The Major Cannabinoids
Many of us have become familiar with the various cannabinoids (cannabis-like compounds) contained within the cannabis plant due to increased media marketing and social media on this topic lately. Did you now that there are at least 110 different phyto-cannabinoids contained in the cannabis plant! The most well-known major cannabinoid is tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the euphoric compound that “gets you high.” THC has a unique molecular composition relative to other cannabinoids as well as unique therapeutic and medicinal properties. THC is a bronchodilator , muscle relaxant, anti-spasmodic, powerful neuroprotectant, and antioxidant. Recent clinical evidence has shown THC to have anti-tumoral properties as well.
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Cannabinoids are the chemical compounds made by the cannabis plant that unlock its many healing secrets. There are over 110 known (documented) cannabinoids and these chemicals imitate the endocannabinoids naturally produced by the body. Do you know the shiny crystals you see on cannabis buds (wink wink)? Those are trichomes and that’s where cannabinoids are stored. Human bodies (and many animals) have endocannabinoid systems, meaning that cannabinoids are naturally made so they can bind to endocannabinoid receptors creating changes in our physiology.
The other major cannabinoid is cannabidiol, or CBD, which also has a unique molecular composition as well as unique therapeutic and medicinal effects. CBD is best known for its relationship to the hemp plant, cannabis’s ultra-low THC cousin that historically has been used primarily for industrial purposes. CBD has been shown to safely and effectively treat nausea and vomiting, seizure disorders, inflammatory disorders and neurodegenerative disorders; it also has been effective in addressing anxiety and depression disorders; and there is evidence that it may have anti-tumoral properties. CBD has the greatest impact of all cannabinoids across a very wide range of inflammatory related disorders.
Out of the 110 or so other cannabinoids that have been identified to date, we know a decent amount of information on the therapeutic potential of about eight of the minor cannabinoids – these eight represent the most studied thus far, although the list seems to be growing every day.
CBD has exploded in popularity in recent years. CBD [Ref] has been the subject of much scientific interest after it hit the mainstream in 2014, following a CNN documentary in which a non-psychoactive, CBD rich cannabis strain, helped a five-year-old girl with severe epilepsy drastically reduce her daily seizure count. The FDA recently approved the first ever CBD-based drug for seizures. CBD is making waves in its ability to treat pain, nausea, anxiety, sleep disorders, and more.
Cannabigerolic is considered a minor cannabinoid because it is present in very low levels. It’s also powerful in treating glaucoma because it is a strong vasodilator meaning that it widens blood vessels. This helps increase blood flow and provide oxygen to the tissues that need it. CBG is showing promise as an effective antibacterial, anticancer, neuroprotectant and has been shown to slow bacterial growth, promote bone growth, help with insomnia, and it has anti-proliferative properties
CBGa, Cannabigerolic Acid
This is a big one.Cannabigerolic acid is a precursor to one of the three main cannabinoid lines: THCA, CBDA, and CBCA. CBGA is the chemical parent to THC and CBD. Do you follow? Enzymes direct it down one of these lines before heat can change it into different forms. CBGA can help reduce inflammation and relieves pain. Inflammation is a defense mechanism; the body’s response to damage or irritants. It’s important because inflammation is the body actively trying to heal itself from a perceived danger, like a bacterial infection, injury, or food allergy and has been shown to be anti-proliferative and to encourage apoptosis, as well as have anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties
Short for tetrahydrocannabivarin, THVC is similar to THC, but with a few less carbon atoms. THCV has been shown to be an anticonvulsant and has neuroprotective properties. THCV also may be an appetite suppressant, making it an agent for weight loss and has been shown to be an appetite suppressant and an effective stimulator of bone growth; it also may reduce panic attacks, and may help with Alzheimer’s
THCA over time breaks down and turns into cannabinol (CBN). CBN has been shown to delay symptom onset of Lou Gehrig’s disease in mice indicating that it may help with motor neural diseases. CBN is also known for its anti-asthmatic, anti-inflammatory, and sedative properties and has been shown to help with insomnia, pain relief, the promotion of bone growth; has been shown to have anti-convulsive properties, and to be effective as an appetite stimulant
Cannabichromenic, binds poorly to CB1 receptors in the brain, but it binds well with other pain-related receptors, helping to increase the body’s levels of natural endocannabinoids. CBC may be impactful against cancer because of this. CBC has also been shown to be an inhibitor of acne. In conjunction with the THC and CBD, CBD also appears to have antidepressant effects and has been shown to relieve pain, to have anti-epileptic properties, to reduce inflammation, to promote bone growth, and to have has anti-proliferative properties
CBCa, Cannabichromenic acid
Cannabichromenic acid is one of the three main cannabinoid lines. It is used to treat fungal infections. Fungal infections like athlete’s foot, ringworm, and jock itch are commonly found on the skin.
CBDa, Cannabidiolic Acid
Cannabidolic acid, is very abundant in the cannabis plant and turns into CBD when heated. Preclinical studies demonstrate that CBDA is a strong antiemetic. An antiemetic is used to treat vomiting and nausea and is often used to mitigate the side effects of opioid use or chemotherapy and has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, anti-bacterial properties, anti-nausea properties, and anti-proliferative properties
Cannabidivarin is a less potent version of CBD. The CBDV molecule is similar to CBD but has been changed in some ways. CBDV is an anti-nausea and anti-epileptic. CBDV is a powerful anticonvulsant. A 2012 study shows that CBDV stopped seizures in mice and rats.
THCa, Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid
Delta 9 THC is arguably the most widely known cannabinoid. When people refer to “getting high” they are referring to the experience of the psychoactive effects of THC. THC begins as THCA, tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, which is one of the most abundant cannabinoids found in cannabis. When THCA is heated and turned into THC, it binds to CB1 receptors in the brain producing psychoactive effects. THC is the only known cannabinoid to produce a psychoactive response, a high, and possibly, a therapeutic benefit, and has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, anti-nausea properties, neuroprotective properties, and anti-proliferative properties
Is another psychoactive cannabinoid like THC, it has been shown to be antiemetic and to boost acetylcholine, deficiencies of which are thought to contribute to cognitive disorders, such as Alzheimer’s
Putting it All Together
Did you notice a lot of similarities? Cannabinoids are broadly known for their anti-seizure, anti-inflammatory, anti-nausea, anti-fungal, and anti-cancer effects and science has just scratched the surface. How much these effects are expressed is a result of the entourage effect. The entourage effect states that the cannabinoids work better in tandem than they do alone. THC and CBD produce stronger healing properties together that are shown differently based on their concentrations and the presence of other cannabinoids. In addition, terpenes, the oils that give cannabis its fragrance, contribute to the therapeutic effects of the plant on the body when paired with cannabinoids. The powerful combination of these naturally occurring chemicals produces the medical effects that have given cannabis its reputation as a medical agent.
Research and References
Research, notes, references and publications on this topic is expanding daily. We list a few selected sources for your explorations into the realm of the natural
- Cannabis, a complex plant: different compounds and different effects on individuals (PMC)
- CBG, Cannabigerol (MedicalJane)
- CBGa, Cannabigerolic Acid (HealthyHempOil)
- THCv, Tetrahydrocanabivarinic (Leafly)
- CBN, Cannabinol (HighTimes)
- CBC, Cannabichromene (LeafScience)
- CBDa, Cannabidiolic Acid (HerbCo)
- THCa, Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid (Elixinol)
- Δ8–THC, Δ8-tetrahydrocannabinol (PubMed)