What is THC? A Guide to Tetrahydrocannabinol

THC Chemical Compound Lab Testing

Many people usually associate marijuana with the “high” feeling or the euphoric effect. Well, this normally occurs due to the presence of THC element that affects how the mind functions. THC has an influential role in the human body, both mentally and physically. It can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and help ease chronic pain. However, it can also result in unwanted side effects. This article explores THC’s profile, including its benefits, side effects, and legality.

What is THC?

Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC, is the most prominent cannabinoid molecule in marijuana. It has strong psychoactive properties, and it’s the substance that normally causes marijuana users to feel high.

History of THC

THC from cannabis has been in use for centuries. The first recorded use is in China, where cannabis products were used for food and medicine. Cannabis was later introduced to the US in the 1600s, and its use eventually started to pick up in the 1930s and 1940s.

However, cannabis was later classified under Schedule I drugs in the Controlled Substances Act. This is because it has a high potential for abuse, making it legal at the federal level. Over the years, there has been much research regarding the structure and benefits of cannabis and its compounds, such as THC. As a result, the laws are changing, and cannabis is now legal for use recreationally and medically in different states.

How THC Affects the Body

THC affects the body by interacting with several chemicals and hormones. It should be noted that these chemicals and hormones normally play a role in managing different processes in the body. This includes how we feel emotionally, i.e., sadness, pleasure, enjoyment, etc. They can also manage pain perception, hunger pangs, and temperature.

The body has CB1 receptors which have a high affinity to psychoactive THC. THC is thought to activate CB1 receptors and then inhibit the functions of the fatty acid amide hydrolase enzyme. This compound also plays a role in activating dopamine release by the brain, a hormone normally associated with pleasure. Generally, dopamine plays a role in influencing reward-seeking behavior and motivation. By activating a combination of these chemicals and hormones, THC usually produces a combination of effects related to happiness, coordination, thinking, perception, concentration, and movements.

Benefits of THC

There are many reports regarding the potential health benefits of the THC compound. Even though research is still preliminary, THC can help improve appetite, especially in people suffering from eating disorders. Its anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties make it ideal for managing conditions such as arthritis, side effects of cancer treatment, and neurodegenerative diseases. Studies have shown that it can provide pain relief while improving the symptoms of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.

Common Methods of Consuming THC

THC is a versatile cannabis compound, and you can consume it differently, depending on the effects you desire to experience. There are four main methods of ingesting marijuana products, and they include:

  • Inhalation
  • Oral intake
  • Smoking
  • Topical application

Inhalation and smoking normally provide users with almost instant effects. However, their effects also wear off quickly after only a few hours. Meanwhile, the effects of oral intake usually take longer to kickstart but normally end up lasting for hours in the system.

Risks and Side Effects of THC

THC is generally a harmless cannabinoid. Patients and users can tolerate cannabis products very well. However, people react differently to THC. Some might experience no side effects, while others might experience mild to intense effects. Common side effects include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Dry eyes/ eye redness
  • Mild euphoria
  • Increased heart rate
  • Heightened appetite
  • Headaches and dizziness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Reduced level of alertness

Breastfeeding women and lactating moms are also at risk of using THC. Research reports indicate that children whose mothers used cannabis while they were in the womb or breastfed end up with cognitive issues. Besides that, most of them end up using marijuana as adults.

THC Chemical Compound

Finding the Right Dose

Finding the right THC dose is challenging. This depends on the purpose of use and the mode of intake. Besides that, the quality of the THC product and concentration are influential in determining the dose. Other factors to consider include your:

  • Weight
  • Diet
  • Metabolism
  • THC tolerance

Professionals usually recommend that the standard dosage for beginners should be 2.5 mg THC. Users can, thereafter, gradually increase the dosage by 1-3 mg after every few days until they reach the needed maximum of 40 mg daily. For most people, 5 mg – 10 mg THC per dose seems to be the “standard dose.”

How Long Does THC Stay in Your System?

THC can stay in your system for a few days to several weeks. This depends on several factors. For instance, if you consistently use THC products for a long time, it will build up in your system. That’s why THC can only stay in your urine for three days or so if you are an infrequent user. For chronic users, THC can still be found in their systems after 30 days since last use. The method of consumption and type of test also play a role in determining the presence of THC in the body.

Overview of how long THC stays in the System




Infrequent Users


Frequent Users


Chronic Users


Blood Test


Up to 2 days


7 days


7 days


Urine Test


Up to 3 days


Up to 21 days


30+ days


Saliva Test


24 hours


30 hours


30 hours


Hair Test


90 days


90 days


90 days

Is THC Legal?

The use and possession of THC-based products in the US are illegal under the federal law of, the Controlled Substances Act. However, different states have different laws, which mean that there are places where you can use THC legally. This includes states such as:

  • Washington
  • Alaska
  • California
  • New York
  • Illinois
  • Colorado
  • Michigan

It’s worth noting that marijuana laws are changing; hence the legalization of THC will soon become widespread.

How CBD and THC Interact

CBD and THC are the most prominent cannabinoids in cannabis plants. They are mostly found together in full-spectrum cannabis products, which have other plant compounds. CBD usually interacts with receptors in the brain. It then sends messages regarding key brain functions, including pain perception, mood, appetite, etc. It has a natural binding mechanism, making it suitable for handling mental health issues such as stress, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression.

  • If both CBD and THC are in the body, they will end up interacting. The whole process is generally a concept, but here is what anecdotal evidence suggests:
  • Taking high CBD and low or no THC usually results in no psychoactive effects
  • Taking only THC and minus CBD usually produces intense, short-term psychoactive effects.
  • Taking more THC and low amounts of CBD will produce less intense and long-lasting psychoactive effects.

Taking THC and CBD in equal proportions will produce few psychoactive effects. It should be noted that these psychoactive effects are more likely to be gentle on the consumer. This happens because a 1:1 ratio of CBD to THC usually reduces the psychoactive effects of THC. This means that you can use CBD to buffer the intense effects of THC. More CBD and less THC means you will experience less psychoactivity or nothing.

The ratio of CBD to THC usually determines the renowned beneficial entourage effect. Both of these cannabinoids can work synergistically to produce more pronounced health benefits. However, talking to your doctor before using THC/CBD products is important.

Final Thoughts

THC is the most prominent cannabinoid in the cannabis plant. You can use it recreationally since it normally results in euphoric highs. Besides that, it has some medicinal benefits, making it ideal for improving wellness. However, it’s important to use THC in a moderate dosage since a high dosage can result in unwanted side effects. Besides that, users should consider their state laws before purchasing since THC is still federally legal.


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