What are Cannabinoids
This will be a brief introduction to the most common different types of cannabinoids. Each of these cannabinoids could be a chapter on their own, but we wanted to give you a brief introduction to what they are and some of their actions in the human body. Please note: Any mention of any application of these or any hemp derivatives have not been evaluated by the FDA. What we are sharing is information from published articles on PubMed and there needs to be further clinical trials before they can be recommended as supplements. These work in synergy with terpenes and trichomes to provide a defense so the plant can live on and reproduce. These mechanisms not only protect against plants and UV radiation- they are also thought to have some herbicidal properties. As the plant grows different cannabinoids are produced in higher concentrations in different parts of the plant and the thought is that it helps to thin out the lower parts of the plant as it grows to dedicate more energy to the higher leaves and flowers.
Why does the Cannabis/Hemp Plant produce these cannabinoids? It is thought that these molecules help protect the plant from UV radiation that potentially damages its DNA. CBG, CBC and THCa have insecticidal properties and can help protect the plant from being eaten.
CBD stands for Cannabidiol and is one of over 600 different chemical compounds and about 113 different cannabinoids in the Hemp/Cannabis Plant. CBD is found in higher concentrations in the Hemp plant vs Marijuana and is the reason why most CBD products are derived from Hemp. CBD is one of the major cannabinoids, meaning it is found in the highest percentage, and has gained a lot of attention lately. But, what is it? It is a naturally produced cannabinoid from the Cannabis/Hemp plant. It is a mirror image of our naturally produced endogenous 2-AG.It has been attributed to many health benefits and is an active ingredient in a few medicines around the world and one FDA approved medication. Epidiolex was developed by GW Pharmaceuticals and approved by the FDA in 2018 to treat a rare subset of pediatric seizures, Lennox-Gastaut Syndromes (LGS) and Dravet Syndrome. CBD counteracts the psychoactive effects of THC and helps people achieve some of the desired results with Cannabis/Hemp without the intoxicating effects of THC. CBD primarily binds to the CB2R, but does have activity at the CB1R It is becoming more popular and there are many unfounded claims of what CBD can do/cure. Although there are many published articles regarding the potential benefits of CBD- the FDA does not condone the use or claim that CBD can cure or treat any disease. A simple PubMed search using the word Cannabidiol can net thousands of published articles regarding what CBD can potentially help with. CBDa, is the acidic and unchanged form of CBD that is produced by the Cannabis/Hemp plant. It is only after it is decarboxylated, which is accomplished through heat or time, is it changed to CBD. CBDa is seen in higher concentrations in freshly harvested plants. CBDa is being recognized for its medicinal properties and you can ingest CBDa by juicing the plant or some products have been formulated to contain higher levels of CBDa. CBDa interacts with our ECS a little differently than CBD as it doesn’t bind directly to the CBD1R or CB2R. It directly inhibits the COX-2 enzyme, which is the same enzyme and system that NSAIDs (Ibuprofen, Aleve, etc) target.
THC has garnered the most attention of any cannabinoid. It is one of the most loved and at the same time vilified molecules we know of. It is one of the major cannabinoids produced by the Cannabis/Hemp plant. It can produce psychoactive/intoxicating effects, but also can provide many medicinal benefits. THC has been FDA approved in 3 different medications: Dronabinol, Nabilone and Dronabinol oral solution. These medications were approved to treat appetite stimulation and nausea in HIV patients and patients going through chemotherapy for their cancer. The problem with these medications are they are pure THC and lack all of the other cannabinoids that Cannabis/Hemp produces. They also all are full agonists of the CB1R, which naturally occurring THC is only a partial agonist. This means in nature, when THC binds to the CB1R it only partially fits into the receptor, which causes a different activation than if it were to bind fully into the receptor- such as the synthetic medications. For example, you can think of THC as a key and the CB1R as the lock. In nature the key only partially fits into the lock- but this causes a specific physiological response. With synthetic THC, the key will fit all the way into the lock and this causes a different type of response. Recreating naturally made molecules is extremely difficult, especially with Cannabis/Hemp as the benefits of this plant come when multiple compounds are present at the same time. THCa, or the acidic carboxylated form of THC, is NON psychoactive and has different properties than THC. It is found in the raw and live cannabis plant/flower. You can find high levels of THCa in strains of Cannabis/Hemp that have been bred to have higher strains of THC. Juicing raw cannabis parts is gaining in popularity and it is thought a lot of the medicinal benefits are from the THCa and CBDa. THCa has been found to be anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective and anti-nausea.
Is one of the most rare cannabinoids as it is produced early in the plant’s growth. Since a farmer would have to harvest a plant much earlier than usual and lose a larger production of flower, CBC containing products are usually more expensive. CBC contains both antibiotic and anti-fungal properties which are important defensive mechanisms for a young plant. This will allow the plant to overcome potential lethal infections and produce its higher yielding flowers. This shows how the cannabinoid profile of the Cannabis/Hemp plant changes with the life cycle of the plant.
Another “minor” cannabinoid, but what makes this one interesting is that it is NOT produced by the plant- but is a byproduct of the breakdown of THC after the plant has dried out. It does not produce any psychoactive properties, but does cause sedation- especially if combined with THC. CBN is thought to have three times the binding affinity for the CB2R than CB1R and which is why it shows greater effects on the immune system.
Some people have called it the “Mother Cannabinoid” as the CBGa (Acidic form) is where CBD and THC are synthesized from. It is the third most abundant cannabinoid and is actually found in higher concentrations in Hemp vs Cannabis
There is no consensus on if THCV has psychoactive properties or not. Research from a couple years ago shows it has about 25% of the potency of THC and newer research shows it does not have any. Some scientists believe it helps to modulate the psychological activity of THC.