Cannabis is a chemically very complex plant. As you know, not only the most familiar cannabinoids are found in it, but over 500 different naturally occurring substances and compounds can be found in it. These include, for example, cannabinoids, flavonoids, terpenoids and omega fatty acids. Our guide will take you through the most important ones!
Cannabinoids are a group of active chemicals that interact with cannabinoid receptors, which are part of the endocannabinoid system. These receptors are found throughout the human body. The endocannabinoid system itself is responsible for many processes that take place in the body. It also influences the intensity of pain, appetite and the response of the immune system. Over 100 species have been discovered so far. The most important are THC, CBD, CBN and CBC. Cannabinoids have medicinal properties.
The body needs to maintain a certain level of cannabinoid substances to function properly. Deficiencies lead to immune disorders and various diseases.
How are cannabinoids formed and where are they found?
Cannabinoids are found in every living organism. They occur in plants, animals and humans, and can be produced in three ways:
- Natural creation by the mammalian body - even in breast milk
- Forming in cannabis plants
- Synthetic production in laboratories
What are the therapeutic effects of cannabinoids?
Cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid system, which is located in various parts of the central nervous system. Therapeutic cannabinoids ultimately have the same effects - relieving nausea, relieving pain or reducing inflammation. They may differ, for example, in their potency.
Cannabinoids fall into three basic categories, which branch out further. These are endocannabinoids, phytocannabinoids and synthetic cannabinoids.
Endocannabinoids are naturally occurring cannabinoids that the body creates itself. A postsynaptic neuron stimulates the release of endocannabinoids, which then make their way to cannabinoid receptors (e.g. CB1, CB2, TPRV1).
The two main endocannabinoids are anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (called 2-AG). Anandamine binds directly to CB1 receptors and has a lower affinity for CB2 receptors as a partial agonist. 2-AG binds equally to both receptors.
Phytocannabinoids are found in cannabis and other plants. There are around 100 known phytocannabinoids. The main phytocannabinoids are CBD and THC. If the body cannot produce enough endocannabinoids, it is a good idea to replace them with phytocannabinoids. This avoids the health problems associated with clinical endocannabinoid deficiency.
In addition to natural production, there is also the possibility of synthetic cannabinoids being produced in laboratories. These artificially created cannabinoids mimic naturally occurring cannabinoids. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, synthetic cannabinoids are considered 'new psychoactive substances (NPS)'. This means that synthetic cannabinoid products are illegal.
Now we will look together at some specific cannabinoids and their effects.
CBD, or cannabidiol, is probably the most well-known cannabinoid compound derived mainly from the Cannabis Sativa plant. It is the second most abundant substance in cannabis. CBD has a number of advantages and positives over the more well-known cannabinoid THC. CBD is legal, not psychoactive, not intoxicating and no serious negative side effects are observed during its use.
In short, CBD is a safe, healthy and legal option for anyone who would like to try cannabis. It has a wide range of medical applications, affecting receptors in the brain and especially pain relief!
Cannabidiol is widely used for many health complications and the symptoms that accompany these problems.
The most common are:
- PAIN - CBD is most commonly used for pain, as it relieves it quickly and effectively. In addition, it is anti-inflammatory.
- STRESS - The most common complication associated with stress is PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). It is estimated that up to 25% of all cannabis users are war veterans.
- SEIZURES - According to recent studies, CBD use has been shown to reduce the frequency of seizures.
- ANXIETY - There are a large number of studies and experiments confirming that cannabidiol is effective against anxiety and associated acute stress.
In addition to those mentioned above, CBD is also effective in treating and alleviating more than a dozen other health complications.
When you say marijuana, the first substance most people think of is THC. THC, or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, is the psychoactive substance found in marijuana. The main difference between THC and CBD is in their effect on the human mind, as THC, unlike CBD, has a narcotic effect.
THC use can be accompanied by a number of side effects. Among the most common are:
- dry mouth
- dry eyes
- slower ability to respond or react
- coordination problems
Although THC is a narcotic and a banned substance, it is still part of the medical cannabis and can help to relieve tremors, e.g. in Parkinson's disease, or the pain that accompanies multiple sclerosis. Studies have also shown that THC has anti-leukaemic activity.
Legality of THC
Legislation varies from state to state. In the Czech Republic, varieties with a THC content of up to 1% are allowed. Up to this limit, it is legal to grow.
As far as Europe is concerned, you can get relatively low penalties (within reason, of course) for spreading addiction in Italy, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria or Croatia. On the other hand, countries with the harshest penalties include Greece, Sweden and Finland. In these countries, any kind of tampering is considered a criminal offence and can lead to a long prison sentence.
In the United States, marijuana is legal in Colorado, but it is completely banned in its neighbours Kansas, Nebraska and Wyoming (even for medicinal purposes). Medical cannabis is allowed in Oklahoma, Florida and North Dakota.
CBDV, or cannabivarin, is in the class of cannabinoids. CBDV is structurally very similar to CBD. And it's also not psychoactive.
Although CBDV was discovered more than 50 years ago, it has still not been sufficiently studied, but like most other cannabinoids it has long been overshadowed by THC.
Almost all studies on CBDV focus on its effectiveness against seizures. It seems to be endowed with anti-epileptic properties.
A study conducted on rodents in 2018 focused on neurobehavioural problems associated with Rett syndrome. Rett syndrome is caused by an X chromosome mutation that primarily affects girls. This disease causes seizures, speech problems and spasticity.
CBC is one of the lesser-known cannabinoids, but that doesn't detract from its interest. It is a very potent substance with enormous therapeutic potential. Cannabichromene was discovered more than 50 years ago and has the same origin as THC and CBD (it comes from CBGA).
Scientists believe that CBC has unique effects and works in perfect synergy with other cannabinoids. Cannabichromene can relieve pain and inflammation, acne, depression and can be a great help in fighting cancer.
CBC cannot bind to receptors located in the brain and is therefore not psychoactive. However, it can bind to other receptors located throughout the body. Once CBC activates these receptors, it produces high levels of endocannabinoids that are natural to the human body.
A lesser known and also less studied non-psychoactive cannabinoid CBN. Cannabinol is quite different in its effects from CBD. No wonder it still occupies a place under the microscopes of scientists.
CBN is formed by the degradation of THC. If THC is exposed to oxygen, it oxidises and gives rise to therapeutic CBN.
So far, we know of several therapeutic effects that it has. These include anti-inflammatory and antibacterial benefits, fighting insomnia, relieving pain and promoting the formation of new bone cells.
CBN is famous mainly for its sedative effect. It is therefore a great help for insomnia sufferers. In a study conducted by Steep Hill Labs, CBN was found to work about twice as well as Diazepam (a well-known insomnia drug).
CBG is another very important phytocannabinoid found in cannabis plants. It is non-psychoactive.
Cannabigerol is currently being studied in the direction of its potential pharmacology. Although the plant itself is over a thousand years old, CBG is a fairly new thing and has not yet been subjected to such in-depth study. However, all research is in its infancy and everything we know so far is just the tip of the iceberg.
According to studies conducted so far, CBG can be very beneficial in the treatment of glaucoma or Huntington's disease. This study demonstrates the benefit of CBG as a therapeutic treatment for cachexia. In addition, cannabigerol has antibacterial (e.g. against MRSA) and anti-inflammatory effects.
CBG is quite hard to "find". Cannabis is harvested specifically for CBD and THC, the two most well-known substances. Harvest time plays a big role in the amount of CBG content, as it decreases with harvest time.
THCV, or tetrahydrocannabivarin, is an abundant, relatively unknown compound. It is much less 'attractive' than CBD, THC or CBG, but it still deserves our attention.
THCV was discovered in 1973 and although not as famous as the aforementioned cannabinoids, it has been perfectly researched. It is a really unusual substance that is only psychoactive in high doses.
At low doses, THCV behaves as a CB1 receptor antagonist, but once the dose is increased, something strange happens that we can't yet fully describe. THCV at this point changes its behaviour and becomes a CB agonist (just like THC).
THCVs bind to receptors found in the immune system, brain and major organs. THCV may work well for weight loss and diabetes, is anti-inflammatory and reduces anxiety. A study in rodents suggests that THCV has strong anti-nicotine effects, so it could help with nicotine addiction.
What is the difference between cannabinoids and cannabinoid acids? Probably the most significant difference is that there is a carboxyl group in the structure of a cannabinoid acid that can induce different effects in the human body. This study looks at cannabinoid acids in depth.
As a rule, these are the cornerstones of the cannabinoids themselves, as their changes contribute to their formation. This is a group of compounds that can be divided into two parts: endogenous molecules and others that are metabolites of phytocannabinoids.
CBGa (Cannabigeroleic acid)
CBGa is an essential compound found in cannabis. CBGa is located at the top of the cascade reaction and gives rise to three main cannabinoid lineages: THCa, CBDa and CBCa. These acids become CBD, THC or CBC. It can also break down into CBG, but it tends to gravitate towards THC and CBD.
Although this acid was discovered fifty years ago, it has not yet been subjected to sufficient research. Most experiments have focused only on its conversion into THCa.
Only preliminary research is available that focuses on these possible therapeutic uses:
- CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE - CBGa could be a good tool for people suffering from diabetes. It can perfectly suppress an enzyme called aldose reductase. This is the main creator of oxidative stress, which leads not only to heart problems.
- METABOLIC DISORDERS - A computer study investigated the role of CBGa in activating receptors (PPARs) that regulate metabolism. When PPARs malfunction, various diseases such as diabetes and high cholesterol arise. Studies show that CBGa can help stimulate lipid metabolism.
- COLON CANCER - In time, CBG could become a major fighter against the fourth most common killer, colon cancer. Not only does this substance help destroy cancer-causing cells, but it also prevents them from breaking out and closes off the entire circulation of these cells.
THC and THCa are almost identical in their chemical formula, but there are a few molecular differences. It is these differences that determine how the brain is affected.
THCA does not produce any narcotic substances, it is not psychoactive. In fact, instead of psychoactive substances, there is a strong possibility that it will produce health benefits of a therapeutic nature. Potential benefits include analgesic, anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties.
Like many other compounds, THCa is derived from CBGa. As the plant matures, CBGa is converted into one of three cannabinoid precursors: THCa, CBDa and CBCa.
CBDa is transformed by heat and time into the familiar CBD. CBDA is formed, like THCa and CBCa, from CBGa. CBGa (cannabigeroleic acid) is transformed into these three main compounds. Today, it is most commonly added to capsules, tinctures or various creams and ointments.
Is CBDa important?
Unlike other cannabinoids, CBDa does not bind directly to the CB1 or CB2 receptor. Instead, it interacts with the endocannabinoid system by inhibiting the enzyme cyclooxygenase (COX-2, known as PGH synthase 2). This enzyme has been linked to the development of inflammation and inflammation at sites of injury. Because CBDa blocks this enzyme, it relieves pain.
An experiment was conducted on rodents where it was found that CBDa affects the amount of serotonin in the body. Serotonin is a very important component in our bodies as it affects motor skills, eating, sleeping, emotions and the digestive system. When undergoing chemotherapy or other radiation, vomiting and nausea may occur. These complications are caused by excessive release of serotonin. Since CBDa can control and maintain the amount of serotonin, it could be useful as a supportive treatment for cancer and similar diseases. But more research and experimentation is needed.
CBCa (cannabichromic acid)
The CBCa owes its origins to the CBGa. This acid then serves as a precursor for other cannabinoids. CBCa occurs in very low quantities in the plant, so scientists have not yet focused on its side effects.
Once CBCa undergoes decarboxylation, it becomes CBC. And if CBCa is exposed to UV light, it is converted to CBLa (cannabicyclic acid). Unfortunately, CBCa has still not been subjected to the necessary amount of research and studies, but like many other cannabinoids or cannabinoid acids, it has a promising future ahead of it.
CBGVa (cannabigerovarinic acid)
During the biosynthesis process, CBGVa gives us THCVa, CBDVa and CBCVa. Like many other substances in cannabis, CBGVa is non-psychoactive. CBGVa has not yet received much attention, so its research is in its very early stages. However, scientists and researchers believe that it contains anti-inflammatory properties that could be useful in the fight against arthritis and other diseases that arise from inflammation.
In the International Journal of Cancer Research and Treatment, they examined the effects of six different cannabinoids (including CBGVa) on leukaemia cells. And the results were more than positive.
Overall, cannabinoids have been found to be able to:
- slow the growth of tumours
- relieve anxiety
- relieve from the symptoms of PTSD
- help relieve symptoms such as nausea or vomiting
THCVa (tetrahydrocannabivaric acid)
As we mentioned just a few lines above, THCVa was created from CBGVa. THCVa, like CBDVa, is classified as a propylcannabinoid. These are substances that occur in really small, almost minute quantities in the plant, but of course there can be exceptions.
THCVa is non-psychoactive and has also not been sufficiently studied. It is believed to "work" on the same principle as other acids - pain relief, anti-cancer, improved digestion, etc. For the time being, work is being done to separate THCVA from the other compounds to see what properties it has.
According to available studies, THCVa does not bind to either CB receptor, but could possibly be a CB1 receptor antagonist. If this claim were true, it would mean that THCVa could affect many processes in the body (general health, immunity and wound healing).
CBDVa (cannabidivaric acid)
CBDVa is a non-flammable compound and is the precursor to CBDV. This substance has also received little attention but is expected to receive more attention from scientists in the future. For now, we can say that CBDVa could abound with anti-inflammatory properties that could be a great fighter against the pain associated with arthritis and other chronic diseases.
CBCVa (cannabichromevarinic acid)
CBCVa is a completely unique compound and is one of the most important substances in cannabis ever. It interacts with receptors that affect activities that accompany us every day (e.g. mood, mobility, sleep or appetite).
Although CBCVa is quite abundant, it has still not been sufficiently studied. However, because of its structure and formula it is related to CBD, it is expected to be very similar to cannabidiol in its effects. Thus, it could be anti-inflammatory, antioxidant...
Polyphenols are a group of major antioxidants that protect DNA and cell membranes. Thus, they prevent the development of cancer-causing mutations. Recent research shows that higher intakes of polyphenolics can have a positive effect on health.
Polyphenols form a huge group that includes flavonoids. We also include catechins, tannins, isoflavones, etc.
The role of polyphenols in the human body
The main reason we need polyphenols is their effect on free radicals. We need free radicals in our lives, but once the amount of free radicals is higher than necessary, then they start to damage our body. Excessive numbers of radicals cause a number of diseases (heart disease, various types of cancer, inflammatory conditions...) and in the long run can destroy the human body to the point of death.
Polyphenols limit the adverse effects of oxidative stress, improve the natural environment in the mouth or reduce plaque formation.
You can add them to your diet by including plenty of plant-based ingredients.
Flavonoids are organic chemical compounds found in fruits, vegetables and herbs, so we all get a regular dose of flavonoids. Studies prove that flavonoids have a therapeutic effect against pain, inflammation and a host of other problems.
Flavonoids are present in up to 10% of cannabis. Scientists have already discovered over a hundred different types of flavonoids. But some types are only found in cannabis and are called cannaflavins (more below). Flavonoids are very similar to terpenes (more below) because they also affect our senses.
What is the importance of flavonoids in cannabis?
The word flavonoid comes from the Latin flavus = yellow. One of the main functions of flavonoids is to pigment the plant, thereby attracting pollinators. In addition to pigmentation, flavonoids are also responsible for protecting plants from various elements such as UV radiation, diseases and pests.
The aroma of cannabis is often attributed to terpenes alone, but flavonoids also play an important role. It is only through the interaction between terpenes and flavonoids that different aromas and flavours are created.
Effect of flavonoids on health
Flavonoids play a really important role in our lives as they are important antioxidants. They cleanse the body of toxic substances and thus fight cell damage. Stress in life and bad eating habits can really mess us up and flavonoids are there to protect us from all the bad things.
Regular consumption of flavonoids significantly helps in the treatment of cancer, which has been proven by research conducted at the University of Illinois. They may not cure it, but they do reduce the side effects that accompany chemotherapy.
Flavonoids can be found, for example, in grapefruit, blueberries, parsley, garlic, red wine and chocolate with a high cocoa content. Flavonoids can also be found in chlorella, spirulina or young barley.
Canaflavins are flavonoids found in cannabis. And why are they so interesting and have a separate name? Because these substances are only found in the cannabis plant. And that's what makes them really special.
Canaflavins A, B, C
It is anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antifungal. It also fights against cancer.
- Quercetin - analgesic and anti-inflammatory substance. Strengthens and defends the immune system. Reduces skin irritation, so it is suitable for creams and other ointments.
- Isovitexin - antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer compound. It boasts neuroprotective properties.
- Apigenin - anti-inflammatory. It also reduces anxiety and is a great help in the fight against cancer.
- β-sitosterol- anti-inflammatory equipment.
- Luteolin - like many of the aforementioned cannaflavins, Luteolin is also anti-inflammatory. In addition, it also has anti-cancer and antioxidant effects.
Other cannaflavins include Orientin, Catechins and Vitexin. All of them have generally the same characteristics.
Terpenes are a very important part of not only cannabis, but also other plants, flowers and herbs. However, they are found in the highest quantities in cannabis. They bring a wonderful aroma, and they also have many interesting therapeutic effects. These substances are largely responsible for the smell and taste that the plants possess. In addition, they also protect the plants from pests. Terpenes have very different effects in humans. As well as activating your taste buds, they work together to produce the psychoactive effects of cannabis.
Terpenes in cannabis
Up to 200 terpenes are found in medicinal cannabis in various proportions. However, only dozens of these are considered significant, as they occur in the highest amounts. Due to the different ratios, the terpenes can interact very easily and thus change their medicinal use. Thus, more research is still needed to be 100% sure how terpenes interact with each other.
The best known terpenes include:
Myrcene is the most abundant terpene in cannabis. It is found in hops, thyme, basil, mango and many other plants. Myrcene is sedative, anti-inflammatory, analgesic and antibiotic. It also protects our DNA from any damage by toxic substances.
Caryophyllene is the second most abundant terpene. It is quite pungent and peppery, as it is primarily found in black pepper. However, it is also found in cinnamon, oregano and thyme. Caryophyllene interacts with CB2 receptors, making it anti-inflammatory. As a result, it is often added to creams and ointments against inflammation. It is thought that it could also act as an analgesic, fighting stress and anxiety and cancer.
Limonene is probably the best known of all terpenes. As its name suggests, it has a citrus aroma. It is known for its therapeutic properties and has had a place in medicine for many years. It improves mood, relieves stress, helps with heartburn and improves the absorption of other terpenes when applied to the skin or mucous membranes.
Pinen is a very aromatic terpene and is found not only in cannabis. It comes from the word pine, which means pine tree, and has a typical pine tree smell. In addition, it also brings unique therapeutic effects. Specifically, anti-inflammatory properties, support for mental alertness, help with mild short-term memory disorders, and bronchodilator effects.
Terpinolene is found predominantly in fragrant plants and therefore has a fresh herbal floral scent with a unique citrus aroma. Namely nutmeg, lilac, tea tree or apple. Very often used as an ingredient in soaps, perfumes and ointments. It is antioxidant, sedative and effective against moulds.
Humulene is most commonly found in hops, cloves, basil and, of course, cannabis. It has a very earthy and woody aroma with spicy undertones. It is anti-tumour, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. In addition, it reduces appetite.
Health benefits of terpenes
Wolfgang Dostmann, Ph.D., said that cannabinoids work together with CBD and THC to create a so-called additive effect that determines how cannabis affects the human body. Combining hemp and CBD oil with terpenes can produce any of the following positive effects:
- Cancer and heart disease - Terpinolene is found in really low amounts in cannabis, but should not be underestimated. Scientists have found that it plays an important role in suppressing the growth of cancer cells. It also reduces the risk of heart disease.
- Relieve depression and anxiety - Linalool, found in lavender, has calming effects. Lavender is very popular nowadays and is used as an aid for insomnia. A study found that varieties with CBD, low THC and linalool worked very well for this problem.
- Fighting epilepsy - In addition to the above, linalool is also a great fighter against epilepsy thanks to its seizure-relieving properties.
- Reduction of pain and inflammation - Myrcene along with caryophyllene can reduce inflammation and relieve pain. A study involving 2032 people looked at this issue and how they work together. This was a group of people suffering from 21 different diseases (migraine, arthritis, chronic pain). These two terpenes were found to have a great effect on pain and inflammation.
- Mycotic and Bacterial Infections - Eucalyptol, also known as cineole, has shown antibacterial activity against Bacillus subtilis (hay fever bacillus) and antifungal activity against Trichophyton mentagrophytes (trichophyton cutaneous) and Candida albicans. In one study, eucalyptol was found to provide prevention against sexually transmitted herpes.
Are terpenes legal?
Terpenes are all around us. Whether you go for a walk in the woods, in the city or stay at home - you will always come into contact with terpenes. Since they are everywhere, they are perfectly legal.
But beware of terpenes from cannabis. As the legality of cannabis varies from country to country, so does the legality of terpenes that have been "extracted" from cannabis.
Terpenes versus cannabinoids
Are cannabinoids better than terpenes? They're absolutely best together because they're stronger together. When combined, they increase blood flow, increase cortical activity and kill all sorts of pathogens. And not only that. Studies prove a lot of other positive effects of this pair on the body. For example, studies on the treatment of mood and anxiety disorders.
Terpenoids belong to the class of terpenes and the two terms are often used interchangeably.Terpenoids are more complex than terpenes in terms of molecular structure. Some terpenoids are found at higher levels in dried plants after a period of oxidation, while others are found in fresh plants. These molecules fall into two main categories: monoterpenoids and sesquiterpenoids.
A large number of terpenoids are biologically active and are used worldwide to treat many diseases. Many terpenoids suppress cancer cells and are used in its treatment (e.g. Taxol). Terpenoids play a role in food, medicines, cosmetics, vitamins, hormonal drugs and so on.
Like terpenes, many terpenoids are contained in the strong resin produced in the heads of trichomes. They play a vital role in ensuring plant survival, helping to eliminate pest attacks and resist fluctuating environmental factors.