THC ( Tetrahydrocannabinol ): A Brief History and Overview


THC ( Tetrahydrocannabinol ) is the band’s lead vocalist, so to speak. It’s no surprise that THC is well-known given its numerous pop culture references and mind-altering psychoactive effects. However, who discovered THC and how did we come to know so much about its function in cannabis’ anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving, neuroprotective, antioxidant, and muscle relaxant properties? A look into THC’s history offers fascinating insights into our current knowledge of the cannabinoid.

Discovery of THC ( Tetrahydrocannabinol )

Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, affectionately known as the “godfather of cannabis science,” is usually credited with discovering THC’s existence. Chris Kilham, Medicine Hunter and author of the forthcoming book “The Lotus and the Bud” explains, “THC was discovered in 1964 by Dr. Raphael Mechoulam and his colleagues at Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science”. Mechoulam had already identified cannabis as a fascinating plant and had discovered cannabidiol, or CBD, the year before.

Harvard-trained chemist Roger Adams also helped discover THC ( Tetrahydrocannabinol ), albeit indirectly. Dr. Raphael Mechoulam and his team isolated and characterized the chemical structure of THC, but Harvard educated scientist Roger Adams also aided in the discovery of the substance. THC was discovered and studied by John William Adams first, but he never isolated THC from the plant himself. He prepared it in the laboratory instead. It wasn’t until the 1960s that technological advancements made it possible for Mechoulam’s team to isolate THC from the plant itself.

This breakthrough was critical in getting cannabis research started, inspiring other scientists to look at additional cannabinoids and the ways they affect the body. “Since the discovery of THC ( Tetrahydrocannabinol ), many other brilliant scientists have also made key advances in this field,” says Kilham.

The use of cannabis resin in India and hashish in Parisian literary circles in the 1800s prompted several scientists to try to decipher cannabis and its components. The chemical structure of the cannabis plant and its pharmacological effects remained a mystery to specialists by the 1930s and 1940s. Scientists hadn’t yet discovered the active component of cannabis or defined its molecular structure while the therapeutic compounds derived from cocaine and opium had already been isolated.

Dr. Raphael Mechoulam was eager to unravel the secrets of cannabis, so he traveled to Israel, where the Israeli government’s approach to cannabis was more permissive than in the United States. In the 1960s, technological advancements allowed Dr. Mechoulam and his team to begin a chemical study of cannabis. They wanted to figure out what the substance in hashish was that made users high. They discovered THC in hashish extract, which they believe will help them develop a drug that is safe and effective without causing euphoria or addiction, according to the article.

[Also Read What is CBD?]

What was the first use of THC ( Tetrahydrocannabinol )?

THC has been used by many ancient people, including the Chinese, Indians, and Persians. THC research was accelerated in the mid-1960s and early 1970s as a result of the widespread use of cannabis as a recreational drug in the United States and other Western countries. At that time, scientists focused their efforts on determining whether the psychotropic effects of cannabis could be attributed to THC. Any interest in THC’s therapeutic potential was overshadowed by a general preoccupation with the cannabinoid’s intoxicating properties and its impact on the body and society as a whole.

During that time, researchers compared cannabis to other recreational drugs, investigated THC addiction, and looked at how THC affects biological systems. According to researchers, cannabis has been shown in animal and human populations to increase mood, induce anxiety or paranoia, produce auditory or sensory changes in perception, and alter a person’s sense of time.

Although early studies undoubtedly aided in the development of our current knowledge on THC’s effects on the body, they didn’t explain how the cannabinoid achieved these effects. Later, as scientists discovered the endocannabinoid system and recognized medicinal uses for Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Endocannabinoid system

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is an important component of understanding THC and its powerful health effects. The endocannabinoid system (ECS) exists in humans and other creatures, which serves to maintain body equilibrium. The endocannabinoid system regulates a wide range of functions, including appetite, sleep, mood, stress, energy levels, and reproduction. The ECS generates its own cannabinoids (endogenously created) and responds to exogenous cannabinoids (endogenously produced), such as those found in cannabis, which are known as phytocannabinoids.

“Dr. Allyn Howlett and Dr. William Devane, a pharmacologist at Oklahoma University School of Pharmacy, found that the brains of animals have cannabinoid receptors in 1998 while doing research at St. Louis University School of Medicine.” explains Chris Kilham. “These sites, dubbed cannabinoid receptors, are the most numerous neurotransmitter receptor locations in the brain.”

CB1 and CB2 receptors are two varieties of cannabinoid receptors in the body. The central and peripheral nervous systems are respectively home to CB1 and CB2 receptors. The receptors are found in the brain stem, cerebral cortex, hippocampus, cerebellum, basal ganglia, hypothalamus, and amygdala. They can also be found in the liver, kidneys, spleen, gonads, and heart.

THC is a cannabinoid that has weak affinity for both CB1 and CB2 receptors. It is a partial agonist at both receptor sites, acting as a THC analog. The psychoactive effects for which THC is recognized are due to its preference for the CB1 receptor.

The final thoughts on THC

The study of cannabinoids has advanced considerably in recent years, with much of the interest centered on their psychotropic effects. THC is now valued for its mind-altering psychoactive qualities as well as its variety of medical applications. The majority of contemporary research on THC is focused on determining its effects on different diseases and ailments. 

The endocannabinoid system is a fascinating subject of study, and this research is shedding light on the stigma that surrounds it. This discovery is helping to remove the stigma surrounding cannabis and cannabinoids by educating people about them as medicinal substances. It’s undeniable that further research into THC and its effects on the ECS will help us better understand this remarkable cannabinoid.

420VL Team

Author Since:  July 2, 2022

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