There are a lot of questions about what THC, or Tetrahydrocannabinol-9, the psychoactive compound found in the cannabis plant actually does to people that ingest it. People do searches on Google regularly to try and answer questions like, do cigarette filters block THC; or do detox drinks work for THC; or do hemp seeds contain THC? There are plenty of questions surrounding active cannabinoids like THC, so let’s dispel some myths and provide some insights.
First of all, do not compare marijuana to alcohol, or for that matter to almost any other drug. Marijuana has more in common with Echinacea than it does with cocoa leaves. Our bodies produce what are called phytocannabinoids which connect to our endocannabinoid system. The marijuana plant has adapted over time to create active cannabinoids that do a truly amazing job of mimicking our naturally produced phytocannbinoids. Alcohol, methamphetamines and other opioids connect to entirely different internal systems and therefore create entirely different reactions and our bodies metabolize them at different speeds than cannabinoids.
There are 66 compounds found in marijuana that are classified as active cannabinoids, but none is more well known than THC. Most of the cannabinoids still need to be researched further to clearly understand how they affect us, but we have a pretty clear understanding of both THC and CBD (cannabidiol). The common theory though is that by extracting certain cannabinoids like THC, people lose out on what is referred to as the entourage effect. Marinol is a FDA approved synthetic version of THC that doctors will give to chemotherapy patients to settle their stomach and induce an appetite. This is one of the most well know medicinal benefits of THC, the ability to stimulate hunger. However, chemotherapy patients often comment that they do not feel like Marinol works as well as just ingesting the natural marijuana plant. This may be due to the fact that the combined effects of all the cannabinoids found in marijuana, or the entourage effect, is absent from Marinol since it is a concentrated version of THC. The point is that asking specifically about THC may not be the right question. What scientists want to discover is what the combined effects of all of the cannabinoids are together.
While many drugs inhibit the brain’s ability to make new cells, studies have shown that THC is capable of stimulating brain cell production (or neurogenesis). Researchers tested this theory using HU-210, a synthetic substance that is 100 times more powerful than standard THC. They believe that further research could provide helpful treatments for those with mood disorders such as depression. Medical professionals currently believe that in many people, depression can be triggered when not enough new brain cells are generated in the hippocampus.
Another positive finding is that THC may be neuroprotective. This also differs from many other drugs that damage, rather than protect brain cells. A 2013 study by scientists in Tel Aviv showed that THC was useful for protecting brain cells from damage due to lack of oxygen, toxic drugs or seizures. While past studies had used high doses of THC given within a short period of time, this study found that low doses given over a period of days was also effective.
As to some of the other questions commonly asked concerning THC. Trace amounts of THC can be found in stems, hemp, seeds, but the majority of them are produced by marijuana flower glands, or trichomes. In particular, the female marijuana plant can produce large quantities of cannabinoids when isolated from male marijuana plants. These isolated female plants producing large quantities of cannabinoids are referred to as sinsemilla.
You can also dilute your body by consuming lots of water, which can help in detoxing if that is what you want to call it. However, the psychoactive effects of marijuana are not likely to be slowed in this fashion since they can dissipate quickly anyways. Detoxing will dilute the amount of inactive THC compounds floating around in your body that can take more than a month for the body to metabolize. Hopefully, this answers a lot of questions and provides some insights while scientists work to discover even more about how active cannabinoids interact with the human body.