The marijuana plant is very complex, as are cannabinoid effects on the body. Experts have discovered more than 100 unique cannabinoids from their research on cannabis and cannabinoids. Studying these compounds in-depth is key to determining the effects of marijuana, although scientists are only just getting started.
There are two cannabinoids that just about everyone with medicinal or recreational knowledge of cannabis is aware of: cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). CBD is non-intoxicating, and is highly touted for having novel therapeutic value. THC is psychoactive and integral to the cannabis ‘high’, but is medicinal in its own right. The conflicting properties of THC has made endorsing medical marijuana a conundrum for doctors and politicians alike.
Then there are other, less-discussed cannabinoids which adorn marijuana and hemp. These include cannabigerol (CBG), cannabinol (CBN), cannabichromene (CBC), cannabidivarin (CBDV), and tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV). These generally only naturally appear in small concentrations, but can be crucial to determining the effects of a strain.
In this post, we are going to analyse the effects of CBD and THC, and the five second-tier cannabinoids that we have mentioned. We’ll cover all of this, and more:
- The physical and mental benefits of CBD
- THC’s medicinal value and its popularity as a recreational substance
- CBC’s benefits for the brain
- The anti-inflammatory properties of CBG
- The effects of CBN, CBDV and THCV
But let’s get started with CBD.
Getting to know CBD
The potential benefits of CBD are numerous, and the cannabinoid also comes with hardly any side effects. CBD’s effects change from a low to high dose, and also depending on the way that the compound is taken. Oils and e-liquids deliver the effects rapidly, while capsules and edibles promote a long-lasting experience. This all comes down to the changing pharmacology of CBD with different intake methods.
CBD works with receptors and neurotransmitters all over the body to produce therapeutic effects. Many of these can be traced back to the endocannabinoid system (ECS), but CBD has been shown to influence other biological networks too, such as the serotonin system.
But in the ECS, CBD serves a regulatory purpose. All the cannabinoids in the cannabis plant have a role to play here. However, CBD encourages ECS regulation through natural means, by ensuring the body has the right levels of endocannabinoids, so they can bind with cannabinoid receptors.
CBD’s mental benefits
CBD is considered by some to be the anxiety and depression drug of the future. The chemical also has possible anti-addiction properties which should be of interest to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Beyond that, CBD may be effective for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), bipolar disorder, psychosis and schizophrenia.
Starting with anxiety, CBD is not just beneficial here because of the changes it makes to the body. Key to CBD’s anti-anxiety value is the speed in which the effects occur. The SSRI drugs that anxiety patients are currently stuck with may have an effect in the long-term. But they can’t be used to suppress anxiety at short notice. In contrast, vaping CBD or taking it via tincture oil quickly restores neurotransmitter balance in the brain. This stops the excessive electrical activity and increased thought processes that are attributed to anxiety. This is not dissimilar to how CBD relieves epilepsy.
Depression and more
In regard to depression, CBD may be most useful by treating brain inflammation, as opposed to changing neurological chemical makeup. Scientists are still trying to work out exactly how the human body functions. Recent studies suggest that inflammation can cause damage to parts of the brain that are associated with depression – these include the amygdala, the hippocampus, and the prefrontal cortex. By lowering levels of inflammation, and supporting the growth of new brain cells, CBD can provide sustained antidepressant effects.
With PTSD, trials have found that CBD can block the consolidation of bad memories, while helping to extinguish them. CBD also has antipsychotic effects, by virtue of how it impacts the CB1 receptor. CBD’s effect on this receptor couldn’t be more different than THC’s. This is why the former may help with schizophrenia and psychosis, while the latter seems to make it worse. CB1 receptor regulation is likely the mechanism that CBD reduces bipolar disorder symptoms. The CB1 receptor is implicated in many mental variables, including mood.
CBD’s physical benefits
The immune system is key to many of the physical benefits of CBD. When researchers learned that there was a connection between this system and the ECS, this marked a huge breakthrough in the development of anti-inflammatory drugs. It showed that CBD oil, among other hemp-based products, could be used to safely manage inflammation levels. In doing so, this has opened up new, and more effective treatments for arthritis, coeliac disease, hepatitis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and even allergies.
Moreover, CBD could prove to be vital to treating the root cause of autoimmune diseases. These are the result of a dysfunctional immune system. But by regulating the ECS, and specifically the CB2 receptor, this promotes balance in the body’s immune system response.
CBD may also be useful for relieving chronic pain. The ECS is implicated in pain perception and sensitivity, with CBD helping via CB1 receptor regulation. CBD and anandamide, the most influential endocannabinoid in the ECS, also exert therapeutic effects on the vanilloid receptor, where pain is also controlled.
Other possible positive health effects of CBD include boosting reproductive health, speeding up recovery time from bone breakages and fractures, and enhancing skin condition. As well as being an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, CBD mitigates infection risks, boasting antibacterial and antimicrobial effects. CBD also helps to reduce nausea and vomiting.
THC effects and benefits
THC has psychoactive effects, and is best-known as a recreational substance. This intoxication is mostly felt psychologically, with THC bringing major short-term changes to mood and appetite levels. However, these alterations can also bring about some negative side effects, notoriously anxiety and paranoia.
There is also a slim chance that first-time cannabis users can experience psychotic or schizophrenic outbreaks. However, this only seems to happen in those already predisposed to these mental conditions. Also, those who take THC at a young age also risk adversely affecting their brain development.
As a medicine, most of the interest surrounding THC revolves around its pain-killing effects. Indica-dominant strains are really helpful for pain management. THC’s main role is to reduce pain perception as a CB1 receptor agonist. THC is more potent than anandamide, the ECS’ natural CB1 receptor agonist. This is why THC is such an effective painkiller.
THC also has huge potential as an anti-inflammatory. The compound works with the CB2 receptor in the same way, as an agonist, outdoing anandamide. This effect is interesting in relation to brain inflammation and depression. THC is beneficial. But the intoxicating effects have long been considered a problem. Perhaps the dosage of THC is key to whether full-plant cannabis can be used as an antidepressant.
Full-spectrum cannabis and the entourage effect
Experts are confident that whole-plant cannabis is more powerful than when the cannabinoids are isolated. This is all to do with the ‘entourage effect’. The synergy that the likes of THC and CBD generate when used in conjunction makes them more beneficial. This may be vital in treating conditions such as fibromyalgia.
Studies have identified the ECS as a potential root cause of the illness. A natural cannabis remedy, which incorporates all the compounds in the herb, looks to be more helpful than just THC, or just CBD. This is according to those researching the concept of ‘Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency’.
CBC cannabinoid effects and benefits
CBC is a cannabinoid that appears in many full-spectrum cannabis and hemp products. This compound is never present in the quantities of CBD or THC. But CBC isn’t intoxicating, and likely has medicinal properties. CBC stimulates new brain cell growth, just as CBD does. For the hippocampus, this translates to a cognitive boost, for memory and motivation. Therefore, a hemp product centered around CBD and CBC could provide extra benefits.
CBC also appears to help with limiting swelling after an injury. The anti-inflammatory effects of this compound have not been fully studied, but are unusual. CBC limits inflammation in the intestinal tract. However, it doesn’t produce these effects through cannabinoid receptor activation. It is feasible that CBC functions with another ECS receptor, and that it hasn’t yet been identified. Some have proposed that the GPR-55 receptor is part of the ECS, and should be called the CB3 receptor.
Cannabinol is another cannabinoid that won’t make you high. As with CBC, CBN hasn’t been studied too much. But it may be helpful for easing pain, and could also be used in natural antibacterial products. CBN is like most cannabinoids in that it has anti-inflammatory qualities. CBN levels in strains are typically below 1 percent. But it often pops up in full-spectrum CBD products, as a way of bringing out the entourage effect.
Cannabidivarin is popular for its anti-nausea and vomiting properties. CBDV has anti-seizure effects, and is likely effective at treating intractable epilepsy symptoms. Combinining this cannabinoid with CBD may make for a powerful, cannabinoid-based anti-epileptic drug. CBDV also indirectly stops the synthesization of 2-AG, a key endocannabinoid. What effect this has on the body is unclear, however. Although, one would assume it has some kind of health benefit, that is yet to be uncovered.
Cannabigerol is perhaps the most well-known of the cannabinoids that aren’t named CBD or THC. Some brands are making products with a mixture of CBD and CBG. A potent antibacterial substance, CBG is great for managing and clearing up infections. CBG is really good for the bones, supporting growth. The cannabinoid also helps to relieve inflammation. CBG is a weak agonist of the CB1 receptor. Its effect on the CB2 receptor is so far unknown. But as CBG reduces inflammation, it is perhaps an agonist – to some degree – of this receptor.
Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) has some mild psychoactive effects. For this reason, strains like Durban Poison and Doug’s Varin that have lots of THC and some THCV can be more psychoactive than regular marijuana. Users find that THCV is an energizing strain, and can have a euphoric effect. That said, some report that THCV clears their head and brings about mental clarity.
From a medical point of view, THCV is a CB1 and CB2 receptor agonist. This means it has anti-inflammatory effects, and is also an appetite stimulant. THCV may help with diabetes, and perhaps even Parkinson’s disease, according to the few studies that have been carried out.
The various types of cannabinoids found in hemp and cannabis are, as we have seen, all different. This suggests that cannabis-based medication could be dynamic. Different mixes of cannabinoids could help with totally unique conditions.