Out of 112 cannabinoids in the hemp plant, there is no question that THC and CBD are the most well known.
One is the active ingredient in one of the most popular recreational drugs in the world, and the other is one of the most popular and promising health supplements of our time.
But for many, if not most people, the list of cannabinoids and their effects ends there.
What is CBG, for example? Have you heard of THCV? We’re willing to bet you will soon!
Science is only beginning to delve into the possibilities posed by these natural compounds, but evidence already exists that they can increase the effectiveness of CBD’s use for health purposes. Let’s take a look at the known important cannabinoids other than THC and CBD, and what they can or can’t do for you!
But first, what exactly are cannabinoids, and why do they differ so much?
What is a Cannabinoid?
The hemp plant has many natural compounds, but among these, there are at least 66 confirmed cannabinoids and 112 suspected ones. It is believed that these cannabinoids are able to influence the other parts of the plant and their effects. For example, while THC is a psychoactive compound known for getting people high, strains of cannabis with high CBD content have been found to have the opposite effect, even when THC content remains high.
It is thought that in the same way, different ratios of cannabinoids can change the effect of CBD and its interactions with the endocannabinoid system. This effect is known as the ‘entourage effect’ and multiple studies have found increased benefits on managing anxiety, insomnia, stress, chronic pain and more when using CBD combined with the other naturally occurring cannabinoids in the hemp plant, as opposed to isolated CBD alone.
While there are many unique cannabinoids, they are generally organised into specific subgroups:
- CBG (cannabigerols)
- CBC (cannabichromenes)
- CBD (Cannabidiols)
- THC (Tetrahydrocannabinols)
- CBN (Cannabinol)
- CBL (Cannabinodiol)
What Does a Cannabinoid Do?
Cannabinoids affect people by interacting with cannabinoid receptors, which are found all throughout the human central nervous system. The two known receptors are referred to as CB1 and CB2. Anandamide is a substance that naturally occurs in the brain and binds to these receptors. Cannabinoids affect the brain by binding with these receptors and blocking any further anandamide from doing the same.
While the end result depends on the cannabinoid in question and the area of the brain it interacts with, most occur in the limbic system (the area responsible for memory, cognition etc).
The receptors and the substances that bond with them are together known as the endocannabinoid system, which is thought to be responsible for maintaining homeostasis and general wellbeing throughout the body through moderating the other crucial systems such as the immune system.
Synthetic cannabinoids have also been tested, and are often available to buy as “legal highs”, but these are in very early stages research-wise and in most cases the results were nothing like those experienced from natural cannabinoids, and in many cases synthetic cannabinoids are dangerous.
What is the Difference Between Cannabinoids?
While most of the known list of cannabinoids are still relatively unknown in terms of their impacts, the most obvious difference between them is whether or not they have psychoactive effects. CBG, CBC and CBD are not known to have any such effect at all. On the other hand, THC, CBN, and CBDL are psychoactive to varying extents.
While CBD is by far the most common, with THC following close behind, the other cannabinoids are thought to vary in presence quite drastically depending on how the hemp or cannabis plant is grown.
Interestingly, it has been found that CBD reduces the psychoactive effects of THC. More CBD in a cannabis strain means less of a “high” effect, even when THC content stays the same. It is thought that a similar binary effect exists for other symptoms, for example CBD has been found to help manage anxiety and reduce the chances of a panic attack, whereas in some cases THC has been known to cause panic attacks.
The ratios of cannabinoids in a hemp plant can vary based on a variety of factors, from soil condition and strain of hemp to nutrients and weather. Even after a plant is harvested certain things can change, for example THC turns into CBN when exposed to air which is significantly less psychoactive than THC itself.
Benefits of Cannabinoids Other Than THC & CBD
It will be a while until the benefits (and potential downsides) of the other cannabinoids are fully understood, but some positive evidence has already been found. For example:
Benefits of CBG (Cannabigerol)
- Has been found to stimulate bone healing and growth.
- Has shown both antimicrobial and antifungal effects
- Increases anandamide levels
- Can block serotonin receptors, showing potential as a treatment for depression and anxiety
Benefits of CBN (Cannabinol)
- Has been found to help recruit stem cells from around bone marrow, aiding with bone tissue growth and recovery
- Has also found potential benefits for sleep management, inflammation and appetite stimulation
Benefits of CBDV (Cannabidivarin)
- Has been proven to reduce nausea in rats
- Has shown similarly promising anti-anticonvulsive effects in humans
- GW Pharmaceuticals is currently in the development phase, creating CBDV products for use in clinical trials
Benefits of CBGA (Cannabigerolic Acid)
- Has been found to have analgesic effects
- Reduces inflammation via interactions with the immune system
- Delays bacterial growth
Benefits of CBCV (Cannabichromevarin)
- Is, along with CBD, part of a patented formula by the University of California to reduce seizures in infants
- Has been suggested to inhibit anandamide reuptake
How Do I Get the Best of All Cannabinoids?
While countless CBD products are available, the vast majority are not broad spectrum. This means they typically contain CBD only, isolated from the hemp plant and its other ingredients.
While this almost certainly still holds benefits, anybody looking for CBD oil for its potential health benefits should be sure to go for a broad spectrum hemp oil. This simply means that nothing but THC has been removed, so the product will contain the full range of other cannabinoids, as well as other beneficial plant ingredients such as vitamins, minerals, terpenes, flavonoids, and omega fatty acids.
Not only this, but it means all of the above exist in their naturally occurring volumes and ratios as found in the hemp plant. This means none of them are chemically or synthetically added later, which would throw said ratios off.
Studies into each individual cannabinoid are going ahead at a rapid pace, but it will likely be years or decades before the majority of them are well understood. We may find, when that day comes, that new health supplements and products exist based on other cannabinoids, just like CBD oil.
Until that day, it is best to trust nature and harness the known benefits of the hemp plant itself!
To learn more about the science behind cannabis and CBD, take a look at this in depth writeup from 2012.