Cannabis is a wonderfully complex and diverse plant that contains more than 100 different cannabinoids, each with unique therapeutic benefits.
But you’ve probably only ever heard of two of them: THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol).
THC and CBD have become the stars of the cannabis show and the other 100-plus cannabinoids are the backup singers.
But research is starting to reveal more about the lesser-known cannabinoids, such as CBC, CBN, CBG, and THCV to name a few.
It’s finding that many of these cannabinoids have potential medicinal uses in their own right.
At the very least, they play an important role in the entourage effect, which is the idea that the various compounds in cannabis modulate and support one another and produce greater therapeutic effects when used together rather than separately.
All of this might sound quite technical and scientific, so let’s compare it to an everyday vegetable.
Think of the last time you ate broccoli.
You might know that broccoli is a good source of fibre and iron, which has all sorts of health benefits.
But fibre and iron are just the tip of the iceberg (or should I say the head of the broccoli?).
Broccoli also contains potassium, calcium, selenium, magnesium, vitamins A, B, C, E, K, the anti-cancer compound sulforaphane, and even cannabinoids of its own.
All of these natural compounds combine to produce unique health benefits far beyond what fibre and iron could achieve alone.
The same can be said for cannabis.
By looking beyond THC and CBD we gain a deeper understanding of the cannabis plant and its true potential for supporting health and wellbeing.
Consider this article an introduction to a few of the other cannabinoids that have been found to have therapeutic benefits.
CBC might be one of the more important cannabinoids you’ve never heard of. CBC was first isolated in 1966 and is considered one of the “big four” cannabinoids along with THC, CBD, and CBG. However, it typically occurs in lower concentrations than its counterparts.
CBC is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid that’s produced early in the flowering cycle of the plant.
CBC may interact with the CB2 cannabinoid receptors in the body, which are mostly found in the immune system. It also binds with things called transient receptor potential channels, which support a wide range of important functions in the body.
What can CBC be used for?
CBC has shown potential in animal studies to help manage medical conditions and symptoms, including:
However, human studies are needed to get a better understanding of the true potential of CBC.
CBG is the non-acidic form of CBCA (cannabigerolic acid), which is known as the “mother” or “building block” cannabinoid.
That’s because it’s the precursor from which all other cannabinoids are formed.
As the cannabis plant matures, CBGA breaks down into other acidic cannabinoids. Once the plant is aged or heated through a process called decarboxylation, the acidic cannabinoids convert into their active versions, THC, CBD, CBC, and CBG.
Some think CBG could become the next big trend in medicinal cannabis.
CBG interacts with both the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors in the body. It’s non-intoxicating and has even been found to lessen the psychoactive effects of THC.
What can CBG be used for?
The preclinical data on CBG suggests it has a wide range of medicinal qualities, including:
It may also work as an appetite stimulant and its anti-inflammatory properties may ease symptoms of conditions like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and Crohn’s disease.
However, like most of the lesser-known cannabinoids, clinical trials are needed to verify CBG’s medicinal potential in humans.
THCV has gotten a lot of attention lately because it’s been identified as a potentially “useful remedy for weight loss”.
While it shares a similar molecular structure to THC, THCV is non-intoxicating. It’s been found to interact with CB1 and CB2 receptors in the body, but we’re not exactly sure how it works.
What can THCV be used for?
THCV may act as an appetite suppressant, which is why there’s a lot of interest around it for weight loss and managing obesity.
Studies have found that THCV is showing potential as a treatment for symptoms of schizophrenia, epilepsy, and Parkinson’s disease.
It may also help with glycemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes.
While more research is needed, THCV has been found to act as an:
- Analgesic (pain relief)
CBN is a cannabinoid that’s created when THC is exposed to heat or breaks down naturally. Therefore, the older the cannabis, the higher the concentrations of CBN.
It’s considered to be non-intoxicating on its own, but may have mild sedative effects.
What can CBN be used for?
Studies have found that CBN may be:
- Appetite suppressant
One study has found that it may also help glaucoma patients by relieving intraocular pressure.
While CBN is often considered a sleep aid, which may help with conditions such as insomnia and sleep apnea, the research so far is inconclusive.
Looking beyond THC and CBD
Science has only scratched the surface when it comes to the medicinal potential of cannabis.
The four cannabinoids explored here — CBC, CBG, THCV, and CBN — represent a tiny fraction of the therapeutic compounds contained within the cannabis plant.
As medicinal cannabis companies in New Zealand and around the world experiment with different strains and blends, we’ll likely see new medicines that contain specific amounts of specific cannabinoids to target specific health conditions or symptoms.