Cannabis has grown exponentially in popularity but a recent cannabis study shows that not many people, even those who use the drug regularly, are aware of the cannabinoids in cannabis. Cannabinoids refer to chemical compounds found in cannabis plants that interact with receptors throughout the body and brain, thereby causing various effects. The cannabis plant potentially contains over 100 cannabinoids. Let’s take a closer look at the cannabinoids in cannabis that you should know about.
THC, short for tetrahydrocannabinol, is one of the best known and most prominent chemical compounds in cannabis. It works by binding to receptors found mostly in the brain and central nervous system.
THC offers a variety of short-term effects. For many people, THC is responsible for creating strong feelings of peace and calm, eliciting an overall euphoric high. For some, THC can cause feelings of anxiety or paranoia, but this can vary from person to person based on body chemistry and the concentration of THC. Other known benefits include:
- Physical and mental relaxation
- General sedation
- Increased energy
- Increased heart rate
CBD, or cannabidiol, is second only to THC in terms of abundance. Where THC is more associated with the psychoactive effects in cannabis along with various potential medical uses, CBD is non-intoxicating and offers a much broader range of potential therapeutic and medical applications.
While CBD and all cannabinoids require further research, we do know that CBD has interesting pharmacology that essentially allows it to influence a wide range of receptors throughout the body and brain, not only cannabinoid receptors. In fact, it does not directly affect CB1 and CB2 receptors. Instead, CBD indirectly affects the signaling through these receptors. CBD can even increase the levels of cannabinoids that your body naturally produces. Many CBD products also include trace amounts of THC as the two cannabinoids are known to have complementary effects.
This mutability and versatility means that CBD offers a variety of potential effects. Most commonly, CBD is suggested to promote pain relief, particularly in cases of chronic pain. Other potential effects of CBD include:
- Reduced symptoms of stress
- Neuroprotective properties
- Reduced inflammation
- Decreased blood pressure
- Improved sleep quality
Cannabigerol is a lesser-known cannabinoid that generally is not present in large concentrations in most strains of cannabis, often in levels lower than 1 percent. Although it’s considered a minor cannabinoid, CBG is considered the chemical parent of CBD and THC. In fact, cannabigerolic acid is the precursor to the three main cannabinoid lines, even tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA).
CBG’s potential effects center on much more specific physiological systems. For example, CBG is believed to reduce intraocular pressure, making it a potentially effective treatment for glaucoma. CBG has also been shown in studies to protect neurons and reducing the inflammation of inflammatory bowel disease.
Cannabichromene, CBC, was discovered just over 50 years ago, and while it doesn’t receive as much attention as other cannabinoids, initial research suggests that it may have some promising benefits.
CBC does not cause a euphoric high and is not intoxicating. This mainly comes from the fact that it binds poorly to CB1 receptors in the brain. However, it does bind to several other receptors, particularly receptors known as ankyrin 1 and vanilloid receptor 1. These are connected to how you perceive pain, suggesting that CBC may help to relieve chronic pain and inflammation. Activation at these receptors also results in the release of natural endocannabinoids. Studies also suggest that CBC may complement other cannabinoids.
Cannabinol, orCBN, is actually a byproduct of TCH and is present only in small amounts in most cannabis strains, though it’s becoming more popular in infused products. It was actually the first cannabinoid to be isolated and was thought to be responsible for the plant’s psychoactive effects prior to the discovery of THC. CBN is a mild psychoactive, but it is best known for its powerful sedative properties. Through the process of oxidation, THC gets converted to CBN, which may be why aged forms of cannabis may have a greater sedative effect.
Other Common Cannabinoids
Other lesser known cannabinoids that you might stumble across include:
- CBT – Research on cannabitriol is limited. Hawthorne Watson, a Jamaican researcher, recently identified and isolated the cannabinoid, but some literature suggests it was discovered as far back as 1966 by researchers Obata and Ishikawa. The actual effects of this cannabinoid still require further study.
- CBGV – Cannabigerivarin provides no psychoactive effects, but its potential health benefits still require further study. Initial studies suggest it may act as an anticonvulsant and help the body absorb THC.
- CBGA – Cannabigerolic acid is the first biogenic compound formed in the cannabis plant. It’s considered the “stem cell” of cannabis as it acts as a precursor for many other cannabinoids in this list, including CBD and THC.
- CBGVA – Cannabigerovarinic acid is another building block for other cannabinoids. The research on CBGVA is minimal, but some initial research suggests it may be beneficial for leukemia cells.
- THCV – Tetrahydrocannabivarin is similar to THC, but it also provides more specific potential effects, including appetite suppression, bone growth, and blood sugar regulation.
- THCA – Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid has no psychoactive effects, but it may possess anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties. It may also promote healthy sleep and stimulate appetite.
- THCVA – Tetrahydrocanabivarinic acid is a precursor to THCV. It is non-psychoactive and has been shown in initial research to relieve pain, regulate the immune system, and reduce inflammation.
- CBDV – Cannabidivarin is non-psychoactive and may help to relieve pain and regulate your mood. It may also reduce nausea and inflammation.
- CBDA – Cannabidiolic acid is the precursor to CBD. It has shown antioxidant, anti-nausea, and anti-inflammatory properties.
- CBDVA – Initial research shows that cannabidivarinic acid is non-psychoactive and may possess anti-inflammatory properties.
- CBCA – Cannabichromenenic acid is the predecessor to CBC. Not much is known about CBCA, but it may have antibacterial and antifungal properties.
- CBCV – Cannabichromevarin is a counterpart to CBC, meaning it may have similar effects, including potential anticonvulsant properties.
- CBCVA – Cannabichromevarinic acid does not have any psychoactive effects, but not much else is known about this cannabinoid acid.
Much of learning about cannabinoids comes down to a greater need for research and education. This can lead to a greater understanding of their potential health benefits while helping consumers better choose strains and products that will work for their specific needs.