Posted on 28 Comments

What is THC?

Learn more about Cannabis/Marijuana/Dagga in South Africa.

What is THC?

You’ve probably heard about this acronym and are wanting to know more about it.

THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the chemical responsible for most of dagga’s psychological effects.

Is THC only used for recreational purposes? Is this why people smoke dagga for these effects?

Or does THC also offer medicinal benefits for people who are using cannabis and/or cannabis oil in South Africa?

The first step to understanding THC is to understand cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant that interact with receptors in the brain and body to create various effects. There exist dozens, and potentially more than 100, cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, but THC is most widely known among these due to its abundance and psychoactive attributes.

The isolation of THC came from an Israeli chemist by the name of Raphael Mechoulam. In 1964, Mechoulam isolated and synthesized THC from Lebanese hashish, marking the beginning of cannabis research that would lead to the discovery of many other cannabinoids, cannabinoid receptors throughout the body, and “endocannabinoids” – the THC-like compounds our body naturally produces to maintain stability and health.

When you consume cannabis, you introduce its cannabinoids into your body. Once inside, they’re metabolized and enter the bloodstream. From there, they bind to receptors CB1 and CB2, which are concentrated in the brain and central nervous system.

Astonishingly, there are 10 times more CB1 receptors in the brain than μ-opioid receptors, which are responsible for the effects of morphine. CB2 receptors hang out exclusively on the cells of the immune system. For that reason, cannabis has significant medicinal applications, in addition to its more popular recreational uses.

So what does THC do to the brain? THC isn’t the only cannabinoid that can bind to CB1 and CB2 receptors. But when it does, the ECS stimulates the release of dopamine in the brain, creating a sense of euphoria and relaxation. In short, a high.

As cannabis continues to gain acceptance in mainstream culture, more and more studies are coming out that bring THC’s medical value to light. Most remarkable are the findings on THC as a potential treatment for cancer. Researchers at the Complutense University of Madrid have found that THC actually causes tumor cells to auto-digest themselves in animal models, meaning that THC may play a vital role in drastically reducing the tumor size and prevalence.

Large-scale pharmaceutical companies have put out drugs like Marinol, a prescription medication that increases appetite and reduces nausea in cancer patients which has been available in South Africa via the Section 21 application form to use an unregistered medicine. Multiple Sclerosis drug Sativex is made of THC extracted from cannabis plants.

THC’s ability to fight tumors in animal models is incredible. Yet, the cannabinoid offers more medicinal benefit. THC is a potent anti-inflammatory. Inflammation is an underlying factor that contributes to a whole host of modern diseases. Autoimmune diseases, neurodegenerative diseases, and depression are three major health problems triggered by inflammation. THC’s potent inflammation-fighting nature is one major reason that it helps with such a wide variety of conditions.

Soon after psychoactive THC was first isolated, researchers stumbled upon the chemical’s antibacterial effects. A paper published in 1976 found that a dose as small as 1-5 micrograms per milliliter of THC successfully killed streptococci and staphylococci two bacteria that cause strep through and the much-feared staph infection.

Though, the effective concentration jumped to 50 micrograms when tested in blood. Interestingly, the study found that gram-negative bacteria like E. coli and helicobacter pylori, which causes stomach ulcer, were resistant to isolated THC.

In a more recent study published in 2012, a full extract taken from cannabis seed and plants showed a moderate effectiveness against E. coli and a high effectiveness against Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a gram-negative bacteria that can cause respiratory, skin, and urinary tract infections.

The full extract also was highly effective against Bacillus subtilisa pathogen that causes food poisoning.

Here is a brief list of conditions helped by THC. For more information on any of these specific ailments, please read the associated articles.

  • ADHD
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Arthritis
  • Autism
  • Cancer: Including brain, breast, pediatric cancers, skin cancers, and more.
  • Crohn’s, IBS, IBD
  • Chronic and neuropathic pain
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Glaucoma
  • Hepatitis
  • Insomnia
  • Lupus
  • Migraine
  • Multiple sclerosis and other muscular disorders
  • Stroke
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • PTSD
  • Sleep apnea
  • Tourette syndrome

General benefits of THC include:

  • Stress relief
  • Relaxation
  • Improved mood
  • General pain relief
  • Social bonding
  • Laughter
  • Fun

Short-term effects of THC

As mentioned earlier, consuming THC will make you feel a bit different from your normal self. There a handful of side effects that might accompany THC. It’s important to note that not everyone has these side effects and you may not experience all of them at once. Many of the side effects listed are strain-dependent.

For many, the pleasant effects of cannabis outweigh any negatives.

You may experience the following for up to 3 hours after inhaling. These do not continue once the THC has worn off.

  • Relaxation
  • Euphoria
  • A sense of uplift and energy
  • Laughter
  • Pain relief
  • Hunger
  • Heavy-bodied sensation
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Red, dry eyes
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased heart rate
  • Skewed sense of time – typically time seems to slow down.
  • Poor spatial memory
  • Decreased body temperature
  • Anxiety, paranoia
  • Tremor

If ingesting cannabis via an edible, it may take anywhere between 30 minutes to two hours to fully feel the effects of THC. When the psychoactive effects begin to kick in, they will be much more potent than they are when consuming cannabis in a different form.

The immediate effects of THC will vary slightly depending on the individual cannabis strain due to factors like the total percentage of THC, and the percentage of other dominant cannabinoids present in that particular strain.

Your own body chemistry (such as your body’s ability to produce and process anandamide) will also significantly impact how you process and experience THC. For some, THC will help reduce anxiety and help create a sense of inner peace. For others, THC might have an opposite effect. Should you find yourself having taken ingested too much cannabis with a high THC content, don’t panic, stay calm, the effects will soon pass.

Click here for suggestions on how to counteract a too intense cannabis high.

Long-term effects of THC

Scientists are still debating the long-term effects of THC. It’s been a gruelling argument thus far, as very little research has reached firm, reliable conclusions. Below is a brief summary of the top contenders. Though, it’s important to mention that this list is just a simple summary of a complex topic. More long-term effects may be confirmed in the future. Further, some of those listed here may be eventually ruled out as well. Here it goes:

  • Alterations in memory: One study has shown that heavy cannabis users have decreased verbal memory over time.
  • Bronchitis-like symptoms: This is not from THC, but from smoking. If you smoke a lot for a long period of time, you may experience some lung irritation. These symptoms go away if you stop smoking or switch to a different consumption method. Vaporizers and edibles are great options for lung health.
  • Tolerance: When you consume a lot of THC regularly for long periods of time, your body develops a tolerance to the compound. This makes the herb less effective, and you’ll have to consume more and more of it to see results. When this happens, take a tolerance break.
  • Apathy: This is related to tolerance. If you use cannabis excessively over long periods of time, your body stops being completely responsive to the effects of dagga. This can cause you to feel a little blank or emotionally numb. Taking tolerance break fixes and prevents this problem.
  • Trouble for those with psychotic disorders: If you are predisposed to a psychotic disorder, you might want to reconsider THC. Research has found that folks with a genetic vulnerability for schizophrenia and psychosis can develop symptom onset earlier when they regularly consume THC.

There are a few commonly held beliefs about cannabis that have been mitigated in recent research.  If you’re concerned about any of these supposed effects, be sure to check out the associated articles. The topics listed below are also highly controversial. Research has been going back and forth on these subjects for decades. Contrary to popular belief, cannabis:

  • Has not been linked to increases in lung cancer
  • Is not attributed to death
  • Has not been shown to cause brain damage in adults

Concentrations of THC in cannabis

When THC is exposed to air, it degrades into cannabinol, a cannabinoid that has its own psychological effects. THC concentration also depends on the cultivation of the marijuana plant, known scientifically as Cannabis sativa L.

A type of cannabis that has a minimal amount of THC, as low as 0.5 percent, is hemp, according to the North American Industrial Hemp Council. Hemp is used for industrial and medical purposes.

Some strains of cannabis can have as little as 0.3 percent THC by weight. In other strains, THC makes up 20-35% percent of the weight in a sample.

THC in recreational doses of cananbis is highly variable and the lower the THC content in the cannabis, the more the user must consume to produce the desired effects.

Cannabis Resin eg. Dabs is fast becoming popular in South Africa.

Many South African cannabis users buy dabs online in South Africa both for recreational and medicinal use.

We will explore the subject of cannabis resins eg. dabs, shatter, rosin in South Africa soon.

You may also want to read our FAQ in case you are still looking for a specific answer to a question you may have about cannabis in South Africa for medicinal use.



28 thoughts on “What is THC?

  1. […] produced by the cannabis plant. While it does not provide a psychotropic “high” like THC, there’s no doubt that CBD can have a positive effect on general health and […]

  2. […] those compounds. And while a lot of research has gone into understanding cannabinoids like CBD and THC, there are many other […]

  3. […] has the same origins as both THC and CBD do in that they all stem from cannabigerolic acid (CBGA). Cannabis plants produce CBGA, the […]

  4. I am treating my husband with Phoenix Tears but the bottle of oil is almost empty. How do I order another bottle of oil to keep on with the treatment. He has colon cancer that spread to the liver and lungs. The colon part was removed. He also receives chemo therapy

  5. […] health benefits. Now, keep this in mind: CBD won’t get your pet “high”. Unlike THC, the main psychoactive compound in marijuana, CBD is completely non psychoactive and safe to be […]

  6. Very good questions from Danie de Villiers.

    I too would like to read the answers.

  7. Hi
    Can I use the THC oil or CBD oil in an e-cigarette, or the electronic direct inhale devises for smoking?

  8. I suffer from Spinal Stenosis and use cannabis coconut oil for the best
    pain relief ever. One teaspoon is effective for up to 8 hours

    1. Neels. Jou naam klink Afrikaans en my Engels is nie baie goed nie.
      Wat is Spinal Stenosis?
      My dokter sê ek het ruggraat verkromming net bokant my bekken wat veroorsaak dat die spiere weerskante van my ruggraat in spasma gaan as ek lank staan of loop. Op my ouderdom glo ek nie ‘n operasie is aangewese nie – ek is 81 jaar oud.
      Ek gebruik tans dagga-olie wat ek van ‘n persoon in Pretoria kry. Wat se dagga-olie dit is weet ek nie, maar dit maak die pyn meer draagbaar.
      Die olie is ‘n dik donkerbruin olie en ‘n vol druppel daarvan vat my heel af van balans. Ek glo nie dit kan ‘n ‘high’ genoem word nie, want dis ‘n simpel gevoel.
      As jy ‘n ander raat het, laat weet my asb ook vanwaar jy dit kry.

      1. Chroniese lae rugpyn sowel as die uitsteek van ongemak onder een of albei bene kan die teenwoordigheid van ‘n besering of toestand aandui, soos lumbale stenose. Spinale stenose in die lumbale ruggraat ontwikkel gewoonlik met ouderdom, wat gekenmerk word as die vernouing van die ruggraat kanaal in die laer rug. Wanneer hierdie verlaging in die werwels voorkom, word ekstra druk op die senuwees sowel as die rugmurg geplaas. Aangesien hierdie senuwees van die onderrug na die bene loop, kan simptome van beenpyn, swaartekrag en / of krampe ook ontwikkel.

        Ek maak my eie olie

        1. Dankie Neels.

  9. […] THC, expect to see CBD being added into ice cream too. CBD likes fat and oil, and milk is a fatty oily […]

  10. Good morning
    How can I get hold of someone who can explain to me which oil to choose for arthritis person? A number provided on the website it doesn’t work.


  11. I have CBD and THC may I take these drops on a little bread? I have been taking the drops. This is my 4th day but have felt no benefit.
    Please help.

    1. Hi Merle,

      It’s best to take the drops under the tongue so it can be absorbed sublingually via the saliva glands.

      Also I am unsure of the THC and CBD oil you are using?


  12. Would like an answer on Danie de Villiers quistion. Thank you.

  13. Where to buy decent marijuana in Pretoria

  14. […] you want to test your Cannabis oil or Cannabis flowers for THC or CBD potency in South […]

  15. […] THC impacts the neural communications between the amygdala and the rest of your brain. This hypes your emotion to a point that’s going to leave you feeling a heightened sentiment. Some individuals understand this sensation and take it in with full affection. Others aren’t so keen on it and find it rather unsettling, especially new users who have little experience with getting high. […]

  16. This is very important to build a case if i get caught, coz I believe nobody knws why cannabis is illegal. Maybe for pharmacists and doctors to benefit.

  17. […] from THC. It’s barely present in cannabis flowers and it is nowhere near as psychoactive as THC. You can find more cannabinol in older, degraded material making anything with its presence less […]

  18. […] tested the effects of five different cannabinoids (including everybody’s favourites THC and CBD) on skin cells that were induced to hyper-productivity in vitro. All five cannabinoids […]

  19. […] started to focus on the potential benefits of CBD, one of the main compounds in cannabis. Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is responsible for its euphoric effects, CBD does not cause a “high” or pose the same […]

  20. […] and wellness products containing cannabinoids like Cannabidiol (CBD) and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), are becoming increasingly popular. And because CBD and THC have antioxidant properties, cannabis […]

  21. […] chemicals which give the cannabis plant its medical and recreational properties. Cannabinoids like THC and CBD interact with different receptors in the body to produce a wide range of effects, such as […]

  22. […] found in the medicines traditionally used to treat chronic pain. In 1975, researchers found that THC was an effective pain reliever for cancer patients and found that it lacked the significant or […]

  23. I understand that tea brewed with green cannabis leaves is beneficial for a person’s health.
    1. If so, what medical benefits does it have?
    2. Where can I obtain green leaves other than cultivating oneself?
    3. Exactly how is the tea brewed and drunk?
    4. Can one make a lot of tea and keep it in a fridge or does it lose its benefits?
    5. Or is it better to use cannabis oil, which is expensive?
    6. How does the benefits of the oil compare to the tea?
    I definitely do not wish to smoke cannabis due to possible medical risks.
    Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *