Cannabinoids: Beyond THC and CBD

THC and CBD are the most well-known molecules produced by cannabis. This is largely because they are the most abundantly expressed by the plant….but there are many other cannabinoids and elements that make up each unique variety. Discover why this plant is even more amazing than you thought!

What are cannabinoids?

There are 100+ unique chemical compounds produced by cannabis, called cannabinoids. Interestingly, the evolutionary role of these compounds was to protect the plant from insects and promote reproduction, but we now know that they are the components of the plant that interact with the human body to relieve the symptoms of various health ailments such as chronic pain and anxiety.

What is THC?

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the cannabinoid that is largely responsible for the “high” feeling that cannabis is known for. Think of THC as the conductor of an orchestra; It’s the main guy, all eyes are on him and he gets the credit for the amazing performance.

Although the intoxication that THC provides is very desirable to recreational consumers, THC is also a very powerful pain reliever. Because of this, cannabis varieties that contain high percentages of THC (25% or more of the flower’s weight) are very popular with medicinal consumers as well.

If you’re new to cannabis or haven’t had it in a while, intoxication is very important to keep in mind, although this feeling diminishes with repeated use as your body naturally develops tolerance. When first starting out, most people find it useful to “start low and go slow.” This means choosing lower potency varieties (THC percentage below 15%), or using a very small amount of medicine, slowly ramping up one or the other over time. 

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is the 2nd most abundant cannabinoid found in cannabis, and although it has psychoactive effects (it works on the brain) it does not have intoxicating effects. If THC is the orchestral conductor, CBD is more like the first chair violin. It’s contributions are priceless, but it is subtle, and difficult to detect while THC is in charge.

CBD has been shown to reduce seizures, anxiety, and under some circumstances, inflammation. In animal studies, CBD has also been shown to inhibit some kinds of cancerous tumors and promote healthy cellular functions, although this work is still ongoing.

Modern cannabis varieties generally fall into three categories: Type I varieties are high in THC, with little or no CBD. Type III varieties are high in CBD, with little or no THC. Type II varieties contain some combination of both. With all the plant breeding and hybridizing that is happening right now, more varieties appear in the Type II category every day. This is important, as these types of plants could provide a great deal of therapeutic value by providing an elegant delivery system for the medical benefits of both THC and CBD.

The Rest of the Orchestra

Like any great orchestra, cannabis has many contributors - there are numerous other cannabinoids such as CBC (Cannabichromene), THCV (Tetrahydrocannabivarin) and  CBG (Cannabigerol). Moreover, most cannabinoids also have an acid form, which is converted to the more well-known version once it’s heated. Under heat, THCa becomes THC by a process known as decarboxylation, or activation. Scientists are still characterizing the effects of these compounds, so their effects (both in isolation or in the presence of one another) are poorly understood.

Like many other kinds of plants, cannabis produces aromatic (fragrant) molecules known as terpenes. Terpenes are the main ingredient in essential oils, and they have genuine biological impact on the body and brain. When people consume whole-plant cannabis, they experience not just the effects of the cannabinoids and terpenes on their own, but the summed effects of all of these compounds. In combination, cannabinoids and terpenes can act at different targets in the brain, they could improve the body’s ability to access and process one another, and they can potentially soften the intoxicating effects of THC. This beautiful relationship, commonly referred to as the Entourage, or Ensemble effect, is what really gives us the full, nuanced experience of cannabis.

Why It’s Important to Identify More Than Just THC and CBD

Many people are quick to designate high-CBD varieties as the only ones with medicinal value, or make claims that the THC to CBD ratio is all that matters when it comes to symptom relief. Emerging evidence is proving these sentiments wrong.

For instance, Israel has a very robust cannabis research program, and Dr. Adi Aran is currently conducting studies on the effectiveness of cannabis oil for children with autism. In preliminary (unpublished) studies, the researchers noticed that for one particular batch of cannabis oil, the children’s symptoms re-emerged unexpectedly... despite the fact that the THC to CBD ratio was identical to all prior batches of the medication.

The children had completely different reactions with this oil than their previous prescriptions. Why? The THC and CBD were exactly the same....What could cause this kind of drastic change?

The researchers dug deeply into this problem, and discovered that the problematic batch of oil did not contain as much CBG (Cannabigerol) as the previous batches. CBG is similar to CBD in that it doesn’t produce intoxication. It’s also interesting to note that CBG is not present in large quantities in most cannabis varieties, but this molecule made all the difference in the world for this group of children.

Learn More

Legalization has given us the freedom to consume as much THC as we like without worry… but there’s so much more to cannabis than THC!

Join us December 6th at Feastly in Portland to learn more about the modern cannabis purchasing experience.

This event will focus on improving your satisfaction with all of your cannabis purchases  and making sure the consumer is able to get the best experience possible.

You’ll leave knowing how to talk with your budtender and ask the right questions. Our awesome partners at Farma will also be onsite to help with everything you need!

Adie Rae