Cannabis contains more than 100 compounds called cannabinoids. Studies on these cannabinoids, primarily Delta-9 THC, show they may have mental and physical health benefits. Increasingly, people are utilizing THC for better sleep, mood enhancement, and pain relief, among other quality-of-life reasons.
Here we review the research showing how Delta-9 THC can improve health and well-being.
What Is Delta-9 THC?
Most people are familiar with THC but might wonder what is Delta 9?
THC is short for tetrahydrocannabinol, the primary naturally occurring cannabinoid class in marijuana plants with intoxicating effects. Delta-9 is the most prominent and potent tetrahydrocannabinol.
Delta 9 acts on endocannabinoid receptors in the brain, central nervous system, and immune tissues, affecting various functions, including pleasure, pain, sleep, appetite, and more.
Among its functions, Delta 9 causes brain cells to release dopamine, a feel-good chemical that provides almost immediate mood-boosting effects. Research indicates Delta 9’s internal action also blocks specific pain receptors and activates chemicals that make people feel relaxed and hungry.
Delta-9 THC has been studied extensively for nearly 60 years, and many scientists think it can treat various health problems and improve overall wellness in many ways.
- Feelings of joy or exhilaration
- Decreased anxiety
- Reduced pain
- Nausea relief
- Better sleep
- Appetite stimulation
Delta-9 for Pain and Inflammation
According to a National Health Interview Survey, 50.2 million adults (20.5%) suffer from pain daily. Research shows Delta-9 THC has promising therapeutic and anti-inflammatory properties that can relieve everything from headaches to severe chronic pain conditions, including:
- Peripheral neuropathy (nerve pain from diabetes)
- Spinal cord injury
- HIV or complex regional pain syndrome
- Muscle and joint problems
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Multiple sclerosis
The body’s endocannabinoid system is pivotal in pain perception and reduction. When Delta-9 THC binds with natural cannabinoid receptors throughout the body, particularly CB1 receptors in the brain and central nervous system, it produces several effects that can significantly lower pain and inflammation symptoms:
Regulates pain signals: THC affects receptors in the brain that interpret pain signals and can change how our minds receive pain signals, reducing pain sensations. A review of cannabis research gathered from 15,000 participants showed that cannabis with higher Delta-9 THC ratios had the most impact on pain severity.
Reduces inflammation: Joint stiffness, muscle soreness, and chronic pain often arise when inflammation is out of control. Delta-9 THC’s anti-inflammatory actions can regulate cytokine levels, proteins that stimulate the immune system and cause inflammation, helping people feel more comfortable.
Mood boost: The Annals of Internal Medicine reports that mood plays a prominent role in treating pain, and THC’s mood-boosting effects can significantly help people by making them happier.
As with any pain treatment, Delta-9 THC does come with possible downsides, such as
- Dizziness and sedation
- Dry mouth
- Upset stomach
Delta-9 THC for Relaxation and Anxiety
Almost one-third of the American population experiences an anxiety disorder, and many people turn to cannabis to relieve emotional stress. Delta 9 can help reduce or eliminate many stress and anxiety symptoms, such as:
- Feelings of worry
- A sense of being “on edge”
- Difficulty sleeping and concentrating
Evidence suggests that Delta 9 works in diverse ways to calm the nervous system.
- Cannabinoids like Delta 9 have neuroprotective properties that can help control feelings of fear and anxiety within the brain and promote general well-being.
- Studies show that people with anxiety produce low levels of the messenger molecule, anandamide, aka the “bliss molecule,” because it promotes happy, calm feelings. THC has a similar chemical structure to anandamide, so it can mitigate deficiency and provide similar mood-boosting effects.
It’s important to note that In higher doses, Delta-9 THC sometimes has the opposite effect of increasing anxiety and causing paranoia. Starting low and slowly increasing amounts is crucial for the best results.
Delta-9 THC for Better Sleep
Cannabis is a popular sleep aid because Delta-9 THC has sedative effects that can make it easier to fall asleep. Delta 9’s sleep-promoting effects include:
Faster sleep: THC increases sleep-promoting adenosine levels and suppresses the brain’s arousal system. Reports suggest that THC decreases sleep latency or the time it takes to fall asleep.
More deep sleep: Research shows Delta-9 THC increases the time spent in stage 4 deep sleep, the most critical stage for health that helps you wake up refreshed.
Fewer nightmares: Delta 9 reduces time spent in REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, the stage where most dreaming occurs. This effect can benefit those waking up from jarring nightmares, such as PTSD patients. Most antidepressants also suppress REM sleep.
As a natural pain reliever, Delta 9 also helps decrease dependence on addictive sleep aids like Ambien and opiates. However, long-term, regular use of any sleep aid, including Delta-9 THC, might cause users to develop a tolerance and need larger doses to obtain the same results, adversely affecting sleep.
Delta-9 THC for Exercise Motivation and Weight Loss
Everyone knows exercise is a must for overall health and mental wellness. However, many people lack the motivation to get moving and generally don’t enjoy physical activity. Ironically, research shows that THC can help people overcome both barriers to getting fit.
A new study at CU Boulder in Colorado points to Delta 9’s mood-boosting and pain-relieving properties, which positively affect people’s desire to work out.
Increases motivation and enjoyment: When Delta 9 THC increases dopamine levels, it triggers a sense of pleasure and reward that resembles the “runner’s high,” a term for the energy, pain relief, and euphoria many experience during or immediately after a workout. This effect can motivate people to exercise more and enjoy the process.
Eases workout pain and recovery: Many exercises trigger pain and inflammation in connective tissues, especially as people age. Delta 9 can alleviate pain and inflammation, helping people tune out pain and fatigue that might deter them from exercising. It can also ease muscle stiffness post-workout.
The Bottom Line
Increasing evidence suggests that Delta 9 THC in cannabis helps naturally improve overall health and well-being. Delta 9 effectively reduces pain and anxiety symptoms and has mood-boosting effects that can help people perform at their mental and physical best. Delta 9 products, including edibles, tinctures, and smokeable flower provide proven relief.