What are cannabinoids?
Cannabinoids are active chemical compounds that come from the cannabis plant. These compounds play an important role within one of the body’s physiological systems called the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Cannabinoids act on the receptors in the ECS, alter the release of neurotransmitters in the brain and provide the necessary “fuel” for the system to run. The endocannabinoid system creates internal balance in processes like sleep, mood regulation, infection, pain and immune function.
The endocannabinoid system contains two receptor sites, CB-1 and CB-2. Each receptor site is linked to various other systems within the body. CB-1 primarily expressed brain (the central nervous system), but also the liver, lungs, reproductive organs and kidneys. CB-1 plays major functions in cognition, motor regulations, appetite, pain, mood and sleep. CB-2 is mainly expressed in the immune system and related functions. CB-2 is integral in reducing inflammation, which in turn prevents damage to tissue and provides pain relief.
At least 113 different cannabinoids have been discovered and haven’t been found in any other plant outside of cannabis. It’s important to note that the term “cannabis” is a genus of plant, which includes both hemp and marijuana. The individual plants have different chemical compositions, or different ratios of cannabinoids. One key difference is that hemp contains exceptionally low levels of the cannabinoid THC, thus comes without the psychoactive effects or “high.” While THC is the most recognized compound, we will explore other important cannabinoids that bring strong benefits to users.
CBD is found in its highest concentration within the hemp plant. CBD is one of the more recognizable cannabinoids with its recent emergence in the medical and natural remedy fields. This cannabinoid(CBN) is being hailed for its resolve with pain, inflammation, infection, seizures, neurological disorders, anxiety disorders, cancer treatment, skin conditions and metabolic conditions. CBD binds to the CB-1 and CB-2 receptors in the ECS. There is a lot of research ongoing with CBD and more ways to use the cannabinoid are being discovered.
THCA- Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid*
THCA sounds similar to THC, but they are different. When extracted from a live plant or in raw form, it is not psychoactive. If the plant is allowed to dry or exposed to heat, THCA will change into THC. Preliminary research shows that is effective in protecting the brain, treating inflammation, preventing nausea and appetite loss as well as stopping the growth of cancer cells. Similar to CBD, THCA binds to the ECS receptors CB-1 and CB-2.
CBG is also found in higher concentrations in the hemp plant and does not have psychoactive effects. CBG shows efficiency in treating pain, inflammation, brain cell stimulation, bone growth stimulation, depression, seizures, insomnia, bacterial infections and poor appetite. CBG is being looked at in its specific success in treating glaucoma, IBS, Huntington’s disease, MRSA and blocking cancer cell growth.
CBDA- Cannabidolic Acid*
CBDA is the precursor to CBD and it does not appear to interact with the endocannabinoid system directly. Instead, research shows that affects non-endocannabinoid receptors and systems. Now, for Inflammation COX-2 inhibition also showed promise in reducing the spread of breast cancer cells. CBDA activates serotonin receptors which can alleviate depression and anxiety. Serotonin also helps control nausea and vomiting, which can help increase appetite.
Cannabinol is highly regarded for its sedative properties and has a stronger sedative effect than other cannabinoids, without causing a “high”. CBN is a powerful way to reduce anxiety and the negative side effects of stress in the user. Using cannabinol is showing a lot of promise in treating severe disorders like PTSD. In addition to this, CBN is increasing appetite, controls the growth of cancer cells and activates the same pain relieving pathways as THC. CBN also activates the CB-1 and CB-2 receptors.
Differentiating Acidic and Non-Acidic Cannabinoids
*Acidic compounds, like THCA and CBDA, are precursors to other compounds. Sometimes referred to as the “stem cells”, they are the building blocks that can create infinite amounts of the same compounds or other kinds of compounds with differentiation. In this case, when heat or light is applied to an acidic cannabinoid, it converts into the non-acidic cannabinoid.
Some research states that non-acidic forms have stronger medicinal benefits than acidic, while others strongly claim the opposite. Interest and expanding research in the acidic compounds are showing that they bring advantages to the user as well. The acidic compounds are crucial as they create a wide variety of cannabinoids within the plant. Studies show that acidic and non-acidic compounds work well together within the body.
Whole Plant Products
As explained, there are many similar advantages in the cannabinoids discussed. So, why would it be important to utilize all of them? Dr. Ethan Russo, neurologist and researcher, discovered an important event he called the “entourage effect.” He found that certain compounds work together in a synergistic relationship to enhance the effects of each other. Dr. Russo not only found this relationship between terpenes and cannabinoids, but also among the combination of cannabinoids. That can be broken down further to the relationship of non-acidic cannabinoids and their acidic precursor cannabinoids supporting each other in the body.
Just like some people react better to certain treatments over another, the same could be true for cannabinoids. If a certain cannabinoid isn’t as effective with a specific condition, another can step in and get to work. Additionally, each cannabinoid has its own unique strengths in supporting specific conditions. There is no way to overdose and without adverse side effects in therapeutic doses, the user is only giving themselves a stronger opportunity to find relief by using whole plant products.
Whole plant hemp derived products are completely legal in all 50 states due containing low THC levels. A user has several options in how they take a whole plant product. There are topical applications that include creams, rubs and salves. Sublingual applications include holding a tincture under the tongue for a couple of minutes before swallowing. Capsules are a good option for those who may not enjoy the taste of the tincture.