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There are over 100 cannabinoids found in cannabis plants. And while science has taken note of THC and CBD, what about the others in the mix? It’s important to note that not just THC and CBD have beneficial properties. In fact, every cannabinoid found in cannabis contributes to certain effects and feelings brought on by consumption.
To help you gain a better understanding of some of the lesser-known cannabinoids in existence, let’s take a closer look at where they come from and the variety of benefits they can impart.
Not just THC and CBD play a role in the effects of cannabis. Check out these lesser known cannabinoids below:
We begin our cannabinoid journey with the parent molecule for most of the other cannabinoids. CBG, known as cannabigerol, starts its life as cannabigerol-acid (CBGA). From there, enzymes within the plant direct it to turn into one of three other cannabinoids, THCA, CBDA and CBCA. As discussed in previous posts, these cannabinoids lose their acid group and become decarboxylated when heat is introduced to create the THC, CBD and CBC forms. Because CBG is “used up” when converted to other states, plants high in CBG are low in THC or CBD, and vice-versa.
Unlike its derivative THC, CBG is non-psychoactive. It has shown promise as an anti-inflammatory, as well as the ability to protect neurons from cell death. It inhibits the growth of cancerous cells, is an effective antibacterial, anti-spasmodic, and appetite stimulant as well. Many of its benefits are similar to THCA and CBD, which makes makes sense, as they are chemically similar.
Before turning into THCA, CBDA and CBCA, CBGA can take another path through enzyme changes and become CBGVA, which is the precursor for another batch of cannabinoids, THCVA, CBDVA and CBCVA. The V in this set of cannabinoids refers to Cannabivarin, Classified as propyl cannabinoids, and this group contains a propyl chain instead of a pentyl chain within the molecule. Though this distinction can offer a few changes to the effects of these cannabinoids, most act similar to their pentyl cousins. The exception to this rule is THCV, or tetrahyrdocannabivarin.
As mentioned, THCV starts life as CBGVA, and is then changed through enzymes. It is the only cannabinoid other than THC that is psychoactive (though the effects do not appear to be as intense or long-lasting), however it carries the unique ability to suppress appetite instead of stimulating it. No other known cannabinoid works in this way, and had caused THCV to be more studied than other propyl-chain cannabinoids. Plants can be bred to produce larger amounts of THCV, especially strains descended from African sativas (such as Durban Poison) as well as Skunk strains. Beyond appetite suppression, THCV has also been shown to promote bone growth and repair.
Another up-and-coming cannabinoid is CBC, or Cannabichromene. The second-most commonly occurring cannabinoid, CBC is a product of CBGA just like THC and CBD. However, CBC cannot adhere to CB1 or CB2 receptors as THC and CBD do. CBC seems to be absorbed by other ancillary receptors and for this reason works well in topical preparations. This is fortuitous as CBC displays promise as an acne treatment, greatly reducing oil overproduction in skin.
Combined with its antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic properties, it can be ideal for a number of skin conditions. Mary’s Medicinals already has a CBC-specific topical cream, with other companies quickly following suit. Lastly, CBC can help with spastic stomach motility without causing constipation, making it superior in the treatment of diarrhea or other stomach disorders, whose medications typically cause a host of side effects.
Speaking of interesting side effects, once the pariah of cannabinoids, further research into CBN, or cannabinol, has yielded fascinating results. Unlike other cannabinoids who come about from enzyme changes within the plant, THC breaks down into CBN with light exposure. It was traditionally associated with ditch weed or schwag weed, as high levels of CBN tend to cause a headache and make one fall asleep when smoked. However, we now know that very little CBN is needed to have a pronounced soporific (sleep inducing) effect, and 5mg can be as effective as a 10mg dose of diazepam, a common sleep aid. As little as 1-2% presence of CBN can steer a usual hybrid towards the effects of a heavy indica, so pay attention to labels when purchasing flower. In these small amounts, adverse effects are minimized or nonexistent. Furthermore, CBN carries antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic properties common to many cannabinoids.
With so many fascinating properties to offer, it’s a wonder that these other cannabinoids do not enjoy more popularity. While a part of the reason is cultural as THC and its euphoric effects have garnered the most attention and thus are studied the most, reducing the situation to such simplistic means ignores the complexity of the cannabis plant.
As mentioned, all cannabinoids share the common precursor CBGA. The plant then directs CBGA to become other cannabinoids throughout its lifecycle via synthases, enzymes that chemically convert cannabinoids into other cannabinoids. This is determined by the needs of the plant and the available amounts of precursor cannabinoid. In order for any one cannabinoid to be more pronounced than others, the others have to be actively reduced.
We are still discovering the roles that each of these cannabinoids play within the plant, but we can safely assume that THCA, CBCA and CBDA largely benefit the plant in some way because they appear in highest concentration, i.e. the plant determined it needed them, so it made them. Most other cannabinoids, though powerful and useful for human medical purpose, do not seem to offer the plant as much. Recall that THC is actually present in miniscule amounts in the cannabis plant, and THCA is what appears in abundance. It is naturally harder to find something that there isn’t a lot of there in the first place. Only with more research, selective breeding, and understanding of the cannabis plant and its natural mechanisms can we learn to unlock the secrets of these rare substances.
Have you had any experience with the cannabinoids mentioned above? Let us know in the comments below!