Over the years, you have heard a wide range of information about weed and cannabis, and how they are great, or not.
Unfortunately, the US war on drugs had created a range of misinformation that led to confusion about THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids.
With the current legalization of hemp production with the 2018 Farm Bill and the growing legalization of recreational weed, companies have been able to study and understand the risks and benefits of THC, and more importantly the potential medical benefits found in the wonderful plant known as cannabis.
It’s time to dig into the truth of THC, and how it may be affecting you for the good, or bad.
What is THC?
THC or tetrahydrocannabinol is the primary cannabinoid found in weed known for its psychoactive effects on the mind and body.
Cannabinoids are created naturally within the body, while chemicals known as cannabinoids such as those found in cannabis replicate these actions. THC then attaches to these receptors and begins to activate them.
With cannabinoid receptors being found at certain points within your brain responsible for memory, happiness, and the perception of time, any chemical able to tap into these receptors is sure to provide a great time.
When looking at the cannabis plant, there are male plants and there are female plants. Male plants must be present with the female plants to create “fruiting” or cause the plants to flower. Trichomes are found more prominent on the female plants, causing them to be the focus of cannabis growth.
Cross-breeding certain strains is how you achieve hybrids and changes in flavor, effect, and aroma. Growers take great pride in their creations of hybrids.
THC vs THCA
When looking at a list of cannabinoids being produced within the cannabis plant, you may be surprised not to see THC on the list.
As the plant grows, important cannabinoids such as CBD and THC have an attached acidic compound. Instead of finding THC, you will see THCA or Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid which is primarily held within the plant’s trichomes.
Trichomes are the small hairs found around the outside of the flower, often recognized as a “crystalized” appearance of strong bud. These trichomes are extremely fragile and can be knocked off the plant or damaged during processing. Since the trichomes hold a majority of your cannabinoids and terpenes.
THCA has no psychoactive effects on the body, although it has been studied to maintain an increase in appetite and acts as a neuroprotectant, assisting your brain in resisting Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, and much more.
Transferring THCA to THC
In order to receive the psychoactive elements of THC, you must first break down and eliminate the acidic compound. This can be done through curing and heating during use or a process known as decarboxylation.
When you know weeds are going to be smoked or heated during use such as being used in baking, vaping, rolled into a joint, or packed in a bow, the bud can be slowly cured and preserved to maintain higher levels of THC and larger flavor profiles.
During curing, the cannabis stems are usually cut to avoid handling the bud directly, and they are hung. This is typically done between 60 – 70 degrees Fahrenheit with a goal to bring the buds to 45 – 55% humidity levels.
During the curing process, it’s important to keep the flower out of direct sunlight, as this can destroy your trichomes changing your potency and flavor.
When THC may be used without heating, such as tinctures, lotions, capsules, gummies, drinks, and other non-baked edibles, it’s important to convert the THCA to THC through decarboxylation.
Decarboxylation or decarb refers to bringing the cannabis to 220 degrees Fahrenheit for around 1 hour. During this time, the acid bonds break down, while the temperature remains too low to evaporate the CBD or THC.
Once a bud is decarbed, the uses essentially become endless. While it can be added to products that won’t be heated, it still can be smoked.
What is a Cannabinoid?
With our body housing, a series of cannabinoid receptors in your body’s endocannabinoid system, a substance that attaches to and affects these receptors is known as a cannabinoid.
The endocannabinoid system is responsible for communications between the body and the brain and plays a role in happiness, hunger, sleepiness, and mood. This is where THC is able to shine.
With cannabinoids being any chemical reacting with these receptors, there are no exact chemical structures defining a cannabinoid. While these chemicals are popular in cannabis products such as weed and hemp, they can be found in a wide range of plants.
While THC and CBD are often the focus when talking about weed, there are around 300 non-cannabinoid chemicals found in the plant, along with 80-100 cannabinoids. These trace amounts were at first overlooked, with new ideas considering these trace amounts are what give certain strains their attributes.
How does THC get you high?
Smoking weed is about more than just putting a chemical within your body and feeling the effect. THC and other cannabinoids activate naturally occurring actions within your body to affect not only your brain but your body.
The endocannabinoid system
Named after the plant that helped scientists discover its potential, the endocannabinoid system is an important physiological system in charge of the body’s health and wellness.
Links to the endocannabinoid system can be found within the brain, organs, connective tissues, glands, and immune cells. While the system performs different tasks throughout the body, the primary link returns to the brain where communication and understanding of what’s happening in the body, and what needs to happen can be achieved.
Cells within the body use these systems as a form to communicate with each other in effort to achieve a specific task, which has often been referred to as the bridge between the body and the mind.
While a deeper understanding of the communication and actions occurring in the body has been researched, the exact action of cannabinoids within the body is less known. THCA is used within the cannabis plant to protect itself against disease, and other foreign damage as it grows. This THCA then continues these efforts within our body.
THC effect on the brain
When you smoke weed, cannabinoids are released into your body and make their way to your brain where they find and attach to the endocannabinoid system.
The endocannabinoid system is responsible for the firing of many neurotransmitters, allowing it to command your body’s feelings. Neurons release dopamine, serotonin, and other chemicals to fill these gaps between neurons.
Neurons choose to fire based on their inputs, as THC is released into the body they attach to these receptors and encourage firing.
Chemicals such as dopamine, which controls the “happiness” element of your mood, are known to help you relax and be more cheerful. Releasing large dopamine into your body is one of the reasons for the giggles. The brain has around 85 billion neurons with nearly 100 trillion connectors between them.
When you smoke every week, it takes 1 – 10 minutes for the THC and other cannabinoids to make their way to your brain. Once they reach the brain, they begin working immediately to give you that “feel good” effect more simply referred to as a high.
With your high being dependent on your body’s reaction to various drugs, each person is more sensitive or resistant to different reactions within the body.
THC effects on the body
THC has been known for a wide range of effects on the body, with a segregating factoring being the strain of weed smoked.
Cannabis sativa is known for being energizing, increasing the reaction between your mind and body. This results in an awake feeling with active thoughts, which can become a great tool to help fight depression.
Increased brain activity has been linked to the idea of opening the mind, or increasing creativity.
Cannabis indica is known for its relaxation effects known as a couch high, or the feeling of wanting to kick your feet up and just relax.
Pain relief and a reduction in information have been found in both strains, allowing individuals with various medical conditions to feel relief, being able to relax.
Indica strains known for extreme relaxation can be a great assist for deep sleep and relaxation from a long stressful day.
THC side effects
When smoking weed, you often have a wanted feeling. Feelings outside of this want which could often be viewed as negative are referred to as side effects. For some people, side effects can be positive, while for others they may be irritating.
A common side effect is hunger or getting the munchies. THC lowers your blood sugar, which your body monitors to ensure you don’t starve. As your blood sugar drops, you crave sugary foods known as having the munchies. For some, this can be irritating, while for individuals with a loss of appetite this could be exactly what they need.
Increased heart rate is common when smoking weed, which can be worrisome for some smokers. It’s important to remember this is only temporary and can last 1 to 3 hours on average.
Smoking sativa while having pre-existing anxiety should be avoided. Sativa causes an increase in brain activity similar to that felt during anxiety and the effects could worsen the condition. Indica on the other hand can help you relax, helping with pre-existing anxiety.
Smoking any substance could lead to irritation within the throat and lungs. Some smokers are more sensitive to these changes, encouraging the importance of starting with lower doses and increasing over time to understand your own body.
Do all cannabis products have THC in them?
While THC is the most dominant chemical found in the cannabis plant, various strains and products have shown a range of THC to CBD levels. Some cannabis strains are high in THC, while others have absolutely none.
What is the difference?
Some cannabis is grown to light up and get high, but another form of cannabis known as hemp is harvested for its fibrous materials and other cannabinoids. Hemp brings the advantages of plant fats and health-promoting chemicals to your body, with little to no psychoactive effects.
Hemp has become widely legalized within the US as of the 2018 Farm Bill, allowing consumers outside of recreational states to get a taste of the advantages found in weed.
When purchasing any cannabis product, you will see three possible primary strains including Indica, sativa, or hybrids. These primary strains don’t represent the THC CBD levels, but instead how the plant grows and how it commonly reacts to your body.
Cannabis sativa is known for both mental and physical energizing effects, becoming a great wake-and-bake bud for a productive day. A great choice for parties and other very active events, sativa is known to increase the heart rate and allow you to focus.
Cannabis indica is more your light a bowl and chill type bud, known for creating relaxation and peace of mind.
When these two primary strains are cross-bred, they are referred to as hybrids. Over time, your end product may be more sativa or more indica. These are labeled first by a percentage, and then by the dominant strain such as 70% Sativa. Hybrids give you a little bit of everything, and with so many options on the market, you can get a flower that’s exactly what you want.
A popular option growing in demand is the use of edibles or consumable pot. While most commonly referring to baked goods, edibles can be found in nearly any source.
Gummies have become a staple to THC edibles, packing a massive dose in a small, easy-to-share flavorful bite. These have also become a source for youth medical marijuana uses, as the kids associate them as more of a medicine than pot use.
Show up to your next party with a 6 pack of THC-infused drinks which go great with a meal, outside chillin, or kicking back on the couch.
To get the most out of each cannabis plant, concentrates have become the go-to for a home remedy.
Sometimes you don’t want the taste of weed, let’s be honest, earthy flavors don’t mix with everything. Why add a gram of weed when you could add a small scoop of concentrate and get more THC with less flavor.
A great addition to coffee, tea, cooking, or anywhere really, concentrates bring a major punch in a small container.
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