Cannabinoids and the Human Body

While most people are familiar with THC and CBD, cannabis contains upward of 85 different cannabinoids with different properties and potential medicinal benefits. Cannabinoids are the chemical compounds produced by the flower and located in the resinous trichome glands. All mammals have an endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is composed of lipids and receptors located in the brain and central and peripheral nervous systems. The endocannabinoid system moderates appetite, nausea, pain, mood, memory, sleep and more.

There are two identified receptors in the body; CB1 receptors are located primarily in the brain (not including the brain stem), and CB2 receptors are located primarily in the immune system and more sparingly in the liver, bones and nervous system. The endocannabinoid system works like a lock and key — the receptor is the lock, and the cannabinoid is the key. The key can be a naturally occurring endocannabinoid (such as anandamide), its phytocannabinoid equivalent (such as THC) or a synthetic cannabinoid (such as Marinol).

A majority of cannabis strains have been bred to have high amounts of THC – tetrahydrocannabinol – which is the compound that produces the feelings of euphoria or “high” that most people associate with cannabis. An increasing number of growers are seeking out and cultivating strains that are higher in CBD – cannabidiol — which is the non-psychoactive compound that is growing in popularity and has been associated with helping a multitude of medical problems such as chronic pain, epilepsy, autoimmune diseases, rheumatoid arthritis and more. These two cannabinoids have taken center stage for cannabis research and public knowledge, but there are many other compounds of equal importance, the most notable listed below.

CBN: Cannabinol makes certain strains more sedative. CBN is important for pain reduction, and is an anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and appetite stimulant.

CBG: Cannabigerol has been known to reduce anxiety and depression, as well as have anti-inflammatory properties beneficial to patients with inflammatory bowel syndrome. It can also be used to reduce ocular pressure, which is helpful in the treatment of glaucoma.

CBC: Cannabichromene is one of the least popular cannabinoids, despite its highly beneficial effects. CBC has anti-inflammatory properties and stimulates bone growth. Perhaps the most important thing about CBC is that it is believed to inhibit the growth of cancer tumors. It also has somewhat of an “entourage effect,” enhancing the effects of other cannabinoids.

CBDa: Before CBD is activated through decarboxylation, it is found as cannabidiolic acid. CBDa can reduce inflammation, vomiting and nausea, and potentially inhibits cancer cell growth.

THCa: The acid form of THC, tetrahydrocannabinolic acid is an anti-inflammatory, neuroprotectant and appetite stimulant. Like CBDa, THCa is found in raw and live cannabis.

The idea of clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CECD) was introduced in 2004 by Dr. Ethan Russo of GW Pharmaceuticals. The notion behind CECD is that since cannabis can help with a large (and constantly growing) number of medical problems, perhaps the underlying problem is a deficiency of endocannabinoids. The practice of juicing raw cannabis flowers and leaves is becoming popular with patients, which allows them to intake a very large quantity of cannabinoids (acid forms like THCa and CBDa) without any psychoactive effects. The amount of activated cannabinoids someone could take on a daily basis is limited due to the psychoactive components, so this is a way of flushing the body with cannabinoids and still maintaining daily activities.

Understanding the power of all the cannabinoids is important, as the current public perception of cannabis as medicine is that THC and CBD are the only cannabinoids worth looking at. Hemp CBD products are quickly growing in popularity, since they are legal and can be sold online. However, CBD-only products are missing all of the other beneficial cannabinoids and aren’t as powerful as a whole plant extraction. With more research being done in the future, more and more uses for cannabis will become evident.