Here Are The Most Important Cannabinoids
Get ready to nerd out on some organic chemistry. The subject: cannabinoids. The most important cannabinoids are the molecular compounds that create the effects you experience when you consume cannabis.
The science behind them is fascinating. Up until the 1980s, we thought cannabis created its effects through some general interaction with our cell membranes. In 1998, scientific studies revealed human beings and other mammals as being “hard-wired” for cannabis. In other words, the human brain has specific “receptors” designed just for cannabinoids. Since, researchers have been searching out the chemical pathways for all of the specific plant cannabinoids and how they interact with our bodies.
113 different cannabinoids exist in the cannabis plant alone. They interact together to create the unique sensations and effects we associate with cannabis.
Scientists have only scratched the surface, but from what we know so far, these are the six most important cannabinoids.
1. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
THC is easily the most well-known cannabinoid. Why?
THC is the primary psychoactive component of cannabis. The more THC is consumed, the longer and more intense the high will be. Strains rich in this cannabinoid are often the most popular. Many of the most potent strains are up around 20-25 percent THC concentration.
Other methods of consuming weed have tried to isolate THC from the other parts of the cannabis plant. The process creates cannabis “concentrates,” like shatter, wax, and dabs, providing unheard of levels of THC in one hit.
While there is no known lethal dose of THC, taking too much can lead to unpleasant side effects.
THC has powerful medical uses, too. The chemical continues to show promise in treating a variety of symptomatic illnesses, such as neurological disorders, chronic pain, and nausea, to name a few.
2. Cannabidiol (CBD)
If THC is the yin of the cannabinoids, CBD is the yang. CBD is like a counterweight that brings balance back into the cannabis equation.
Dominating the cannabis plant, CBD accounts for up to 40 percent of the plant’s cannabinoid concentration. CBD acts as an “antagonist,” fighting against the effects of the other cannabinoids. This feature makes it the most promising medical cannabinoid on the market.
Evidence is increasingly showing that CBD may have an overall antipsychotic effect. With almost zero psychoactivity, it counterbalances THC by actively blocking and reducing THC activity in the brain. To be more specific, CBD counteracts the impairment that comes with using cannabis. It can prevent the short-term memory loss associated with THC, for example.
Medical cannabis advocates have long supported the use of CBD to treat many different symptoms, including epilepsy and other neurological problems. Despite running into some legal confusion recently, CBD oil is becoming an increasingly popular way for medical marijuana patients to tap into the healing powers of this cannabinoid.
3. Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV)
It is hard to say, but important to know. Tetrahydrocannabivarin, or THCV, is comparative in function to CBD.
While CBD inhibits or counteracts the strong psychoactive effects of THC, THCV essentially competes with THC. It is almost like they are racing for the same receptors in your brain.
That competition can sometimes lead to THC failing to bind, in which case you lose out on some of your high. But for many cannabis users, especially medical cannabis patients, that is just what they’re looking for.
For those who seek the medical benefits of cannabis, the prospect of “getting stoned” may be unappealing or just unfeasible.
That is why cannabis strains that are rich in cannabinoids that limit or reduce the sensation of being “high” are so important for medical cannabis users.
Important cannabinoids like this make it possible for patients to obtain the medical benefits of cannabis without the side effects they wish to avoid.
Of course, that is not good news for people looking to get high for recreation. But hey, there is always THC.
4. Cannabidivarin (CBDV)
As you probably guessed, “varin” indicates a kind of “variation” on the parent cannabinoid. Just as there is THCV, there is also CBDV.
Like its analog CBD, CBDV is non-psychoactive. That makes it a good candidate for medical research into the benefits of cannabis.
Cannabidivarin is more likely to show up in cannabis plants that are “feral,” or growing wildly without cultivation. In places like northwest India and Nepal, CBDV is a major component of hashish.
CBDV is one of the most important cannabinoids for a few key reasons. For one, it is not technically illegal or prohibited, which means companies could isolate it and produce it without breaking the law.
Second, CBDV has anticonvulsant effects, which means it could be a powerful way to treat seizures.
Pharmaceutical companies are now actively researching possible medical applications for CBDV. Since it has zero psychoactive side effects, it could be especially well-suited for children with epilepsy.
5. Cannabigerol (CBG)
Cannabigerol has been dubbed the “stem cell” cannabinoid, and for good reason. What makes this cannabinoid so important is that it is basically the “mother” from which all the other cannabinoids are born.
A lot of what we thought we knew about CBG is wrong. We used to think CBG was not that important, mostly because it is not present in large quantities in mature plants and because what is there does not produce any intoxicating effects.
We are now learning that this is one of the most important cannabinoids. The reason mature plants only have small amounts of CBG is because it converts into other cannabinoids throughout the plant’s lifecycle.
This process typically leaves less than one percent of the original CBG in a mature bud. It also means that the original concentration in young cannabis plants plays a crucial role in creating the cannabinoid profile of a mature plant.
In addition to this cannabinoid-generating function, CBG also has a long list of potential medical uses. Research shows CBG can be used to treat pain and anxiety better than its rival in that department, CBD.
CBG can improve digestive conditions like IBS and Crohn’s, and help treat glaucoma. It heals dry skin and can also defeat the “superbug” MRSA.
Most importantly, CBG shows real promise as a full-fledged cancer treatment. Trials have shows that CBG can help fight breast, liver, skin, colon, and ovarian cancers, just to name a few.
Like CBDV, the fact that CBG is not federally prohibited can really help support research into its potential medical applications.
6. Cannabichromene (CBC)
Cannabichromene, or CBC, is one of those important cannabinoids you have never heard of. Interestingly, it is usually second only to THC in terms of concentration.
Cannabichromene ranks high on the list of important cannabinoids, primarily because it demonstrates the “entourage effect.” The entourage effect points to how the total effect created by cannabis is always greater than the sum of its parts.
In other words, the effects produced by cannabis arise out of the interactions with and between different cannabinoids. A cannabinoid in isolation will produce very different effects than when that cannabinoid is consumed alongside a bunch of other cannabinoids.
In general, it is best to go with more complex combinations of cannabinoids. That is how it was designed by Mother Nature.
CBC is a textbook example of this. Since it is present in such high concentrations in an average strain of cannabis, it has a lot of room to roam and play around with the other cannabinoids.
Combine CBC and THC, and you get antidepressant effects, as revealed by a March 2010 study. Mix CBC with CBD, and you help promote neurogenesis, which can heal damage from diseases like Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s.
It also has anti-inflammatory properties, which makes it great for treating chronic aches and pains. To make it even better, CBD is a potent antiviral and antifungal agent.
All in all, CBC is like a “wild card” cannabinoid. A real X-factor. Not only does it bind with the two primary cannabinoid receptors in your brain, it also interacts with all the other cannabinoids to create some truly impressive results.