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Cannabinoids 101: The Potential Benefits of Cannabis Beyond CBD and THC

What are Cannabinoids? 

The two best-known cannabinoids are CBD and THC, but they are just two of many other cannabinoids that ongoing research continues to unveil. In this article, the cannabis experts at Modern Nature will go beyond CBD and THC to explore the lesser-known but vital therapeutic roles of some of the more obscure cannabinoids. We'll dive into how different cannabinoids interact with each other, break down, and even morph into other cannabinoids.

As we proceed you'll gain an understanding of just why full spectrum whole plant cannabinoids have the potential to contribute so much more therapeutic power than single-molecule CBD or THC "isolates" as they work together via the human endocannabinoid system to keep us in the wonderful state of "homeostasis" where everything is just right.

Common Cannabinoids Found in the Cannabis Plant and Potential Benefits
How Many Cannabinoids Are There?

Just a few years ago the standard answer to this FAQ was that up to 80 cannabinoids had been identified. Successful treatment of rare forms of childhood epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome with the CBD based drug epidiolex raised CBD and cannabinoid awareness and greatly accelerated therapeutic cannabinoid research. The number of identified phytocannabinoids has been increasing ever since. Recent FDA approval of epidiolex and the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill legalizing cannabinoids derived from the hemp plant in all 50 states have added even more fuel to fire up new cannabinoid research on up to 36 different strains of cannabis plants. 

Today the reported number of cannabinoids varies between 85 and 113, depending upon who you ask. A September 2018 National Institute of Health (NIH) report at the NCBI states "The plant contains over 100 additional phytocannabinoids whose therapeutic effects and interplay have not yet been fully elucidated." According to the report, subtle chemical differences in various cannabinoids and various cannabis plant strains require a new approach "to identify phytocannabinoids from 10 different subclasses, and comprehensively profile the identified compounds in diverse medical Cannabis plants." 

While the molecular biologists work diligently to sort out the amazing array of phytocannabinoid varieties we'll take a look at the most therapeutic of them all, CBD, then we'll check out the common but lesser-known cannabinoids and the therapeutic benefits they can provide.

Cannabinoids and Benefits

CBD - Cannabidiol

CBD has emerged as the dominant therapeutic cannabinoid with the ability to treat and alleviate the symptoms of an incredible variety of maladies and disorders. CBD works naturally with the ECS to treat chronic pain, control inflammation response to infection or injury, reduce anxiety and stress, and enhance muscle development and recovery. CBD's calming effect can improve the quality of sleep which is fundamental to robust health.

CBD is non-psychoactive and does not induce the short term mental high that THC in marijuana causes. CBD does improve mental health, elevating mood by increasing levels of the natural mood enhancing compound anandamide. CBD's therapeutic power lies in its ability to activate the CB1 and CB2 receptors of the ECS in the vital limbic and paralimbic regions of the brain, as well as a network of biocommunication receptors located in immune cells, the liver, kidneys, and tissues and organs throughout the body. These vital areas of the brain control mood, sleep, immune response, cognitive thought, memory, emotion, motor control, pain tolerance, and more. This begins to give us a viable answer to the common question "Why does CBD work so well for so many different disorders?" 

While CBD is known to antagonize the CB1 and CB2 receptors of the ECS it does not bind directly with either. Instead, it modifies the way these receptors interact with other receptors outside of the ECS in the brain and body. CBD has a unique ability to operate at the cellular level, inducing "apoptosis" or cell death on harmful cells such as malignant tumors, all while protecting healthy cells. Its powerful antioxidant action reduces the notorious free radicals generated by oxidative stress caused by smoking or environmental hazards.

CBD is also a powerful neuroprotectant, able to foster healthy brain and nerve cell growth which makes it an excellent supplement for recovery from strokes or concussive head injuries. CBD's ability to raise the levels of the natural mood enhancer anandamide and interaction with serotonin provide relief from symptoms of depression and anxiety. We can go on and on about our favorite naturopathic cannabinoid and we have at our blog, where you can find everything you need to know about safe nontoxic CBD and its astounding therapeutic benefits.

But we promised a closer look at the lesser-known cannabinoids for this article, so let's get started. 

CBN - Cannabinol

Not to be confused with cannabidiol, CBN is mildly psychoactive and produces the sedative effect known as "couch lock". CBN is formed from the degradation of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). THC is highly psychoactive, the compound responsible for inducing the euphoric mental high in marijuana. Since hemp has less than .03% THC content CBN won't be present. Even in young marijuana plants, the THC hasn't aged enough to degrade into CBN. The CBN cannabinoid is associated with aged or improperly stored marijuana where the THC has oxidized into CBN. CBN from aged marijuana may have anticonvulsant, antibiotic, and anti-inflammatory properties similar to those of CBD, but it's pronounced "couch potato" effect point to its most probable use as a sedative and sleep aid. 

CBG - Cannabigerol

Again we see the complex morphing action of phytocannabinoids from one form to another when we take a look at CBG, Cannabigerol. CBG is actually the parent chemical of both CBD and THC. Cannabis plants produce CBGA, cannabigerol acid, which is the direct precursor for CBD, THC, and CBC. Hemp is strongly predominant in CBG. CBG is considered a minor cannabinoid since very little CBG content, less than 1%, remains after it converts to THC in marijuana or CBD in hemp. But CBG has shown strong potential in preclinical studies for treating very specific physiological problems including:

  • Reducing intraocular eye pressure to treat Glaucoma.
  • Anti-inflammatory action for treating inflammatory bowel disease has been shown in preclinical studies with mice.
  • Neuroprotective action guarded against nerve cell degeneration in studies of mice with Huntington's disease.
  • Anti-cancer action blocked the growth of colorectal cancer cells.
  • Anti-bacterial action which could account for the known effectiveness of cannabis for treating skin infections.
THC-V - Tetrahydrocannabivarin

THC-V is similar in molecular structure to THC, but its psychoactive effects are altogether different. THC-V is present at just undetectable trace levels in the most common strains of marijuana, but it can be found at significant levels in more exotic strains of African sativas. THC-V's therapeutic benefits are promising enough that cannabis breeders are developing high THC-V strains to provide them including:

  • Appetite suppressant- THC-V has the exact opposite effect of its "munchie" inducing cannabinoid cousin THC. Instead, THC-V dulls the appetite making it a promising candidate as a weight control supplement. 
  • Diabetes treatment- THC-V can reduce insulin resistance and shows promise for regulating blood sugar levels.
  • PTSD- THC-V shows a unique ability to calm anxiety and panic attacks in patients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder without suppressing emotions.
  • Alzheimer's treatment- Early research shows improvement of tremors, brain lesions, and motor control related to Alzheimer's disease. 
  • Osteoporosis treatment- THC-V is known to stimulate new bone cell growth, making it a promising candidate for the treatment of osteoporosis.
THC-A - Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid

THC-A is the raw form of THC, that is converted to THC when heated by vaping or smoking, a process known by the scientific term "decarboxylation". In the acid form, THC-A is non-psychoactive and does not activate the CB1 receptors in the brain. When cannabis is smoked an estimated 95% of THC-A is converted to THC, but the remaining 5% of THC-A may be the source for many of the therapeutic actions in marijuana.

THC-A for clinical purposes is promising for two reasons. First, it displays anti-inflammatory and antiemetic (anti-nausea) properties, and second THC-A works very well at very low doses. If we bear in mind that the raw marijuana plant is a rich source of THC-A its therapeutic potential is even more significant since the THC-A cannabinoid is readily available in high amounts.

Several doctors have reported encouraging results when using THC-A to treat epilepsy at doses 10-100 times lower than Epidiolex. 10-20 mg doses proved effective at reducing pain in arthritis patients and others suffering from irritable bowel syndrome. THC-A improved cognitive function in one patient with Alzheimer's and allowed the patient to decrease the use of other drugs. In preclinical tests, THC-A was proven to be 10 times more effective when used as a whole plant extract as opposed to the isolate form.

Why Modern Nature

When it comes to cannabinoids, ongoing research is revealing that it's best to use them as nature provides them, as whole-plant extracts in full spectrum form. The intricate interactions between the cannabinoids working together are the most likely explanation for the amazing therapeutic power of the cannabis species. 

At Modern Nature, all of our vegan-friendly, doctor-endorsed CBD products are derived from whole plant hemp extract to ensure that you benefit from the full spectrum therapeutic power of all the cannabinoids present in the hemp plant. We've channeled the power of CBD into 3 low dose products. Relaxed, Relieved, and Rested capsules are each tailored with essential vitamins and minerals to achieve the results you're seeking, whether to relieve stress, anxiety or pain or simply to get a good night's sleep.