There are many fascinating things to know about tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive in cannabis. While much of the mainstream conversation revolves around whether or not THC is safe to consume, these conversations often miss highlighting some of the odd and unique characteristics of this plant molecule. For all of the cannabis enthusiasts out there, here are six random things you should know about THC.
1. THC is a fat
Did you know that THC is a lipid? Lipids are fat molecules, and cannabis contains a lot of them. Since the primary active compounds in cannabis are fats, this means that they like to hang out in your fat after you consume them.
After inhaling cannabis, THC is absorbed by the lungs and then enters the bloodstream. From there, the psychoactive quickly makes its way to the fatty tissues it likes to call home, including the brain.
It is this quality that prevents THC from quickly exiting the body after consumption, which is why the average cannabis consumer can test positive for the herb for around 30 days after consumption.
For more information on how long THC stays in your system, check out the full article here.
2. A bunch of THC is released with fat burning
Okay, this THC discovery is a bit surprising. There is some evidence that after an intense event which burns through a lot of fat, such as heavy exercise or rapid weight loss, levels of THC may be released back into the bloodstream.
There are some reports of ex-cannabis consumers testing positive for THC simply because they lost a lot of weight prior to testing.
On a more somber note, in 1997, a report highlighted anecdotal autopsy reports which showed abnormally large quantities of THC in the blood of drowning victims, who must have burned through significant amounts of fat before passing away.
Other research suggests that something as simple as 25 to 35 minutes of exercise in a cannabis consumer can elevate blood plasma levels of THC. Interestingly, one study shows that the larger a participant’s BMI, the more THC could be detected after exercise.
3. Most THC comes out in your poop
So, THC gets itself into the bloodstream, then is stored in your fat cells where it is re-released into the bloodstream over time. But, where does THC go after that?
While it’s possible for a heavy cannabis consumer to test positive for cannabis metabolites in a urine test for up to 77 days after abstaining from the herb, most THC and THC metabolites are excreted in bowel movements.
In fact, it is estimated that more than 65 percent of THC consumed is excreted in the feces, whereas only 20 percent is excreted in urine.
Many people hoping to fake a drug test take advantage of this fat by consuming fruit pectin, a natural fruit fiber that theoretically forces more THC out through the stool rather than in urine or blood. However, there is no data on just how effective this method is in actuality.
4. Small amounts of THC can be found on you even if you don’t consume
Interestingly, there may be a lot of THC floating around out there that you don’t even know about. Trace amounts of the cannabinoid are excreted in sweat, as well as in skin and hair oils.
When you shake hands with a cannabis consumer or touch things that they have touched, there’s a good chance that very tiny amounts of the herb can show up on you as well.
Some researchers in Germany think that this may be one of the reasons to argue against hair testing as a way to detect cannabis consumption. The standard theory suggests that cannabis ends up in the hair by transfer through the bloodstream.
However, these researchers have found some evidence that makes them question the standard beliefs about hair testing. In a tiny 2015 study of just two people, researchers tested hair growth during a time that each participant was given a controlled dose of a synthetic THC.
Hair grows at a fairly consistent rate in most people, meaning that each centimeter of hair provides a snapshot into your daily habits. After being treated with THC for 30 days, the researchers tested the participants’ hair. Surprisingly, they did not detect much of the stuff.
Even more surprising, when the researchers tested hair from a time the participants’ did not consume cannabis, compounds from the plant were present.
This lead the researchers to conclude that a good amount of the THC on the hair and the surface of the skin comes from external sources, like the environment and contact with the plant and those who love it.
5. Plants and fungus with similar compounds have been found
Interestingly, other plants and some types of fungus have been found to contain compounds similar to THC. Black truffles, delicacies that can sell for $800 or more, have enzymes needed to create anandamide, the same THC-like compound that humans produce naturally.
Japanese and New Zealand liverwort, which are non-flowering plants, have also been found to contain compounds with similar actions to THC. These compounds are perrottetinene and perrottetinenic acid.
While the psychoactivity of these plants is questionable, the perrottetiene seems to activate the same cellular pathways that THC does, according to recent research.
Researchers have also genetically engineered yeasts that can produce the enzymes that create THC. Since the cannabis plant is illegal, this yeast might be a way for scientists to legally create natural THC that can be used for the large-scale production of medicines. However, this research is still in its early stage.
6. THC taps into our natural bliss pathway
Have you ever wondered why consuming cannabis feels so good? Well, THC just-so-happens to tap into our body’s natural bliss control. As mentioned above, THC replaces a compound called anandamide (AEA) in the body. The word Ananda is Sanskrit for bliss, making anandamide our natural bliss molecule.
Both THC and anandamide bind to the same locations on cells. As it turns out, THC latches on to these cell sites for a little longer than anandamide, which is perhaps why the cannabinoid seems to have such a strong effect on the mind and body.
Anandamide was only discovered relatively recently, and there is still much to learn about the molecule’s role in the body.
However, a few interesting tidbits about the compound are known. Anandamide helps maintain mood, tells you when you’re hungry, is partly responsible for that feel-good high after exercise, and has many other key functions in the body.
A certain few who have won the genetic lottery have genes which hinder the breakdown of AEA. This may make these lucky folk naturally a little more chill and less anxious than the unfortunate majority without the needed gene mutations.
Delilah Butterfield / Delilah Butterfield is a Pacific Northwest native with a passion for cannabis and natural health. Contact her on Twitter @delilahbfield.
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