THC and CBD are the most well-known and prevalent of the cannabinoids found in the Cannabis plants – but there are many others. Exactly how many, it is difficult to say for sure, though it is thought to be over 100…
But what are cannabinoids, and what potential do the more elusive ones have?
What are Cannabinoids?
“Cannabinoid” is the given name of any compound that interacts with the endocannabinoid system – a neuropathic receptor system found in the bodies of humans many animals. They are named after the Cannabis plant, as this is where the first cannabinoids were discovered.
Cannabinoids are chemical compounds, made from cannabinoid acids produced by the plant. In order to be converted into cannabinoids like THC and CBD, the acids must go through a decarboxylation (heating) process. For example, CBDA (cannabidiol acid) will become CBD (cannabidiol), when undergoing decarboxylation.
Many of the cannabinoids found in Cannabis plants are not found in any other plant. Most of them are present only at very low levels, meaning that they are also difficult to isolate and study.
Aside from THC and CBD, there are many other cannabinoids. However, few of these have been studied to the extent of the two most common compounds. We have outlined what is known about some of the more studied varieties of cannabinoids.
Cannabigerol (CBG) is produced from the same acid as CBD and THC – Cannabigerol Acid. When the acid is processed, it is converted into one of the three cannabidiols. It is thought to most frequently convert to THC.
CBG is thought to be present in quantities of less than 1% of most Cannabis strains, yet it has been found to have some therapeutic potential. Cannabigerol has shown an ability to reduce intraocular pressure – a contributor to glaucoma. It has also been used in various mice studies.
These studies implied that the cannabinoid could be potentially useful for treating inflammatory bowel disease; Huntington’s disease; and blocking receptors from causing cancer cell growth. Other studies have found some potential for the compound as an antibacterial and as a possible treatment for Cachexia and bladder dysfunction disorder.
Despite few people having heard of it, CBC is one of the six cannabinoids most prominent in medical research. Cannabichromene is also converted from Cannabigerol acid – first being converted into cannabichromene acid (CBCA), and finally CBC.
Unlike THC, CBC is not a psychoactive, but like many other cannabinoids, it is thought to have some therapeutic value. The CBC compound does not effectively bind with CB1 receptors, however it does interact with other receptors. These interactions can boost the production of endocannabinoids, such as anandamide.
Although cannabichromene is thought to have benefits on its own, it is also thought to enhance the effects of other cannabinoids. This is known as the “entourage effect”.
THCV, similar in structure to THC, also has some shared properties with the most common cannabinoid. However, It is found at much smaller levels and has a higher boiling point than THC.
Like THC, it also has psychoactive properties, as well as some therapeutic potential. It has been found to be an appetite suppressant – unlike THC, which is known for increasing appetite. Other potential health benefits of the compound include a possible ability to regulate blood sugar levels; soothe anxiety; help with tremors and motor control associated with Alzheimer’s disease; stimulate bone growth.
Similar in structure, and some properties, to the more common CBD (cannabidiol), cannabidivarin has also been studied in relation to Epilepsy treatment. GW Pharmaceuticals, the pharmaceutical company that developed the only licensed medical Cannabis in the UK, have even carried out trials exploring the potential of the cannabinoid.
However, the 2018 clinical trials did not meet the expected endpoints. Despite this setback, GW Pharmaceuticals is continuing to study cannabidivarin’s potential in treating some forms of Epilepsy, and Autism.