Cannabinoids… Surely you’ve heard of them by now. These highly beneficial (and equally overlooked) compounds naturally occur in plants of the cannabis Sativa genus.
As the plant grows through its life cycle, it will begin to develop cannabinoids unique to its genetics. But first, what are cannabinoids?
Cannabinoids are compounds found in the cannabis plant that can create a range of effects on humans when consumed.
The endocannabinoid system is renowned for regulating the central nervous system, and in turn, the whole body. It's no wonder that 'superhumans' like Wim Hoff have partially attributed the control they have over their body to their endocannabinoid system!
But cannabinoids aren’t just crucial to humans. All mammals have endocannabinoid systems that have evolved so that their bodies naturally interact with cannabinoids.
Dogs, cats, mice, apes, and humans are all receptive to the compounds within the cannabis plant - you can learn more about this in our blog CBD For Animals. Cannabis is said to display any combination of up to almost 150 cannabinoids.
Cool, huh? But where does the cannabinoid puzzle begin?
Well, it all starts with CBGA. CBGA is considered the ‘Mother of all cannabinoids’ because it’s the first stage of developing the rest.
Yes, that’s right. All cannabinoids come from the same source cannabinoid! Even THC is created throughout the life span of CBGA. Just to reiterate, that means every cannabinoid we cover today started as CBGA and eventually degraded into its final form. However, we won’t go too far into that until later in this article!
For now, let’s get started with understanding cannabinoids.
There’s no better place to start than with the cannabinoid that is likely most familiar to all of us! If you haven’t been under the influence of it, you’ve undoubtedly been warned about it in your drug education classes.
It’s found most prominently in the dried flower of the cannabis plant. And if you’ve moved past that stigma, you probably recognise it for the genuinely incredible compound that it is.
THC is infamous for its psychoactive properties, but despite the potential for recreational abuse, it also offers remarkable therapeutic and medicinal benefits.
So what are the medicinal benefits of THC? This might take a while...
We’re only just beginning to scratch the surface of what can be done with Delta-9 THC.
Legislation and red-tape have prevented research into clinical applications, but the last ten years have offered new hope. The laws around cannabis are slowly being broken down, and beneficial cannabinoids can finally be studied.
Delta-8 THC is one of the most commonly found cannabinoids in the cannabis species. It results in different effects than the more-known Delta-9 THC (which we spoke about above!).
Results from both anecdotal evidence and studies conducted have shown lower levels of intoxication through the use of Delta-8 whilst still offering a range of benefits to the body.
The similarity in its name comes from the similar molecular structure to Delta-9 THC. Although less potent, it’s worth noting that it still invokes a psychoactive effect of its own!
The known benefits of Delta-8 THC;
THCA might sound similar once again, but it too has differences that set it aside from the last couple of cannabinoids we’ve discussed.
THCA is found in living cannabis plants and contains absolutely no psychoactive properties… well, until you expose it to temperatures above about 85 degrees celsius and decarboxylate it - That’s when THCA becomes THC.
Let us explain a bit more.
THCA contains an additional carboxyl ring in the molecular structure, but the easy way to remember it is as the non-psychoactive THC with all the benefits.
As the plant dries or is heated, the carboxyl rings degrade into THC. Many other cannabinoids are also created through the same process.
If the plant is being grown for medicinal or recreational use, it’s bound to contain both THC and THCA (along with a whole bunch of other cannabinoids!).
THCA hasn’t been studied a whole lot yet, but reports from people who have used it suggests the benefits include;
THCV is yet another cannabinoid often found in cannabis flowers. However, it must be isolated through extraction or ignited to 220 degrees celsius to utilise the benefits of this lesser-known cannabinoid.
It doesn’t invoke as many psychoactive traits as other cannabinoids but is not entirely free of intoxicating effects.
Clinical studies have compared the effects of THC and THCV in possible treatments for specific life-threatening diseases.
The benefits that can be leveraged through the use of THCV are;
Researchers who participated in these experiments speculated that THCV is an up-and-coming option to treat obesity and Type 2 Diabetes.
A cannabinoid more potent than THC is likely to intimidate some people… possibly even more-so when they hear that THCP is said to be as much as 30x stronger than the infamous THC.
So what’s the go with THCP, and what do they mean by stronger?
It seems that when scientists say THCP is 30x more potent than THC, they mean that it is 30x more effective at ‘switching on’ biological receptors in the body.
Some are theorising that the presence of THCP may be a critical factor in the different strengths of ‘high’ in medicinal and recreational cannabis flower.
To be more exact, in vitro studies have shown that THCP was 33x more active than THC on human CB1 receptors and 10x more active on CB2 Receptors.
The effects of THCP are the same as THC;
It would be correct to assume that if there’s THCP, there must also be CBDP - and we’ll touch on that one later!
CBD is one of the most prominent cannabinoids in the field today. It’s hailed as a miracle molecule due to its ability to help cure or reduce the symptoms of many life-threatening diseases.
Most importantly, it’s 100% non-psychoactive. That means you won’t even get a ‘slight’ or ‘different’ high. Unlike THC-derived phytocannabinoids, CBD is perfectly safe to consume - and you run no risk of becoming intoxicated upon use.
CBD is said to assist many things, from mental to physical disease across all severity levels, moderate or extreme.
Some of the mental illness’ that CBD can assist with are;
Some of the more serious physical illness’ that CBD can help treat are;
There is still much more research to be conducted on CBD before we can say that it’s certainly responsible for these outcomes. Still, there is a staggering amount of anecdotal evidence to suggest CBD’s effectiveness.
The cannabinoid known as CBDV is renowned for the possible effects it can have on seizures. The first-ever CBD-based pharmaceutical drug called ‘epidolex’ is derived from CBDV and is promoted to reduce or prevent epileptic (and other forms of) seizures.
CBDV is also showing promise in treatment for other diseases such as;
The discovery of CBDV occurred over 50 years ago, but research has been hard to do due to legal restrictions surrounding cannabis and related compounds.
With the current medicinal cannabis research and advocacy trend, we can only assume we’re just hearing the start of this one!
CBC is another cannabinoid that doesn’t produce any psychoactive effects upon consumption. The reason for this is because it binds poorly with the CB1 receptor in the brain.
With much of the spotlight on THC and CBD, CBC flew under the radar until the dust settled. However, with a ‘green rush’ in research and development for medicinal cannabis products, CBC has started to garnish a bit more of a reputation.
CBC binds with receptors in the endocannabinoid system that increase cannabinoids being released into the body (such as anandamide).
Whilst likely having its special effects, CBC is most notably recognised as the ‘collaborative cannabinoid’ due to the way it enhances and encourages the production of other cannabinoids through your body’s endocannabinoid system.
Despite a lack of significant research, scientists and activists speculate that the therapeutic benefits of CBC include;
CBDA is yet another highly promising phytocannabinoid recently put in the spotlight for potential therapeutic use.
There hasn’t been much research conducted on it, but like any cannabinoid, it has come out as a significant contender in the race of cannabinoid therapy. In 2008, researchers noticed that CBDA resembled other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
Previously considered pharmacologically inactive, the scientists proceeded to show that CBDA was 1000x more potent than CBD at binding to a particular serotonin receptor that fights anxiety and nausea.
Since then, it has been administered to counteract chemotherapy’s side effects.
CBDA has been particularly difficult to isolate due to it’s highly volatile nature. It degrades quickly at room temperature, so stabilising it has been the greatest challenge. However, there is headway being made in this field!
CBGA is the ‘mother’ of all cannabinoids. CBGA develops on the plant and eventually turns into either CBDA, THCA, and CBCA.
These proceed to turn into other cannabinoids that we have discussed in this blog. Hence, it’s arguably the most important cannabinoid in the plant.
CBGA that doesn’t convert into any of the cannabinoids mentioned above also degrades into CBG.
CBG has a range of benefits and applications on its own. The possible therapeutic and clinical uses for CBG include;
CBGV also has a variety of potential therapeutic applications such as;
Currently, there is a mix between anecdotal evidence and scholarly research into these cannabinoids. However, as the world starts to open up to cannabis-based medicines, we hope to see a lot more research done in the field!
CBN is one of the favoured cannabinoids of the masses due to it’s non-psychoactive nature. It’s most commonly found in older cannabis flower due to it appearing as THC ages.
Like many other phytocannabinoids, CBN is simply aged THC. The more oxygen the cannabis was exposed to after being harvested, the more CBN will be present.
Countries like America, which have legalised cannabis, have started offering CBN-isolates and high-CBN products.
So what are the benefits of CBN?
There isn’t as much to cover when it comes to CBDP due to the spotlight that’s been shone on THCP since the recent discovery made by Italian scientists.
However, primary observations have suggested that, like THCP, CBDP is a hyperactive variant of CBD. It’s been shown that CBDP has similar properties to CBD.
Based on the exacerbated effects when it comes to THCP going up against THC, it’s reasonable to assume that CBDP will be a more impactful treatment for anything that CBD can help with.
This includes but is not limited to;
If CBD is the closest thing to a silver-bullet for things like epilepsy, then CBDP might just be the one-pot-wonder!
We hope to have cleared some uncertainty regarding an understanding of the many cannabinoids that cannabis can produce.
Hopefully, some light has been shone on the fact that there are so many cannabinoids that don’t have psychoactive effects yet still offer remarkable therapeutic benefits.
With so many cannabinoids to choose from, it can be hard to decide what is best for you.
Due to the lack of research in the field, we recommend approaching medicinal cannabis with a straightforward tactic: Try, try, try.
There is no one-size-fits-all, and everybody’s endocannabinoid system is different.
One day, we’d like to see science and medicine catch up and contribute more to exploring how our bodies interact with cannabinoids.
But until then, all we have to go off is scholarly research and the experiences of people who have seen substantial results from cannabinoid-based treatments.
If you have any questions, please reach out through the contact form or drop a comment. We’d love to help!