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What Are Cannabinoids?

by | Mar 29, 2021 | Cannabinoids | 0 comments

What Are Cannabinoids?

Cannabinoids are the chemical compounds found within the cannabis plant. These compounds trigger chemical reactions inside the human body by attaching themselves to receptors in the brain and other systems, which results in a variety of effects felt by the user. All cannabinoids are able to work with the human body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) by attaching themselves to receptors and altering the chemical structure. The ECS controls the homeostasis of a number of internal systems, so it’s possible for cannabinoids to provide therapeutic results to different parts of the body. 

 

Cannabis is well known for producing the cannabinoid THC and more recently one of the other cannabinoids it produces called cannabidiol (CBD) has been getting more recognition as well, however cannabis also produces more than one hundred other cannabinoids, albeit in much smaller quantities. Because the level of these cannabinoids is so much lower than those of THC and CBD, it’s difficult for researchers to know exactly how many other cannabinoids exist in the cannabis plant but they have been able to gather data on the handful of cannabinoids that are present in more substantial amounts. Let’s start with the two most well-known cannabinoids.

THC and CBD

THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol)

Most people know THC for its association with marijuana and its ability to make the user experience a euphoria. THC also has the ability to create a wide range of short-term effects when consumed. Some people may feel the effects more than others, some not at all, and some may feel the effects amplified. Common short-term effects of THC include elation, relaxation, sedation, pain relief, energy, dry mouth, laughter, and anxiety. Ultimately it all comes down to a person’s body chemistry, but different strains and concentrations of THC also play a role in how someone may feel after THC is consumed. 

THC may also offer therapeutic benefits to a wide range of conditions, including: 

  • PTSD [1]
  • Chronic pain [2]
  • Insomnia [3]
  • Nausea [4]
  • Inflammation [5]
  • Arthritis [6]
  • Crohn’s disease [7]
  • Alzheimer’s disease [8]
  • Multiple sclerosis [9]
  • Glaucoma [10]
  • Sleep apnea [11]
  • Appetite loss [12]


CBD (Cannabidiol)

For those looking for the benefits of THC without the high, there’s CBD. This compound has been taking the market by storm over the last few years and shows no signs of slowing. Researchers have just begun studying all the benefits of CBD, but the results are already promising. 

So far research suggests that CBD can help treat the following conditions:

  • Epilepsy and other seizure disorders [13]
  • Pain [14]
  • Inflammation [15]
  • PTSD [16]
  • Anxiety [17]
  • Multiple sclerosis [18]
  • Opioid withdrawal [19]

 

The Lesser Known Cannabinoids

CBG (Cannabigerol)

CBG, while not present in large quantities in most strains, is still one of the most important compounds because it is the “mother” cannabinoid that all other cannabinoids are synthesized from. It is only measurable at around 1% in most cannabis, so CBG would be what’s considered a minor cannabinoid however it still offers exciting potential for therapeutic benefits. Some breeders are even experimenting with CBG and genetic manipulation in order to obtain strains that produce more CBG. 

Research has found CBG helps very specific systems and problems, including: 

  • Glaucoma: CBG can reduce intraocular pressure, opening up the possibility of its usefulness in treating glaucoma [20]. 
  • Inflammatory bowel disease: In animal experiments, CBG was found effective in decreasing inflammation in cases of IBD [21]. 
  • Huntington’s disease: CBG was shown to protect neurons in mice with Huntington’s disease, possibly easing cell degeneration in the brain [22].
  • Cancer: CBG has shown the potential to block receptors that cause cancer growth in mice, specifically in cases of colon cancer [23].
  • MRSA: Studies have shown CBG may be an effective antibacterial agent against Staphylococcus aureus, better known as MRSA [24]. 
  • Cachexia: Research has shown that CBG can effectively stimulate appetite in rats, opening up the possibility of treatment for the muscle wasting and weight loss seen in late stage diseases [25].
  • Bladder dysfunction: A study focused on CBG and bladder dysfunction showed the potential for the compound to work effectively to inhibit muscle contractions in the bladder [26].

CBC (Cannabichromene)

CBC is considered one of the “big six” of cannabinoids present in cannabis plants. It was first discovered over 50 years ago and has been researched for its medicinal benefits since. While it’s not as popular as CBD or THC, it still shows a lot of promise for potential benefits for a range of issues. CBC, like all other cannabinoids except THC, produces no mind altering effects or any sort of “high” feeling. It does, however, work extremely well with other cannabinoids and can offer medicinal benefits for: 

  • Cancer: CBC appears to inhibit the breakdown of the molecule anandamide [27], allowing it to remain in the bloodstream for longer periods of time and fight cancer [28]. 
  • Pain and inflammation: Research on CBC has shown its potential to block the pain [29] and inflammation [30] that goes along with arthritis. CBC has also been shown to elevate the anti-inflammatory response produced by THC when combined with that compound [31]. 
  • Brain cells: Studies on mice have shown CBC can have a positive effect on neural stem cells essential to healthy brain function [32]. 
  • Acne: Like CBD, CBC can be a powerful source to prohibit the growth of acne. CBC may act as an anti-inflammatory as well as sebaceous gland suppressor [33]. 
  • Depression: When used in combination with THC and CBD, CBC shows great potential for the treatment of depression [34].

CBN (Cannabinol)

Like most of the other cannabinoids, cannabinol is non-intoxicating, but this compound is actually created by the process of THC aging. This means CBN is generally found in larger quantities in older cannabis flowers that contain THC. Some users actually seek out older cannabis in order to get the additional benefits of larger quantities of CBN in the aged plant. 

Research has found CBN to have the following benefits:

  • Anti-bacterial: Like other cannabinoids, CBN has the potential to assist in the treatment of certain strains of MRSA [35].
  • Neuroprotectant: In a recent study on mice researchers found that CBN has the potential to be used effectively for delaying the onset of ALS and other neurodegenerative conditions [36]. 
  • Appetite stimulation: A study of rats showed the CBN effectively stimulated their appetite as well as THC, but without the intoxicating effects [37].
  • Glaucoma: In a study conducted on rabbits, CBN was found to help reduce intraocular pressure like THC does [38]. 
  • Anti-inflammatory: Like other cannabinoids, CBN has the potential to be a powerful anti-inflammatory [39].

CBGV (Cannabigerivarin)

Cannabigerivarin is a cannabinoid acid that originates from CBG. CBGV is found in small amounts in certain cannabis strains and is activated by exposure to heat or light. CBGV plays an important role in the consumption of CBD, where it helps the body metabolize the compound. Overall, it would be considered an enhancer for the cannabinoids entering the body, ultimately increasing their effectiveness. 

THCV (Tetrahydrocannabivarin)

THCV is similar to THC in molecular structure and, like THC, does have psychoactive properties. Its overall effects are different from those of THC, however. THCV generally has stronger psychoactive effects than THC alone and for a shorter period of time. Research has shown that THCV can inhibit some effects of THC while enhancing others [40]. 

CBDV (Cannabidivarin)

Cannabidivarin is structurally similar to CBD and like CBD it has no intoxicating effect on the user. Typically cannabis strains higher in CBD will also be higher in CBDV. Most of the research around CBDV has been focused on its effect on seizures with similar findings as those studying CBD as an anticonvulsant [41]. 

CBCV (Cannabichromevarin)

CBCV exists at lower levels in cannabis than THC and CBD and is more closely related to CBC. Because of its similarity to CBC it works much in the same way with many of the same benefits. Like other cannabinoids, research is still very new and limited on therapeutic benefits, but it is ongoing and researchers are continuing to dig into the possibilities of CBCV. 

The Entourage Effect

While each of these cannabinoids on its own has the potential to be a powerful and healing compound, the real magic happens when they are all combined together. When all of the cannabinoids are allowed to work together synergistically they have the ability to amplify the combined effect. Research has shown that removing even one of these compounds may reduce the effectiveness of the compounds compared to the results when they are allowed to work together. This is called the Entourage Effect and is a major benefit of consuming full spectrum CBD or whole flower marijuana or hemp [42].