Despite the fact that there are estimated to be over 120 total cannabinoids present in the cannabis plant, relatively little is known about the minor cannabinoids compared to THC and CBD.
While studies have shown that these two cannabinoids are largely responsible for the psychoactive and therapeutic effects of cannabis, the other cannabinoids have their own unique effects on the mind and body, and many work synergistically with the two major cannabinoids to enhance their impact.
Many of the identified cannabinoids are very similar in structure to one another, but even slight structural differences have been known to produce a wide range of physiological effects. It is no surprise then, with all the potential benefits of the lesser-known cannabinoids, that researchers have deemed them worth examining.
Do All Cannabinoids Work the Same Way?
The two major cannabinoids, THC and CBD, produce the majority of their effects by interacting with cannabinoid receptors in our endocannabinoid system, which has been shown to regulate functions such as cognition, pain sensation, appetite, memory, sleep, immune function, and mood.
However, some cannabinoids are able to produce physiological effects outside of the endocannabinoid system. For example, a common behavior of certain cannabinoids is to activate transient receptor potential channels (TRP channels), which influence sensations such as pain, temperature, taste, and vision. Based on this evidence, it is clear that research on cannabinoids cannot be restricted to how they interact with CB1 and CB2 receptors alone.
With all of this information in mind, let’s take a look at some of the lesser-known cannabinoids that are present in the cannabis plant, as well as the benefits they provide.
What is CBG? CBG is a non-psychotropic cannabinoid that is the second most abundant in the cannabis plant, and is commonly used to stimulate appetite and treat pain and anxiety. It is interesting to note that the carboxylic acid form of CBG, cannabigerol acid, is the precursor to all other cannabinoids, including THC, CBD, and CBC.
In the beginning of the cannabis plant’s growth, CBG makes up about 16.3% of the total cannabinoid content, but this percentage drops to about 1% as the plant matures. In a manner similar to CBC, CBG does not bind to CB1 receptors, but it has an effect on the endocannabinoid system by increasing levels of anandamide in the brain. Out of all the cannabinoids, CBG has been shown to have the most potent antibacterial and antibiotic properties. Since CBG is an antagonist of CB1 receptors, it could also possibly lessen the effects of THC.
Interesting Fact: CBG has also been used as an effective insect repellent when combined with the terpene limonene.
THCV is a cannabinoid with a structure almost identical to that of THC, but it reacts differently at a molecular level and thus has unique physiological effects. Like THC, THCV binds to CB1 and CB2 receptors, but at lower doses, THCV can be shown to counteract some of the effects of THC, while enhancing them at higher doses.
In addition, THCV has displayed anticonvulsant, anti-anxiety, and pain-relieving properties, which make it a good potential treatment method for conditions such as epilepsy and PTSD. THCV has even shown to have antipsychotic properties, which could make it a promising solution for alleviating some of the symptoms of schizophrenia.
Cannabidivarin is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that has a variety of therapeutic benefits. It was first isolated in 1969, but little research has been performed on it since then. CBDV has been shown to have anticonvulsant and anti-epileptic effects, but instead of occurring through the binding of cannabinoid receptors, they are caused by activating TRP channels.
As a result, CBDV is used to treat epilepsy without causing intoxication and has much fewer side effects compared to common anti-epileptic drugs. CBDV is also currently undergoing clinical trials for use in glioma, type 2 diabetes, schizophrenia, and encephalopathy, so its future therapeutic applications seem rather promising.
Cannabinol is a metabolite of THC that exhibits many immunosuppressive and anti-inflammatory activities. Compared to THC, CBN is only mildly psychoactive; CBN binds selectively to CB2 receptors in the peripheral nervous system but has minimal activity on CB1 receptors. One of the most interesting benefits of CBN is its potential as an appetite stimulant.
A study suggested that CBN can potentially increase one’s appetite, so it has promising applications for the treatment of eating disorders. Other than that, CBN has been shown to be a powerful sedative, and can also be used to relieve nausea.
CBC doesn’t actively bind to either CB1 or CB2 receptors, but it affects the endocannabinoid system indirectly by inhibiting the absorption of anandamide, a neurotransmitter that binds to cannabinoid receptors. CBC has shown to be more prevalent in the more psychoactive strains of cannabis, whereas higher CBD concentrations are more common in fiber-like strains used in hemp.
CBC and THC have been shown to have a strong synergistic relationship, as CBC increases levels of THC in the brain, and THC, in turn, enhances the pharmacological effects of CBC. When used together with THC, CBC displays anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, and pain-relieving qualities. Cannabichromene is due to receive a lot more research in the near future, largely because of its relationship with THC.
CBCV is among the least-studied cannabinoids that have been identified. It was discovered in 1975, which was a little later than the more well-known cannabinoids, and not much research has been done on it since then. CBCV is very similar in structure to CBC, so many researchers estimate that it will share some of the same benefits.
Like CBC, CBCV is not psychoactive, so it can be used to provide relief for chronic pain, depression, inflammation, and insomnia without causing any intoxicating effects. CBCV has also been shown to suppress the appetite instead of stimulating it, so it could be useful for those who are trying to control their eating habits.
What about Terpenes?
No article about cannabinoids would be complete without discussing their relationship with terpenes. While we’ve already gone more in-depth about terpenes here, it’s worth mentioning that terpenes and cannabinoids go hand in hand when consuming cannabis and cannabis derivatives such as hemp CBD products.
When consumed together, the benefits of cannabinoids, terpenes, and other natural compounds found in cannabis work synergistically to enhance the properties of one another. This is referred to as the “entourage effect”, which means that the effects are greater than the sum of the individual parts.
Tessera Naturals products are all made with broad-spectrum CBD. This means that we start with a full spectrum whole plant extract, then remove the trace amounts of THC while leaving all of the minor cannabinoids and terpenes in fact. Studies show that full-spectrum CBD and broad-spectrum CBD are much more effective than CBD isolate, which is only comprised of the CBD cannabinoid alone.
There are many other cannabinoids in the cannabis plant besides THC and CBD that offer their own range of therapeutic benefits.
Cannabinoids primarily activate receptors in the endocannabinoid system, but physiological effects can also occur through TRP channels.
Limited research has been done on cannabinoids other than THC and CBD, but that is certainly going to change as the medical benefits of cannabis become more apparent.
Many cannabinoids and terpenes act in synergy with one another to enhance their effects exponentially, which is referred to as the “entourage effect”.