If you're wondering how many cannabinoids are there out of the 545 known compounds in the cannabis plant, you're not alone. Consumers, educators, and medical professionals also have many questions about these natural chemicals. As for the number, experts know there's at least 100 are phytocannabinoids, which are better known as cannabinoids.
What are Cannabinoids?
The cannabinoids definition, according to Merriam-Webster dictionary is,
"Any of various naturally-occurring, biologically active, chemical constituents of hemp or cannabis, including some (such as THC) that possess psychoactive properties."
There is a wide range of marijuana cannabinoids effects on the human body that vary by each compound's chemical composition. Cannabinoids work with the endocannabinoid system by binding to the cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) in the body. The CB1 and CB2 are found throughout the body. The ECS is a complex cell-signaling system found in all mammals that produce endogenous cannabinoids or endocannabinoids to help maintain homeostasis or keep all body systems in balance for peak performance. Although all phytocannabinoids have various responses, many share similar characteristics. This accounts for why most cannabinoids and inflammation are standard terms in cannabis literature.
List of Cannabinoids
Phytocannabinoids begin as an acid, and following decarboxylation, they change to cannabinoids. The decarboxylation process is necessary to "activate" the cannabinoids. This involves breaking the extra carboxyl group attached to their chain with heat. When you smoke or vape cannabis, this step is automatic. However, if you're making edibles, you'll need to heat them at 220 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes to decarboxylate the flowers. Below is a list of significant marijuana cannabinoids derived from the cannabis plant.
Cannabigerol (CBG) – Begins as cannabigerolic acid or and is the master acidic precursor or the mother of all cannabinoids. Without it, there isn't any THC, CBD, or other phytocannabinoids.
As crucial as CBG is, most cannabis cultivars contain less than 1%. Hemp and cannabis cultivators are increasing the amount of CBG in their products by harvesting their plants sooner. An early harvest reduces crop yield, which is why CBG is more expensive than other cannabinoid products.
Studies for CBG are increasing. Research shows it may be an effective treatment for glaucoma. However, recent data shows CBD may worsen glaucoma and undo the positive improvements patients get from CBG and THC. More studies are necessary to see if CBG is more efficient as an isolate for glaucoma.
In addition to reducing interocular eye pressure, CBG may mitigate symptoms of patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD.) Research is also favorable for improving appetite in patients with cachexia and eating disorders.
9 Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – This marijuana cannabinoid begins as tetrahydrocannabinolic acid and changes to THC. As mentioned, THC is one of the most studied compounds found in the hemp plant. Although users take THC-dominant strains recreationally, this compound has the potential to be a dominant reliever for chronic and inflammatory pain.
Along with reducing inflammation, THC may improve sleep, stimulate the appetite, and relieve stomach pain and cramping. Because of these potential benefits, THC was one of the first cannabinoids approved for medicinal use in Canada and the U.S. The first patients to benefit from THC used it to reduce pain and nausea from cancer treatment. It's also beneficial for people with AIDs to improve appetite and relieve gastrointestinal issues associated with the cocktail of medications they take to suppress the virus.
Unlike the other phytocannabinoids, THC degrades to another chemical structure. If you overheat it or as the compound ages, it turns into cannabinol or CBN. When this occurs, the effects are much more sedating than THC. Studies show CBN may be ideal for reducing inflammation and as an anticonvulsant.
Cannabidiol (CBD) – Cannabidiol, also known as CBD, needs no introduction. The cannabis cannabinoid begins life as a cannabidiolic acid. It is well-received by many in the wellness community for its potential to reduce anxiety, improve sleep quality, relieve inflammatory pain, and help with certain skin conditions.
Cannabichromene (CBC) – Cannabichromene starts as CBGA and converts to cannabichrome carboxylic acid (CBCA) before changing to CBD. It's one of the more abundant cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. Like the other significant compounds, it has strong anti-inflammatory properties. Another potential benefit is antifungal and antibacterial characteristics. CBD was discovered by researchers over 50 years ago and is non-intoxicating.
Cannabigerivarin (CBGV) – Cannabigerivarin begins as CBGA and changes to CBG before finally converting to CBGV. Research is much more limited with CBGV. Studies show the compound has similar anti-inflammatory properties as the other cannabis cannabinoids.
Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) – Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) is also only found in small quantities. The studies available show THCV has excellent potential for consumers with anxiety. Other papers indicate the compound may help with tremors and motor control issues related to Alzheimer's. Additionally, studies for THCV show promise for promoting new bone growth.
Cannabidivarin (CBDV) – As the name suggests, CBDV is similar to CBD and shares many of the compound's characteristics. For example, CBDV doesn't produce a "high" and has been part of many case studies associated with seizures. Research is also ongoing for CBDV and its potential to help consumers on the Autism Spectrum. In some European countries, doctors can use CBDV as a treatment for Fragile X Syndrome.
Cannabichromevarin (CBCV) – Cannabichromevarin is in the top six of major cannabinoids, but little is known about the phytocannabinoid. Isolated in 1975 at the University of Nagasaki in Thailand, researchers know it doesn't present psychoactive effects, making it useful for treating patients that don't tolerate products with THC, such as consumers under 18 or over 65. Because it shares many characteristics with CBD, experts believe it could be beneficial for consumers with inflammation, skin conditions, gastrointestinal issues, and to improve sleep.
Do Cannabinoids have any Known Side Effects?
The known cannabinoid side effects vary by each one. While much is known about the adverse reactions to THC and CBD, there are few studies or even consumer reports about the side effects of the individual cannabinoids. Given the similarities already found in cannabis, such as cannabinoids and inflammation, the adverse responses most likely share the same connections.
The most common side effects of CBD include drowsiness, irritability, and nausea. For THC, consumers may experience dry, red eyes, dry mouth, anxiousness, nausea, short-term memory impairment, fatigue, hunger, and a general uneasy feeling sometimes associated with the psychoactive properties.
The future of cannabinoid medicine is bright. Research that was once limited to THC has expanded to include several others, including CBD, CBG, CBC, and even THCV is starting to gain ground. Which phytocannabinoid are you looking the most forward to using as they become available for consumers? Comment below.