Terpenes and cannabinoids are the primary compounds responsible for the medical benefits and effects experienced with different strains and products.
Cannabinoids are the chemical compounds secreted by cannabis flowers that provide relief to an array of symptoms. Cannabinoids work their medicinal magic by imitating compounds our bodies naturally produce, called endocannabinoids, which activate to maintain internal stability and health. There exists dozens - and potentially more than 100 - cannabinoids in the cannabis plant!
Due to the federal classification of marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug there is very little clinical research in the United States that has been allowed to be conducted on marijuana as a medical treatment option. However, there is a significant amount of anecdotal, animal, and in vitro research that is beginning to pile up. As we learn more about the cannabis plant and the most prevalent cannabinoids, we are beginning to further extend our understanding of the medical applications possible with the cannabis sativa plant!
There exists dozens - and potentially more than 100 - cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, but THC is most widely known among these due to its abundance and euphoric attributes.
THC has a wide range of short-term effects which may or may not be experienced depending on the individual. For example, while some may find that THC elicits strong feelings of calm and peace, others may notice an increase in their anxiety levels. The difference can be as simple as one’s own body chemistry, but certain strains and varying concentrations of THC can also create different outcomes in how one feels.
THC can produce a multitude of psychoactive effects, including (but not limited to) euphoria, relaxation, introspection, creativity, sedation, sensory alteration, appetite stimulation, focus and energy. Adverse effects may include dry mouth, redness in the eyes, disorientation, dizziness, tachycardia, anxiety and paranoia.
Most consequentially, THC also carries a host of medicinal potential that has been studied for a variety of symptoms and conditions. This includes pain relief, anti-inflammation, autoimmune disorders, spasticity, insomnia, nausea, depression and anxiety. THC also shows promise as a possible anti-cancer agent, neuroprotectant and antioxidant.
CBD has become widely recognized for its incredible versatility in the treatment of a variety of different medical conditions. Second only to THC in abundance (generally), CBD stands out for its non-intoxicating relief, including the ability to counteract the psychoactive effects of THC!
CBD has been shown to provide a wide range of medical benefits including for anxiety, inflammation, pains, and seizures. CBD initially gained widespread recognition for its powerful anti-convulsant properties, creating a huge spike in use for treatment in epileptic patients including children.
In addition to being a powerful anti-convulsant, CBD also has shown neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties and has been used in the treatment of conditions such as depression, anxiety, addiction, neurodegenerative diseases and cancer.
CBD also has a unique ability to target a specific serotonin receptor that has promising applications for disorders including opioid dependence, neuropathic pain, depression and anxiety disorders, nausea and vomiting (especially from chemotherapy), and negative symptoms of schizophrenia.
THCA (Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid)
Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid and a primary constituent of cured and live cannabis. In its raw form, THCA’s prevalence in cannabis may have a multitude of therapeutic applications due to its non-psychoactive nature.
THCA, or tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, is a cannabis compound that is beginning to demonstrate therapeutic potential despite the infancy of its research. You’ve heard of THC, and while they may sound similar, THCA has very different properties. Unlike THC, THCA is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid found in raw and live cannabis. As the plant dries or is exposed to heat, THCA slowly converts to THC.
While THCA is the more accurate label for flower that hasn’t been decarboxylated, they essentially mean the same thing if you assume the consumer intends on vaporizing or heating the product in some way.
But what are THCA’s properties if it isn’t converted to THC?
Here are some of the potential benefits studies have started to unveil:
Anti-inflammatory properties for treatment of arthritis and lupus
Neuroprotective properties for treatment of neurodegenerative diseases
Anti-emetic properties for treatment of nausea and appetite loss
Anti-proliferative properties noted in studies of prostate cancer
Other possible medicinal avenues supported by patient stories include insomnia, muscle spasms, and pain.
Because acidic forms can be consumed at significantly higher levels, THCA may potentially act as an effective neuroprotectant, antioxidant, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, anti-emetic, appetite stimulant, pain reliever, and anti-proliferative agent. THCA may be found in topicals, tinctures, capsules and raw cannabis juice.
Discovered over 50 years ago, CBC is considered one of the “big six” cannabinoids prominent in medical research. It doesn’t get as much attention, but CBC’s benefits are extremely promising.
Cannabichromene (CBC) is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid with a host of potential therapeutic applications. CBC may carry pain relieving properties, act as a potent anti-inflammatory agent, assist with digestive and gastrointestinal disorders, possess antibacterial and antifungal efficacy, and could potentially contribute to the regeneration of brain cells, which possibly has implications in the treatments of multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, dementia, Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative related conditions.
Cannabichromene may be a powerful cancer fighter, and the reason might be its interaction with the body’s natural endocannabinoid, anandamide. CBC also appears to inhibit the uptake of anandamide, allowing it to remain longer in the bloodstream. So far, research has found CBC to be the second-most-potent cannabinoid at inhibiting the growth of new cancer cells (CBG was the most potent).
Cannabichromene has been shown to block pain and inflammation associated with collagen-induced osteoarthritis. Cannabinoids like CBC act on inflammation differently than non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) do, and don’t have the side effects of these medications.
In a 2013 study, CBC had a positive effect on neural stem progenitor cells (NSPCs), a cell essential to healthy brain function. This shows promise because NSPCs differentiate into astroglial cells, the most important cells for maintaining brain homeostasis. Astroglia counteract many of the issues that create neurological diseases and brain pathologies like Alzheimer’s disease.
In another amazing display of the entourage effect, CBC appears to work in conjunction with both THC and CBD to deliver a trifecta of antidepressant properties!
A lesser-known cannabinoid called cannabigerol (CBG), while not present in large quantities in most strains, is nonetheless worth learning about for a number of reasons.
CBG is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid, meaning it doesn’t produce the “highs” that are synonymous with THC. Because it is present in low levels (usually less than 1%) in most cannabis strains, CBG is considered a minor cannabinoid. Amazingly, however, THC and CBD start out as CBG— it’s the chemical parent of THC and CBD!
CBG displays a multitude of potential health benefits including working as a neuroprotectant, having antioxidant properties, aiding with skin ailments as an antibacterial and antifungal agent, appetite stimulation, treatment of gastrointestinal disorders, inflammation reduction, shows promise in fighting cancer, and lowering intraocular pressure, which may benefit glaucoma patients.
CBG has been found to act on very specific physiological systems and problems, and results for medicinal use are promising:
CBG is thought to be particularly effective in treating glaucoma because it reduces intraocular pressure. It is a powerful vasodilator and has neuroprotective effects to boot.
CBG was found to be effective in decreasing the inflammation characteristic of inflammatory bowel disease.
CBG was shown to protect neurons in mice with Huntington’s disease.
CBG is showing great promise as a cancer fighter. Specifically, CBG was shown to block receptors that cause cancer cell growth. CBG inhibited tumors and chemically-induced colon carcinogenesis.
Researchers showed that CBG was a very effective appetite stimulant in rats.
Scientists are excited about these initial CBG results and are promoting future research with CBG. Because it is non-psychotropic, CBG has a promising wide range of potential applications not only for the problems mentioned above, but also as an analgesic, therapy for psoriasis, and as an antidepressant.
Cannabinol (CBN) is considered a mildly psychoactive cannabinoid known for its powerful sedative properties. CBN is a byproduct of THC and is typically found in small amounts in most cannabis strains, however, many cannabis based options such as topicals, edibles, capsules, tinctures, vape cartridges, sublingual sprays and more may contain higher levels of this cannabinoid.
CBN, offers a unique profile of effects and benefits that have researchers clamoring for more scientific investigation. CBD is known to be particularly useful for aiding sleep, and also good for reducing pain and muscle spams. So far, CBN’s studied benefits include: ~Pain relief
Promotes growth of bone cells
CBN’s most pronounced, characterizing attribute is its sedative effect. Unlike THC, CBN induces little to no intoxicating effects. This is great news for patients needing to medicate with a clear head, but you should note that most flowers contain only trace amounts of CBN. Where THC contents can hit a high watermark of over 30%, CBN rarely exceeds 1% in dried flower.
As THC oxidizes (i.e. exposure to oxygen over time), it converts to CBN. This is why aged, poorly stored cannabis is likely to have higher levels of CBN than fresh flower in an air-tight container.
As its name suggests, Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) is similar to THC in molecular structure and psychoactive properties, but it provides a variety of pronounced and altogether different effects. THCV is a cannabinoid that holds potentially potent psychoactive effects, along with a host of medicinal benefits.
THCV is thought to act as an antagonist to some of the effects of THC when found in small amounts, while possibly accentuating them in higher doses. Strains or products rich in THCV may result in a stimulating, clear headed, almost psychedelic type of energetic high that is typically shorter in duration.
Most strains only contain trace, undetectable amounts of THCV, making it difficult to achieve the desired therapeutic effect. In contrast to THC, THCV is an appetite suppressant. THCV has promise as a possible weight loss supplement but should, however, be avoided by patients treating appetite loss or anorexia.
THCV may also play a role in stimulating bone health, which could help osteoporosis. THCV also displays anticonvulsant properties that may help with spasticity, neurodegenerative, and seizure related disorders. THCV may combat anxiety and panic attacks, with potential use for those who suffer from PTSD. In addition, THCV is also considered an antioxidant and potent anti-inflammatory agent.
Research shows promise in THCV’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels and reduce insulin resistance, showing promise in helping diabetic patients. THCV may help with Alzheimer’s, including tremors, motor control, and brain lesions associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Furthermore, THCV is being looked at for osteoporosis and other bone-related conditions as THCV stimulates bone growth and promotes the growth of new bone cells.