Cannabi-what now? A Word On words
If you are new to cannabis one of the first things you'll notice is that there are a lot of funny words to master. They all sound the same but they describe very different things and they are next to impossible to pronounce. Fun! In an effort to be helpful I've sounded them out for you phonetically. And remember, if you come across some other term you do not understand you can always consult the Ganja Glossary for extra help. Good luck and godspeed!
There are three different kinds of cannabinoid compounds to note:
1. Endocannabinoids – fatty-acid cannabinoids produced naturally in the body
2. Phytocannabinoids – found in the oily resin of plants such as cannabis (THC and CBD)
3. Synthetic cannabinoids – manufactured by artificial means
The cannabis plant is host to over 113 phytocannabinoids that science is aware of, each with their own unique effects. Here are just a few of my favorites to get you started:
Unlike THC, CBD produces no psychoactive properties. Instead, it acts a low affinity binding agonist at both the CB1 and CB2 receptors. This means that while CBD does not cause you to feel ‘high’ it can fine tune or tweak the way that your body experiences the accompanying compounds. This is particularly true when the correct ratio of CBD to THC is used to treat an ailment. CBD changes the way that the body experiences THC once ingested. We call this a ‘Synergistic Effect’. But that's not all it's good for. Pre-clinical trials over the past four decades have found that on it’s own CBD shows promise as an:
- and an anti-psychotic
Just to name a few. Today, CBD derived from agricultural hemp is available worldwide while CBD derived from plants with a significant accompanying THC content are considered to be 'recreational cannabis'.
Cannabidiolic Acid (CBDA)
Inside of the cannabis plant certain phytocannabinoids are accompanied by an extra carboxyl ring group or acid that likes to follow the compound around. This is certainly true in the case of CBDA or CBD-Acid. In order to make the compound work as successfully as CBD inside of the body the accompanying acid must be removed from the compound via a process called decarboxylation. This is where the plant material is heated at a low temperature, thus oxidizing the acid to convert CBDA into CBD.
CBDV differs from CBD only by the substitution of a pentyl (5 carbon) for a propyl (3 carbon) sidechain. Although medical research is limited, recent studies have shown CBDV to provide anti-convulsive support. This is likely due to its action at TRPV1 receptors and its ability to modulate gene expression. A company by the name of GW Pharmaceuticals has begun a phase 2 trial for adult epilepsy treatment using the CBDV compound.
Studies suggest that CBC may work synergistically with CBD and THC to produce an antidepressant effect but not in a straight forward way. CBC does not directly activate the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors. Instead, it has been shown to interact with a number of other receptors in the body. In doing so CBC can increase the levels of endocannabinoids we produce naturally. So CBC can help to activate cannabinoid receptors by enhancing their receptor activity.
Testing of industrial hemp has found much higher levels of CBG than most strains of cannabis. Although pharmacological activity at the CB2 receptor is currently unknown, it has been classified as a low affinity antagonist of the CB1-receptor tipping it towards the mellow end of the spectrum. CBG is believed to; partially counteract the paranoid 'heady' high typically associated with THC, kill or slow bacteria, reduce inflammation, and inhibit cell growth in tumor and cancer cells.
CBN is a mildly psychoactive cannabinoid that happens more often than not, by accident. There is usually little to no CBN in a fresh plant. Instead, it is a by-product of the degradation of cannabinoid compounds after the plant has been harvested. Research has shown that CBN acts with greater affinity for CB2 receptors than CB1 and is described as creating a sedative effect. In fact, the folks over at at Steep Hill Labs assert that 5mg of CBN could be as effective as 10mg dose of diazepam, a mild pharmaceutical relaxant.
Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is a cannabinoid with a following. THC (the decarboxylated form of THCA) is responsible for the psychoactive effects typical of cannabis. When consumed THC elicits feelings of relaxation, pain relief, increased energy, and 'Couch-lock,' to name a few favorites. Research continues to gain traction with the advancement of legalization. So far we have enough supporting evidence to confidently say that THC may help patients cope with PTSD, neuropathic and chronic pain, cancer, crohn’s disease, and much much more.
Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid (THCA)
THCA is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in maturing cannabis plants. Once the plant is harvested and begins to dry, THCA slowly converts to THC. Inside of the plant THCA contributes to the anti-inflammatory effects of cannabis. There is some evidence to suggest that it may have some healing ability in the body as well though more research is needed to say with any certainty. When burned, vaporized, or heated at a low temperature over a period of time THCA converts in to Δ9-THC via the process of decarboxylation.
THCV is a minor phytocannabinoid found in certain forms of cannabis (especially sativa landrace strains). Much like CBDV, THCV differs from THC only by the substitution of a pentyl (5 carbon) for a propyl (3 carbon) sidechain. This minor difference causes it to work like a built in antidote that has the potential to counteract the negative side effects associated with THC such as paranoia. There is some research to suggest that THCV may also aid in the growth of healthy bones.
New research emerges every day
But we still know very little about these amazing compounds and their therapeutic abilities. Sign up for my newsletter for your weekly step by step guide to cannabis education.
Up Next: The Enocannabinoid System
I'm Mary J Poppins, herbalist, cannabis connoisseur and founder of the Sativa Science Club. Keep an eye on my blog Cannabis for Curious Creatures for nifty new products reviews, DIY tutorials, and scientific insights.