Hidden Cannabinoids: Commonly Unknown Compounds in Cannabis

Cannabis is a plant that has been in the news and minds of people for the wrong reasons for quite some time. It is not until recently that much research has been carried out to understand what qualities the plant has and the chemistry behind them. It is a plant that is made up of several compounds including the more popular Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD).  

The cannabis plant contains 113 known cannabinoids, most of which have not been closely studied. THC has been the source of cannabis’ notoriety as it provides its psychoactive effect, but CBD recently has been in the spotlight because it is not psychoactive and appears to have an array of health benefits

In this article, we explore some of the lesser known or secret cannabinoids so that we can get a better grasp of this complex plant and what it can do for us!

Tetrahydrocannabiphorol (THCP)

An Italian study discovered this cannabinoid along with another called cannabidiphorol. Their research led them to conclude that THCP, in particular, might possess higher potency than THC. Although this finding is not definite, it is clear that it binds to cannabinoid receptors 33 times stronger than what THC does.

Every human (every mammal, in fact) has an endocannabinoid system which helps to maintain a perfectly balanced body. This system regulates several functions such as sleep, inflammation and appetite. THC consumption is known to result in an altered mental state by overwhelming the body’s cannabinoid receptors, as well as impairing how receptors communicate between brain cells.  As you either know or can probably tell by now, this is the compound that is commonly attributed to getting people ‘high’.

Aside from the alteration in mental state, there are other effects of THC like increased heart rate, red eyes, and short-term memory loss.  Besides all of these arguably undesirable effects, there are also studies showing that THC can be useful in providing relief for a variety of complex health conditions.  Consider the effects of THCP, as it possesses 33 times the affinity for receptors compared to THC. So far, the team of researchers has found that it requires lower doses of THCP to produce the same effect of THC.

The bulk of studies on the potential medicinal applications of cannabis have dealt with CBD, but due to THCP’s higher potency, researchers conclude that it might have benefits. However, much is left to be discovered.

Cannabigerol (CBG)

This is a minor constituent of the plant, and makes up less than 1% of the cannabinoids within it. It is synthesized from the parent compound cannabigerol acid (CBGA), its acidic form. It is one of the most expensive cannabinoids to extract and purchase, and plant breeders are now even attempting to create strains with higher concentrations to capitalise on this potential market.

Compared to CBD, it has a low affinity of receptors within the endocannabinoid system and its actions are mainly indirect. It is believed to exert its effects via CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors within the brain. These are the same receptors THC uses to create its psychoactive effects.

CBG has been found to work as a buffer to THC’s psychoactivity and may be able to minimize the anxiety that may accompany high THC intake. However, research is lacking in regards to its therapeutic effects especially in relation to that of the more famous compounds.

Some potential benefits linked to the compound in early studies include:

  • Glaucoma treatment due to its ability to dilate blood vessels and protect nerves from damage
  • Decreasing inflammation
  • Killing drug-resistant bacteria like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
  • Inhibition of tumour growth as seen in animal models of colorectal cancer

Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV)

It is similar to THC as the name might have suggested but it has different effects. To get THCV you need to heat it up to 428 degrees Fahrenheit, its boiling point. Unlike THC, it suppresses appetite and may be helpful for users looking to shed some pounds. It has also been found to help in blood sugar regulation and reduce resistance to insulin, therefore combating diabetes.

It has been shown to reduce the frequency of panic attacks in people who have PTSD without numbing their emotions. Alzheimer’s disease, a type of dementia that can be extremely debilitating appears to improve when patients are treated with THCV – Although research is in its early stages.

High THCV strains and products are rare as most have trace amounts, insufficient to produce its therapeutic effects. With the growing popularity of this cannabinoid, it will likely become more commonplace. 

These are just three of the more than a hundred potentially beneficial compounds within the cannabis plant. It has been neglected for decades due to stigma related to its psychoactivity and legal classification. With the changes in law and the scientific community, we are finally embracing its usefulness.

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