Marijuana is obtained from the dried flowers and leaves of the cannabis plant. This herb, which has numerous pet names like ganja, pot, marijuana, and Mary Jane also contains numerous compounds called cannabinoids.
THC or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol is one of the cannabinoids found in marijuana. Its also the psychoactive component or the one that is responsible for making medical marijuana patients “high”.
When marijuana is inhaled, the THC travels to the brain through the bloodstream and binds to cannabinoid receptors known as CB1 and CB2.
THC and CB1 Receptors
CB1 receptors are associated with the psychotropic effects of marijuana. These receptors are located in many parts of the brain and the effects of their activation depend on the part of the brain where they are located. These effects are as follows:
1. THC activation of CB1 receptors in the hippocampus, which regulates learning new information, results in impaired short term memory.
2. THC activation of CB1 receptors in the cerebellum, which regulates coordination and balance, results in impaired muscle coordination.
3. THC activation of CB1 receptors in the basal ganglia, which regulates planning and starting muscle movements, results in slowed reaction times.
4. THC activation of CB1 receptors in the amygdala, which regulates emotions like fear and anxiety, results in panic attacks and paranoia.
5. THC activation of CB1 receptors in the hypothalamus, which regulates eating and sexual behavior, results in increased appetite.
6. THC activation of CB1 receptors in the nucleus accumbens, which regulates motivation and reward, results in euphoria or feeling good by causing increased dopamine release.
7. THC activation of CB1 receptors in the neocortex, which regulates complex thinking and feeling, results in altered judgment and sensation.
8. THC activation of CB1 receptors in the brainstem, which regulates transmission of information between the brain and spinal column, results in anti-nausea effects.
9. THC activation of CB1 receptors in the spinal cord, which regulates transmission of information between the body and the brain, results in altered pain sensation.
These effects of THC on various parts of the nervous system also enable it to be used medically for relieving chronic pain and nausea, stimulating the appetite, reducing muscle spasms and preventing convulsions.
THC and CB2 Receptors
CB2 receptors are mainly involved in immune regulation and are not associated with any psychoactive effects. Activation of these receptor results in suppression of immune system activities like immune cell activation and the production of inflammatory mediators.
CBD or cannabidiol is another cannabinoid found in marijuana. It does not have psychoactive effects and therefore it does not make patients “stoned”.
CBD works differently from THC since it has minimal tendency to bind to cannabinoid 1 and 2 receptors. It works by inhibiting fatty acid amide hydroxylase (FAAH) which is the enzyme that metabolizes anandamide.
Anandamide, or arachidonoylethanolamide is a cannabinoid that is naturally found inside the body. It binds to cannabinoids receptors like CB1 and causes them to turn off the release of inhibitory neurotransmitters. This stops the release of dopamine and consequently its effects.
By inhibiting FAAH which breaks down anandamide, CBD ensures that anandamide effects are felt for much longer.
CBD also triggers the release of another cannabinoid that is naturally found in the body known as 2-AG or 2-arachidonoyl glycerol. This endocannabinoid activates both the cannabinoid 1 and 2 receptors.
As a result of these effects, CBD has similar pharmacological properties to THC. It is therefore the better options for patients looking for epilepsy treatment, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, glaucoma and other conditions that are treated with medical marijuana since it can relieve their symptoms without making them high on their medication.
CBD effects on THC
CBD is able to reduce the psychoactive effects of THC in the body by antagonizing the action of THC at the CB1 receptors.
CBD also has antipsychotic properties of its own which can counteract those produced by THC. It can therefore relieve cannabis-induced anxiety as well as anxiety from other causes.
THC and CBD
Despite having several unwanted effects for medical marijuana patients, THC is still a vital ingredient for medical cannabis since cannabinoids are more effective when taken together rather than when taken individually.
Research done at the Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco has shown that CBD not only reduces the rate at which breast cancer cells grow and metastasize, but it is best able to do this when it is combined with THC.
CBD is also a very potent anti-oxidant. It is even more potent than vitamins C and E and thus it effectively reduces free radical cell damage in the body which is associated with many disease processes. This anti-oxidant potency of CBD is increased by combining it with THC.
THC to CBD
Currently in the medical marijuana market there are many cannabis strains with high THC content since psycho activity was the most desirable trait in the underground marijuana market. These strains were developed by cross breeding various cannabis plant and removing strains that were not psychoactive. This marijuana strains had THC levels of more than 10%. This high thc cannabis plants also have high THC to low CBD ratios.
This cannabinoid profile is gradually being changed to a THC to CBD ratio of 1:1 since this has been found to be the most effective ratio with the least amount of unpleasant side effects for medical use. This ratio is so effective that breeders of medical marijuana strains have started to create plants with perfect 1:1 ratio. Some of this strains can be found at your local medical marijuana dispensary or at marijuana seeds banks online.