THC: The Latest Buzz

Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC is the main active cannabinoid in Cannabis and it is primarily responsible for Cannabis’ psychoactive properties.

It was the first cannabinoid to be isolated and identified (1964) in Cannabis resin and flowers (1) The concentration of THC found in Cannabis and its extracts can vary based on plant variety, cultivation techniques and type of preparation.

Pure THC can be derived from natural sources (extraction from cannabis plants) or produced synthetically. (2) The molecule acts as a partial agonist of CB1 receptors found in the CNS and CB2 receptors found on immune cells. (2)

While THC exhibits potent anti-inflammatory and anti-emetic properties, its development as therapeutic drug treatment has been hindered by its accompanying psychotropic effects. Nevertheless, in the past, dronabinol (Marinol) a synthetic THC and nabilone (Cesamet) a synthetic THC-mimetic received FDA approval as appetite stimulants and treatments for chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting (CINV) (3)  However, neither drug is widely prescribed.

Finally, negative psychotropic reactions and possible development of tolerance to THC could limit the long term clinical and therapeutic uses of the molecule.


  1. Mechoulam R, Gaoni Y. (1965) A Total Synthesis of Dl-Delta-1-Tetrahydrocannabinol, the Active Constituent of Hashish. Journal of the American Chemical Society 87:3273-3275.
  2. Hazenkamp A, Gortenhermen F (2010) Review on clinical studies with cannabis   and cannabinoids 2005-2009. Cannabinoids 5(special issue):1-21.
  3. Bowles DW, O’Bryant CL, Camidge DR, Jimeno A. (2012) The intersection between cannabis and cancer in the United States. Critical Reviews in Oncology/Hematology 83(1):1-10.