Part 1 ~ THC

With the re-legalization of cannabis swiftly progressing across America, every day more people are becoming familiar with the “magical” plant and the many benefits of its active ingredients, called cannabinoids. The names of these compounds can look like a chemical alphabet soup, and keeping them straight can be a bit confusing. So, in this series, let’s meet the big, happy Cannabinoid clan down the street…and take a peek inside their medicine cabinet.

The most important member of the family may well be CBD (cannabidiol)—the quiet, sort of unassuming, thoughtful uncle who doesn’t grab a lot of attention at family gatherings. But, since CBD is best described in terms of how it’s not like THC, we’ll start with the head of the family. Pun definitely intended!

The most familiar and popular of all the cannabinoids, THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) provides the relaxing and euphoric effects of cannabis, whether inhaled, ingested, or applied as a lotion. THC isn’t actually just one molecule but several, of which delta-9-THC is by far the most extensively known (due to its psychotropic potency), along with cousins delta-8-THC and 11-hydroxy-THC. All bind to the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the central nervous system, stimulating the appetite and relieving pain, anxiety (in moderate doses), and nausea and vomiting, according to cancer.gov. Cancer patients definitely appreciate the medicinal value of THC in relieving these symptoms that dominate their lives—in so doing they completely invalidate its absurd categorization as a Schedule I narcotic with “no medical use”.

THC can have unwanted side effects—primarily headache, dizziness, mild anxiety or malaise, and drowsiness, usually as a result of over-consuming edibles containing the compound. Ingestion brings about the effects of THC more slowly but more intensely than inhalation does, and they can last much longer as well—even up to two days or more in extreme cases of overeating. Mr. Butter reminds you, overeating of anything is always a bad idea!

Even so, THC is extremely noteworthy in the context of both medicinal and discretionary use for being—according to psychiatrist Julie Holland, MD, author of The Pot Booknon-toxic. No overdose level has ever been identified, and THC is responsible for zero recorded deaths. That incredibly fortunate characteristic of non-toxicity is all the more remarkable because, chemically, just as the ethanol molecule in beer and wine is an alcohol, THC also is an alcohol. (This fun fact reveals the entire cannabis war raging since the 1930s—at a cost of uncountable lives and billions of dollars—as being a ridiculous argument about which particular type of alcohol adults should be able to access.)

So, THC is an alcohol molecule that neither kills consumers nor renders them unable to walk. These are good points to keep in mind whenever the boring old song starts to drone about how adults can be trusted to use alcohol responsibly—because it’s part of our culture—but “marijuana” (cannabis to us) is so alien and terrifying and dangerous, medical doctors should literally be sent to prison for providing it to relieve suffering. (Who’s high here?)

Speaking of relieving suffering, many pain-management patients report that they can greatly reduce or even free themselves entirely from opiate medications—and their extremely dangerous side effects—if they have access to full-spectrum cannabis or its extract, as opposed to a pure THC or CBD preparation. Research reported by CBD Project suggests THC plays an important role in potentiating and enhancing some medical benefits of CBD, and vice versa, dismissing the belief that “Single-molecule pharmaceuticals are superior to ‘crude’ whole plant medicinals.” The myth-busting article also boldly challenges the ethos that THC making people feeling good is intrinsically a bad thing. The late psychiatrist Tod Mikuriya, MD, considered by many the “godfather” of California’s medical cannabis movement, may have summed up the entire movement best: “We should be thinking of cannabis as a medicine first that happens to have some psychoactive properties, as many medicines do, rather than as an intoxicant that happens to have a few therapeutic properties on the side.”

The effects of mood elevation, relaxation, muscle soreness relief, appetite and thirst stimulation, and drying the mucous membranes of the nose and eyes also make THC an excellent anecdotal common cold remedy. Inhaling smoke or vapor may irritate the throat or lungs or worsen coughing, so the preferred intake method is ingestion: infusing botanicals into comfort foods like soups and pasta sauces, or herb-enriched butter for warm biscuits or muffins to ward off the cold. Plenty of recipes await the curious at MagicalButter.com/recipes.

Do you have a favorite recipe for the MB? Share it with us!

Next up: CBD