What Does THC Look Like?
Posted on January 18th, 2021
THC is the component of cannabis that triggers its trademark euphoric feeling. The compound is what makes people get high after consuming marijuana, which’s its most well-known effect. People that consume weed often say there are few things like it. But why does THC get so much flack when another compound from the plant, CBD, gets appreciation from scientists? To know the answer, it is important to dig deep into the science behind THC. You will need to know the molecular structure of Tetrahydrocannabinol because it’s part of the reason for the sensation felt by those enjoying the plant.
Molecular Structure of THC
First of all, let’s get one thing straight: THC is not similar to the other cannabinoids. For example, the molecular structure of CBD is different. Those who want to know what does THC looks like should know that the fundamental difference between THC and other cannabinoid compounds is their molecular form. But like other cannabinoids, THC belongs to a phenol group that shows mild antioxidant activity. It is enough to protect its neurons from oxidative stress produced by glutamate-induced excitotoxicity.
According to recent research, synthetic cannabinoids can activate CB1 receptors and facilitate neurogenesis and neuroprotection. That effect makes it worth contemplating if it can prevent neurological decay in an organism. But does that mean THC could actually work as a treatment for, say, neurodegenerative conditions? Well, the answer might not be worth it. Research seems to suggest its effects might seem beneficial during the first moments of use. However, they fade, and prolonged use of the substance might do the opposite of improving the condition. See, researchers like to consider the entire structure of THC as well as looking into the totality of its effects.
As per findings, experts consider THC as an agonist both for CB1 and CB2 receptors. Its metabolization takes place in the liver with the help of oxidation reactions caused by cytochrome P450 enzymes.
People need to focus on two mechanisms of the molecular structure here: the first is H-atom transfer. It deals with removing a hydrogen atom from an antioxidant with the help of a free radical. The other one involves a one-electron transfer mechanism. Here, the antioxidant has the power to donate its electron to the free radical.
Molecular Equations of THC
Apart from the transfer mechanism, the radicals from both reactions should be stable enough to prevent radical chain reactions. This gives three equations that will later help in understanding the molecular structure of THC better.
- First, R + ArOH → RH + ArO
- Second, R + ArOH → R− + ArOH+
- And third, R + ArO− → R− + ArO
These equations will also help establish the relationship between THC and CBD and how their molecular structure differs.
Simplified Model of THC Molecules
Some of the structural and electronic characteristics of THC involve energies of
- HOMO (highest occupied molecular orbital),
- Ionization potential (IP),
- Hydroxyl bond dissociation energy (BDEOH),
- Spin density distribution using Density Functional Theory methodology
- Lowest unoccupied molecular orbital (LUMO).
These factors shed light on the oxidation mechanism of THC and its cytoprotective properties.
After studying the final molecular geometry of THC, experts concluded that THC might not derive its intermolecular hydrogen bond from its oxygen atom available in the respective phenol group. In fact, further studies suggest that the hydrogen phenol moiety comes with great electronic repulsion that includes methyl cyclohexene ring because of the significant difference in polarity.
When people ask what does THC look like, they expect to see the molecular design. But to truly figure out the molecular form, one needs to learn about the three rings of THC – pyran, cyclohexene, and phenol. These are responsible for forming a rigid molecule. The alkyl moiety, though, comes with tons of conformations. This is where CBD differs from THC. Unlike THC, it has stronger repulsion between the limonene ring and hydroxyl groups.
THC’s frontier orbital energies contain two parts: O-H bond dissociation energies and ionization potential. When experts compared the HOMO results of CBD and THC, they came up with a similar HPMC value. This created confusion where one part of the industry said THC and CBD were similar. Meanwhile, another half concluded that the HPMC value isn’t the only basis on which to judge these two components.
THC’s electronic effect in its phenolic compound had resonance effects that indicated scavenging free radicals qualitatively. This took place as a reaction of H-abstraction after electron transfer. The number of electron-donating groups and resonance structures linked to the ortho- or para-positions of the respective phenol moiety is higher in THC than CBD.
Difference Between THC and CBD Molecules
Many may not know, but scientists isolated CBD way before THC. CBD came into the picture in 1940, while THC was identified in 1964. The fundamental difference between THC and CBD is their physiological effects. THC is psychotropic, whereas CBD is non-psychotropic. What does that mean to a layman? Well, THC is responsible for making users stoned, but CBD doesn’t do that at all. Why does each differ in their effects even though both come from cannabis? It’s because of their molecular structures.
Both CBD and THC are compounds of a similar family of cannabis containing 113 bi- and tri-cyclic compounds. One of the reasons people often can’t differentiate between CBD and THC is that both contain thirty atoms of hydrogen, two of oxygen, and twenty-one of carbon. Even their molecular mass is almost similar, with THC recording 314.469 g/mol and CBD recording 314.464 g/mol.
Cannabigerolic acid is present in both cannabidiolic acid and tetrahydrocannabinolic acid by CBDA and THCA synthase. The final products contain decarboxylated acidic forms. Many people may ask if THC and CBD are so similar, why are do they treat them differently? Why are experts considering one as a potential therapeutic element and the other as a psychoactive component? Well, even though CBD and THC have so many similarities, there is one crucial difference that sets them apart. CBD contains a hydroxyl group, while THC contains a cyclic ring. It may seem small, but this molecular structure difference pits the two compounds against each other. This is especially true when someone considers their pharmacological properties.
The difference in Physiological Effects
The G protein-coupled cannabinoid receptor, CB1, located in the central and peripheral nervous system, is activated by four things:
2-arachidonoylglycerol and phytocannabinoids in cannabis, anandamide, and endogenous neurotransmitters.
THC is a potent partial agonist of CB1 that leads CB1 receptors to trigger psychotropic effects when someone consumes weed. CBD, however, is a negative allosteric modulator of CB1. It means CBD can effectively alter the shape of a person’s CB1 receptor.
The above change makes it challenging for CB1 agonists, like THC, to stimulate the receptor. CBD, on the other hand, does not stimulate or really bind to CB1 receptors as THC does. This is the reason why CBD doesn’t lead to psychotropic effects like THC.
Scientists suggest that CBD’s interaction with the CB1 receptor modulates the psychotropic effects of THC. It interferes with its ability to stimulate the receptor, therefore preventing the user from getting stoned. Due to its unique molecular structure, CBD reduces the negative effects of THC, effectively decreasing paranoia, short-term memory impairment, and anxiety.
Molecular Structure of THC While Smoking
There was an experiment conducted to record the change in the molecular structure of THC while smoking. Its results suggest that the smoke inhaled not only consists of TPM cannabinoids but also a group of unidentifiable compounds. The total ion chromatogram of the TPM (Total Particulate Matter) contained 12.2% CTHC.
A simple explanation will help differentiate why 12.2% is a massive amount for anyone’s body. Most countries allow the use of CBD products because it contains 0.3% THC or less. Moreover, people only need to use a small dose of CBD products a maximum of two times daily. This can either be in the form of capsules, gummies, or tincture. But imagine someone inhaling 12.2% of THC every time they consume a joint. The act will have noticeable effects on the person inhaling THC. That’s why people feel stoned after consuming just one joint.
Wondering what does THC look like when someone is smoking pot? According to investigations of 12 cannabis samples, there was a general increase in the concentration of terpenoids for chromatograms associated with them. In fact, even the most negligible CTHC sample showed a 1.0%, 1.4%, and 1.9% increase in THC levels after every puff. The experiment also concluded that the molecular form broke down and resulted in 25 different terpenoids. This is an alarming number, something that forbids scientists from considering THC for medicinal purposes.
What Does THC Look Like? – The Takeaway
Scientists conclude that THC smoke contains a high level of terpenoids that only multiply with every puff. They increase the Δ9THC content that can lead to the development of carcinogens. It is still unclear how many types or the levels of carcinogens that terpenoids can develop from prolonged use of THC. But users should get the idea that THC consumption isn’t a healthy practice. On the other hand, CBD is a far safer compound, scientists from all over the world vouch for this cannabinoid compound.
If one has to choose between CBD and THC, then the answer is quite clear. CBD is the way forward because of its widespread, potentially therapeutic benefits. On the other hand, THC makes people feel euphoric momentarily but has tons of concerning side-effects.