Cannabinoids are a diverse set of chemicals used by the endocannabinoid system, one of the largest neurotransmission systems in the bodies of all mammals. Whether the cannabinoids are produced by our bodies (endocannabinoids) or are obtained from external sources like cannabis (ectocannabinoids), they have profound effects on regulating appetite, mood, motor control, immunity, reproduction, pain, memory and sleep, to name a few.
The cannabinoids produced in our bodies are not the exact same cannabinoids found in cannabis, but they all interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system in a very similar way and consequently produce very similar effects.
There are over 100 cannabinoids, but the only ones that make headlines are the two cannabis-produced cannabinoids tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Both are known for many health benefits such as relieving pain, mitigating depression, inducing sleep and fighting cancer, but THC is notorious for the psychoactive high it produces. As a consequence, THC and CBD eclipse the “other cannabinoids” in name recognition. The rarely mentioned and less-researched “other cannabinoids” have health benefits that deserve serious consideration.
“The cannabinoids produced in our bodies are not the exact same cannabinoids found in cannabis, but they all interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system in a very similar way and consequently produce very similar effects.”
Cannabigerol (CBG) is found abundantly in immature plants, but as the plant matures it all but disappears as it is broken down by specific enzymes into other cannabinoids—mainly THC and CBD. CBG has been shown to provide relief from irritable bowel syndrome, reduce intraocular eye pressure in glaucoma patients, inhibit the growth of cancer cells and act as an antibacterial agent. As a consequence of these multiple health benefits, geneticists are working to develop cannabis strains that retain high levels of CBG.
Cannabichromene (CBC) is also a derivative of CBG. Of interest is that CBC is reported to provide pain relief by binding with receptors outside the endocannabinoid system leading to increased levels of the body’s natural THC like cannabinoid—anandamide. CBC has also been shown to possess anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal and antibiotic properties.
Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) has a similar molecular structure to THC, but medical studies have produced conflicting results on whether it has the same psychoactive properties as THC, with some studies finding enhanced psychoactive properties while others found it to reduce THC’s psychoactive effects. As for health benefits, positive results have been demonstrated in treating diabetes, as THCV has been shown to reduce insulin resistance and regulate blood sugar levels. Research has also shown its potential to lessen anxiety in post-traumatic stress disorder patients and reduce the tremors, brain lesions and loss of motor control associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Cannabinol (CBN) is formed from the exposure of THC to light and air. With minimal psychoactive effects, the high produced by cannabis decreases when THC degrades into CBN due to improper storage. Although CBN will not produce a psychoactive effect, studies have shown an ability to reduce insomnia, fight infections and provide relief from pain.
Cannabidivarin (CBDV) is similar in structure and function to CBD. Studies have demonstrated the ability of CBDV to heighten the anti-convulsive properties of CBD. GW Pharmaceuticals, the maker of Epidiolex, the first cannabis-based medicine to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, undertook research studies to document the ability of CBDV to treat adults with seizures and autism. Even though the studies did not produce the desired results, GW Pharmaceuticals is continuing the research as its totally non-psychoactive properties make CBDV an ideal candidate for treating these disorders.
Delta-8-Tetrahydrocannabinol (Delta-8-THC) has the same atomic composition as traditional THC, but the atoms are arranged differently. Somewhat less psychoactive, it has shown great promise in treating cancer patients as research has demonstrated its ability to kill cancer cells and reduce tumors in mice. Studies have confirmed the research undertaken with mice as Israeli researchers have reported successful cancer treatments utilizing Delta-8-THC in 480 patients. In addition, it has been shown to significantly reduce nausea and vomiting, which would benefit cancer patients experiencing the debilitating side effects of chemo and radioactive therapies.
Although cannabinoids can provide benefits on their own, research has established that the cannabinoids found in cannabis work best in the presence of other cannabinoids and not in isolation. Known as “The Entourage Effect,” whole-plant cannabis used in its natural form with its cornucopia of cannabinoids intact remains effective and is perhaps one of the best ways to obtain the health and medical benefits of cannabis.