What is Delta-9 THC?
Delta-9 THC is probably the most famous cannabis compound of all.
Short for delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, delta-9 is responsible for most of cannabis’s mind-altering effects.
Let’s take a deep dive into what delta-9 THC is, how it’s been used throughout history, and how it’s still benefiting us, humans, today. Here’s an outline:
- Delta-9 THC 101
- The history of THC use
- The history of THC research
- What does delta-9 THC do?
- What experts think of THC
- THC vs. addiction: an interesting link
- How to take delta-9 THC the right way
- THC vs. CBD
Delta-9 THC 101
Delta-9 THC is the most prevalent cannabinoid in the cannabis Sativa plant species and the second most prevalent cannabinoid in specially-bred hemp. Most cannabis strains contain 10-30% THC by dry weight; most industrial hemp strains, on the other hand, contain only 0.2-0.3% THC. 
What’s a cannabinoid, you might ask? Good question — it’s any compound that activates the endocannabinoid system within a person’s body. Most cannabinoids are found in, well, cannabis, thus their name. So far 113 cannabinoids have been discovered in total.
You might be surprised to hear that delta-9 THC must be ‘activated’ by heat or light to become fully active in one’s body. Prior to this activation, which is technically called decarboxylation, delta-9 exists in a precursor form called THCa. Heating up this THCa molecule converts it into the stronger delta-9 THC form that we all know and love.
Even small doses of delta-9 THC can bind to the endocannabinoid system’s receptors strongly enough to cause psychotropic effects. In practical terms, delta-9 THC can easily cause sedation, intoxication, euphoria, intense hunger, couch-lock, and more.
Many THC users feel that the cannabinoid relieves stress while giving them a creative edge. To put things even more simply, we’ll quote Willy Nelson: “the biggest killer on the planet is stress, and I still think the best medicine is and always has been cannabis.” But more on delta-9 THC’s potential benefits later.
The history of THC use
Delta-9 THC has been used for both therapeutic and recreational purposes for thousands of years.
The first concrete evidence of cannabis use shows up in 2737 BCE when Chinese emperor Shen Neng recommended cannabis for “gout, rheumatism, malaria and, poor memory.” Cannabis showed up in the Chinese written language around that time, too — the Chinese letter Ma actually depicts a cannabis plant hanging up to dry.
Cannabis use quickly spread to the countries surrounding ancient China. A 2019 study analyzed 470 cannabis pollen samples en route to tracking the plant’s usage from Asia towards Western Europe. Even newer studies have discovered signs of ceremonial high-THC cannabis use among European tribes. 
The ancient Egyptians likely enjoyed cannabis, too. They called it shemshemet. Egyptian medical scrolls called the papyri to describe how this culture used cannabis in poultices, tinctures, and even suppositories.
Even the Hebrew peoples that sparked Judaism and Christianity may have used cannabis. Many experts now believe that the Hebraic anointing oil contained enough kaneh bosem, or cannabis, to be highly psychoactive.
The history of THC research
While delta-9 THC has been enjoyed via cannabis for thousands of years, research on the cannabinoid has really only picked up in the last hundred.
Cannabinoids — the active ingredients in cannabis — were first discovered in the 1940s, though back then researchers didn’t have the type of technology needed to identify THC or CBD’s structure. 
At first, the research progressed painfully slow. It was discovered that cannabinoids like THC were produced as a natural part of the cannabis plant’s metabolic processes. In a helpful twist of fate, these cannabinoids were good for the plant itself — yet also good for us humans.
Progress sped up in the 1960s when Israeli chemist Raphael Mechoulam began looking into the exact chemical structures of THC and CBD. As a well-studied chemist, Mechoulam was intrigued by how far cannabis research lagged behind research into other natural products. The active component of opium had been discovered 150 years before…and the active component of the coca leaf had been discovered 100 years before…but for one reason or another cannabis’s chemistry still wasn’t well-known.
In 1963, Dr. Mechoulam and his team at the Hebrew University of Israel fully identified the CBD molecule and its structure. The next year, they did the same with delta-9 THC.  Mechoulam’s team discovered that CBD and THC actually share the same molecular formula — C21H30O2 — they just have slightly different molecular structures and mass.
This slight difference in structure, however, makes a huge difference in terms of physiological effects. The shape of CBD’s carboxyl group makes it unable to bind to the brain’s CB1 receptors, while delta-9 THC binds directly to them in what must be a match made in heaven. 
What does delta-9 THC do?
Delta-9 THC is best known for its euphoric mental effects. Yet this cannabinoid is more than just superficial. Its theoretical ability to bind to both CB1 receptors and serotonin receptors may allow it to reduce stress hormones and help you feel better naturally.
The location of these receptor systems gives us some hints into the specifics of what THC might do. CB1 receptors are especially dense within the hippocampus; this might explain why THC is so good at ‘restructuring’ the painful memories of those with anxiety or PTSD. As Professor Vincenzo Di Marzio once said, the function of the endocannabinoid system is to “relax, eat, sleep, forget and protect.” THC assists with all these things pretty perfectly.
What experts think of THC
A growing number of doctors, neuroscientists, psychologists, and other health experts are beginning to stand behind THC’s value. These experts affirm what Dr. Raphael Mechoulam and other early researchers have been saying for almost 60 years now: the therapeutic value of cannabinoids is too high to be ignored any longer.
Today’s researchers continue to investigate how delta-9 THC might be used to combat some of today’s most challenging medical conditions, including epilepsy, autoimmune disorders, and cardiovascular disease. 
Other experts, like molecular biologist Bob Melamede, view cannabis within a framework that’s a little more controversial. According to Dr. Bob, as he’s often called, cannabinoids are essentially an antidote to the biochemical wear and tear of life. 
Melamede has also theorized that THC played a role in our evolution by allowing us humans to progress further and further from energy equilibrium. Sound mystical, or crazy even? It’s actually in line with a branch of physics called far-from-equilibrium thermodynamics.
While the ‘conventional’ medical community has been skeptical of Melamede’s findings, his viewpoint on delta-9 THC has enabled him to change thousands of lives.
THC vs. addiction: an interesting link
Here’s yet another delta-9 benefit, one we didn’t mention earlier: it may help users get past addiction.
The idea that THC might reduce substance abuse and addiction is nothing new, but real-world evidence finally came in 2019, when Health Canada released the results of their annual Cannabis Patient Survey.
The 2019 survey featured 2,100 medical cannabis patients. These patients reported their use of different substances, including pharmaceutical drugs, illicit drugs, tobacco, and alcohol — before and after they began using medical cannabis.
The differences in substance use were nearly miraculous. Over 30% of patients drank less when they consistently consumed medical cannabis. Among patients who’d been drinking moderate-to-high levels of alcohol, 43.5% of patients drank less. It’s almost as if THC’s anti-additive properties grew stronger in situations where they were needed most. There are THC and delta 8 seltzers available online too.
A select few medical cannabis patients quit drinking completely — nearly 8% of them reported no alcohol consumption in the last 30 days of the survey.
Perhaps this survey’s most interesting finding wasn’t related to alcohol or addiction themselves…but to the idea that intention matters. “Having an intention to use medical cannabis to reduce alcohol consumption was associated with significantly greater odds of both reducing and ceasing alcohol use altogether,” Tilray, the company that supplied medical cannabis to patients, explained.
This survey’s findings complement earlier findings that correlate cannabis use with reductions in alcoholism, crime, obesity, and more.  But few studies have zoomed in on the patient experience as closely as this one did, and its results indicate that delta-9 THC may be able to reduce the type of learned helplessness that often leads to substance abuse in the first place. How could THC do this? Through the same endocannabinoid-boosting, serotonin-activating actions we mentioned earlier.
In light of delta-9 THC’s numerous benefits, it might be time for a cultural shift. Maybe cannabis shouldn’t be viewed as a strictly recreational substance any longer, even if some users are taking it strictly to have fun.
Maybe it’s time for people to view cannabis as a holistic plant that benefits both mind and body! In the words of the survey’s authors, maybe cannabis’s growing popularity could result in “overall improvements in public health and safety.”
How to take delta-9 THC the right way
While delta-9 THC does have some impressive potential health benefits, finding THC products and dosages that work for you can take some effort.
Take too much THC, and you might over-activate your endocannabinoid system enough to experience side effects like anxiety, paranoia, and dry mouth. dosing is a fickle thing. Take too little THC, and you might not experience the benefits you’re looking for — particularly if you’re dealing with stubborn issues like chronic pain.
Making matters more complex, your body’s sensitivity to THC can change over time. If you’re new to it you’ll probably want to start slow; if you’ve been taking it for a while, you’ll probably be able to benefit from larger doses.
A good starting dose is anywhere in the 2-4 milligram range. If you’re taking delta-9 THC in the form of an edible product, you’ll need to wait a few hours to get feedback from your body. That’s because these products kick in very slowly — particularly if you take them on an empty stomach. It’s not uncommon for someone to take a THC edible, not feel anything for 2-5 hours, then feel a rush of sedation once they eat a meal. (THC is fat-soluble, so nearly anything you eat alongside it will amplify its effects.) You’ve been warned!
Other delta-9 products, like vapeable THC distillate, kick in fast enough that you can dose them by feel. Once you’re familiar with what a low dose of delta-9 THC feels like you can proceed from there. You might just be totally content with the subtle relaxation that several mg’s of THC provides.
And if you still need a little more oomph? In that case, you can increase your daily dose by a few milligrams a day until you reach a sweet spot. Some people progress to huge doses of 100+ milligrams a day (that’s how much Dr. Bob Melamede takes), but for most people, 10-20 milligrams per day is more than enough.
To recap this section, be sure to start low, go slow, and use delta-9 THC in conjunction with non-psychotropic cannabinoids like CBD for best results. Delta-9 becomes much gentler and easier to dose right when taken together in the form of a full spectrum cannabis product. 
THC vs. CBD
Speaking of CBD, it turns out that this cannabinoid balances out delta-9 THC pretty perfectly. While THC binds to the brain’s CB1 and serotonin receptors, CBD binds to the peripheral body’s CB2 receptors. The chart below explains more:
|CBD (cannabidiol)||Delta-9 THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol)|
|Psychological effects||Gentle, subtle, mildly uplifting, mildly calming||Powerful, direct, euphoric, sedating, invigorating|
|Modes of Action||CB2 receptors, TRPV1 receptors, adenosine A2A receptors, other GPCR’s||CB1 receptors, TRPV1 receptors, serotonin receptors, ACE-2 receptors, other GPCR’s|
Summing things up
Delta-9 THC is a whole lot more holistic than we first thought. It gets you high, sure…but it also does so much more than that!
If you’re ready to experience delta-9 THC’s benefits for yourself, consider doing so the natural way: with premium, full-spectrum delta-9 products. Discover the difference that balance and upliftment can make today.
Your body’s endocannabinoid system will thank you. And who knows — and who knows, you might just join the thousands of people who’ve successfully used THC to reduce stress, boost their creativity, and break free from less-than-healthy habits.