Cannabinoids are chemical components of cannabis plants that interact with human biology. Nowadays, most people are familiar with the two most common ones: THC and CBD. THC is the psychoactive cannabinoid that causes people to feel high, while CBD is better known for its medicinal properties. However, THC and CBD are only two out of more than a hundred cannabinoids that scientists have been able to identify. Thanks to a growing body of cannabis research, minor cannabinoids are now becoming popular.
More On Cannabinoids
Endocannabinoids are cannabinoids that occur naturally in the human body. They are part of the endocannabinoid system, which was named for the marijuana (Cannabis sativa) plant. Endocannabinoids are neurotransmitters that bind to cannabinoid receptors in the central nervous system, and they seem to play a role in a variety of mind and body functions, including memory, mood, appetite, sleep, and perception of pain. The cannabinoids in cannabis plants bind to the same receptors in the endocannabinoid system,1 affecting the same functions and activities.
New Knowledge About Minor Cannabinoids
Thanks to a growth in research on cannabinoids,2 a lot of new information has become available. Not only do scientists have a better understanding of how THC and CBD work in the human body, but they have also discovered a host of other less-prevalent cannabinoids. Although these rare or minor cannabinoids occur in very small amounts, they make important contributions to the overall effect of the plant. They also have unique beneficial properties in isolated form. The following is an overview of the four most popular minor cannabinoids: CBC, CBN, CBG, and TCHV.
What Is CBC?
CBC’s full name is cannabichromene, and like CBD, it has no psychoactive effects. Only some plants contain CBC because the conditions that produce it result from a recessive gene. Although CBC is a rare cannabinoid, it is one of the most plentiful non-psychoactive compounds when it does occur. CBC is a product of cannabichromenic acid, which releases carbon dioxide over time or when heated to a high temperature to produce the cannabinoid.
Research has mainly looked at how CBC interacts with cannabinoid receptors in the central nervous system. One potential benefit of CBC is that it causes the body to produce more anandamide, a natural endocannabinoid that elevates the mood. In addition, some animal studies have demonstrated that CBC reduces pain and inflammation. CBC has also been shown to inhibit the growth of gastrointestinal tumors in mice.3 One more potential benefit of this cannabinoid is that it improves the function of a certain type of neural stem cells, and it may be a key to preserving brain health and cognitive function.
What Is CBN?
Cannabinol, or CBN, is a chemical that results from the degradation of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and is mainly found in cannabis that has been harvested and stored for a while. Exposure to air and light causes the tetrahydrocannabinolic acid in cannabis to convert to a different type of acid, cannabinolic acid. Over time, cannabinolic acid will shed carbon dioxide and convert to CBN. Like THC, CBN has a psychoactive effect, but it is very mild.
Though there is as yet little research on this cannabinoid, some studies suggest that it may be useful as a sleep aid for people with insomnia and as a treatment for pain and inflammation. Several studies have also investigated the benefits of CBN for skin conditions, such as atopic dermatitis, and the results so far are promising. This cannabinoid has antibacterial properties as well, particularly as a topical preparation.
What Is CBG?
Cannabigerol, or CBG, is a product of cannabigerolic acid, and it forms as the acid sheds carbon dioxide molecules over time. Cannabigerolic acid is also a parent to the two best-known cannabinoids, THC and CBD. Most strains of cannabis contain a small amount of CBG, usually less than 1%, and CBG is most prevalent in strains that are lower in THC. CBG has no psychoactive effects, but it does seem to interact with human biology in some positive ways.
For one thing, CBG protects nerve cells from degenerating. In a study of mice with Huntington’s disease (a neurological disorder), CBG slowed the death of neurons in the animals’ brains.4 Research has also demonstrated that CBG has antibacterial properties and is even effective against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus area (MRSA), a drug-resistant bacteria. As a treatment for pain and inflammation, CBG is similar to aspirin and ibuprofen, but it is much gentler on the stomach than those drugs. Other possible therapeutic uses include treating skin irritation, reducing eye pressure in glaucoma patients, and stimulating the appetite.
What Is THCV?
THCV is tetrahydrocannabivarin, a cannabinoid that is found mainly in Cannabis sativa strains. Like THC, THCV is a psychoactive compound that produces a high. The two cannabinoids are also both biphasic, meaning that the effects vary according to the dosage. However, THCV is different from THC in several ways.
For one thing, while THC stimulates the appetite, THCV is an appetite suppressant. In addition, THCV has the potential to make the mind sharper by protecting neurons from degradation. One study revealed that the cannabinoid had an antipsychotic effect on rats.5 Scientists are looking into the possible benefits of THCV for people with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.
The Entourage Effect
Each of these cannabinoids is available in isolated form. An isolated cannabinoid is pure, and its effects target specific concerns, like these High-Quality CBD Products. In the plant, however, cannabinoids, terpenes (essential oils), and other components interact. For example, when users smoke or vape marijuana, the memory-boosting terpene pinene can counteract the memory impairment that THC often causes. In addition, the presence of CBN can enhance the sedative effects of THC. This phenomenon is known as the entourage effect.6 Cannabinoid blends can mimic the entourage effect to some extent.
Though CBC, CBN, CBG, and THCV are all relatively rare, they have a significant impact on the effects of the whole plant, and they have unique beneficial properties in isolation. Chances are, these and other minor cannabinoids will continue to grow in popularity as scientists and consumers learn more about them.