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Medicinal Value of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)

October 29, 2015

Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the most abundant cannabinoid found in cannabis. Studies have shown it safely and effectively provides a plethora of therapeutic benefits.

Overview of THC

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the most abundant cannabinoid in cannabis. The psychoactive cannabinoid activates the CB1 and CB2 receptors of the endocannabinoid system within the body. Located in the nervous system, the CB1 receptors are responsible for stimulating the psychoactive effect of THC. The CB2 receptors, however, are located in the immune and gastrointestinal system and when activated stimulate processes that offer therapeutic benefits.

Findings: Effects of Cannabis on Effects of THC

Studies have found that THC is effective at managing nausea and vomiting, stimulating appetite, improving sleep and providing pain relief. THC, which has anti-inflammatory properties, has also demonstrated beneficial in the treatment of a variety of diseases and disorders.

Alzheimer’s Disease

THC has been found to be effective at lowering levels of amyloid-beta peptide, the hallmark characteristic and key contributor to the progression of Alzheimer’s, as well as enhancing mitochondrial function, demonstrating that THC could be a potential therapeutic treatment option for Alzheimer’s disease through multiple functions (Cao, et al., 2014).

Amytotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)

Numerous animal trials have demonstrated that THC can delay the onset of ALS, prolong the survival of neurons and slow the disease’s progression (Bilsland, et al., 2006) (Carter, Abood, Aggarwal & Weiss, 2010) (Raman, et al., 2004). In addition, it helps reduce pain, appetite loss, depression and drooling symptoms associated with the disease (Amtmann, et al., 2004).


THC effectively stimulates hunger and increases the pleasure felt when eating (Cota, et al., 2003). THC has also shown to increase average weight gain compared to a placebo (Andries, et al., 2014).

Arnold-Chiari Malformation and Syringomyelia

THC helps those with Arnold-Chiaro malformation and syringomyelia better manage the symptoms associated with their conditions. It has been shown to significantly improve pain, sleep, and mood (Ware, et al., 2003) (Baron, 2015) (Tripp, et al., 2014).


THC has been determined to have anti-inflammatory effects and have demonstrated effectiveness at fighting inflammation of the joints (Gui, et al., 2013). In addition, THC helps manage pain from joint diseases (Burston, et al., 2013).


THC has shown to significantly improve hyperactivity, lethargy, irritability, stereotypy and inappropriate speech when regularly given to an autistic child (Kurz & Blass, 2010). THC’s activation of the CB2 receptors may be able to help restore neural communication and proper cell function (Foldy, Malenka & Sudhof, 2013).

Bone Health

THC’s activation of the CB2 receptor stimulates bone formation and inhibits bone breakdown (Bab, Zimmer & Melamed, 2009).


THC has shown to significantly stimulate appetite in patients that have cachexia related to cancer (Jatoi, et al., 2002) (Nauck & Klaschik, 2004). In addition, it has demonstrated effective at increasing appetite and stabilizing body weight in AIDS-cachexia patients (Beal, et al., 1995).


THC has shown to have anti-cancer properties, reducing tumor sizes in the brain (Salazar, et al., 2009). It is also effective at reducing both conditioned rejection and chemotherapy-induced nausea, allowing for chemotherapy patients to more comfortably undergo treatments (Limbeer & Parker, 1999). In addition, when combined with CBD, THC has shown to significantly reduce pain levels in cancer patients with intractable pain (Johnson, et al., 2010). THC has shown to significantly stimulate appetite in patients that have cachexia related to cancer (Jatoi, et al., 2002) (Nauck & Klaschik, 2004).

Crohn’s Disease (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)

THC’s anti-inflammatory effects make it effective at combatting Crohn’s disease and even has shown evidence at helping individuals achieve complete remission (Naftali, et al, 2013). In addition, THC helps reduce abdominal pain, nausea and diarrhea associated with inflammatory bowel disease (Ravikoff, et al., 2013).


THC has also been shown to decrease brain activity in response to negative stimuli (but not positive stimuli) (Bossong, et al., 2013).


THC has shown to reduce glucose intolerance, improve glucose tolerance and increase insulin sensitivity in obese mice, thus reducing the risk of diabetes (Wargent, et al., 2013). In human studies, cannabis use has been correlated to a lower prevalence of diabetes (Rajavashisth, et al., 2012).


THC has been shown to induce apoptosis, or death, or leukemia cells (Powles, et al., 2005). In addition, evidence suggests that combining THC with other established cytotoxic agents could further enhance leukemia cancer cell death (Liu, et al., 2008).


THC’s anti-inflammatory effects allow it to act as a potential treatment modality against inflammatory disorders, like lupus (Nagarkatti, et al., 2009). THC can also assist in the management of pain associated with inflammation-related diseases and disorders (Clayton, et al., 2002).


THC has shown effective at inhibiting the pain response caused by migraines (Akerman, Holland, Lasalandra & Goardsby, 2013) (Baron, 2015) (Greco, et al., 2014).

Multiple Sclerosis

THC effectively reduces the pain associated with multiple sclerosis (Rog, Nurmikko & Young, 2007) (Barnes, 2006). THC also provides relief from MS-related spasticity (Lakhan & Rowland, 2009).

Nail-Patella Syndrome

THC manages pain levels associated with nail-patella syndrome (Baron, 2015).


Studies have found that cannabinoids, including THC, are effective at treating the more difficult to control symptoms of nausea, as well as preventing anticipatory nausea in chemotherapy patients (Parker, Rock & Limbeer, 2011).


Cannabis use — more specifically, exposure to THC that’s present in cannabis smoke, has found to be associated with a lower rate of obesity when compared to non-cannabis users (Le Foll, Trigo, Sharkey & Le Strat, 2013).


THC has been shown effective at lowering pain levels associated with a wide variety of conditions, including spasticity, headache, migraines, and other acute pain and chronic pain conditions (Jensen, Chen, Furnish & Wallace, 2015) (Baron, 2015).

Parkinson’s Disease

THC has been shown to help prevent damage caused by free radicals and activate a receptor to encourage mitochondria formation, thus helping in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease (Zeissler, et al., 2016). In addition, smoking cannabis has shown to significantly improve motor disability and impairments, tremors, rigidity, bradykinesia, sleep and pain in Parkinson’s disease patients (Lotan, Treves, Roditi & Djaldetti, 2014).

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Cannabis use has been shown to significantly reduce PTSD symptoms (Greer, Grob & Halberstadt, 2014). Users experience better sleep and fewer nightmares. (Betthauser, Piilz, Vollmer, 2015). Studies suggest that cannabis has the potential to dampen the strength and emotional impact of traumatic memories (Passie, et al., 2013).

Sickle Cell Anemia

Cannabis and THC have proven effective at lowering pain associated with sickle-cell anemia (Kohli, et al., 2010). In addition, THC’s anti-inflammatory properties can help minimize the vascular occlusion and tissue infarction commonly caused by the disorder (Signorelli, et al., 2013).


THC has shown effective for significantly improving muscle spasticity (Borgelt, Franson, Nussbaum & Wang, 2013) (Syed, McKeage & Scott, 2014).

Spinal Cord Disease

Cannabis (THC) can improve pain, sleeping problems, bladder control, spasticity, muscle twitching and depression commonly associated with spinal cord diseases (Amtmann, et al., 2004) (Carter, Abood, Aggarwal & Weiss, 2010). In addition, animal trials have demonstrated that the administration of cannabinoids can prolong the survival of neurons and slow the progression of spinal cord diseases (Bilsland, et al., 2006).

Spinal Cord Injuries

THC has shown to reduce swelling and compression lesion volume, and help preserve white matter and myelin when administered shortly after a spinal cord injury (Arevalo-Martin, et al., 2012) (Hong, et al., 2015).  It’s also been shown to improve locomotor functional recovery (Kwiatkoski, Guimaraes & Del-Bel, 2012).

Traumatic Brain Injury

THC activates the CB1 and CB2 receptors, which stimulate the release of minocycline, which reduces brain swelling and neurological impairment, and diffuses further injuries to the brain’s axons following a TBI (Lopez-Rodriguez, et al., 2015). In addition, one study found that when individuals have detectable levels of THC in their bloodstream, they are less likely to die as a result of a traumatic brain injury (Nguyen, et al., 2014). References: Akerman, S., Holland, PR., Lasalandra, MP. and Goadsby, PJ. (2013, September). Endocannabinoids in the brainstem modulate dural trigeminovascular nociceptive traffic via CB1 and “triptan” receptors: implications in migraine. Journal of Neuroscience, 33(37), 14869-77. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3771033/. Akirav, I. (2013). Targeting the endocannabinoid system to treat haunting traumatic memories. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 7, 124. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3776936/. 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