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Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)

Tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC, is the compound in cannabis that gives users the feeling of being high (psychoactive effect). This cannabinoid has the same structure and molecular mass as cannabidiol (CBD), which inhibits the effect of THC. The FDA has approved a synthetic form of THC known as dronabinol as an appetite stimulant for patients with significant weight loss due to AIDS and as an anti-vomiting agent for those undergoing chemotherapy. Aside from these indications, THC also boasts a wide array of health benefits that are essential for almost every system in the body.

How THC Works?

The body has cannabinoid receptors located in the brain and central nervous system. By binding to these receptors, THC exerts its effect. Depending on the method of consumption (vaping, syrups, edibles, oils, or lotions), the psychoactive effect of THC may vary from person to person.

Overall Health Benefits of THC

  • Combats cancer [1-65]
  • Treats muscle spasms [66-80]
  • Relieves pain [81-106]
  • Treats nausea and vomiting [107-132]
  • Stimulates appetite [133-150]
  • Improves sleep quality [151-158]
  • Treats seizures [159-172]
  • Treats inflammatory conditions [173-183]
  • Improves cognitive function [184-198]
  • Treats migraines [199-202]
  • Wards off depression [203-212]
  • Improves cardiovascular health [213-230]
  • Treats neurodegenerative disease [80] [231-239]

Combats Cancer

An overwhelming body of evidence shows that THC has natural antineoplastic properties making it beneficial for patients afflicted with various types of cancer:

  1. In human breast cancer cells, THC inhibited cell cycle progression and multiplication, leading to cell death. [1-7]
  2. In patients with brain cancer, THC significantly inhibited tumor cell proliferation without any adverse effects. [8-11]
  3. In a mouse model of lung cancer, THC treatment for 20 days inhibited cancer growth in a dose-dependent manner. [12]
  4. A 2003 study published in Nature Reviews Cancer found that THC inhibits tumor growth by modulating key cell-signaling pathways. [13]
  5. In human non-small cell lung cancer, THC inhibited subcutaneous tumor growth and lung metastasis (spread of cancer). [14]
  6. In human glioblastoma multiforme cells (brain cancer cells), treatment with THC induced cell cycle arrest. [15]
  7. In human leukemia T cells, THC treatment induced apoptosis (programmed cell death). [16]
  8. In mice with cancer of the thymus and spleen, administration of THC at 10 mg/kg body weight significantly reduced tumor size as early as 6 hours after treatment. [17]
  9. In different cancer cell lines, THC inhibited cancer cell proliferation through its antioxidant properties. [18-22]
  10. In colorectal cancer cells, THC induced cell death by inhibiting survival signaling pathways. [23]
  11. In prostate cancer cell lines, THC inhibited cancer cell proliferation and migration. [24-30]
  12. In mice with brain cancer, the addition of THC to the chemotherapy drug temozolomide enhanced its effect. [31-32]
  13. Studies show that THC can alleviate various cancer symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, muscle wasting, low energy levels, and pain. [33-35]
  14. In several human cancer cell lines, THC induced apoptosis while sparing non-transformed cell lines. [36-39]
  15. In colorectal cancer cells, THC induced apoptosis by inhibiting RAS-MAPK and PI3K-AKT survival signaling pathways. [40-43]
  16. Studies have also shown that THC exerts its anti-cancer effects by inhibiting vascular endothelial cell survival and migration. [44-55]
  17. In immunocompetent rats, high doses of THC at 50 mg/kg daily 5 times per week for 2 years reduced the occurrence of several types of tumors and enhanced the overall survival rate through its anti-inflammatory effects. [56-59]
  18. When combined with CBD, THC produced strong tumor growth-inhibiting activity. [60-65]

Treats Muscle Spasms

Evidence suggests that THC has an antispasmodic effect, which means that it can suppress muscle spasms:

  1. In patients with muscle spasms caused by multiple sclerosis, treatment with THC reduced muscle stiffness, constant ache, cramps, and involuntary muscle contractions. [66-76]
  2. In patients with extensor spasticity (involuntary straightening of the legs), oral administration of either 10 or 5 mg THC significantly reduced spasticity. [77]
  3. A study found that THC has a similar antispasmodic effect as baclofen, a drug used to treat muscle spasms. [78]
  4. In patients with muscle spasms induced by the chemotherapeutic drug vismodegib, THC treatment significantly reduced symptoms. [79]
  5. In patients with muscle stiffness due to spinal cord injury, THC administration at 15-20 mg per day significantly improved scores in the spasticity sum score (SSS). [80]

Relieves Pain

Several high-quality studies show that THC possesses strong analgesic properties, which is beneficial for people afflicted with painful medical conditions:

  1. In patients with chronic pain, THC treatment at dosages between 5 and 20 mg per day provided sufficient pain relief. [81]
  2. In patients with fibromyalgia, a chronic condition characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain and increased pain sensitivity, THC treatment significantly reduced pain and improved quality of life. [82-84]
  3. In patients with nerve pain, THC administration via oral route and inhalation reduced neuropathic pain score. [85-86]
  4. In patients with advanced cancer pain who are resistant to strong opioids, THC provided adequate pain relief (30% pain reduction). [87-89]
  5. A study found that higher doses of THC were associated with lesser pain intensity levels. [90]
  6. In patients with pain due to arthritis, treatment with THC reduced joint pain. [91]
  7. In healthy volunteers with pain due to electrical stimulation test, a single oral THC administration at a dose of 30 mg produced pain relief. [92]
  8. In patients with nerve pain associated with multiple sclerosis, THC treatment for 2 years reduced pain with no evidence of tolerance. [93-96]
  9. In patients with chronic pain of various causes, administration of THC significantly reduced subjective pain and improved quality of life. [97]
  10. In female rats, THC administration reduced inflammatory pain. [98]
  11. In animal models of acute and chronic pain, THC administration reduced pain-like behaviors. [99-105]
  12. In patients with cancer pain, THC administration reduced pain scores and improved quality of life. [106]

Treats Nausea and Vomiting

Numerous high-quality studies also show that THC can help treat unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea and vomiting:

  1. In patients suffering from chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, treatment with THC significantly reduced symptoms by suppressing the vomiting response in the brain. [107-116]
  2. In patients with nausea and vomiting who are resistant to antiemetics (medications that suppress nausea and vomiting), THC administration decreased symptoms without any adverse effects. [117]
  3. In postoperative patients, administration of THC prevented the incidence of nausea and vomiting. [118-119]
  4. In animals with cisplatin-induced vomiting, THC significantly reduced the incidence of vomiting episodes. [120]
  5. In animals with radiation-induced vomiting, THC also reduced vomiting episodes. [121]
  6. In animals with drug-induced vomiting, THC significantly reduced the frequency of vomiting. [122-129]
  7. Studies found that the antiemetic action of THC can be compared to potent antiemetic medications such as prochlorperazine. [130-131]
  8. A study found that THC may be effective in treating severe nausea and vomiting in children. [132]

Stimulates Appetite

For people with decreased appetite, THC can help improve overall health and prevent problems associated with nutrient deficiency. A growing body of evidence suggests that THC is an appetite stimulant:

  1. In HIV-infected adult men and women, THC significantly increased blood levels of ghrelin and leptin, which are hormones that regulate appetite. [133-140]
  2. In patients who smoke cannabis, CBD countered the effect of THC on the subject’s eating pattern by decreasing their food intake, suggesting that THC stimulates appetite. [141]
  3. In patients with advanced cancer, administration of low-dose THC improved appetite and quality of life. [142-147]
  4. A 2005 study published in Behavioral Pharmacology found that THC improves eating behavior by affecting certain signals in the brain involved in appetite regulation. [148]
  5. In rats, THC administration stimulated consumption of a highly palatable food. [149-150]

Improves Sleep Quality

Administration of THC in people with sleeping difficulties can also lead to improved sleep quality. This beneficial effect of THC is backed by numerous high-quality studies:

  1. A 2019 review of multiple studies published in Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology found that THC can improve sleep quality and decrease sleep disturbances. [151]   
  2. A 2017 study published in Current Psychiatry Reports found that THC can decrease sleep latency (time it takes to fall asleep). [152]
  3. In male cannabis smokers, higher blood levels of THC were significantly associated with shorter sleep latency. [153]
  4. In patients with sleeping difficulties, THC increased durations of rapid eye movement (REM), which is the deepest phase of sleep. [154]
  5. In healthy volunteers, administration of THC for 2 weeks improved sleep pattern. [155]
  6. In rats, administration of low doses of THC by vaporization exhibited sleep-promoting properties. [156]
  7. In patients with sleeping difficulties caused by painful conditions, THC treatment resulted in marked improvement in subjective sleep parameters. [157]
  8. In patients with obstructive sleep apnea, THC at doses of 2.5-10 mg daily significantly reduced Apnea Hypopnea Index (abnormal breathing pattern). [158]

Treats Seizures

According to studies, THC has an anti-seizure effect which can help improve the quality of life of people with seizure disorders:

  1. Several studies found that THC exerts its anti-seizure activity by acting on cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1). [159-161]
  2. A 2015 study published in Neurotherapeutics found that THC prevented seizures by regulating the excitability of brain neurons (nerve cells). [162]
  3. In children with epilepsy, administration of THC reduced seizure attacks. [163-165]
  4. A study found that THC administration at doses <0.1 mg/kg/day can help prevent seizures. [166]
  5. In patients with epilepsy, THC treatment resulted in 71% reduction in motor seizures. [167]
  6. In children and adults with epilepsy, THC treatment is associated with lower prevalence of seizures. [168-171]
  7. In a rat model of epilepsy, THC exhibited anticonvulsant effect. [172]

Treats Inflammatory Conditions

The anti-inflammatory effects of THC are backed by a number of high-quality studies:

  1. A 2016 study published in the FASEB Journal found that THC can suppress scarring and inflammation. [173]
  2. In mice, THC impaired the inflammatory response to influenza infection. [174]
  3. A 2019 cell study published in Frontiers in Immunology found that THC suppressed inflammatory cytokines in human cells. [175]
  4. In rats with arthritis, daily oral administration of THC for 21 days significantly reduced symptoms. [176]
  5. In mice with skin inflammation, THC at a dose of 10 mg/kg reduced inflammation and pain-like behaviors. [177]
  6. In murine models of bone marrow transplantation, THC reduced inflammation, resulting in improved survival of transplanted cells. [178]
  7. In mice with paw inflammation, THC reduced pain-like behaviors and inflammation of the area. [179]
  8. In a rodent model of inflammatory pain, THC reduced inflammation and sensitivity to pain. [180]
  9. A 2019 cell study published in Frontiers in Immunology found that THC suppressed nerve inflammation in a mouse model of multiple sclerosis. [181]
  10. In a mouse model of encephalomyelitis (inflammation of the brain and spinal cord), THC inhibited nerve inflammation by preventing microbial imbalance and promoting healthy growth of good bacteria in the gut. [182]
  11. In rats with intestinal inflammation, treatment with THC reduced inflammation and decreased the prevalence of functional disturbances. [183]

Improves Cognitive Function

Studies show that THC improves various areas of cognitive function, making it beneficial for people with age-related cognitive decline and those suffering from chronic, degenerative brain diseases:

  1. In severely demented patients, THC reduced nocturnal motor activity and agitation. [184]
  2. In healthy volunteers, a single dose of THC at 5 to 10 mg improved verbal and visual memory and reaction time. [185]
  3. In healthy volunteers, THC administration improved listening skills and verbal recall. [186]
  4. In patients with chronic post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), THC significantly improved global symptom severity, sleep quality, and frequency of nightmares. [187]
  5. In a child with autism, THC administration significantly reduced irritability, lethargy, hyperactivity, and inappropriate speech. [188]
  6. In mice, treatment with THC reversed the age-related decline in cognitive performance by improving the growth and development of nervous tissue (neurogenesis). [189-193]
  7. In rats, THC also improved learning and memory functions by inducing neurogenesis. [194-197]
  8. A study also found that THC improves cognitive function by reducing infarct volume (dead tissues). [198]

Treats Migraines

Studies also suggest that the pain-relieving properties of THC can provide long-term relief in people suffering from migraine attacks and those with chronic headache:

  1. In female rats, THC reduced migraine-like pain when administered at a dose of 0.32mg/kg. [199]
  2. A study found that THC can reduce pain intensity and prevalence of headaches. [200]
  3. In rats with morphine-induced headache, THC provided long-term pain relief. [201]
  4. In patients with chronic migraine pain, THC exerted stronger pain-relieving effect than CBD. [202]

Wards off Depression

The anti-depressant effects of THC can help improve overall mood in depressed patients, according to studies:

  1. In a mouse model of depression, THC produced antidepressant effect as evidenced by a significant reduction in locomotor activity [203]
  2. In a rat model of depression, repeated THC injections at 2 mg/kg once every 48 hours for 21 days produced antidepressant-like behavioral properties. [204]
  3. A 2005 study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology found that THC can be used as adjunctive medication in patients with bipolar disorder. [205]
  4. Studies show that THC and other cannabis compounds exert their antidepressant effects by increasing brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). [206-210]
  5. Studies also show that THC modulates mood and reduces depressive symptoms by targeting endocannabinoid receptors. [211-212]

Improves Cardiovascular Health

Evidence also suggests that THC has the capacity to protect the heart against injury and improve certain parameters necessary for cardiovascular function:

  1. In healthy male volunteers, intravenous administration of 25 mug/kg of THC enhanced cardiac performance. [213]
  2. In hypertensive rats, THC administration increased blood flow to the heart by relaxing the blood vessels. [214-217]
  3. Prolonged administration of THC to experimental animals resulted in long-term decrease in heart rate and blood pressure. [218-219]
  4. Studies found that cannabinoids like THC protects the heart against tissue injury caused by insufficient blood flow and oxygen. [220-224]
  5. In normal subjects, THC administration improved blood flow to the heart by increasing the peak heart rate. [225]
  6. In an experimental model of atherosclerosis (plaque build-p in the inner lining of the heart), low-dose THC significantly reduced plaque formation. [226-228]
  7. In healthy volunteers, administration of THC at 134 mug/kg increased cardiac index and decreased total peripheral resistance (amount of force needed to pump blood). [229]
  8. In diabetic rats, THC injection prevented cardiovascular dysfunction induced by streptozotocin. [230]

Treats Neurodegenerative Disease

Emerging evidence suggests that THC can treat various neurodegenerative diseases because of its ability to protect neurons (nerve cells) against injury and stimulate nerve regeneration:

  1. In patients with spinal cord injury, a single 10 mg dose of THC reduced spasticity. [80] [231]
  2. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that THC can treat Alzheimer’s disease by reducing amyloid beta (abnormal proteins in the brain). [232-233]
  3. In patients with Alzheimer’s disease, administration of dronabinol improved appetite and disturbed behavior. [234]
  4. In patients with severe dementia, dronabinol treatment significantly reduced agitation and aggressive behavior. [235-236]
  5. In a murine model of brain injury, THC prevented programmed cell death of brain cells. [237]
  6. In animal models of Parkinson’s disease, treatment with THC delayed disease progression and ameliorated symptoms. [238]
  7. In a human cell culture model of Parkinson’s disease, THC protected against neuronal injury induced by three toxins. [239]

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