The effects of cannabis - how your body reacts to the substance

Written by: Marvin Benthien



Time to read 7 min

Hardly any other natural substance is discussed as much as cannabis. The focus is mainly on the effects of cannabis. Contrary to what is often assumed, weed is not only an intoxicating substance, but is also said to have many positive effects on health.

For some years now, it has been possible to obtain medical cannabis on prescription. In addition, there are increasing reports of people who have been able to alleviate personal complaints such as pain and other symptoms through the effects of cannabis. But what is the reason for that? What do we know about the effect of weed on the body and psyche?

Cannabis fact check - what is it actually?

Cannabis is the name given to the hemp plant from India. The most important active ingredient for the effect of cannabis is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). This cannabinoid ensures that cannabis has an intoxicating effect. The substance has been consumed for many centuries, in a wide variety of dosage forms.

Besides THC, cannabis contains many other cannabinoids, most of which have no intoxicating effect. CBD, for example, has become more known in recent years. This cannabinoid acts on similar structures of the body, but has no psychogenic effect!

THC structural formula

How strong is the THC effect? Brain and body react differently

The effect of cannabis must be divided into two areas:

  • For example, the body almost does not react at all to consumption, unlike with alcohol. People under the influence of cannabis can usually continue to walk in one line and do not start to stagger.
  • The main effect is therefore on the brain. This is also the reason why the driving ability seems limited by the consumption, although the way control is usually still present. In the brain, the various cannabinoids and THC in particular dock onto the existing receptors of the human nervous system. There they interact with each other and influence the function of so-called endocannabinoids, which are naturally present in the body.

The influence of the endocannabinoid system on the effect

The human nervous system has an endocannabinoid system that is crucially responsible for what effect cannabis has. This system consists of various receptors (CB1, CB2) that are able to bind endocannabinoids. When cannabis is consumed, free cannabinoids enter the body, which then interact with the receptors.

  • The CB1 receptors are primarily located in the brain and provide the euphoric high.
  • The CB2 receptors, on the other hand, are located in the body's cells and are responsible for controlling the immune system, among other things. This is also one of the reasons why cannabis is considered a stimulant of the body's defenses.

The body's own endocannabinoids have many influences on the human body and are involved in various processes. For example, they regulate the appetite of humans, can reduce inflammation, curb pain and also influence the metabolism. Since externally supplied cannabinoids interact similarly with the CB receptors according to the current state of science, the endocannabinoid system is considered to have a major involvement in the effects of cannabis.

Cannabis as medicine - for which symptoms does it help?

As a medicine, cannabis is usually prescribed in the form of an oil. The THC-oil effect is said to be similar to that of a joint. In order to receive a prescription from a doctor, however, classical therapies must have been unsuccessful so far.

The effect of cannabis in medicine has been researched for many years, but there is still no consensus on the results. However, there are studies that prove that the cannabis effect on the body goes beyond a state of intoxication. Among other things, the following effects are said to be possible:

  • Reduction of gastrointestinal complaints: The effect of cannabis is said to have a positive effect on complaints of the gastrointestinal tract. For example, medical THC is used for side effects of chemotherapy.
  • Pain relief: Initial studies and many areas of experience indicate that chronic pain can be relieved by taking THC or cannabis.
  • Vitality: Many recreational users report that consumption enhances their creativity. However, this is probably less the case with joints, but rather refers to the cannabis tea effect.
  • Stabilization of psyche: Due to the sedating effect of THC, medical cannabis is sometimes prescribed in cases of severe mental illness such as depression and anxiety.

Types of consumption - what role does the type of intake play?

There are different ways to consume cannabis and indeed the ingestion has an influence on the effect. For example, the THC gummy bear effect is described as less intense compared to consumption in the form of a joint.

When cannabis is vaporized or smoked as a joint, the THC attaches very quickly to the receptors. It enters the bloodstream directly through the lungs, which causes this effect. In recent times, vaporization is preferred, because here no harmful substances of tobacco are absorbed, or no combustion takes place.


Cannabis oil & effect - oral ingestion

Another method of cannabis intake is oral ingestion, for example in the form of edibles (gummy bears, brownies, cookies, candies) or as tea and oil. It sometimes takes longer for the effects of cannabis to set in here. The cannabinoids are first absorbed through the digestive system and then slowly released into the bloodstream. The situation is different with oils, which are drizzled under the tongue and then initially remain in the mouth. Here, the active ingredient can be absorbed through the mucous membrane. What is difficult here is to find the right dosage, as everybody reacts differently to cannabis, and it’s metabolized at an individual pace.

A third, rather less frequently used form is application in the form of a topical preparation (ointment, gel, cream). Such products are used for inflammatory skin diseases such as acne. In this way, the cannabinoids do not enter the bloodstream directly, so that the psychogenic effect is absent.

How long does cannabis last, and how is it broken down?

So we know that depending on the consumption method, the effect of cannabis sets in sooner or later. Let's now take a look at how long the substance takes effect on average (always depending on the physical conditions, the dosage and the amount ingested).

  • Inhalation (smoking or vaping): The effect of cannabis sets in within a few minutes and reaches its peak after about half an hour. On average, the substance works for up to three hours. However, people with low tolerance may feel the effects for longer.
  • Oral ingestion (tinctures, oils, edibles, teas): It takes between 30 minutes and two hours for the effects of cannabis to kick in when taken orally. The peak is reached here only after a good three hours, the duration of effect lasts up to eight hours. At very high doses, an effect of up to 12 hours is possible.
  • Application as creams: Since there are no effects on the psyche with topical application, it is more difficult to define the onset of action. On average, those affected report relief of symptoms after several hours. The cream should also be able to develop its effect over several hours.

The breakdown of cannabis in the human body

After the effect of cannabis has set in, the body completes several steps at once. The THC is released from the blood vessels to the fat cells, where it is stored. From there, it is released and thus maintains the state of intoxication. The actual breakdown of THC finally takes place in the liver, where the substance is converted into individual metabolites and excreted. The main excretion takes place in the urine, only a few components (in the case of oral consumption), are excreted with the bowel movement.

The actual degradation process takes much longer than the intoxicating effect. This is also the reason why the consumption of THC can still be detected days later in the urine, blood and for months in the hair roots.

Hemp tea & its effect: Is drunk cannabis less effective?

The question is often asked whether the hemp tea effect, for example, is weaker than that of a joint. In fact, however, the effect is described as milder and less intoxicating. Due to oral ingestion, it takes longer for the psychoactive effect of cannabis to kick in. This is perceived as gentler, as users immerse themselves in the world of intoxication bit by bit.

With a joint or a vaporizer, the effect often comes on abruptly. One minute the mind is still clear, the next moment cannabis triggers an intense high. The potency itself, on the other hand, is independent of the method of consumption. Medical cannabis often relies on oils, which have appeared equally effective in studies.

Side effects of cannabis - you should know them, too

In Germany, the legalization of cannabis is indirectly imminent. One of the reasons is that pure cannabis is considered relatively safe. Nevertheless, it is possible that side effects may occur as a result of consumption (especially at high doses). We need to distinguish between short-term, unwanted effects and long-term discomfort. Here comes a small overview.

Short-term side effects of cannabis use:

  • Changes in consciousness: Euphoria, heightened sensory perception, feelings of relaxation, and loss of temporal orientation.
  • Cognitive Influence: Memory problems, problems with concentration, slowed reaction.
  • Anxiety and panic: Some people experience cannabis-triggered panic attacks, often due to overdose.
  • Physical reactions: Reddened eyes, increased heart rate, dry mouth, ravenous hunger.

Long-term side effects from cannabis use

  • Psychological complaints: Some studies have found an association between high cannabis use and the occurrence of psychotic disorders.
  • Respiratory problems: They occur primarily when cannabis is smoked in the form of joints.
  • Psychological dependence: Although cannabis does not cause physical addiction, continuous users may feel psychologically dependent.

Conclusion: The effect of cannabis is very diverse

It turns out that the effect of cannabis is not only multifaceted, but also dependent on personality. Individuals who are naturally prone to anxiety suffer cannabis-induced panic attacks more often. Also, individual tolerance cannot be determined in advance. However, researchers agree that the endocannabinoid system has the greatest effect.

Your legal alternative: HHC Cannabinoids

Don't want to wait until cannabis is legalized? CBD just doesn't offer you the right spectrum of effects? Then there is an excellent alternative to both: HHC cannabinoids. They are also found in the cannabis plant and have a small but subtle difference compared to THC: a hydrogen compound. It influences the way it works and makes sure that you can benefit from a relaxing effect after taking HHC orally. There are several positive effects of HHC, including pain relief and the general increase of well-being. The effects are similar to cannabis, but: HHC is legal. If you want to research the active ingredient for yourself, you can get the handy HHC cannabinoid spray at MODERNmind.