During a conversation or internet search about cannabis, two cannabinoids are likely to come up: THC and CBD. These two compounds are known to offer a number of beneficial health properties and their potential to treat a wide variety of diseases and ailments. THC is also responsible for the psychoactive high that comes from smoking marijuana, making it very popular among recreational smokers. CBD has risen to fame as a non-psychoactive element of the cannabis plant and is legal in many countries where THC is illegal.
LMARIJUANA IS MUCH MORE THAN THC AND CBD
Despite the popularity of these two compounds, cannabis research has accelerated in recent decades. Hundreds of compounds have been isolated from the marijuana plant, of which at least 113 are cannabinoids, belonging to the same molecular family as THC and CBD. Many of these have been studied to some degree and 70 cannabinoids have been described in greater detail. However, revealing its true potential depends on future studies and deeper analysis.
Cannabinoids are found in a viscous resin produced by small mushroom-shaped glands found on the flowers and leaves of cannabis/hemp plants, known as trichomes. These small chemical factories are also responsible for producing terpenes, aromatic molecules that give marijuana its unique and diverse aromas.
whatWHAT IS REALLY A CANNABINOID?
Cannabinoids are unique to marijuana and are not found anywhere else in nature, making this plant even more unique.
Some of these compounds are present in raw cannabis in its acid form. THC is found as THCA and CBD as CBDA. By applying heat, these molecules go through a chemical reaction where a carboxyl group is removed, resulting in the formation of THC and CBD. This process is called decarboxylation.
LTHE VARIABLE EFFECTS
Cannabinoids produce a series of effects, which can vary quite a bit at a physiological level between some cannabinoids and others. Two aspects that most cannabinoids share are their medicinal potential and the way they interact with the body. Most cannabinoids activate receptors found in the endocannabinoid system of the body. This mechanism of action is possible because its structure is very similar to that of cannabinoids that occur naturally in the body, known as endocannabinoids.
The endocannabinoid system is mainly made up of CB1 and CB2 receptors, which are distributed throughout the body on cells of the nervous system and the immune system.
CBD is the main non-psychoactive component present in cannabis and hemp derivatives. It has different concentration levels in marijuana strains developed for medicinal or recreational purposes, and is also extracted from low-THC industrial hemp. CBD has gained a lot of ground in the field of medicine/health and wellness thanks to its therapeutic properties and medicinal potential, which are increasingly documented in the scientific literature.
CBD has been shown to have anxiolytic effects, possibly due to its action on the limbic and paralimbic regions of the brain. It also offers anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and immunomodulatory properties. Research has also uncovered antiepileptic/anticonvulsant effects, described in a large number of well-known anecdotal reports. CBD also shows antitumor activity in laboratory studies.
With the recent rise in popularity of this cannabinoid, breeders are developing strains with much higher levels of CBD and lower levels of THC. Some of the highest CBD-rich strains available on the market offer a CBD:THC ratio of 1:1, are much less psychoactive, and are often used to make extracts for medicinal purposes. Today, non-psychoactive CBD is even administered to pets, as a safe method of increasing their daily health and well-being.
CBDA is the acidic precursor to CBD present in raw, unprocessed plant matter, prior to the decarboxylation process. CBDA was first described in 1955 and was the first cannabinoid acid to be isolated. There is a lack of studies on the full actions of CBDA and very few analyzes of the pure compound have been done to determine its physiological effects.
CBDA has been found to offer antimicrobial properties. In a study conducted on the components of hemp seed oil, extracts containing higher levels of CBDA were shown to have stronger antimicrobial effects. However, it is known that hemp seeds do not contain cannabinoids, therefore it is considered that in this case the cannabinoid content is the result of contamination.
CBDA has also been reported to offer anti-inflammatory and antiproliferative effects.
CBN has played a crucial role in the development of cannabis science: it was the first cannabinoid to be isolated from the marijuana plant. It was discovered in 1940. Interestingly, CBN is not formed by the metabolic process of the cannabis plant. Instead, this cannabinoid is formed due to the degradation of THC produced during drying, storage, and heating. CBN is mild on a psychoactive level, although it could play a role in the effects produced after consuming marijuana. CBN is likely to interact with the effects of THC and may in fact mediate its effects.
In addition to its minimal psychoactive properties, CBN has been found to have several qualities that give it medicinal potential, consistent with virtually all cannabinoids studied. CBN produces considerable anticonvulsant effects, making it a good candidate to investigate for the development of therapies against epilepsy and seizures.
Cannabinol also offers sedative effects, has the ability to reduce heart rate without affecting coronary blood flow, inhibits platelet aggregation, and reduces intestinal motility.
CBG is one of the main cannabinoids in marijuana and we have many of the cannabinoids we know and use to thank for its existence. In fact, CBG is the precursor to many other cannabinoids, which through enzymatic activity is converted into THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids. This is one of the reasons why hemp contains very small amounts of CBG at harvest time, as chemical reactions have transformed this molecule into other members of the cannabinoid family.
In addition to its important precursor function, CBG has also been found to have therapeutic effects when in its original form, prior to conversion. CBG has a slight affinity for CB1 receptors, which is equivalent to that of CBD.
CBG has been shown to possess analgesic and anti-inflammatory action, placing it in the same category as CBD as a non-psychoactive cannabinoid with therapeutic potential. Research has also shown that CBG has an antitumor function and inhibits platelet aggregation.
Very few studies have been done on CBC. But this cannabinoid in its acid form (CBCA) is present in marijuana in considerable concentrations. CBC has sedative effects and has also been shown to have some analgesic effects in mice. It could also help enhance the analgesic action of THC, when both cannabinoids are used in combination.
youETRAHYDROCANNABINOL (D)ELTA 9THC/DELTA 8THC/THCA/THCV)
THC is one of the best-known cannabinoids and is primarily responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis. THC is the subject of much debate and controversy in many countries due to its psychoactive nature and remains illegal despite its medicinal properties.
THC exists in several different forms. Before decarboxylation, THC is in its acidic form: THCA. THCA is non-psychoactive and has been shown to have medicinal effects. This cannabinoid acid offers neuroprotective properties, making it a great candidate for the development of drugs for neurodegenerative diseases. THCA also produces anti-inflammatory, antiemetic, and antiproliferative effects.
THC is formed when THCA is subjected to a suitable heat source, such as during combustion by smoking. THC, or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, binds to the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors. THC is known to help maintain sensory, somatic, and cognitive effects in humans.
The psychoactive effects of THC could be therapeutic for some smokers, as some studies show its potential anti-anxiety and antidepressant effects.
THC is also known to lower intraocular pressure and improve blood circulation in the eyes, offering therapeutic potential for glaucoma cases. This cannabinoid also offers immunomodulatory, anticonvulsant and antitumor effects; and it shows promise for treating irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease.
Delta-8-THC is the positional isomer of delta-9-THC. It has similar physiological effects, but is less potent on a psychoactive level. It is believed that this cannabinoid is produced in a similar way to CBN, that is, that it is not generated during the metabolic processes of the cannabis plant, but rather is the result of the degradation of delta-9-THC.
In studies carried out with mice, delta-8-THC causes an increase in food consumption, so it could possibly be the cause of the “munchies”, the typical hunger attack after using marijuana.
THCV (tetrahydrocannabivarin) is similar to THC on a molecular level, but has a shorter side chain. Evidence suggests that THCV binds to CB1 and CB2 receptors. Although research is still in its early stages, THCV has shown medicinal potential and could help treat conditions such as epilepsy.