THC is the active ingredient in marijuana.
Learn about the health benefits THC has on the body and where to find CBD oils that contain THC.
There are more than 400 individual compounds in the cannabis plant. One of these compounds is responsible for producing the unique high brought on by smoking marijuana.
The active ingredient, THC, has been a controversial chemical for decades.
It’s been given the title of both a schedule I drug (implies it’s dangerous and addictive) — and a powerful medicine with little to no side effects.
So which one is it? Is THC a dangerous drug or a medicine?
Here, we’ll cover everything you need to know about this misunderstood cannabinoid. We discuss what it is, how it works, and where you can find some legally yourself.
Warning: Unlike most of our other guides, these products have psychoactive effects and contain more than the federal limit of 0.3% THC. Make sure you’re familiar with your local cannabis laws before you place an order.
THC stands for tetrahydrocannabinol — it’s the primary psychoactive component in marijuana that makes users high.
THC works by activating specific receptors in the brain involved with memory, appetite, visual and auditory perception, coordination, and much more. By interacting with these receptors, THC has an effect on all these processes — resulting in the characteristic high produced by marijuana.
There are two types of THC — delta 9 THC and delta 8 THC.
Delta 9 THC (Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is the primary cannabinoid in marijuana plants — accounting for up to 25% of the plant’s weight. Delta 8 THC (Δ8-tetrahydrocannabinol) is roughly half as strong and present in much lower concentrations (less than 1%).
When you hear about THC, most people are referring to the delta 9 THC.
THC has many proven health benefits. There are even a few pharmaceutical companies developing THC-based medicines (GW Pharmaceuticals and Greenwich Biosciences). These medicines are being developed to offer legitimate treatment to patients with chronic pain, poor appetite, glaucoma, epilepsy, and more.
The high from using THC products can vary a lot from one person to the next. Factors such as dose, tolerance, and the strain of marijuana used can all dramatically alter the experience.
While under the effects of THC, you may feel euphoria, increased motivation, a feeling of wakefulness, giddiness, hunger, creativity, and changes in visual and auditory perception.
The THC high can feel very calming and relaxing, but it can also trigger anxiety and paranoia. The best way to ensure your experience remains positive is to avoid using too much THC and only using it in a place you feel comfortable and safe. Even minor stress triggers can lead to anxiety while under the effects of marijuana.
Many people use THC to help stimulate the creative thought process, relax the mind after a stressful day of work (in low doses), or as a treatment for specific medical conditions like chronic nerve pain, poor appetite, or glaucoma.
THC is a very safe compound. There has bever been a single reported case of an overdose on THC — despite it being one of the most popular psychoactive compounds in the world.
The toxic dose of THC is so high, the only way to reach this dose is by injecting several milliliters of pure THC into the body. It’s virtually impossible to achieve a lethal dose by smoking or eating THC. An older toxicology study gave dogs and monkeys 9000 mg of THC per kg of body weight without any lethal effects .
The smoke inhalation would kill you long before you ever reached a toxic dose of THC.
Despite the impressive physical safety profile of THC, there are some psychological dangers to be aware of.
There have been reports of THC in marijuana aggravating pre-existing psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia or psychosis. It’s not considered safe to use THC products if you or a close family member has been diagnosed with either of these conditions.
Not all the effects of THC are desirable. It’s common for people using THC to experience side effects like anxiety or paranoia — especially the first couple of times.
Some THC products are more likely to cause anxiety than others. Products that contain very high THC, low CBD, or stimulating terpenes are much more likely to trigger anxiety episodes — especially in susceptible people.
THC products that contain a variety of other cannabinoids and relaxing terpenes have a much more balanced effect and are less likely to lead to panic or anxiety.
Certain cannabinoids have been shown to offset these negative effects from THC — such as CBC, CBD, and delta 8 THC.
In rare cases, frequent use of marijuana or THC products can lead to a condition called cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS for short).
This condition is characterized by a gradually worsening case of nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain following marijuana consumption.
If marijuana use is continued, the condition will continue to worsen and could be fatal if not treated.
Treatment for this condition involves avoiding marijuana or any THC-containing products. Symptoms take anywhere from several weeks to several months but usually clear up within about 1–2 weeks after ceasing marijuana consumption.
The optimal dose of THC varies from one person to the next. Factors such as your age, weight, tolerance level, and desired level of effects can all affect the optimal dose.
The method of using THC also affects the dose. For example, oral forms of THC (such as tinctures or gummies) require a higher dose than vaping or smoking. The absorption from inhaled CBD is much higher than it is for edible forms.
Here are some general dosage guidelines for THC products based on the desired level of effects:
|Desired Dosage||Dose For Edible THC||Dose For Inhaled THC||Expected Level of Effects|
|Low Dose||1 – 2.5 mg||1 mg||mild high, sedation, pain-relief, little to no perceptual changes|
|Moderate Dose||2.5 – 15 mg||5 mg||moderate-high, euphoria, mild changes in perception|
|High Dose||15 – 30 mg||15 mg||strong high, euphoria, stimulation, clear perception changes|
|Very-High Dose||Over 30 mg||Over 20 mg||very strong high, euphoria, anxiety, stimulation, a strong shift in perception|
Your size and weight can dramatically affect the dose. THC is fat-soluble, so the higher the fat content you have, the more THC you need to produce the same effects.
A standard dose of edible THC according to weight:
Other factors, such as individual genetics, metabolism, and tolerance, can also affect the impact of THC on the body. Up to 3% of people are hypersensitive to the effects of THC. For these people, a very low dose (1 or 2 mg) of THC should be more than enough to have psychoactive side effects.
If you’re using raw marijuana flowers, the dose can be a little bit tricker to determine — but with some simple math, we can find out with a high degree of accuracy how many grams or milligrams of weed you should use to achieve a certain dose of THC.
Most sources of hemp or marijuana flower will have a specific percentage of THC listed. You can often find this information on the company website directly — other times you may need to check the certificate of analysis or third-party test to find this number. It should be listed in a percentage of total THC.
If the total THC content isn’t listed, you’ll need to combine the THC and THCA content. These two forms of THC aren’t identical in weight — THC is roughly 87% of the weight of THCA. So the formula would be [0.87 * THCA%] + [THC%] = Total THC%.
Once you have the total THC percentage, you can find out exactly how much weed in grams you need for the desired dose. Here’s the formula:[desired dose of THC in grams] / [percentage of THC] = equivalent dose of marijuana in grams
For example, if you have buds that contains 25% THC by weight, and you want a dose of 50 mg (0.05 g) THC, the formula would look like this:[0.05 grams THC desired dose] / [0.25 THC] = [0.2 grams of flower]
THC is illegal in most parts of the world. There are a few exceptions, such as Canada, which legalized all cannabis for recreational purposes back in 2018.
In the United States, THC remains listed as a Schedule I drug on a federal level — but several states have already opted to bypass this with local state laws that permit the sale and consumption of products that contain THC.
THC is the main differentiator between legal cannabis and illegal (drug) cannabis. Any Cannabis sativa plant that contains more than 0.3% THC by dried weight is considered marijuana — which is strictly regulated all over the world — even in places where it’s legal to purchase without a medical license.
Plants that make 0.3% THC or less are classified as hemp — which is legal in most countries.
Some countries haven’t officially legalized marijuana products but have decriminalized them — which means you won’t get arrested for possessing personal amounts, but you can still get a fine and will likely have your products confiscated.
Related: Is delta 8 THC legal?
US States Where Marijuana is Legal For Recreational & Medicinal Use:
Countries Where Marijuana (and THC) Are Legal:
THC and CBD (cannabidiol) are very closely related. They both share exactly the same number of atoms in their chemical structure — 21 carbon, 30 hydrogen, and 2 oxygen atoms.
The arrangement of these atoms in the chemical structure is what gives each cannabinoid its characteristic effects.
The main difference between CBD and THC is the psychoactive effect profile. CBD is completely non-psychoactive, while THC has a strong psychoactive effect profile.
There are other subtle differences too. For example, CBD is a much better anti-anxiety and sedative agent than THC and has appetite suppressant activity. THC is also much less anxiolytic but a stronger antidepressant.
Both compounds are made from the same precursor — a compound called CBG (cannabigerol). Depending on the individual genetics of the plant, different enzymes become active and convert CBG into either CBD or THC. There’s also another cannabinoid that can be created called CBC (cannabichromene), but both hemp and marijuana only make this compound in small amounts.
Hemp strains have significantly more enzymes that create the non-psychoactive CBD molecule — while marijuana plants convert most of the CBG into THC.
CBD and THC both interact with the same receptors (CB1 & CB2 receptors), but the way they affect these receptors is different. CBD modulates the receptor in ways that make it easier for our endogenous cannabinoids to work. This is what makes CBD such a powerful regulator for the body — rather than causing a specific effect or change in the body.
THC, on the other hand, directly activates these receptors — which causes a change in the body that leads to the psychoactive effects.
|Metrics||CBD (Cannabidiol)||Delta 9 THC|
|Concentration in Hemp||Up to 25%||<0.3%|
|Receptors||CB1 & CB2||CB1 & CB2|
|Typical Dose||10–40 mg||5 – 20 mg|
|Effects on Appetite||Suppressant||Stimulant|
|Anxiety Side-Effects||None||Mild to Moderate|
|Legality||Legal||Illegal or Medical-Only|
Some CBD products contain THC — however, most contain only trace amounts and remain entirely legal and non-psychoactive.
Most CBD products are made from hemp plants. Hemp is used for two reasons:
Therefore, most CBD products contain less than 0.3% THC — which isn’t enough to have any psychoactive effects.
While unlikely, even trace amounts of THC in a CBD oil could register on a drug test.
The only CBD products that don’t contain any THC are CBD isolates or broad-spectrum extracts. These products have gone through additional processes to remove all traces of THC from the final product.
Cannabis products that contain both CBD and THC generally use a ratio of these two cannabinoids. This is usually presented as something like 1:1, 4:1, 20:1, or 40:1 — but there can be any combination of numbers.
Some companies will vary, but the industry standard is to mention the ratio in terms of CBD to THC — the first number is CBD, the second THC.
So a ratio of 4:1 means that for every 4 milligrams of CBD, there’s 1 milligram of THC.
Products that have a higher ratio of CBD to THC will have a milder psychoactive effect because there’s less THC in the formula.
Don’t get confused when companies use numbers like 10:10 — this is just a marketing technique to make it seem like there’s more CBD and THC in the formula. In reality, a 10:10 ratio is the exact same as saying 1:1, 2:2, or 100:100.
There are cases where it’s beneficial to use products that contain both THC and CBD together. While these products are likely to have psychoactive effects and may not be legal in your area — there are clear advantages to using products that contain both cannabinoids.
One of the few pharmaceutical products made from cannabinoids contains a combination of CBD and THC at a 1:1 ratio. This mediation — called Sativex® — has already been shown to provide clear improvements towards pain, inflammation, anxiety, and much more.
Just be aware of your local laws before you make an order for CBD products that contain psychoactive doses of THC.
A few of the best brands we’ve found so far that include THC in their oils, capsules, and concentrates include:
All of these compounds are completely identical except for one subtle difference — the location of a double bond in the chemical formula.
Delta 8 has a double bond at the 8th carbon chain, while delta 9 has this bond at the 9th carbon.
This subtle difference is enough to change the regulations for these compounds as well as the effect profiles.
Delta 8 THC is considered to have roughly half the psychoactive effects as delta 9 THC and is much less likely to cause anxiety as a side effect. This cannabinoid has also managed to escape most of the regulations surrounding THC. Many companies are selling delta 8 THC extracts as a “legal” high — however, some countries and US states have adopted specific laws to ban the sale and use of delta 8 THC under the same regulations as delta 9 THC.
The other main difference between these forms of THC is their predominance in the plant.
Delta 8 THC isn’t directly manufactured by cannabis. It forms naturally as delta 9 THC degrades. There are no enzymes that make delta 8 THC in the plant. As a result, this cannabinoid is present in significantly lower concentrations and makes it impossible for plant breeders to develop strains of marijuana or hemp that are naturally high in this cannabinoid.
The average delta 9 THC content in marijuana flowers is around 15%. This compares to the average concentration of delta 8 THC, which is less than 1%.
We are living in the alternate cannabinoid era. Every month there are all kinds of new single cannabinoid extracts entering the market.
Some of these THC analogs are legal, others are clearly illegal — so make sure you’re familiar with your local laws before deciding to purchase any of these compounds to try yourself.
THC can vary in two key areas — the location or existence of a double bond in its chemical structure — or the length of the alkyl side chain.
The double bonds in the ring structure tend to add “flavor” to the effects of the THC and have only a minor influence on the potency. For example, delta 8 has this bond on the eight carbon, which gives it a much more relaxing profile. Delta 10 has this bond on the tenth carbon, which gives it a more stimulating profile. Delta 9 is somewhere in between.
The bigger difference in terms of potency comes from the length of the alkyl side chain. A cannabinoid needs to have at least three carbons to have any psychoactive effects. The longer the chain, the more potent the compound is. For example, delta 8, 9, and 10 THC all have 5 carbons on this chain. These isomers are much stronger than THCV which only has three, but they’re weaker than THCP which has seven.
THC products are available in all the same product types as CBD.
Popular THC products include THC oils, vape oils, and vape pens, capsules, gummies, concentrates, and raw marijuana flowers.
A marijuana or THC tincture takes the same concept as a CBD oil — but with psychoactive marijuana plants instead.
Tinctures are quick and convenient to use, allow for precise custom dosing and are an efficient and long-lasting way of using THC.
To use these products, measure the desired dose using the dropper built into the lid and add it to a drink. For faster onset of effects, hold the oil under your tongue for a few moments. The THC will diffuse directly into the bloodstream through the microcapillaries underneath your tongue.
Tinctures come in all different sizes and potencies. You can calculate the potency by taking the total THC or CBD listed on the bottle and divide that by the volume of the oil.
For example, a 30 mL (1 oz) bottle of THC oil that contains 300 mg THC in total delivers approximately 10 mg of THC per milliliter of oil (300 / 30 = 10).
One full dropper is equivalent to 1 mL of oil. So if you want a 5 mg dose of THC, you should use half a dropper. For a 20 mg dose, use two droppers.
Concentrates are another popular form of THC. You can order pure THC products or full-spectrum hemp or marijuana concentrates. For THC, you’ll need to source marijuana-based concentrates.
Concentrates come in the form of pastes, shatters, waxes, and budder. The differences between these concentrates rely on the other components included in the final product. Resins, for example, contain various other cannabinoids, terpenes, fatty acids, and waxes. It has a thick, syrupy consistency.
Shatters have had some of these components removed, giving it a thicker consistency. A shatter will remain solid until it’s heated.
Marijuana flower is the oldest form of using THC. They’re cheap and contain the entire range of compounds produced in the plant. This includes various cannabinoids, terpenes, phytosterols, fatty acids, minerals, and much more.
To use flowers, you can either smoke them, vape them, or use them as the starting product to make your own tinctures and extracts.
We recommend using a dry herb vaporizer to use marijuana flowers. These devices heat the flower to the point where cannabinoids start to vaporize into the air but don’t get hot enough for combustion to occur.
Combustion is bad for a few reasons; it destroys many of the active ingredients, including THC, and it releases a variety of harmful chemical byproducts such as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and various carcinogenic hydrocarbons.
Gummies are another popular form of using THC. They’re made by extracting and concentrating the active THC and infusing it into a fruity gummy candy base.
These products are popular because they’re easy to use, provide consistent doses in every piece, and mask the flavor of marijuana (which some people dislike).
THC gummies usually provide a specific dose of THC in every piece — such as 2 mg, 5 mg, 10 mg, 15 mg, or 20 mg each.
To reach the desired dose, you can just count the number of gummies needed or split gummies into halves or quarters to achieve the desired dose.
Over the past 50 years, there’s been a lot of research on the effects of THC. Most of this research supports the idea that THC has legitimate medical value.
Here are some of the highlights of this research on the medical use of THC:
Unlike CBD, the impact of THC on anxiety levels is highly dose-dependent. In lower doses (7.5 mg), THC has been shown to have a positive impact on anxiety — helping users relax and unwind. Higher doses (12.5 mg and up) have the complete opposite effect, leading to higher perceived stress and anxiety levels.
Researchers at the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois have been exploring the impact of THC on stress and anxiety for years. Some of the recent findings show low dose THC (sub-psychoactive dose) reduced several indicators of stress and anxiety in a public-speaking test. The same study showed that higher doses of THC (psychoactive dose) had the opposite effect — leading to increased anxiety levels.
The other form of THC (delta-8-THC) is much less likely to lead to anxiety, even in higher doses.
One of the main areas of focus for THC extracts is on epileptic disorders and seizures. This is because cannabis-derived products are one of the most promising treatment options for epilepsy currently available .
Epilepsy is very difficult to treat, and there are several pharmaceutical options available — none of which are particularly effective. Roughly 30% of patients treated for epilepsy continue to have seizures .
Additionally, most of these medications come with severe side-effects of their own — sometimes outweighing the benefits of the medication itself.
Both THC and CBD have been shown to reduce epileptic seizures in patients suffering from various forms of epilepsy. With that said, CBD is still considered the primary anti-seizure component in the cannabis plant.
There are currently two cannabis-derived pharmaceutical products that have been approved for the treatment of epilepsy — Epidolex (based on CBD) and Sativex (a 1:1 combination of THC and CBD).
Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness around the world. This condition refers to a group of diseases affecting the optic nerve located at the back of the eye.
The most common symptom of glaucoma is increased ocular pressure (IOP) — leading to pain, alteration in the shape of the eye, and vision loss.
THC and synthetic analogs have were shown to offer clear improvement in glaucoma symptoms .
One study gave patients experiencing increased intraocular pressure a single dose of THC (5 mg) . Participants in this study noted a dramatic reduction in IOP pain lasting 3 hours.
Other studies testing the effect of CBD on glaucoma have found the opposite — CBD not only doesn’t improve glaucoma, it may also actually make symptoms worse. However, products containing both THC and CBD (such as raw marijuana flower) have been shown to offer dramatic improvements in glaucoma symptoms.
Marijuana has been revered as a natural anti-cancer agent for decades. However, there have never been any official clinical trials exploring the effects of THC as a cancer therapy. Most of the research involves the adjunctive use of THC-containing products alongside conventional cancer therapies.
There’s also been a variety of in vitro studies showing promising results against different types of cancer — including breast cancer , brain cancer , lung cancer , prostate cancer , and others.
Increased appetite is more than just a cliché — there are some legitimate applications for the appetite-stimulating effects of marijuana.
The main use for this effect is for people experiencing side-effects from other medications such as chemotherapy — in which poor appetite is a common and severe side effect.
There are several different cannabinoids that increase appetite — but THC is both the strongest and most prevalent. This goes in contradiction with CBD — which has been shown to reduce appetite instead.
Many of the studies on appetite involve cancer patients or HIV patients — both of which commonly experience poor appetite as a side effect of the condition or the medications involved with treating the disease.
In one study, HIV patients given THC (inhaled) had lower levels of peptide PYY (an appetite suppressant) and increased levels of leptin and ghrelin .
Delta 9 THC is the primary psychoactive cannabinoid in the marijuana plant. It’s also the ingredient in the plant that’s sparked the most controversy over the past 80 years and the reason why the cannabis plant is considered a Schedule I drug.
THC is psychoactive — which means it produces mild to moderate changes in perception, mood, and higher cognitive function.
To this day, products containing THC are banned throughout most of the world. There are only a few exceptions (such as Canada or Uruguay) where THC products are legal for both medical and recreational use. Most of the world (including the United States) require a medical license before you can use products that contain THC.
Even non-psychoactive CBD products contain small amounts of THC — however, the concentration is well below the psychoactive threshold.
THC has many benefits — ranging from anxiety or epilepsy relief to stimulating creativity and introspection. If you’re interested in trying THC products, make sure you’re familiar with the effective dose, risks and side-effects, and local laws before you get started.