Key takeaways.

  • What is THC?

    THC, or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, is the primary psychoactive cannabinoid found in cannabis and is responsible for cannabis' intoxicating effects.

  • What are some of the medicinal uses of THC?

    THC is used recreationally and medicinally. It has therapeutic uses in insomnia, epilepsy, Parkinson's disease, fibromyalgia, depression, and more.

  • How does THC work?

    THC mimics a molecule our body naturally creates—anandamide. Anandamide is part of a class of molecules called endocannabinoids ("endo" meaning created within your body), and it produces its effects by interacting with endocannabinoid receptors, primarily in the human brain. These receptors are part of the endocannabinoid system (ECS), your master regulatory system that's responsible for maintaining homeostasis and ensuring all your other systems are balanced and optimized. By binding with these receptors, THC causes a cascade of events that leads to its euphoric, pain-killing, sleep-inducing effects.

  • What does it feel like to take THC?

    Users report feeling euphoric, heightened senses, dizziness, increased hunger and thirst, divergent thinking (abstract forms of thinking), and giggles.

  • What are some of the different ways to use THC?

    THC can be smoked in cannabis buds, eaten in edibles, consumed as a tincture, it can be vaped, and it can be used as a topical treatment.

It was not so long ago that cannabis’ seat was among other illicit substances like cocaine, heroin and amphetamines. As the legalization movement sweeps across the planet, public, scientific, and medical opinions are slowly shifting. It has been a great task of the natural medicine pioneers to correct decades of misinformation about cannabis, how it can be used, and who is an appropriate candidate for this type of herbal medicine.

The cannabis movement has revolutionized the way that the human race uses THC and cannabis. Once upon a time, cannabis belonged only in a pipe for smoking or in an alcoholic tincture. The influence of modern technology on cannabis has lent itself to more refined extraction techniques and an abundance of new ways to ingest cannabis.

This article serves as a crash course for two kinds of people: those new to THC and are considering its medicinal or recreational use, and those that are familiar with it but are curious about how it works in their body. Here, we explore the medicinal applications of THC, its various methods of consumption, and provide basic information on the chemistry and mechanisms of action with the human body.

What is THC?

THC, or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, is the primary psychoactive cannabinoid found in cannabis. Cannabis consists of more than 400 chemical entities, predominantly cannabinoids, terpenoids, and flavonoids. Among these compounds, THC has been the most sought-after component of cannabis for its intoxicating effects. However, as scientific research delves deeper into the therapeutic potential of the plant, other cannabinoids such as CBD, CBN, and CBG are being explored.

While recreational users enjoy the euphoric effects of THC, medicinal users value its numerous healing and restorative applications. Throughout history, THC has been used to alleviate insomnia, menstrual cramps, and melancholy. It holds cultural significance in Hindu, Rastafarian, and South American traditions as a sacred sacrament.

Essentially, THC is responsible for the intoxicating experience reported by cannabis users. It induces feelings of euphoria, heightened sensory perception, physical and emotional hypersensitivity, and creative/divergent thinking. Though it’s likely that other compounds present in cannabis, like terpenes, potentiate or contribute to this effect , THC is the main culprit.

THC's medicinal uses.

Cannabis, THC, and their medicinal uses have a long and colorful history. The use of cannabis dates as far back as 6,000 years ago in ancient China, where it was probably used predominantly for its fibers. Cannabis was cited in Herodotus’ writings, describing its use as a vapor bath in ancient Greece.

The historical use of cannabis and THC for medicinal purposes is rich and diverse. Ancient Chinese civilizations employed cannabis fibers over 6,000 years ago. In ancient Greece, cannabis was used in vapor baths, as described by Herodotus. Pliny the Elder also wrote about cannabis, its effects and its medicinal uses for the Romans.

During the 19th and 20th centuries, virtually every American apothecary stocked cannabis extracts, mainly in the form of tinctures, on its shelves. It was used most commonly in the treatment of female reproductive issues, to assist in child labor, to decrease pain and melancholy, and to induce sleep.

The Marihuana Tax Act that was introduced in 1937 put a halt to the sale of cannabis patents, and it was effectively dropped from the United States Pharmacopoeia. Subsequently, it was not typically used medicinally in the USA. Following the counterculture of the 1960s, the USA declared the War on Drugs, and this slowed down virtually all scientific inquiry into cannabis and its uses.

Modern science is just beginning to catch up on the knowledge of our ancestors. Fortunately, in recent years, scientific inquiry into cannabis has accelerated following its legalization in many regions. This research has unveiled the remarkable versatility of cannabis in treating a wide range of ailments.

The Endocannabinoid System: How THC works in your body.

The discovery of the human endocannabinoid system can be attributed to research into THC. It was discovered in Raphael Mechoulam’s laboratory in Israel in the 1960s while isolating, studying, and researching THC.

As the team discovered, understanding how THC interacts with the human body is crucial to understanding its medicinal properties.

When THC is consumed, it directly affects the endocannabinoid system, a complex signaling system comprised of endogenous cannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors. Endogenous cannabinoids are compounds your body naturally produces that are similar to cannabinoids, the main medicinal compounds found in cannabis.

This system plays a vital role in maintaining homeostasis, ensuring that the body's major systems are balanced and functioning optimally, including the nervous, endocrine, and immune systems. By regulating these systems, the endocannabinoid system contributes to overall health & well-being, keeping you resilient to stress and disease.

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) as a whole can be thought of as the other half of all your other systems.

Take your nervous system for example; while neurotransmitters initiate, excite, and inhibit nervous responses, the endocannabinoid system is the watchdog that coordinates and regulates these aspects of nervous function. The same goes for your endocrine system, which regulates hormones, and all your other systems. This is one of the major ways that the ECS contributes to overall balance and homeostasis.

THC closely resembles an endogenous cannabinoid called anandamide, which plays essential roles in cognitive and physiological functions such as memory, mood, and motor function. Endogenous cannabinoids are cannabinoid-like compounds the body naturally creates. Upon entering the body, THC interacts with cannabinoid receptors in the brain and body, mimicking anandamide's actions and indirectly affecting other cannabinoid receptors.

How THC is used medicinally today.

Given THC's affinity for the endocannabinoid system, which influences various body systems, its medicinal applications are extensive.

In Canada, pure THC has already been approved for the relief of nausea, vomiting, and stimulation of appetite since before 2002.

The most common medical application of THC in Canada is for treating chronic pain, particularly in conditions such as Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis (MS).

However, there are multiple ways to use THC medicinally. According to research, THC may have the following actions:

These properties suggest that THC may be an effective alternative or complementary medicine for conditions such as:

Interestingly, Dr. Ethan Russo, a prominent cannabis researcher, suggests that cannabis's main application lies in a condition known as clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CECD). This condition, which he theorizes underlies many treatment-resistant conditions like Crohn's disease, fibromyalgia, and migraines, involves a deficiency in the endocannabinoid system, which leads to complications of chronic stress and inflammation. Dr. Russo proposes cannabis as a treatment for this underlying cause.

In Canada, the government recognizes that medical cannabis may be helpful for some health conditions. These may include:

  • Nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy (chemo) for cancer.
  • Low appetite and weight loss for people who have AIDS.
  • Muscle stiffness for some multiple sclerosis or spinal cord injury patients.
  • Chronic pain, in particular nerve (neuropathic), or pain at the end of life.

THC's recreational use.

While laws around its legality are catching up, cannabis remains the most widely used illicit substance globally, and its recreational use is prevalent among diverse cultures. THC, with its intoxicating properties, serves as the primary driver for recreational cannabis consumption. However, beyond its intoxication, THC is renowned for inducing laughter, making it somewhat surprising that modern medicine has yet to harness this recreational "side effect" of cannabis as a therapeutic action in itself.

Recreational cannabis use typically occurs in social settings, often among friends. Smoking and edibles remain the most common route for recreational use.

The more generalized “symptoms” of THC intoxication include:

  • Euphoria
  • Divergent thinking
  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness
  • Enormous appetite
  • Spontaneous and uncontrollable laughter
  • Paranoia and anxiety
  • Red eyes
  • Decreased reaction time

However, not everybody who smokes or uses THC necessarily experiences all of these things. The experience itself is extremely subjective, and users often experience any number of a whole spectrum of effects.

The most interesting observation is how different people experience cannabis socially. For example, some people report becoming more introverted and entertained by their inner worlds. Others report extroversion and a desire to talk and be social. Unlike alcohol, cannabis’ effects do not always have a social context and are not always easy to predict.

Cannabis may be the perfect precursor for dancing for one person, and for another, it may be the perfect precursor to a movie in bed. The unique ways that cannabis affects different people contributes to the mystery and controversy surrounding this plant. There is no real way to accurately “predict” the effects of cannabis on any given person or personality type.

The different ways to use cannabis: Oils, edibles, smoking, and vaporizing.

Infographic on the bioavailability of different forms of cannabis for a THC crash course.

Once upon a time, cannabis belonged exclusively at the end of a smoking device, like a pipe. It was also sometimes steeped in alcohol to prepare a cannabis tincture. But outside of these two things, there was almost no other way to consume cannabis.

The modern world of technology and extraction has made it possible to create almost anything with cannabis. It can be eaten, drank, smoked, taken as a supplement, used topically, or applied through a transdermal patch. 

Tinctures (Sublingual Oils):

In the ever-expanding world of cannabis consumption, tinctures have gained popularity as a discreet and precise method. Tinctures are liquid cannabis extracts that are typically alcohol-based, although some are made with glycerin or other solvents.

To consume a tincture, you simply place a few drops under your tongue (sublingual) and hold it there for about a minute before swallowing. This method allows for rapid absorption of THC into the bloodstream through the mucous membranes in the mouth, resulting in a quicker onset of effects compared to edibles.

Tinctures offer several advantages in terms of dosing, convenience, bioavailability, and onset time.

To offer more accurate dosing, all My Supply Co. bottles have visibly marked measurements on the dropper bottles and labels. For convenience, they are a smoke-free and discreet option for both recreational and medicinal users, just like edibles. However, unlike edibles, tinctures provide higher bioavailability, in turn providing a faster onset time and more consistent and precise effects.

That's because tinctures are consumed sublingually (under the tongue), which delivers the actives straight into your bloodstream through mucous membranes. And because it doesn't have to go through your stomach and liver, the effects come on quicker. On the other hand, edibles have a much lower bioavailability; because they have to go through your stomach and liver, it takes up to 2 hours to feel the effects, and how much you actually feel changes depending on factors like whether you've had anything to eat that day, or what you ate.

The onset time for tinctures is typically 15-45 minutes, and effects can last up to several hours. While they are not as instantaneous as smoking or vaporizing, they offer a practical and controlled way to consume THC, making them a valuable addition to the cannabis consumption toolkit.


In general, this method of administration retains the more classical aspects of the herb. It retains taste, smell, and is effective immediately. Out of all the different forms of consuming THC, smoking has the highest bioavailability.

For recreational users, this is generally preferred as a joint can be shared among friends in a circle.


In addition, sophisticated extraction techniques are employed by edible THC manufacturers to create THC extracts that are used in the production of candies, beverages, and chocolates.

Edibles typically take up to two hours to take effect, depending on metabolism and sensitivity to THC. The effects of edibles tend to be longer-lasting and more intense compared to inhalation methods.

Medicinal users often prefer edibles due to their prolonged effects. They are also suitable for individuals with stomach or gastrointestinal issues, as cannabinoids can directly target the source of discomfort.


A vaporizer follows the same principles, except that there now exist high-tech devices that heat up the extract for the user. A immediately heats the extract to the desired temperature, after which it can be inhaled.

Dried cannabis herb (non-extracted) can also be vaporized. However, it requires another special device that can vaporize the floral material. One such example is the Volcano by Storz & Bickel.

Just as with smoking, vaporizing THC is effective immediately. Effects last up to 2 hours. For those who prefer inhalation but use cannabis medicinally, vaporizing is considered to be much more conducive to health than smoking.

The Chemistry of THC.

THC, scientifically known as Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol, possesses a chemical formula of C21H30O2 and a molecular weight of 314.5g/mol. It contains an unsaturated bond between carbon atoms 9 and 10 in the dibenzopyran ring structure.

Although four stereoisomers of THC exist, only the (—)trans isomer occurs naturally. The active isomer Δ8-THC, with the unsaturated bond between carbon atoms 8 and 9, is found in smaller quantities than Δ9-THC.

Raw THC, when consumed, is non-psychoactive. It undergoes a process called decarboxylation, where the carboxyl group is removed through heat and light. This process occurs during the drying of cannabis plant material or through combustion when smoking. For the production of edibles or cannabis extracts, plant material undergoes decarboxylation in the oven to convert the non-psychoactive form of THC into its psychoactive form.

Safety and risks of THC.

In the 1930s, the film "Reefer Madness" propagated unfounded claims about the safety of THC, associating it with madness and various psychological disorders. It was said to cause “madness”, “hysteria”, and “schizophrenia.” Modern scientific research, however, has refuted many of these claims.

Generally, THC has a good safety profile for adults. Concerns primarily revolve around its impact on the developing brain in adolescents and fetal brain development if used during pregnancy, although some studies suggest that use during pregnancy may not have an impact. However, research in these areas is limited.

THC and brain structure:

Chronic use of THC—that is, frequent daily use—may disrupt processes that are important to maintaining healthy brain connectivity.

Research has mostly centered on two brain regions: the hippocampus, which is rich in CB1 receptors.

Studies have produced mixed findings regarding the impact of cannabis on the hippocampus, which organizes and stores memories. Some report abnormalities in its size and structure, even after abstinence. However, others found no significant differences in hippocampal volume between cannabis users and non-users, especially in long-term, heavy users. Additionally, a study of frequent cannabis users didn't find changes in hippocampal volume, both initially and after a significant period.

Other work showed that abnormalities in hippocampal volume and shape may be seen in individuals who have cannabis dependence, and not necessarily in those who engage in regular cannabis use without exhibiting dependence

These discrepancies highlight the need for further research to clarify the effects of cannabis on these brain regions. Long-term studies are essential to uncover the full extent of these effects.

THC and brain function:

Regular cannabis use may affect brain function, particularly in areas related to working memory, attention, and cognitive control. However, while functional MRI studies have shown differences in brain activity among cannabis users, these often come without significant performance deficits.

In adults, cannabis use has been associated with altered brain activity during tasks, such as impulse control and reward processing. For example, a 2016 systematic review cited evidence of poor attention/concentration and memory function, with a trend toward impairments in inhibition, impulsivity, and decision-making in cannabis users.

However, these changes in brain activity don't always translate into measurable cognitive deficits. The full implications of these functional brain changes on long-term cognitive outcomes require further research, considering factors like age of onset, usage patterns, abstinence effects, and cannabis product composition. Functional brain changes may serve as early indicators of long-term consequences before cognitive deficits become evident.

If you're concerned that THC may impair your brain structure or function, we recommend incorporating CBD (cannabidiol) into your routine. CBD has been studied to improve brain function and long-term brain health, and is clinically proven to reverse THC-induced changes to the hippocampus.

THC & addiction:

Addiction potential is another area of concern, although the mechanisms are not yet fully understood.

THC & drug interactions:

THC and other cannabinoids are processed in the liver by the Cytochrome P450 enzymatic pathway. There is little research to understand how THC interacts with other drugs using the same enzymatic pathway in the liver, but given the fact that it uses this pathway, it may interact with other drugs metabolized in the same way.

THC & schizophrenia:

Moreover, claims linking THC to schizophrenia have garnered media attention. However, scientific research has not confirmed THC as a causative factor for schizophrenia. THC can exacerbate symptoms in individuals with a predisposition to psychosis but is not recommended for use in those with psychotic disorders. While a correlation between THC use and schizophrenia exists, it is important to note that cannabis use by individuals with schizophrenia may be a result of self-medication rather than a direct causative relationship.

THC, sex, libido, and fertility:

Studies show that chronic cannabis use can impact male and female fertility and has been associated with altered reproductive hormones, menstrual cyclicity and semen parameters.

The chronic use of cannabis in males has also been associated with erectile dysfunction, abnormal spermatogenesis, and testicular atrophy. Using CBD may help reverse erectile dysfunction caused by THC, but further research is required.

Side effects of THC use.

The side effects of THC use are generally transient and reversible with abstinence. Not all users experience the same side effects, but common ones include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Red eyes
  • Impaired motor function
  • Increased appetite
  • Decreased libido (with chronic use)
  • Sleepiness
  • Anxiety or paranoia
  • Short-term memory loss

Mental health risks of THC use

Contrary to popular belief, THC use does not necessarily increase the risk of developing a psychotic disorder. Instead, correlations have been observed between THC and schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders. Individuals with a predisposition to these conditions may be more likely to self-medicate with cannabis, which could exacerbate existing symptoms. For example, THC may trigger pronounced symptoms of psychosis in susceptible individuals. However, no evidence supports THC as the sole causative factor for schizophrenia.

With that said, those who have a family history of schizophrenia or are predisposed to psychotic tendencies are typically not recommended to use THC. There are non-psychoactive cannabinoids that may be more appropriate such as CBD. CBD is the medicinal cannabinoid, proven to promote a range of clinically proven benefits from improving energy, mood, and focus to supporting healthy inflammatory and stress responses. CBD is available as CBD isolate, a single-compound ingredient, or full-spectrum CBD, which contains trace amounts of other cannabinoids (like THC, CBN, CBG, and more) and therapeutic botanical compounds like terpenes, flavonoids, lipids, and more.

Learn more about the difference between CBD isolate and full-spectrum CBD here.

Cannabis does not appear to be linked to a higher incidence of depression, but may be associated with an increased risk of developing Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD). It may also exacerbate symptoms in individuals with bipolar disorder.

Additionally, heavy and regular cannabis use has been associated with a higher likelihood of experiencing suicidal thoughts, although cannabis users are not more likely to commit suicide compared to non-users.

Important takeaways.

Cannabis and THC are valuable medicinal tools, even though scientific research is still uncovering the full extent of their benefits. Used correctly, THC can significantly improve symptoms of conditions that are otherwise challenging to treat.

Key points to remember:

  • THC is the primary phytocannabinoid in cannabis.
  • Cannabis has a long history of medicinal use across various civilizations.
  • THC is commonly used to treat chronic pain.
  • THC has both recreational and medicinal applications.
  • Common administration routes for THC include smoking, edibles, and vaporizing.
  • Cannabis shows promise in the treatment of conditions such as Parkinson's disease, epilepsy, PTSD, Crohn's disease, Alzheimer's disease, fibromyalgia, and more.
  • Caution is advised for adolescents and pregnant individuals when using THC.
  • Individuals with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, psychosis, or other psychiatric conditions should exercise caution when considering THC use.

The movement towards cannabis legalization aims to make this valuable medicine accessible to all. While THC may not be suitable for everyone, it has demonstrated efficacy in specific applications, as seen in Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease. THC has a generally good safety profile, particularly when compared to other pharmaceutical medications.

Read: How To Choose A Cannabis Strain — The Complete Lowdown

THC oils.

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CBD oils.

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