The Science Behind Medical Marijuana: How does THC work in the nervous and circulatory systems?

on August 17, 2021

You already know that cannabis has two primary cannabinoid compounds: THC and CBD. Depending on the medical marijuana strain you prefer, you’ll want different levels of each.


THC is known for its “buzz” feeling and giving the user energy, while CBD is better suited for focus, productivity, and stress relief.


But how do cannabinoids affect your body? And more specifically, how does THC work in your body?


If you’re fascinated with the science behind medical cannabis – like we are – you’re going to love learning about how THC works in your nervous and circulatory systems.

How THC affects the nervous system

When inhaled or smoked and in your bloodstream, THC can reach the brain in a matter of seconds. Conversely, THC consumed with edibles takes much longer to take effect.


Your brain has a number of cannabinoid receptors, which are present throughout the brain and found in high concentrations in the hippocampus, cerebellum and basal ganglia. Cannabinoid receptors are responsible for things like:

  • Coordination
  • Learning
  • Short-term memory
  • Problem solving


Anandamide (a neurotransmitter and cannabinoid that your body naturally produces) bonds with cannabinoid receptors and produces neurons responsible for feelings of motivation and pleasure, among other roles. 


When introduced to the body, cannabinoids – like THC – mimic naturally occurring cannabinoids. In this case, THC mimics anandamide.


By binding with cannabinoid receptors and activating neurons in specific parts of the brain, THC has the ability to:

  • Affect coordination (in the cerebellum)
  • Affects short-term memory (in the hippocampus)
  • Impairs coordination (in the basal ganglia)


However, it also activates the brain’s reward system by stimulating neurons to release dopamine and even serotonin.

How THC affects the circulatory system

Like any outside chemical introduced to your body, THC affects more than just your nervous system. It also affects the circulatory system.


When inhaled, THC first enters the lungs before being absorbed into the bloodstream. Within just a few minutes, users notice a heart rate increase of 20 to up to 50 beats per minute. (And this increased heart rate can last a few hours after use.)


While this may exacerbate issues for those with heart disease, the increased pressure actually decreases pressure in eyes. (That’s why THC can ease glaucoma symptoms!)


Isn’t science amazing?! We find it’s helpful to understand how the products we use affect our bodies – for better and for worse.


At Hive Medicinal, we’d love to help with your medical marijuana needs as your local Maine dispensary. Take a look at our current cannabis products or, better yet, stop by in person!

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