Behind weed is a fascinating science that many consumers don’t delve deep into. For instance, have you ever wondered why certain strains of cannabis have distinctive aromas? Well, that has a lot to do with terpenes, the compounds that give each variety its characteristic flavor and scent. Some terpenes can modulate how THC — the high-producing cannabinoid in marijuana — affects your body and mind, altering the intensity and direction of the high.
THC and terpenes are like two friends dancing together in the weed experience. But have you ever wondered how THC affects our brain chemistry? Let’s delve into the world of serotonin and how THC can have an impact on this important mood-influencing neurotransmitter.
First, let’s define both THC and serotonin.
What Is THC?
THC is a cannabinoid, a compound of which cannabis has more than 100 types. THC is short for delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, which is the main psychoactive ingredient in the weed you consume. THC products are considered Schedule 1 controlled substances by the Drug Enforcement Agency, with exceptions for medical purposes in some cities and states.
THC comes in herbs, flowers, and hash/hashish, with the herb being the most common, made from dried cannabis leaves and buds.
The Entourage Effect
While THC is a “fun” cannabinoid, it’s good to take into account that you will likely benefit more from the mix of compounds in cannabis. This is called “the entourage effect.” In the world of cannabis, the entourage effect is an intriguing phenomenon that emphasizes the beneficial interactions between different chemicals in the plant. The entourage effect emphasizes the notion that these substances have a deeper and more potent influence when they are present together rather than when they are experienced separately.
The way that THC interacts with other cannabinoids and the variety of terpenes found in various cannabis strains demonstrate this synergism. According to the Entourage Effect, the holistic, multidimensional qualities of the cannabis plant influence both the psychoactive effects and possible medicinal advantages, giving consumers a more complex and nuanced experience.
We’ll look a bit more at other cannabinoids and compounds shortly, but first, let’s look at serotonin and understand it a bit more.
What Is Serotonin?
Serotonin is a monoamine neurotransmitter with complex functions. It’s a messenger between nerve cells in the brain. Serotonin is most known for being directly related to mood, but it also affects learning, memory, and even gastrointestinal reactions like vomiting. Despite its main association with mood regulation, the vast majority of serotonin is located in the gastrointestinal tract and used for regulating bowel movements.
People who suffer from depression tend to have low levels of serotonin, which is why they’re often prescribed medication to regulate these levels.
Understanding THC and Serotonin
Both the endocannabinoid system and the serotonin system impact appetite, sleep, and emotions, so it’s often hard to tell which is affecting what. Technically speaking, THC does affect serotonin, though it doesn’t necessarily increase it. Here’s why: Cannabinoids enter the body and interact with its natural endocannabinoid system, affecting different processes, like the way we regulate serotonin, in different ways depending on the frequency of use and the dosage. This means the effect of THC on serotonin won’t always be the same.
The interaction between THC and serotonin can be puzzling. Studies done on animals suggest that a low dose of CB1 receptor agonists, such as THC, can acutely increase serotonin while high doses decrease it. While low-dose THC can increase serotonin neurotransmission levels in the short term, long-term chronic cannabis can increase the chances of depression.
THC and Serotonin Syndrome
Serotonin syndrome happens when serotonin levels in the brain rise to potentially dangerous levels. While an increase in serotonin may sound great, in reality, a sharp increase will dysregulate the systems stabilized by serotonin.
Symptoms of serotonin syndrome can look like heavy sweating, confusion, rapid heart rate, dilated pupils, shivering, diarrhea, and more. Unfortunately, the effects will look very similar to “greening out,” a reaction caused by taking too high of a dose of cannabis, which, though uncomfortable, doesn’t pose a threat to the body.
If you’re on selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (or SSRIs) for depression or anxiety, you should seek medical attention if you have a bad reaction.
Tips for Using THC When it Comes to Serotonin
First things first: THC isn’t something you should use to self-medicate. Cannabis, as we’ve seen in the above sections, isn’t proven to treat depression effectively and, especially if used with anxiety or depression medication, will work best under doctor supervision.
Consult a Doctor
Before incorporating cannabis into your routine, it’s crucial to talk to a doctor, especially if you’re taking medications that affect serotonin. Don’t assume that they’ll be “nay-sayers.” Lots of physicians will be open to chat about your desire to implement marijuana into your routine and will help you do it. Remember that the combination of cannabis and certain medications can have unpredictable effects, so always inform your doctor about your cannabis consumption.
Use a Serotonin-Friendly Strain
Second, the strain you use if you choose to consume marijuana is key. Look for strains low in THC and dominant in:
- Myrcene, a terpene reported to help with inflammation, pain, and a natural antibacterial known to decrease anxiety
- Limonene, a terpene found in several medicinal plants with the potential to modulate change in dopamine, serotonin, and other neurotransmitters.
- Caryophyllene, a terpene that’s been proven in mice studies to improve anxiety-like behavior
Document Your Reactions and Adjust
Finally, keep track of how your body reacts to each strain and dosage that you try, documenting it for later reference. Everybody is different, and finding what works for you is most important. Pay attention to any changes in your mood, sleep, or physical symptoms. If you experience negative side effects, consider adjusting your consumption.
Find the Best Serotonin-Friendly Strain in Florida
Now that you’ve learned about THC, serotonin, and how they interact, you’re ready to look for a consultation or maybe even a dispensary.
VidaCann is one of the largest retailers of medical cannabis in Florida. We currently have 26 locations across the state that provide premium cannabis products to qualified patients. We’re professionals ready to answer your questions and consult on serotonin-friendly strains and products for your needs, whether you’re looking for cannabis flower, pre-rolls, tinctures, tablets, concentrates, syringes, topicals, or vaporizers.Get in touch or stop by a location to get the right strain for you.