Not long ago, it was turmeric, and before that, it was coconut oil. Health crazes come and go, and currently, one of the most popular and most fascinating crazes is CBD. Cannabidiol is a compound found only in cannabis plants and is lauded with a wealth of health benefits, from fighting inflammation and relieving pain to treating anxiety, managing seizures, aiding sleep and more. Though research on CBD is slim (at present), plenty of CBD users loudly and proudly support its reputation.
However, it is important to remember that CBD isn’t the only compound in cannabis that affects the human body. Present in greater quantities is tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which is largely responsible for marijuana’s famous high. Though THC’s psychoactive properties often dominate conversations about the compound, the truth is that THC has its own suite of health benefits worth knowing about.
THC Also Alleviates Pain
The structure of the THC molecule is almost identical to a compound that the human naturally produces called anandamide, otherwise known as “the bliss molecule.” As a result, THC binds to the same receptors as anandamide, producing similar effects: euphoria, relaxation, comfort. Anandamide and THC also tend to block the sensation of pain, which is incredibly useful for chronic pain sufferers.
THC Eliminates Nausea
THC also binds to receptors within the digestive system, alleviating discomfort there. In fact, THC is so effective at managing nausea that the FDA approved a medication for nausea utilizing THC way back in the 1980s. Unfortunately, the compound used in the medication is synthetic, isolated and in much lower quantities that can be found naturally in cannabis. Ultimately, it seems like having access to cannabis in Maryland and other states with legal medicinal programs is a significant boon.
THC Stimulates Appetite
Another benefit of THC binding to receptors in the digestive system is that the compound jumpstarts the metabolism, increasing hunger. This is incredibly important for sufferers of conditions like AIDS and cancer, who typically lose weight dangerously as their disease progresses. A healthy appetite allows people to consume greater quantities of healthy food, keeping various systems functioning properly.
THC Is a Neuro-protectant
Though more research is warranted to better understand THC’s short- and long-term effects on the brain, several studies have indicated that THC helps to stimulate and protect nerve tissue, especially brain cells. In fact, one study found that patients with THC in their system were more likely to survive a traumatic head injury than those lacking THC.
THC Fights PTSD
Most psychologists do not strongly recommend self-medicating mental disorders with cannabis, but PTSD is a different story. PTSD sufferers often re-experience trauma through memories, and using cannabis can help interrupt traumatic episodes and alter those memories to make them less damaging. In fact, THC seems to be more effective at managing PTSD than any other anti-anxiety or anti-depressant drug currently on the market.
THC Is Antitumorigenic
This is a slightly controversial health benefit of THC, but THC has been shown to help reduce the size of some types of tumors. Directly applying THC to some tumors has helped to diminish them, improving patient outcomes in some cases. However, THC also seems to feed other types of tumors, so researchers need to continue to study THC’s effects to understand how it could benefit the fight against cancer.
THC Helps Respiratory Health
Contrary to expectations, smoking the good green herb does not damage lung tissue. In fact, drastically unlike nicotine, THC seems to improve lung health by dilating the airways and improving airflow into the lungs. Already, biopharmaceutical companies are developing an inhaler for THC to help sufferers of serious lung conditions like asthma and COPD, but vaporizers and other smokeless inhalables are available now from dispensaries.
THC Relaxes Muscles
While CBD and certain terpenes within cannabis often take the credit for relaxing muscles, THC is believed to have muscle relaxant properties on its own. This could be why high-THC strains tend to lock users to their couches and radically decrease coordination. Relaxing muscles is important for the treatment of some types of chronic pain and for conditions like multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s.
There are more than a few good reasons to keep THC in cannabis products. Though it can cause psychoactive effects, THC is indispensable for sufferers of some incredibly severe health conditions, and it should be remembered and celebrated for its benefits.