In this article, we will discuss the effects of the cannabis plant, and its many benefits, specifically zeroing in on 8 of the most extensively researched cannabinoids.
First we will discuss what a cannabinoid actually is, and how it interacts with our brain and body. Next, we will parse through more specific and detailed explanations of each of the 8 cannabinoids, their function, and their effects in the body. Finally, we will sum up what we’ve learned and how we can apply the knowledge to our daily lives.
First, What are Cannabinoids?
Cannabinoids are the active ingredients in the cannabis plant which are responsible for how it affects people. The cannabis plant produces more than 480 compounds, many of which are known as “cannabinoids”. From pain inhibition to anxiety reduction, cannabinoids have a significant positive effect on the brain and body.
The way they are able to affect the brain and body is through the use of our body’s own endocannabinoid system- which is perfectly designed for interaction with the cannabis plant, according to expert medical researchers.
The endocannabinoid system is a structure which resembles a series of electrical circuits in the central nervous system. When certain chemicals interact with these internal circuits, called “cannabinoid receptors”, these receptors will activate and cause specific reactions in the body. Cannabinoid receptors control a great many things, including movement, memory, sensation of pain, appetite- even mood!
There are three major subcategories of cannabinoids which activate the brain’s cannabinoid receptors. The first are endocannabinoids, which we discussed a bit above. Endocannabinoids are naturally produced by the brain, and include things like anandamide (the “bliss molecule”) which is also contained in chocolate.
The endocannabinoid system, or ECS, is a biological network composed of endocannabinoids. This system is made up of neurotransmitters which bind to cannabinoid receptors.
The second type are synthetic or lab-created cannabinoids, which the receptors will react to just like they react to naturally occurring ones.
The third and final category are known as phytocannabinoids, and these are the natural cannabinoids produced in the marijuana plant which fit perfectly with cannabinoid receptors to create a wide variety of beneficial effects. “Phyto” is a prefix meaning “pertaining to or derived from plants”. They are defined as any compound of the cannabis plant which is naturally produced and has the capability of directly interacting with cannabinoid receptors.
The marijuana plant does not independently produce cannabinoids- it supplies cannabinoid acids, which are then decarboxylated (“activated”), usually by heat, creating cannabinoid compounds. Now, let’s discuss the 8 most common cannabinoids, and their benefits!
The 8 “Miracle” Cannabinoids
There are over 100 cannabinoids which make up the marijuana plant. Of these 100, 8 have been identified by the research community and extensively researched. They are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), Cannabidiol (CBD, Cannabigerol (CBG), Cannabichromene (CBC), Cannabigerivarin (CBGV), tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), Cannabidivarin (CBDV), and Cannabichromevarin (CBCV).
These are the most common types of cannabinoid which provide medically beneficial effects for the body. They do this by interacting with the cannabinoid receptors already existing within the nervous system and brain.
What is THC(A)?
THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is probably the most oft-referenced cannabinoid. THC is the cannabinoid which gives users the psychotropic effects commonly referred to as a marijuana “high”.
This compound, when decarboxylated and active, interfaces with the CB1 receptors in our brain. This results in a release of dopamine, and allows users to experience the subsequent pleasurable effects associated with dopamine.
THCA, is the precursor cannabinoid acid which decarboxylates into THC. THCA is non-psychoactive, and the health benefits are numerous. Before decarboxylation, it can treat nausea, reduce seizures, inhibit muscle spasms, and even fight tumor or cancer cells!
After it is activated- by sunlight, heat, etc- the THCA becomes the more well-known “THC”. THC is the only known psychoactive compound in the cannabis plant. The health benefits of THC, in proper doses, are countless.
It improves appetite, which is very useful for cancer patients who are unable to naturally induce hunger due to the treatment process. It also reduces nausea and vomiting, again aiding cancer patients in being able to eat a healthy amount of food- and actually keep it down.
It provides relief for individuals with digestive issues, chronic inflammation, and chronic pain, providing the many of the same benefits as pharmaceutical drugs- but without the potentially severe side effects.
THC is an amazing resource to any who struggle with mental health issues. It provides relief from insomnia and anxiety, improving sleep in patients- both the act of falling asleep, and the act of staying asleep. For many patients with anxiety, it provides similar effects to benzodiazepines, without the risk of dependency or overdose.
THC also counteracts many of the symptoms of drug withdrawal. It really is a miraculous compound, and the pharmaceutical companies are doing their best to make sure that we don’t find out!
What is CBD(A)?
CBDA (cannabidiol acid) is the initial cannabinoid acid which converts into CBD following decarboxylation (by heat). CBDA, in its original form, is non-psychoactive- it is known to fight cancer, inflammation, and reduce nausea.
CBD (the decarboxylated form of CBDA), or cannabidiol, is the second most prevalent compound contained within the marijuana plant. It shares many medicinal benefits with THC.
CBDA, even when decarboxylated, will not produce a psychotropic effect in the user. There is no psychoactivity associated with CBD, as it only interacts with specific ECS (endocannabinoid system) receptors- this is because it does not directly affect the brain’s CB1 receptors.
They do enable the body to produce natural endocannabinoids- and these enable the brain to activate dopamine and opioid receptors. This is excellent for those with mood disorders and chronic pain.
CBD is the most widely purported medicinally beneficial cannabinoid in the marijuana plant. It treats anxiety, depression, PTSD, and bipolar disorder. It can induce weight loss, hinder cancer cells ability to multiply, and fight addiction.
It provides unique relief from epilepsy. The most famous cases involve children who have several seizures per day, with no other treatment causing a reduction in number, comin to find that the seizures stop completely when administered a CBD isolate.
The FDA recently approved the manufacture and sale of a medication called Epidiolex, which is used to treat epileptic seizures in individuals with Lennox-gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome.
It is made using a CBD extract, 98% pure, in oil-form. It is administered orally, and is often referred to as a “tincture” in retail environments. Side effects reported from the drug were negligible, only affecting about 3% of the group with mild consequences like sleepiness and sedation.
Neurodegenerative diseases, like dementia, have shown extremely strong positive responses to CBD treatment. Dementia is a complex condition. It is not necessarily a single “disease,” rather, it is several conditions which combine to cause impaired brain function.
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia. Its sufferers demonstrate rapidly declining and degenerating neuro-cellular structure in specific areas of the brain. Inflammation is the foundation of the Alzheimer’s condition, and increased inflammation will cause the symptoms of Alzheimer’s to worsen.
As we have already discussed, this cannabinoid treats inflammation. It will obviously help with that aspect of Alzheimer’s, but scientists have recently discovered some exciting new applications for CBD!
It improves plasticity in the hippocampal region, which is the part of the brain responsible for memory formation and cognitive function. This is revolutionary for Alzheimer’s patients, who overwhelmingly report memory loss as being the worst symptom they experience.
Researchers found during clinical trials that the endocannabinoid system is heavily correlated with neurobiology, neurotransmission, and neuropathology in several forms of dementia- Alzheimer’s included. This greatly expands the potential use for CBD, and guarantees future research into its effectiveness at treating other neurological afflictions.
CBD is actually an appetite suppressant, unlike its cousin THC. It causes a reduction in appetite for patients who desire to lose weight. This is because the CBD does not directly interact with the brain’s CB1 receptors. Researchers theorize that CB1 receptors are a major cause of obesity due to their increased presence in excess fatty tissue. This makes CBD an ideal treatment for those whose desired outcome is weight loss, especially in cases of severe obesity.
One of the most common uses for CBD is the treatment of chronic pain. Due to the non-psychoactive nature of this cannabinoid, many prefer it to THC due to its ability to regulate pain without causing a dysregulation in mood, coordination, or cognitive function. It has become one of the most popular alternative remedies in the US, with pharmaceutical companies lining up for patents on CBD pain relief drugs: Insys and GW Pharmaceuticals, for example.
The list of health deficiencies which are treatable with CBD is a long one. Aside from the benefits already discussed, CBD helps with:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Chronic inflammation
- Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
- Inflammatory bowel syndrome
- Crohn’s disease
- Chronic pain
What is CBC(A)?
Cannabichromene is widely considered to be one of the top cannabinoids, because of its ability to treat many different conditions. The cannabinoid interacts with pain receptors (TRPV1) like the vanilloid receptor, and the transient receptor potential ankyrin 1 (TRPA1).
Similar to CBD, CBC will aid the body’s own endocannabinoid system in manufacturing naturally-occurring cannabinoids. It causes the body to make anandamide, the “bliss molecule,” found in chocolate, like CBD.
CBC is a team player. It cooperates with other cannabinoids so well, that scientists have named its response and subsequent responses from other cannabinoids the “entourage effect”.
CBC is a major component of pain relief in the marijuana plant, working with other cannabinoids such as CBD and THC to provide pain relief using the entourage effect. This causes CBC to boost the functioning of all the cannabinoids with which it interacts.
CBC is known to treat the symptoms of depression, and can even operate in an anti-bacterial capacity- helping your body form a natural antibiotic!
What is THCV(A)?
THCV(A), or tetrahydrocannabivarin, shows promising evidence for potential medicinal benefits. Though it has not been as extensively studied as THC or CBD, the research we have indicates a great many health issues which can be improved with THCV.
THCV reduces appetite. In obsese patients seeking to improve their health, THCV caused a remarkable decline in the overeating tendencies present in many obese persons. It has an intense positive reaction in people with Type 2 diabetes, with several studies revealing the abilities of THCV to regulate blood sugar and engage in neuroprotective processes within the body. THCV also reduces insulin resistance in diabetics.
Its core benefit identified by medical researchers, though, is the ability to suppress appetite without causing addiction. It enables the body to naturally produce hunger-regulating compounds in the body, reducing appetite for obese patients in the most healthy, non-addictive, and risk-averse way.
THCV is one of the many cannabinoids which can treat panic attacks, anxiety disorder, PTSD, and Alzheimer’s disease.
What is CBG(A)?
Cannabigerol, or CBG, is the “building block” to all other cannabinoids. It is the foundation upon which each different cannabinoid builds its molecular structure. It is the precursor to THC, to CBD, and all the rest.
It is not known to be commonly found in large amounts in marijuana, only making up around one percent of the cannabinoids contained within the plant structure. Despite this, it is impossible to create most of the more active cannabinoids without CBG, thus making CBG a vital part of the process of cannabinoid formation.
Independently, though, it also provides some benefit. Studies show that CBG has much potential, therapeutically. Like the other cannabinoids, it can treat neurological disorders and inflammation. It shows an improvement in motor skills and increases the number of antioxidants in patients.
What is CBGV(A)?
Cannabigerivarin is the parent molecule of CBD, which is one of the first building blocks of all other cannabinoids, just like CBG. It has a wide range of benefits.
It is able to naturally reduce inflammation, working with THC and CBD to augment their pain-inhibiting capability.
Independent of THC and CBD, it improves arthritis and fibromyalgia. It has applications in skincare as well, with a revolutionary treatment for dry skin conditions and other dermatological conditions.
What is CBDV(A)?
Cannabidivarin, or CBDV, is yet another cannabinoid with the ability to help patients who suffer from chronic inflammation, neurological disorders, or chronic pain. It is well known to help individuals with epilepsy, Crohn’s disease, and even HIV/AIDS!
What is CBCV(A)?
Cannabichromevarin only varies slightly from the chemical structure of CBC. It is not nearly as well understood as CBC. Due to its similarity on a molecular level with CBC, research indicates that it will also reduce pain and act as a natural antibiotic. It can also greatly improve daily mood.
This particular cannabinoid, though vital, is understudied in the US due to the federal Schedule 1 status of marijuana. It is not possible to verify these assumptions until more research is done.
What did we learn?
We covered a wide range of health effects resulting from the 8 miraculous cannabinoids which make up part of the cannabis plant. Let’s take a moment to remember some of the biggest benefits that cannabinoids can bring.
Cannabinoids relieve chronic pain! There have been many studies on the correlation between pain reduction and cannabinoid consumption. In 2008, a group known as “Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management,” published a meta-analysis (review) of several studies. Their findings indicated that prescribing cannabinoids improved pain symptoms in cancer patients, people suffering from neuropathic pain caused by multiple sclerosis, and even relief for rheumatoid arthritis patients.
Cannabinoids reduce anxiety! Several cannabinoids are known to treat the various forms of anxiety in patients. There were two human trials conducted to observe the effects of CBD on people with an anxiety disorder. One of these studies looked at the effects of CBD on social anxiety, and the other was researching the effects of the cannabinoid on public-speaking anxiety- both studies showed drastic improvement in patients who used cannabinoid treatments.
In 2015, an article by Neuropeutics listed the following disorders which benefit from treatment with cannabinoids: panic disorder, social anxiety, generalized anxiety disorder, PTSD, and OCD.
Cannabinoids improve sleep! Sleep psychologists around the world are marveling at how incredibly beneficial cannabis is to patients suffering from sleep disorders. CBD is extremely effective at treating insomnia, improving the patient’s ability to both fall asleep, and remain sleeping throughout the night. Sleep apnea is the most improved when patients are given a mix of different cannabinoids.
In 2013, the University of Sao Paulo demonstrated that total sleep time increased greatly when study participants were given strong, consistent doses of CBD. In 2017, Oxford University Press published an article about a clinical trial which was testing the drug Dronabinol, which is made up of cannabinoids and treats sleep apnea patients.
The article found that Dronabinol both improved the patient’s sleep, and improved their energy levels during the day. The stronger the dose, the more improvement was seen for each patient.
So, cannabis really is a miracle drug. It’s not hard to see why Big Pharma might want to suppress this plant- it can do the things their harmful, addictive drugs do, and it can do them naturally! Most people don’t want to take synthetic chemicals dreamed up by a lab rat- with the plethora of negative side effects and dangerous addictive potential, most of these drugs present more problems than they prevent.
So here it is. The miracle drug. The plant that the pharmaceutical companies tried for years to vilify, finally making its entrance into the spotlight of cutting-edge medical science. Are you ready to feel better?