms.
4. Depression & PTSD
Can THC interact positively with depression? The research on THC for depression is relatively new still, but the general consensus is that THC may help against depression by assisting in the restoration of “normal” ECS equilibrium—similar to CBD. Introducing cannabinoids like THC into the system may interact with the ECS in a way that helps it restore optimal function—potentially easing symptoms of depression.¹⁵ Further, much like THC may alter perceptions of pain thanks to the high it causes, it may also alter perceptions of depressed or anxious feelings. THC could help soothe stress, so any anxious or depressing thoughts and feelings are less debilitating.
To take it one step further, THC may also assist with some of the side effects of PTSD. People with PTSD tend to have more CB1 receptors compared to normal control subjects, which makes it easier for THC to interact with the ECS. One study found that using THC may help people with PTSD better manage some of the stress-induced side effects—like nightmares, disrupted sleep, anxiety, and panic attacks.¹⁶
One of the most prominent studies surrounding medical marijuana prior to legalization was the evidence suggesting that THC & CBD might encourage the health benefit of helping reduce the intensity and frequency of seizures and tremors. One study found that a synthetic cannabinoid similar to THC reduced tremors in animal models by activating the brain and spinal cord support cells.¹⁷
THC, CBD & Lazarus Naturals
Whether you are exploring the many potential benefits of THC or looking for a high-quality CBD product, Lazarus Naturals is in your corner. THC shares many of the therapeutic properties that CBD hosts, and can be found in a handful of our full spectrum CBD products. If you’d prefer to opt out of THC products, consider our line of CBD gummies.