Not only does THC and CBD play a role in the effects of cannabis. So let’s see what they are and what are the roles of the less known cannabinoids.
We begin our journey in the cannabinoids with the parent molecule for most of the many cannabinoids. CBG, known as cannabigerol, begins its life as cannabigerolic acid (CBGA). From there, the enzymes inside the plant transform it into one of the three other cannabinoids, THCA, CBDA and CBCA. These molecules lose their acid group and become decarboxylated becoming THC, CBD and CBC. Since CBG is “depleted” when converted to other states, plants with a high CBG content tend to have a low THCA or CBDA content and vice versa.
CBGA is the parent molecule of many cannabinoids found in cannabis.
Unlike its THC derivative, CBG is not psychoactive. It has shown interesting anti-inflammatory properties, as well as its ability to protect against neurons. Some studies have shown its ability to inhibit the growth of cancer cells; it is also an effective antibacterial, anti-spasmodic stimulant and stimulates appetite.
Many of its benefits are similar to THCA and CBDA, which makes sense, as they are chemically similar. Before transforming into THCA, CBDA and CBCA, CBGA can take another path through enzymatic changes and become CBGVA, which is the precursor of another type of cannabinoid: THCVA, CBDVA and CBCVA. The V in this cannabinoid set refers to Cannabivarin, classified as propyl cannabinoid; this group contains a propyl chain instead of a pentyl chain inside the molecule. Although this distinction may offer some changes to the effects of these cannabinoids, most act similarly to their pentyl cousins. The exception to this rule is THCV, or tetrahyrdocannabivarina.
As mentioned, THCV begins life as CBGVA, and is therefore modified through enzymes. It has a different ability than other cannabinoids which is to suppress appetite instead of stimulating it. No other known cannabinoid works in this way and it is precisely for this reason that THCV is gaining enormous interest in the scientific field. In addition to appetite suppression, THCV has the ability to promote bone growth and repair.
Another promising cannabinoid is CBC or Cannabichromene. The second most common cannabinoid, CBC is a CBGA product just like THC and CBD. However, CBC does not interact with CB1 or CB2 receptors as THC and CBD do. CBC appears to activate other secondary receptors and for this reason it works well in topical preparations. Thanks to this, it could be inserted as a molecule in acne treatments, significantly reducing the overproduction of sebum in the skin.
CBC has proven to be most effective in topical applications. Combined with its antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, it can be ideal for a large number of skin diseases. Finally, CBC stimulates with the spastic motility of the stomach without causing constipation, a secondary effect of a large number of traditional drugs.
Unlike other cannabinoids that come from enzymatic changes inside the plant, THC turns into CBN after prolonged solar exposure in nature. It was traditionally associated with “bad quality cannabis”, since high levels of CBN tend to cause headaches and increase the feeling of tiredness once smoked. However, we now know that little CBN is needed to have a pronounced soporific effect and 5 mg can be as effective as a 10 mg dose of diazepam, a common drug also used to induce sleep.
As mentioned, all cannabinoids share the CBGA precursor. The plant then “directs” the CBGA to become other cannabinoids throughout its life cycle through synthesis, enzymes that chemically convert cannabinoids to other cannabinoids. This is determined by the needs of the plant and the available quantities of cannabinoid precursors.
We are still discovering the roles that each of these cannabinoids play within the plant, but we can safely assume that THCA, CBCA and CBDA benefit the plant in some way because they appear in greater concentration within it. Most other cannabinoids, although powerful and useful for medical purposes, don’t seem to offer the plant as much. Recall that THC is actually present in very low quantities in the cannabis plant, unlike THCA present in abundance (in relation to the species and genetics of Cannabis).
Only with more research, selection, study of certain genetics and understanding of the cannabis plant and its natural mechanisms will we be able to reveal the secrets of these uncommon substances, “uncommon cannabinoids”.