Did you know that there are 480 chemical compounds in the cannabis plant? We don’t know yet how all of them affect the human body, but the more researchers look, the more medicinal benefits they find. In fact, Dr. Abrams, chief of oncology at San Francisco General Hospital and integrative medicine specialist at UCSF points out: “if marijuana were discovered in the Amazon today, it’d be front-page news worldwide, a miracle drug.”
This week let’s focus on one set of compounds—cannabinoids. Our bodies have a system, called the endocannabinoid system, that stabilizes our bodies to help us maintain good health. The body naturally produces endocannabinoids, which bind with receptors (CB1 and CB2) to perform a wide variety of functions, generally to maintain stability. These receptors also bind with the cannabinoids found in cannabis (phytocannbinoids), which is how these compounds help you heal.
Let’s take a look at the 5 most important cannabinoids:
1. ∆9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
The most notorious element in cannabis is THC, the “bad boy” cannabinoid that gets people all worked up because it has a euphoric effect. THC isn’t really a bad guy; it stimulates the appetite, so it is a godsend for chemo patients who don’t feel well enough to eat. THCV, which works on the same receptors as THC, suppresses the appetite, so it is helpful for treating people with food addictions or are struggling with health issues related to obesity. THC is used to treat cancer, side effects from HIV/AIDS treatment, chronic pain, MS, glaucoma, fibromyalgia, Huntingtonʹs disease, ALS, Touretteʹs syndrome, pruritus, and sleep apnea.
2. Cannibidiol (CBD)
CBD has been getting a lot of attention lately; thirteen conservative states that are extremely anti-marijuana have legalized its use to treat childhood epilepsy. This cannabinoid has no psychoactive effects, but it has a calming effect on the nervous system. It helps with epilepsy, seizure disorders, nerve pain, cancer, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, anxiety, diabetes, arthritis, dystonia, Chrohn’s disease, and inflammation.
3. Cannabinol (CBN)
If cannabis is exposed to too much air or heat, over time the oxidization of THC will create CBN. On its own CBN only has mild psychoactive effects, but together with THC it produces that notorious “couch lock” feeling. This can be unpleasant if you have something to do, but it’s helpful for treating insomnia. CBN is also an antiemetic and an anticonvulsant.
4. Cannabigerol (CBG)
CBG is actually a building block for both THC and CBD. Although this chemical is much more common in hemp than in cannabis, breeders are starting to select for it because of its antibacterial and anti-tumor properties. CBG helps reduce intraocular pressure in glaucoma patients, reduce nausea, temper anxiety, and relieve inflammatory bowel disease.
5. Cannabichromene (CBC)
CBC is actually the second-most-common cannabinoid (after THC) in many strains of cannabis. It has no psychoactive effects, but it eases pain, arrests tumor growth, regenerates bones and brain cells, and puts you in a better mood. It also has antibacterial and antifungal properties .
While all of these cannabinoids have their own medicinal benefits, they work best in concert. Working together (and with other cannabis compounds) they create the “entourage effect,” multiplying the benefits of each individual compound. In cannabis, the sum is so much more than its parts.
Stay tuned for next week, when we’ll explore another set of medicinal chemicals in cannabis: terpenes.
CB-1 and CB-2 image credited to http://the-human-solution.org/