The scientific community continues to astonish us with innovative solutions for what we once thought to be incurable illnesses. Some of the latest and most relevant treatments introduced are the vaccines for coronavirus.
Each day we wake up to discoveries, as scientists are tirelessly searching for medical breakthroughs – one of which are cannabinoids.
What are cannabinoids?
Cannabinoids are compounds found in specific plants such as cannabis. These compounds even exist in the human body in the form of “endocannabinoids.” Although several plants have cannabinoids in their systems, the commercial utilization of cannabinoids in cannabis stands out from the rest.
Cannabinoids’ importance comes from their huge potential as an alternative treatment for certain conditions. Among the 100+ cannabinoids identified in nature, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) are the most popular.
How do cannabinoids work?
The human body has an internal regulator of cellular processes called the endocannabinoid system or ECS. The ECS has cannabinoid receptors that are the primary target of cannabinoid interactions.
When cannabinoids interact with the cannabinoid receptors located at various points in the body (e.g., the central nervous system), the effects of the cannabinoid take place. Cannabinoids are believed to mediate some of the most important physical parameters and functions, such as blood pressure, pain perception, stress, appetite, and more.
Each type of cannabinoid has different effects. For example, THC induces psychoactive effects or getting high, while CBD exerts potential therapeutic effects without psychoactivity.
Although each cannabinoid has unique characteristics and effects, their combination leads to a compounded benefit that cannot be achieved with a single cannabinoid. This health and well-being promoter is what we call the “entourage effect.”
List of significant cannabinoids and their therapeutic potential
Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid (THC-A)
A non-psychoactive cannabinoid, THC-A is the most abundant cannabinoid found in a raw cannabis plant. When THC-A is heated at a certain temperature, it converts into THC.
A 2011 study determined that THC-A can inhibit two of the bodily enzymes that cause fever, pain, and swelling. Aspirin, an anti-inflammatory medication, usually targets these enzymes. Another study in 2018 also hinted that THC-A might be a possible anti-tumor agent.
A potentially potent psychoactive type of cannabinoid, THC-V has been studied for its effect on psychological conditions like PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder).
THC, the most well-known cannabinoid, is the most psychoactive compound in cannabis. While its intoxicating effects can be a bane for some, extensive studies are tackling THC’s vast collection of medical benefits.
CBD is another cannabinoid rich in literature that discusses the compound’s multiple therapeutic effects. Aside from its non-intoxicating properties, one of the most positive characteristics of CBD is its mitigating effect on THC – intoxication and increased heart rate.
CBN, amounting at less than 1%, has minimal psychoactive properties. It has almost the same profile as CBD, but there is not much interest in studying this cannabinoid’s therapeutic potential because of its scarcity.
CBG is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid that exists in amounts similar to CBN. However, this compound’s importance lies in its precursor role in creating THC and CBD.
CBD-V, a non-psychoactive cannabinoid, has shown anti-convulsant effects in preclinical trials involving rodents.
Understanding what cannabinoids are and their unique nature is the key to unlocking cannabis’s full therapeutic potential. Preliminary studies show that cannabis shows huge promise in becoming the next big thing in the medical space. However, further clinical studies are needed to confirm these benefits.
The sheer expanse of anecdotal evidence and initial research on cannabinoids makes it clear that cannabis really has something to offer.
- Ruha ak, L. et al. 2011. Evaluation of the Cyclooxygenase Inhibiting Effects of Six Major Cannabinoids Isolated from Cannabis sativa. Available at: https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/bpb/34/5/34_5_774/_pdf
- Nallathambi, R. et al. 2018. Identification of Synergistic Interaction Between Cannabis-Derived Compounds for Cytotoxic Activity in Colorectal Cancer Cell Lines and Colon Polyps That Induces Apoptosis-Related Cell Death and Distinct Gene Expression. Available at: https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/pdf/10.1089/can.2018.0010
- Niesink, R and van Laar, M. 2013. Does Cannabidiol Protect Against Adverse Psychological Effects of THC? Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3797438/
- Huizenga, M. et al. 2019. Preclinical safety and efficacy of cannabidivarin for early life seizures. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6424614/