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What are Cannabinoids?

What are Cannabinoids?

Cannabinoids are substances produced by the organisms of both mammals and plants. In mammals, they are called endocannabinoids or endogenous cannabinoids, and they help to balance the bodies functions. In the plants, on the other hand, the accurate name is phytocannabinoid or exogenous cannabinoid, that, for them, works as a type of protection.

These phytocannabinoids are a Cannabis substance that interacts with the organisms of animals and does so by associating itself with the endocannabinoids. It is through this natural interaction that Cannabis can be used for therapeutic purposes. Since there are more than a hundred and twenty different types found on Cannabis Sativa, they can be used to treat several pathologies.

From all this still little explored natural repertoire, the two substances, from the Cannabis Sativa, that have been extensively studied are the Cannabidiol, or CBD, and the tetrahydrocannabinol, THC. Both have the same molecular structure, with a subtle alteration on the atom’s organization, which makes their properties slightly different.

There are many Cannabinoids present in the Cannabis, and it would be impossible to describe all of them in a single text. Thus, we highlighted the main ones:

The main Cannabinoids present in the Cannabis:

Cannabidiol (CBD)

Cannabidiol (CBD) is, nowadays, the most famous and most used Cannabinoid for medical purposes in the world. It does not have psychoactive effects and represents almost 40% of the plant extracts.

Its efficiency has been extensively studied and the results are positive on the treatment of epilepsy, anxiety, and even Alzheimer’s. This interaction results in positive effects linked to anxiety, inflammation, cognition, motor control, pain perception, nausea, and appetite.

About possible side effects of using Cannabidiol, the World Health Organization (WHO) has already spoken out in favor of the product, in a publication of the Critical Review Report, in 2018: “CBD is usually well tolerated and has a good safety profile. The adverse effects could be a result of interactions between CBD and other medications that the patient might be using”.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or Delta(9)-Tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC), is responsible for the psychoactive effects of the Cannabis and it is mainly bound to receptors found in the brain. It can reduce, or even eliminate, pain, nausea, and stress, besides being able to stimulate appetite and battle insomnia.

Some of its effects have already been proven in clinical studies and, currently, drugs with its presence are applied as analgesics (especially in the case of chronic and neuropathic pain), in the control of spasms caused by multiple sclerosis and as an antiemetic (in the treatment of nausea caused by chemotherapy).

Other possible benefits are still being studied. It is thought that THC can work as a neuroprotector, making it efficient against epilepsy and other degenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Besides that, as an anti-inflammatory, it could be useful on the treatment of diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis; and as an antitumor, preventing the growth of cancer cells.

Cannabinol (CBN)

CBN is a compound present in Cannabis that is produced when THC deteriorates. For this reason, it is usually present in great quantities when the Cannabis plant is old.

Despite current research about CBN is still limited, some studies are slowly demonstrating the benefits of this substance to the human health. It is believed that CBN could be useful on the treatment of chronical pain, glaucoma, as well as stimulating appetite, but there are no conclusive studies yet.

Cannabigerol (CBG)

This Cannabinoid is still very little studied, but there is a growing volume of ongoing research. It is, many times, called the “mother”, since it is from CBG that CBD and THC are produced. But it is almost unnoticed on the variety of Cannabis. This happens due to its concentration that, usually, does not reach 1%.

Existing data regarding CBG suggest that it has anticancer, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and bactericide effects. In a recent study, Canadian researchers tested the efficiency of CBG against antibiotic resistant bacteria. Cannabigerol demonstrated a potential on eliminating the Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) – A super bacteria very common in hospitals.

CBG is a non-psychoactive Cannabinoid and may be abundant in plants with low THC content. Just like THC, it reacts with the Cannabinoid receptors present in the brain, but with different effects. It is even possible that CBG eases the psychoactive effects of THC.

Tetrahydrocannabinol Acid (THCA)

THCA, or Tetrahydrocannabinol Acid, is nothing more than the THC in its acid form and exists, mainly, in the plant in natura. As the plant dries after being harvested, the THCA slowly converts to THC. The heat accelerates this conversion through a chemical process known as decarboxylation, which removes the extra carboxyl group (COOH) in its composition. Unlike THC, THCA has no psychoactive effect.

There is few research, but the look to confirm the immune-modulating effects, which can stimulate or suppress immune responses in the human body. This could be useful against diseases that affect our immune system, such as AIDS, and autoimmune diseases, including multiple sclerosis and Crohn’s disease.

Cannabichrome (CBC)

Despite being less famous, when compared to CBD and THC, Cannabichrome (CBC) is of great importance. It acts by activating receptors in the organism and can increases the levels of natural endocannabinoids in the body, such as the anandamide – known as the substance of happiness.

Despite having its own benefits, researchers believe that this compound can also work with other Cannabinoids, in a process known as the entourage effect, that is, when two or more elements unite and potentialize, or change, the effect of each other. Isolated, it can help to fight cancer, pain and inflammations, depression, and even acne.

Cannabidivarin (CBDV)

Cannabidivarin (CBDV) is very similar to CBD. It is already being applied by the GW Pharmaceuticals in a medicine for the treatment of convulsions. CBDV can also help in neurobehavioral treatments, such as Rett syndrome, both for seizures and memory rescue affected by the disease. There are indications that it is still effective against muscular dystrophy.   

Are Cannabinoids legal?

Cannabinoids derived from marijuana are only legal in the states where cannabis is legal for medical and/or recreational purposes. CBD oil, derived from the hemp plant, is legal to possess and use in the United States as long as the oil contains no more than 0.3% THC