The cannabinoids in cannabis have attracted a lot of media attention lately. Cannabis is a treasure trove of active compounds that each may have their own specific effects and benefits. In this article we take a quick look at some of the most important cannabinoids found in cannabis and list their beneficial effects.
WHAT ARE CANNABINOIDS?
Cannabinoids are a group of diverse chemicals that act on cannabis receptors in cells. There are two main kinds of cannabinoids; phytocannabinoids, which are found in plants like cannabis, and endocannabinoids, which are naturally produced by the endocannabinoid system found in humans and other mammals.
The cannabis plant contains over 400 different active chemicals and at least 80 of those are phytocannabinoids. When introduced into the human body, these cannabinoids can interact with our endocannabinoid system or ECS.
This system mainly consists of two types of cannabis receptors: CB1 and CB2. It plays a key role in a wide variety of chemical processes, including memory, appetite, sleep, emotion, stress, and much more. The ECS can also produce endocannabinoids like anandamide and 2-AG (or 2-Arachidonoylglycerol).
Once they’ve entered the body and interacted with the receptors of the ECS, phytocannabinoids like those found in cannabis can produce a wide variety of effects. Arguably the most well-known is the psychoactive euphoria associated with smoking or consuming cannabis, which is produced by THC.
However, there are many other effects that cannabinoids can produce. Below is a list of some of the most common cannabinoids found in cannabis and some information on how they might affect the body.
Please note: We are not making medical claims about cannabis. This article has been written for informational purposes only, as is based on research published by other externals sources.
WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF DIFFERENT CANNABINOIDS?
THC is the main psychoactive compound found in cannabis. It is known to produce a strong euphoria or “high”, but research suggests it can also have a variety of other beneficial effects:
According to a 2015 study published by researchers from Brazil, THC can disrupt contextual fear memory and potentially help relieve some of the symptoms associated with conditions like post traumatic stress disorder.
According to an article by the US National Academies press, THC can also help mask pain signals sent to the brain and temporarily numb the pain of a variety of conditions, including everything from arthritis to specific traumatic injuries.
THCA, or tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, is an acidic cannabinoid that’s very similar in structure to THC. However, it can have very different effects. First of all, THCA is not psychoactive. This means it does not produce the iconic “high” associated with cannabis.
Secondly, THCA is actually found in higher concentrations in live cannabis. When cannabis is harvested and dried, THCA slowly begins to convert into THC. Just like the other cannabinoids on this list, THCA has a wide variety of benefits.
Research published in the Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin shows that THCA, much like THC and CBD, has potent anti-inflammatory effects.
A study published in the Phytomedicine journal in 2012 shows that THCA also has unique neuroprotective effects. The study suggests that these effects may help protect brain cells against the neurodegenerative damage from some specific conditions.
In 2013, a study by a team of Italian researchers published in the British Journal of Pharmacology also found that THCA can slow the spread of malignant cells like those of certain cancers (like prostate).
Tetrahydrocannabivarin is another cannabinoid often found in cannabis. It is similar in structure to THC (with only a few minor differences), but produces different effects and is not psychoactive. THCV has some very promising list of beneficial effects:
A 2013 study published in the Nutrition and Diabetes journal found that THCV can help reduce glucose intolerance and increase insulin activity in a mouse model of obesity. The authors concluded that THCV is a new potential treatment for obesity-related glucose intolerance.
Some sources claim THCV can help suppress appetite and may help promote weight loss. According to Dr. Bonnie Goldstein, medical director at Canna-Centers, THCV can block CB1 receptors in the brain and thereby increase weight loss, lower body fat levels, and increase energy expenditure. Some sources also claim THCV can help reduce the psychoactive effects of THC.
CBD is by far one of the most well-known compounds in cannabis. A ton of new research has been devoted to understanding CBD and its many promising effects. Like THCV, CBD is a non-psychoactive compound and is said to be able to reduce the psychoactive effects of THC.
A large body of research shows that CBD can help reduce seizures and tremors. While it’s not clear how CBD has antiepileptic effects, preliminary research suggests it may be able to calm the synchronized, prolonged firing of neurons in the brain that causes seizures.
CBD has also been shown to have powerful anxiolytic effects. A 2011 study by researchers from the University of Sao Paolo, Brasil, shows that CBD helped reduce symptoms of anxiety in patients with social phobias.
CBG is a non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis. While it is only found in trace amounts in most modern strains of cannabis, it promises to have a variety of beneficial effects:
In 2015, researchers from the University of Madrid found that CBG can normalize some of the genes associated with Huntington’s disease in mice. The researchers suggest it may also help protect against other neurodegenerative disorders.
Another study, published in 2014 in the Carcinogenesis journal found that CBG can also slow the growth of colon cancer in mice.
Cannabinol is another non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis with a wide variety of beneficial effects:
According to Steep Hill Labs, CBN is an extremely powerful sedative. According to their research, 5mg of CBN are as effective as a 10mg dose of diazepam, making it a powerful option for people with sleep issues.
A 2012 study by researchers from the University of Reading found that CBN is a strong appetite stimulant. The study (conducted on rats) found that CBN increased appetite, while CBD, on the other hand, had the opposite effect.
CBC, or cannabichromene, hasn’t been as well studied as some of the other cannabinoids on this list. However, the limited research on this cannabinoid shows it can have a wide variety of beneficial effects:
A study published in 2013 showed that CBC improved the function of neural stem progenitor cells. These cells are self-renewing and multi-potent and have the ability to develop into a variety of other cells, which makes them essential for brain growth and recovery. The study suggests that, by helping these cells function, CBC could help protect against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.
CBDA is the acidic form of CBD. Like THCA, it is found in raw and live cannabis that hasn’t been cured and has a variety of beneficial effects:
A 2008 study published in Drug Metabolism and Disposition showed that has strong anti-inflammatory properties.
Studies have shown that CBDA can have anti-proliferative effects and according to a paper in the British Journal of Pharmacology, it is also an antiemetic.
Cannabicyclol is another little-studied cannabinoid found in cannabis. It is known to occur as a by-product of the degradation of CBC, and hence is usually found in older stashes of cannabis. Very little studies have looked into CBL, and more research is needed to really begin to understand this cannabinoid and how it works.
UNDERSTANDING THE ENTOURAGE EFFECT
While understanding the benefits of individual cannabinoids is important, it doesn’t paint a complete picture of why cannabis might be such a beneficial herb. Raphael Mechoulam, the highly revered cannabis researcher, has long suggested that the key to understanding cannabis and how it works lies in how all of the cannabinoids and other chemicals in the plant combine and work together.