Cannabis has become synonymous with the word marijuana, the psychoactive plant matter that contains THC, but this plant has far more to offer.
While it is true that all cannabis contains THC, the word actually refers to an entire genus of flowering plants. The two main species of cannabis that people are familiar with are Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Indica, two different types of cannabis plants that produce different psychoactive effects when consumed. Cannabis has a lot of uses but, the main association with the plant is smoking it recreationally.
It is reported that almost 4% of the world’s population recreationally use cannabis regardless of the legality of it where they live. The combined sales of cannabis, both legal and illegal, are counted in the millions and it is expected to become a multi-billion dollar industry in the next few years. Reports also show that as much as 12% of American adults report smoking cannabis recreationally on a regular basis.
The primary problem is that there are still a lot of people uninformed about cannabinoids.
So, if cannabis isn’t broadly legal, why are so many people still using it? People have long believed in the healing power of cannabis. There are thousands of books, articles, and even documentaries on the subject available and that number expands on an almost daily basis. People report using cannabis for things like relaxation, pain relief, to help with sleep, and a broad range of medical issues.
There is significant anecdotal and scientific evidence that backs up all of these claims. Despite that, the use of cannabis remains, for the most part, illegal.
The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 is what made the widespread consumption of cannabis illegal. It was introduced by a North Carolina Representative named Robert L. Doughton on April 14th of 1937; through the next several months, multiple congressional hearings were held on the matter. It was enacted in August of that year.
The Act was overturned in 1969 in the Leary vs. United States case after it was deemed unconstitutional. However, its big brother followed soon after.
The Controlled Substances Act
The original act was replaced in 1970 by the Controlled Substances Act, which was part of multiple different phases of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970.
This law made it so cannabis use was still fully prohibited for any purpose. It was classified by this act as a Schedule I drug, meaning that it has no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. The history of cannabis is rife with a lot of problems that were rooted in racism, economic policy, and a general abundance of misinformation.
Legal Medical Use of Cannabis
Even the medical use of cannabis is still highly debated even though California legalized the drug for medical use in 1996. Several states continued to follow suit over the years. The majority of states in America currently allow the use of medical cannabis.
A DEA judge began pushing for the reclassification of cannabis as far back as 1988 but the problems remained well into the 2000s. As of 2014, thanks to the passing of the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, federal prosecution is prohibited in cases where prescribers of medical cannabis are acting in accordance with their state’s own laws.
Just as cannabis use becomes more mainstream, it also is slowly becoming more legal. As many as eleven states across the country have legalized recreational cannabis use and it has been widely decriminalized in a lot of areas.
There was another landmark victory for those who believe in cannabis as a medical tool in 2018 — The Hemp Farming Act of 2018, which has been colloquially referred to as the Farm Bill, was passed.
Hemp is the name given to mature stalks of the cannabis plant which contain considerably less THC than the younger plants. In some cases, there are strains that can be bred to contain no THC at all. This bill was passed into law on December 20th of 2018 and it removed hemp from the class of Schedule I controlled substances as long as it contains less than .3% THC. Now, it is an ordinary agricultural commodity and so are its chemical constituents, known as cannabinoids.
The Science of Cannabinoids
There are a number of cannabinoids that are not psychoactive in nature and show promise in medical studies but they were all lumped into the same class as THC when that wasn’t necessarily the best place for them.
The Farm Bill expanded a lot of things for those who believe in cannabis. It has opened up doors for more medical research across the board and that is exceptionally important. It also brought some new products to the market in the form of the non-psychoactive cannabinoids that also exist in cannabis and hemp.
CBD and His Profitable Brothers
There are a ton of them, CBG, CBC, CBN, and more. The most popular one that you may have heard of (and we would be shocked if you hadn’t) is CBD. CBD is short for cannabidiol and it is in a ton of products.
It has created an entirely new industry and is worth billions of dollars as people flock to CBD for its relaxing, pain-relieving, and anti-inflammatory properties. The sale of cannabinoids other than THC has become extremely profitable and this has gone a long way to promote the general understanding of how beneficial cannabis can be for those who need it.
Research is in its early stages because of the issues that have plagued the history of the plant but there is significant evidence that cannabinoids can do amazing things in our bodies.
However, any time that we are confronted with something that has a checkered past the way the cannabis plant does, it carries a stigma. Knowing the facts can go a long way to healing the social opinion of cannabis and set in motion important changes in the way it is legislated.
In this article, we are going to talk about 50 amazing facts about cannabinoids, the chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant, and what they can do for our health and wellbeing.
There Are Three Main Types of Cannabinoids
There are three main types of cannabinoids that exist. The most obvious ones are those that come from cannabis and hemp plants and those are called phytocannabinoids. These all have 21 carbon atoms which are only found in the Cannabis Sativa and hemp plants; these include THC, CBD, and all of the other cannabinoids like CBA, CBC, CBG, and so on.
The second type of cannabinoids are called endocannabinoids. You will learn more about these later but these are the cannabinoids that are naturally produced in every living thing in the animal kingdom. Our bodies naturally produce them without the introduction of any external cannabinoids.
The third ones, naturally, are synthetic cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are chemical compounds just like any other and they are able to be reproduced in a lab (for the most part). These lab-created cannabinoids are sometimes used in medications and recreational substances.
There Are Over 100 Cannabinoids That We Know Of
The actual number of cannabinoids that exist is something that is routinely debated by experts. Most sources agree that there are at least 113 cannabinoids present in the cannabis plant. They are found all throughout the plant, in the stems, flowers, and the crystal structures that form on the outside of the plant, typically on the flowers; it gives them a sparkly appearance and they are called trichomes.
The most widely researched cannabinoids are the two that are considered most abundant in the plant, CBD and THC. More research is being done on the other chemical compounds that occur in the plant on an ongoing basis, though. Each of them seems to have unique roles in the body and unique synchronicities with other cannabinoids. Some of the cannabinoids occur in such small amounts that it can be prohibitive to research into their actual effects on the body.
There Are Eight Major Cannabinoids (Sort Of)
Now that you know how abundant cannabinoids are, you may be surprised to know that the plant isn’t exactly responsible for producing these chemical compounds. Instead, all of the cannabinoids present in the plant are actually synthesized through what are called cannabinoid acids.
The eight major cannabinoid acids that we know of are CBCA, CBCVA, CBDA, CBDVA, CBGA, CBGVA, THCA, and THCVA. In order to become the active cannabinoids, these acids must be activated; the process is called decarboxylation and is usually done through heat. This is why smoking the dried plant material is one of the most popular ways to use cannabis, historically speaking. These cannabinoid acids may also be effective on their own without activation as well. Some of them are known to be great insecticides and even antibiotics!
Not All Cannabinoids Come From Cannabis Sources
Two of the three main types of cannabinoids that you read about earlier do not come from cannabis. Our bodies create a variety of endocannabinoids, which are cannabinoids that occur naturally in our bodies and play different roles regulating the way our bodies function. Some of the things that our natural cannabinoids affect are our appetites, sleeping habits, and even our mood, among other things.
The other type of cannabinoids that are not found in cannabis are the ones that are used in medicine. There are nabiximols and then lab-created chemical compounds that mimic existing cannabinoids; these are considered synthetic cannabinoids. Most of the ones that have been created in labs have been designed to function in a similar fashion to THC. There is a nefarious use for the ones that mimic THC, often sold over the counter as recreational products under a variety of names.
Everyone’s Body Has an Endocannabinoid System
One thing that will come up time and time again when you are learning about the ways that cannabinoids interact with the body is the term endocannabinoid system. This is a component of the central nervous system that is present in almost all mammals. Sometimes it is abbreviated to the ECS or even just EC.
What is interesting about the ECS is that it doesn’t function how other parts of our nervous system do. Typically, neurotransmitters are created and then travel to the specific neuron that will set off the appropriate reaction in the body. Our endocannabinoid system does things pretty much in reverse. The neuron is activated and then our body produces its own cannabinoids, called endocannabinoids, on-demand. It is the only system in our body that functions this way.
The Endocannabinoid System Was Discovered in 1988
Even though our central nervous system was discovered thousands of years ago and has been extensively studied, the part of our nervous system called the endocannabinoid system was not discovered until about thirty years ago. A government-funded study in 1988 at the St. Louis University School of Medicine resulted in the discovery that all mammals’ brains have receptor sites that were designed to interact with cannabinoids.
Something that you may find extremely surprising is that we have more cannabinoid receptors in our brain than any other type of neurotransmitter receptors such as those that respond to dopamine and serotonin. It was also discovered in that study that we have these receptors at other places throughout our bodies as well, not just in our brains. This was groundbreaking because the only other area of our bodies that has neurotransmitter receptors like that is in our intestines; they respond to serotonin. This means that the ECS is one of the largest transmitter networks throughout our bodies.
We Have Two Types of Cannabinoid Receptors
As you just read, our endocannabinoid system is made up of cannabinoid receptors. When this part of our nervous system was discovered, scientists found that we have two types of cannabinoid receptors in our systems. Our CB1 receptors are the ones that are located in the brain.
The second type of cannabinoid receptors that we have is referred to as CB2 receptors. CB2 receptors are located in many different parts of the body, in our immune systems and peripheral nerve system. It is because of these CB2 receptors that topical cannabinoid products, such as a CBD pain salve, are able to work. Our CB1 receptors are only triggered by the ingestion or inhalation of cannabinoids.
These two types of receptors come together and fulfill the overarching function of your endocannabinoid system, keeping the body and all of its systems in appropriate balance.
Alcohol is Bad For The Endocannabinoid System
As scientists learn more about our endocannabinoid systems, more and more amazing information is being uncovered. It was easily understood that cannabinoids interact well with this system but, to find out that there are substances that have negative interactions greatly increased the scientific understanding of the ECS. One of the substances that have been proven to be bad for the endocannabinoid system is alcohol.
This isn’t something that occasional or social drinkers need to worry about. The study that was done found that chronic alcoholism leads to the degradation of the endocannabinoid system. This means that those who have abused alcohol in the past or who are dependent on alcohol are no longer able to signal the production of endocannabinoids in their brains. Due to the lack of stimulation, your brain may be less able to handle stress, and end up craving more alcohol to stimulate the ECS.
Our Bodies Make Their Own Cannabinoids
As you have probably worked out, our bodies are capable of producing their own cannabinoids; these compounds created in the body are called endocannabinoids.
Some of the main endocannabinoids we produce are ones that help reduce inflammation. However, a study showed that in animal subjects, a lack of a certain type of cannabinoid receptor showed distinct abnormalities. Because of the way that the ECS functions, a lack of a certain type of receptor would limit the types of endocannabinoids our bodies could create. Mice without CB1 receptors had psychological problems and those without CB2 receptors experienced problems with skeletal growth.
The First Endocannabinoid Was Discovered in 1992
The discovery of the endocannabinoid system was, of course, the catalyst that drove research to continue. In 1988 when our cannabinoid receptors were discovered, all that was known about them was that they interacted with cannabinoids. It wasn’t until four years later that the first-ever endocannabinoid was discovered. The endocannabinoid that was found was ultimately named anandamide. Its name comes from a Sanskrit word meaning bliss.
The discovery of the first endocannabinoid was a great step towards truly understanding how cannabinoids may interact with our bodies but it was also so much more than that. Being able to prove the existence of an endocannabinoid confirmed that we benefit from cannabinoids. This one fact is what started opening up the doors for research into the health benefits of cannabis. This landmark revelation was also the thing that prompted a number of states to start pushing for the legalization of medical cannabis.
Some Foods Activate Our Endocannabinoid Systems
There are no other sources of cannabinoids that occur naturally; however, because of the stigma surrounding the consumption of cannabis, there are still plenty of people who would prefer to stay away from using it. If you fall into that category, you have nothing to worry about. Even though you won’t be able to introduce cannabinoids into your body through food sources, there are some things that you can eat that give you a different yet natural approach to stimulating your endocannabinoid system.
Foods that are a healthy source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid are a great way to enhance your ECS and its function. You can also turn to cacao powder, which contains a few different chemicals that are similar to endocannabinoids in both structure and function. Echinacea, camelia, and turmeric are also known to raise endocannabinoids in your body. They each have individual health benefits that help increase the efficacy of the system as well.
Cannabinoids All Interact With Our Bodies Differently
One of the most popular cannabinoids that people consume now that it is legal is CBD. There is a lot of information that goes around the web that asserts that CBD has no side effects, or that it works the same for everyone. The truth is, most people won’t have any side effects from CBD but some people will. Also, CBD can work differently for different people. Sometimes, people can see improvement in just one night while others may take a month.
CBD has immediate and cumulative effects but it’s completely normal for people to experience them differently. The same is true for all cannabinoids. Some people may respond better to certain concentrations of cannabinoids; different people will need different dose ranges. This means that if it doesn’t work for you right away in the way that you expected, you may still end up seeing positive results from taking cannabinoids.
Cannabinoids Were Used By Several Ancient Cultures As Medicine
Because of the way that cannabis has taken so long to get into the mainstream and because of the way that people are only just now realizing that cannabinoids have medical benefits, its history can be questionable. However, you will find when you decide to look for some answers that cannabinoids have been used across multiple cultures in ancient times.
Cannabis plants are indigenous to Asia and historians have found traces as far back as roughly 2700 BCE that cannabis was used routinely in ancient Chinese medicine. Cannabis was used for gout, malaria, constipation, among other things. One of the most shocking uses of cannabis in ancient medicine was to help treat “absent-mindedness.” The fact that ancient cultures from all over the globe understood and benefitted from the use of cannabis means that there is extensive historical evidence that cannabinoids have positive effects against some health conditions.
Cannabinoids Have Been Used Recreationally For Thousands of Years
The majority of historians agree that cannabis has been used in medicine since about 3000 BCE. The primary use of the plant back in those times was for medicine. However, there is still evidence of recreational use as well. An ancient Greek historian described a group of nomads from Central Asia that used to use cannabis to get high.
Hashish has also been widely used since about 800 AD. Hashish is a purified form of the plant, which results in more potent psychoactive effects. Something interesting about this timeframe is that it is congruent with a time that the religion of Islam was spreading throughout Asia. The religious texts forbid the use of a lot of other popular intoxicants.
Cannabinoids Have Been Used As Pain Relief For Thousands of Years
One of the most popular medical uses for cannabis (and, thus, cannabinoids) has always been for pain relief. Some of the most prominent studies on the effects of cannabinoids are centered around the analgesic properties that a lot of the compounds have. Some experts say that cannabis has been used for pain relief for over 5,000 years.
The most common thing it was used for was headache pain. Now, scientists have started to widely recognize that there are several different cannabinoids found in the plant that have pain-relieving properties or help reduce inflammation and swelling, which can greatly contribute to pain. While THC is what most people attribute to pain relief, many of the other cannabinoids that are legal to use are also effective in reducing all sorts of pain.
Cannabinoids Have Shown Promise as a Cancer Treatment
Cancer treatment was one of the main reasons that medical cannabis was pushed for. The main argument was that the psychoactive effects of THC, the sense of body euphoria and overall calming effect, would be good to help combat the nausea, insomnia, and physical pain that comes along with chemotherapy and radiation treatments for cancer. As studies have expanded, cannabinoids are effective in multiple ways that can greatly benefit patients and may even help to treat cancer.
In patients with all types of terminal illness, the consumption of cannabinoids has been shown to help increase appetite, alleviate nausea, and can provide strong relief for neuropathic pain that is caused by damaged nerves. Cancer, diabetes, HIV-related complications, injuries, and more can all lead to neuropathy.
The most recent studies done on the subject have found that cannabinoids may even help to slow the growth of certain types of cancer cells or even kill them. However, all sources say that you should never solely substitute your treatments with cannabis without consulting closely with your medical doctor or treatment coordinator.
Cannabinoids Could Be Pivotal In Treating Epilepsy
Epilepsy is another one of the conditions that has the strongest medical background when it comes to the medical use of cannabinoids. Anecdotal accounts from a large number of patients detail how the use of cannabis completely stops their seizures. Most of the time, it is cannabis oil that is used in treating epilepsy because it is the easiest method to dose in the midst of a seizure if necessary.
Active research is going on to prove the efficacy of the drug when it comes to treating epilepsy. This is a condition that still isn’t fully understood so for this treatment to be so historically effective is groundbreaking. However, something interesting came up in one of the more recent studies. Some mice didn’t respond to treatment with CBD while others were completely seizure-free.
Cannabinoids Have Been Shown To Increase Serotonin
Recreational cannabis users often praise the way that the drug helps them to mellow out and boosts their mood and it turns out that there is more to it than just feeling high. In fact, cannabinoids have been shown to have significant effects on the neurotransmitter called serotonin. Serotonin is the key neurotransmitter that our brains use to regulate things like mood, sleep, anxiety, appetite, and more. When someone has problems making or using serotonin, that is when you see mental health problems such as anxiety or depression.
Each neurotransmitter in your brain has a special type of neuron that corresponds to it and this is equally true for serotonin. On the serotonin receptors in your brain, cannabis receptors have also been found. But they are also present on certain inhibitors as well. This means that instead of simply increasing or decreasing the production of serotonin, cannabinoids play a vital role in helping to regulate the way that our brains use it.
Cannabinoids May Help Ease Anxiety
Because of the way that cannabinoids work with serotonin in the brain, along with several other key neurotransmitters, they may help reduce anxiety. However, there is a caveat to that. All of the studies that have been done mostly center on the psychoactive cannabinoid THC. What is interesting about this is that when it is introduced in low doses, it can help lift your mood and reduce anxiety.
However, in the majority of patients, high doses of the same cannabinoid have been shown to induce the opposite effects. This means that cannabinoids could be a great avenue for dealing with mental health problems but the dosing information would need to be ironed out thoroughly beforehand to ensure that the patient was getting the best treatment that they possibly could without any adverse effects. The non-psychoactive cannabinoid CBD has also had promising results in pre-clinical studies when it comes to improving mood and reducing anxiety and other comorbid mental health issues.
Cannabinoids Could Be Great Antipsychotic Medications
Even though high doses of THC have been linked to paranoia, severe anxiety, and psychosis (in rare cases), there are other cannabinoids that have been linked to reducing these effects in the brain. The most widely studied cannabinoid when it comes to exploring antipsychotic treatments is cannabidiol or CBD. Dozens of studies have echoed these positive findings.
The paper that synthesized the results of all of the studies available stated that CBD is not only good for calming the symptoms of someone who has a mental health condition that causes psychotic symptoms to be present. It is also protective in nature and may even be able to help protect the brain from early-onset schizophrenia. A lot of more research needs to be done on the matter; however, this is a massive breakthrough for psychotic patients as CBD has been proven to be as effective as atypical antipsychotic drugs that are routinely prescribed and it doesn’t come with all of the negative side effects. Most people who take CBD regularly (at the proper dose) do not experience any adverse effects from the compound.
Cannabinoids Help Fight Free Radicals
Free radicals are kind of complicated for the uninitiated but the main takeaway is that they can speed up the aging process and they are damaging to our cells. Free radicals being too abundant in the body are potential causes for a range of diseases like cancer, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and atherosclerosis. Free radicals occur in the body when oxygen atoms and unpaired electrons come together and cause oxidative stress. We are constantly full of free radicals and getting rid of them or reducing them as much as possible is one of the keys to staying healthy.
Antioxidants are what prevent and stop free radicals from wreaking the havoc that they do. Several cannabinoids, mainly CBD, have been shown to have really well-proven antioxidant properties. We do need some free radicals, though. That is another thing that makes cannabinoids so amazing when it comes to combating the negative effects of free radicals. Instead of getting rid of them altogether, they have a complex chemical interaction that causes them to balance out. This is further evidence that the ECS exists to promote the necessary balance within our bodies for us to stay healthy.
Cannabinoids Can Help With Sunburn
Cannabinoids are both anti-inflammatory and analgesic which means that they help reduce swelling and can relieve pain. Sunburn is obviously inflammation that happens on the surface of the skin as a result of a burn and it is painful, so cannabinoids are the perfect thing to help with that. Most of the research has been done on synthetic cannabinoids, though.
In addition to that, cannabinoids are great for your skin. When you use a lotion, oil, or salve that contains cannabinoids, they help hydrate and balance your skin. They help rebuild the acid layer that keeps bacteria at bay and they help restore the balance of oil production to excessively dry skin. They can also still work for pain when applied topically! So, cannabinoids have been shown to heal the effects of sunburn and can even help nurse your skin back to health faster.
Research Has Shown That Cannabinoids Reduce Skin Cancer
Research into the effects of cannabinoids on skin cancer has also used mainly synthetic cannabinoids, historically speaking. However, scientists have found that cannabinoids can play a key role in fighting skin cancer. All studies that have been done were on mice.
What they found when doing the study is that cannabinoids can help reduce the inflammation that is caused by skin cancer. This allows healthy blood flow to the area and helps inhibit cancer from proliferating because it affects the way that the cells grow and reproduce. Cannabinoids also were explored as an option for treating the tumors that come with skin cancer. The study showed that cannabinoids suppressed the chemicals that occur in the body when you have skin cancer and blocked them from promoting tumor growth.
Cannabinoids can also be a great preventative measure if you’re at risk for skin cancer because they promote healthy, balanced skin.
CBD Is The Most Abundant Cannabinoid In Cannabis and Hemp
Even though the first cannabinoid that most people think of is THC, it isn’t the most abundant cannabinoid in the plant. Instead, that title goes to cannabidiol, which you may know as just CBD. CBD feels like it is everywhere with all of the new products that have been hitting the shelves with fervor over the past year and a half; it turns out that it is everywhere in the plant as well.
CBD is known for having a lot of benefits for those who use it. It can promote better sleep and help lift your mood, it can help with anxiety and depression, it is a great pain reliever and more. It is a key component of the plant and it interacts with our endocannabinoid system in a lot of ways. Another thing that is interesting about CBD being the most prolific cannabinoid throughout the plant is that it counteracts the compound that is typically considered the star of the show, THC.
Researchers are now exploring the idea that CBD is the cannabinoid that bridges the gaps in all of the other known cannabinoids and helps them function most effectively in the body.
CBD Counteracts THC
As you just read above, CBD counteracts the psychoactive effects of THC. This is useful information for recreational users but it also is very telling, from a scientific standpoint, about the role that CBD plays with all of the other cannabinoids that are less abundant in the plant. The two main species of cannabis, which are Sativa and Indica, have very different effects.
Indica strains are considered more sedative. While THC is still present in this strain in concentrations enough to be psychoactive, CBD mitigates some of the effects and causes this type of strain to be more sleepy. It is relaxing, increases appetite, and stimulates the release of dopamine in the brain. Indicas have a higher CBD to THC ratio than Sativas.
Sativa strains are not as sedative. They contain more THC than CBD. These are a little bit similar in the sense that they help boost your mood. They affect serotonin rather than dopamine and they are more typically recommended for daytime use. These strains also help increase focus and capacity to learn and they are great for chronic pain because they help relieve the pain without the sedative effect that comes along with most traditional analgesics that are used to treat chronic and severe pain in adults.
THC is The Primary Psychoactive Cannabinoid
THC is the cannabinoid responsible for producing the euphoria or high that goes along with the use of cannabis. The reason why it produces these feelings is that it is psychoactive. Currently, THC is considered to be the only psychoactive compound found in the plant. This means that all of the other cannabinoids can’t get you high.
In fact, in industrial hemp plants, all of the other cannabinoids are present except for THC (which is short for tetrahydrocannabinol, by the way). When the plants reach this mature stage, the THC is not as present. The lack of THC present in hemp plants is why the Farm Bill allows for its cultivation; the plant can no longer be used as a psychoactive substance when it reaches maturity.
The reason why we say it is the primary psychoactive cannabinoid is that there is some debate among regular cannabis users and even some experts. Some sources purport that because CBD and other cannabinoids have an effect on your mood, this means that they are psychoactive even if the mechanism of action differs greatly from THC.
“Raw” THC Is Not Psychoactive
Earlier, we explained that instead of the cannabinoids occurring in the plant, there are actually compounds called cannabinoid acids present in the plant instead. Because of this, “raw” THC is actually THC-A rather than the cannabinoid that is ready to bond with the receptors in your endocannabinoid system. THC-A is not psychoactive in itself.
Once you decarboxylate THC-A, which is usually done by adding heat with either direct flame or with a vaporizer, that is when it actually yields THC. If you just ate raw, uncured cannabis, you will most likely not feel any effects because the necessary heat wasn’t applied. So, THC-A is the raw form of THC, before any heat has been applied, and it’s not psychoactive. Only the actual THC can get you high.
THC May Kill Cancer Cells
Cancer was one of the main reasons that cannabinoids were ever considered as a medical option. The idea was that the psychoactive effects of THC would provide palliative care or relief throughout the duration of treatment. When they began studying the effects of THC in patients that had cancer, they found that it did exactly what they thought that it would do. But, it also did something amazing.
THC helps kill cancer cells. One thing to keep in mind is that all of these studies were done using lab-grown cancer cells or animal subjects. Cannabinoids can kill cancer cells but scientists currently hold the belief that more research needs to be done before this could even be introduced into the human body as an option.
Multiple different types of cancers were studied and in a majority of those studies, there was significant evidence that cannabinoids can help kill cancer cells, especially THC. All cannabinoids didn’t react the same for all patients, though; this isn’t likely to become the universal go-to treatment but, the way it helps to get rid of the disease is something that shouldn’t be brushed off within medical communities.
THC Doesn’t Kill Brain Cells
The trope of the spaced-out and kind of dumb stoner is one that we have been looking at on television since the ’80s; on top of that, many substance abuse programs geared towards kids and teens teach you that cannabis makes you stupider. Sure, during the euphoric high that THC causes, it makes sense that people may be a little bit out of it; however, the truth about what THC does in our brains is a lot more interesting.
A study on CBD and THC found that they actually have a lot of neuroprotective properties. That means that these two cannabinoids do the exact opposite of kill your brain cells, they keep them safe. Both cannabinoids were found to help block different types of toxicity and cell death in the brain.
THCV May Stimulate Bone Growth
The endocannabinoid system is responsible for a lot of things in your body. As discussed earlier, there are receptors all throughout our nervous system and they are very important to our continued health and wellbeing. A study referenced earlier found that rats that lacked CB2 receptors showed problems with bone growth. It turns out, some cannabinoids can promote bone growth when they interact with our CB2 receptors.
This study found that our endocannabinoid systems potentially play a role in regulating even our bone cells, especially when it comes to the THCV cannabinoid. This is important for growth during the early stages of life, protecting the health of our bones as we age, regulating bone mass, helping with bone remodeling, and more. These findings could be the earliest step in discovering a concrete way to help prevent, treat, or manage a variety of different types of bone diseases.
THCV May Help Regulate Blood Glucose Levels
THCV apparently interacts quite a bit with our CB2 receptors because studies have shown that this cannabinoid may play a role in regulating blood sugar levels. This is important for diabetics that are not insulin-dependent to help manage their sugar; however, high blood sugar doesn’t just happen in diabetic patients this information about THCV could make it easier to help prevent diabetes type 2 from ever developing.
The study on THCV and diabetes found that it helps mitigate the glycemic load. When treated, the subjects of the testing experienced a lot of positive effects that could help control diabetes. Those treated had lower fasting glucose levels, increased function in their pancreas, and more. THCV also has been shown to help repair glucose intolerance in obese subjects, which were mice in this case.
CBC Has Been Shown To Promote Neurogenesis
CBC is another cannabinoid but it is one that doesn’t get as much attention as some of the others. CBC is short for cannabichromene and this is one of the first cannabinoids that the plant can synthesize as it matures. It is structurally and functionally similar to other known cannabinoids; however, there is an exception. CBC also interacts with other receptors in the body that are not part of the endocannabinoid system.
The interaction with these additional receptors is what is believed to give CBC the extra properties and medical benefits that it has. It helps with pain, inflammation, and is evidenced as being antiviral in nature as well (Which makes it great for acne!).
The reason we have singled CBC out, though, is for the other medical benefit that it has been shown to provide which is neurogenesis. This is the process through which our brains rebuild and repair nervous system tissue. This could be pivotal in treating and preventing a lot of mental health issues as well as neurodegenerative diseases.
CBN Is a Strong Antibiotic
CBN is another lesser-known cannabinoid. It is most known for its promotion of healthy sleep. Some experts even consider CBN to be mildly psychoactive because of the strong sedative effects that it can provide.
Outside of sleep, it does a lot of different things in the body. It helps to regulate the immune system, works with other cannabinoids to fight off pain and swelling, and can be beneficial as an anticonvulsant. CBN is a very versatile cannabinoid. It is one of many that has antibiotic properties. Because of the way that it bolsters the immune system and fights off antibiotics, the medicinal benefits of this cannabinoid are difficult to overlook.
CBG is The Hardest Cannabinoid to Produce
Cannabinoids do not always occur in the same concentrations throughout a plant. This is one of the main reasons why people cultivate different strains and why different strains have different effects. The way that all of the cannabinoids and other compounds all work together provides a unique experience. From a scientific standpoint, that means that there are some cannabinoids that just aren’t as abundant as others and that can make them harder to produce.
Cannabigerol or CBG can be present in concentrations of less than 1% of the entire plant. It is one of the chemicals from which CBD and THC are synthesized and it has a lot of medical benefits, potentially. The problem is that this cannabinoid occurs in such small amounts that it is extremely difficult, expensive, and time-consuming to “produce” or basically extract from the plant in an isolated way in order for it to be studied.
Some Cannabinoids Help Promote Healthy Sleep
Cannabis has been known to make some people sleepy and that is especially true of the strains of cannabis that contain more CBD than THC. CBD, CBN, and THC all show promise when it comes to helping you catch up on some sleep. Each of them does something a little bit different.
CBD helps your body to regulate sleep-wake cycles. This is important because when you take a sleep supplement or pill, you’re just sedating yourself and that doesn’t really do anything to repair the sleep cycle that is inhibiting you from getting the rest you need. CBD helps you feel more alert during the day and can make it easier to fall asleep at night.
CBN, which you read about above, is a very powerful sedative.
Lastly, there is THC. The psychoactive nature of THC can lead to sleepiness but it also has some more scientific effects as well. THC is a sedative cannabinoid by nature and research has shown that it can help you breathe better while sleeping, alter the length of your sleep phases, and it may even reduce dreaming.
Broader studies that didn’t focus on a particular cannabinoid found that users of cannabis take less time to fall asleep and get more slow-wave sleep per night.
Some Cannabinoids Are Antibacterial
You’ve read that some cannabinoids could be effective antibiotics but, you may not have known that many of them are antibacterial. This is great in topical products to help soothe irritation and acne. Another reason that antibacterial cannabinoids are so amazing is that antibacterial substances that work in the body are currently being considered as an option for patients with antibiotic-resistant illnesses.
In a study from 2008 CBC, CBD, CBG, CBN, and THC were all tested for antibacterial properties. All five of them showed promising results when it came to fighting MRSA that was not responding to antibiotic treatment. They don’t work the same way that a traditional antibacterial compound would because they all interact with each other and our endocannabinoid systems in such a complex way. Further research into their mechanism of action could be done in the future to tell us more.
Cannabinoids Really Are That Versatile
It can be hard to believe that cannabinoids do so much to help our body function like it is supposed to, but it’s true. The endocannabinoid system runs all through our bodies and carries out hundreds of complex interactions with other systems and parts of our bodies.
The reason that cannabinoids can be so versatile is that the ECS is completely responsible for keeping the body in balance, in every way. This state of balance that is optimal for our health is called homeostasis. Cannabinoids help enable our ECS to keep us there through a variety of different mechanisms of action. That is how cannabinoids can be so versatile and have so many medical applications and overall health benefits.
America Widely Used Cannabinoids As Medicine in the 1800s
Cannabinoids have always been known for the diverse benefits that they offer. Back in the 1800s, medical cannabis was a staple of the US healthcare system. It was used as pain relief, to stimulate appetites in those who had trouble eating, and to help cure insomnia. In the middle of the century, cannabis was such a widely used medicine in the US that it was added to the United States Pharmacopeia.
At the time, that was the official standard for prescribing medicine for doctors nationwide. It listed cannabis as a treatment for a long list of different conditions ranging from tetanus to opiate addiction. It was also used in treating alcoholism, leprosy, rabies, and more. There were even branded products that contained medical cannabis, predominantly tinctures.
All Cannabinoids Were Outlawed in 1937
Even though medical cannabis was so widely used up until this point in history, things took an abrupt turn in 1937. The Marijuana Tax Act made all cannabis and constituents of the plant, even the cannabinoids that were not psychoactive, completely illegal to use.
During this time, there was an insurgence of Mexican immigration into the US and that is when the recreational use of cannabis became so widespread, as the cultures and customs of these new additions to the country blended with the existing status quo. Because the politicians in power didn’t really like this influx of immigration, cannabis was quickly demonized. The legislation was very quick to follow.
A ridiculous amount of racist rhetoric against all men of color became the cornerstone of this act passing. It was eventually deemed unconstitutional, but the reputation that cannabis had built in the medical world was quickly tarnished and it still hasn’t recovered entirely.
Cannabinoids Became Legal Again in 2018
The stigma that was created around cannabis from 1937 to 1970 still exists today even though our social ideas are changing. Cannabis is still considered a Schedule I substance; that means that the DEA has classified it as having no medicinal value and a high probability for addiction. Heroin, as an example, is also a Schedule I substance. Medical uses for cannabis are more recognized now, but the research has been slim.
The good news is that the 2018 Farm Bill helped push things in the right direction. This reclassified hemp as a normal agricultural product rather than lumping it into the same category as the younger cannabis plants. Industrial hemp plants do not contain a high enough concentration of THC to get you high.
Because of this act, all of the cannabinoids that are not psychoactive that remain in the mature stalks of the plant are free game. They are no longer classified as Schedule I substances under the same classification as regular immature cannabis so it is not legal to create products out of these cannabinoids and to include them in medical research.
Some Medications Contain Cannabinoids
Even though medical research has been slow going in regards to the medical values of cannabis, we do have some medications that are already one the market that contain cannabinoids.
The FDA has not made any effort to change the medical classification of the plant as a whole but there are currently two medications available in the United States that contain individual cannabinoids. The first of those drugs is called Epidolex. It contains a form of CBD and it is used in the treatment of epilepsy.
The other medications that contain cannabinoids that are FDA approved are called Marinol and Syndros. These drugs both contain a synthetic version of THC. The synthetic THC that these medications use are dronabinol and nabilone. Both of these cannabinoids are used to treat nausea, vomiting, and appetite problems in chronic and terminally ill patients.
Even Healthy People Can Benefit From Cannabinoids
The research that is being done into cannabinoids usually focuses on the medical viability of these chemical compounds. That can make people’s opinions default strictly to medicine but the properties of cannabinoids can improve the life and health of people who do not have underlying health problems.
Even if you are perfectly healthy, the cannabinoids are still going to carry out the same functions in your body like regulating your immune system, helping to lift your mood, improving your sleep cycles and quality of sleep, and so much more. Cannabinoids react with endocannabinoid receptors all throughout our body and can help protect and nourish the brain with the fats and proteins it needs, and they can also help with hormone production, sugar metabolism, and skin conditions.
Cannabinoids bring balance to the body and even if you don’t have any underlying health problems, you could still benefit from adding a better sense of balance to your life inside and out.
Synthetic Cannabinoids Can Be Extremely Dangerous
Synthetic cannabinoids are lab-created cannabinoids that do not need to be sourced from the cannabis plant. These were created because they are easier to study and can be more predictable as they were created with intention rather than being the naturally occurring variant of the cannabinoid that they try to emulate. Synthetic cannabinoids are great because they provide patients the opportunity to benefit from cannabinoids whether or not cannabis has been medically legalized where they live.
However, just like many other popular recreational substances, there are synthetic cannabis products. These products are usually sold in gas stations or head shops and they are widely regarded as unsafe. They are prohibited in a lot of areas. They are sold under names like Spice, K2, and many many more.
The problem with these consumer products that are made with synthetic cannabinoids is that they don’t have the same oversight and regulation that medical synthetic cannabinoids do. Because of that, their effects can be really unpredictable and can cause dangerous and even fatal reactions, or permanent brain damage. The endocannabinoid system is a delicately balanced system and you can really throw yourself off and put yourself at risk by incorporating untested synthetic cannabinoids into that system.
Some Cannabinoids Have a Peak Effective Dose
All chemicals affect our bodies differently. It is easy to think that when it comes to something that is good for your health and body that the logic to go with is “the more the merrier.” It turns out that with cannabinoids that may not be the best approach to take. This is because some cannabinoids have a peak effective dose.
This means that after a certain point, taking more wouldn’t do anything more for you. However, with some cannabinoids, you could start to see a little bit more side effects that you don’t want or aren’t used to if you exceed your peak effective dose. This is because an excess of certain cannabinoids, especially CBD can make you tired.
Another good piece of evidence or the idea of the peak effective dose is with THC. When you take too much of it, it completely changes the way that you experience it. Instead of mellowing you out, it can actually lead to paranoid thoughts, anxiety, and low mood.
Sometimes this is referred to as a bell curve response.
Our Pets Could Benefit From Cannabinoids
You may have come to understand by now that all mammals have an endocannabinoid system. The presence of this system in the entire animal kingdom goes to show that mammals, of all kinds, can benefit from using cannabinoids.
Ever since CBD and other non-psychoactive cannabinoids have begun to hit the market, companies have also begun to provide products for pets. It is important to keep in mind that you should give your animal anything without doing some significant research and, preferably, talking with a veterinarian. Also, THC is toxic to cats and dogs in high concentrations. If you’re not sure where that line is, it is better not to walk near it at all.
However, cannabinoids interact with the CB1 and CB2 receptors in our furry friends. They can be good for anxiety, appetite problems, joint pain, and they can even be neuroprotective in dogs. Preliminary research on the topic has been very promising but we are probably a long way off from seeing this become a mainstream option for treating your pet or even just as a supplement.
Terpenes Could Bolster The Effects of Cannabinoids
Terpenes are another kind of chemical that occurs in the cannabis plant along with cannabinoids. Terpenes are what give cannabis the distinct smell and flavor. More recently, it has been discovered that terpenes may also play a role in how cannabinoids affect you.
This phenomenon is usually referred to as the entourage effect. It is characterized by the enhanced effects of all of the cannabinoids that you’ve introduced in your system by doing so all at one time. Cannabinoids work together and some of their effects overlap and can make it a stronger or more beneficial experience. As scientists learn more about terpenes, they are starting to see that the entourage effect has legitimate science behind it because of the way that terpenes and cannabinoids interact.
Another benefit of terpenes is that they can help stop the feelings of anxiety that may come with excessive doses of THC.
Cannabinoids Were Meant To Work As A Team
Terpenes are not the only important member of the cannabinoid entourage. It turns out that cannabinoids strongly play off each other in a way that suggests that they’re intended to be consumed together.
There are products that only contain CBD isolate. But, there are broad-spectrum and full-spectrum products as well. Typically these contain mostly CBD but can also have terpenes, flavonoids, CBC, CBG, CBN, and other smaller cannabinoids as well. As an example, you can think about the strong sedative effects of CBN. Heavy sedatives can tend to give you a little bit of a “sleep hangover.” When you add CBD into the mix, it helps you relax more, compounding the effects of the sedative CBN but it also helps regulate your circadian rhythm.
This can help you not to get that groggy feeling the next day. Different terpenes have different effects that work in tandem with cannabinoids as well, like increasing focus or even killing bacteria.
New Cannabinoids Are Still Being Discovered
Depending on the source that you look at, you may read that there are about a hundred cannabinoids all the way up to 530. The truth is, we don’t know how many there really are. There is a significant chance that we will be learning a lot more over the next several years as more research becomes possible.
But, don’t think that research isn’t happening. As recently as the beginning of this year, new cannabinoids have been discovered quite frequently. The most recent one that scientists found is predicted to be way more potent than THC. It would also officially be the second psychoactive cannabinoid ever discovered if that is the case. There were two of them that were discovered in the glands of the plant and they were named THCP and CBDP.
THCP is structurally similar to THC but it appears that it could be as much as 30 times as potent in the body. CBDP is an identical partner to THCP, much like THC and CBD already are.
More Research Is Being Done on Cannabinoids Now
One thing that a lot of sources agree on is that the Farm Bill is just the beginning. Because hemp is now broadly legal across the United States, universities and other research centers can really dive into the vast uncharted world of non-psychoactive cannabinoids.
There were two specific sections written into the bill that helped broaden the horizons for the research that scientists were able to do. One of them broadened the conditions under which research could be done and the other one specifically highlighted that the plant had a lot of diverse applications, some of which we may not have even discovered yet.
This bill reduced restrictions significantly and researchers will slowly build up to using this newfound power as fully as they can to expand our understanding of cannabinoids and our health. Research and development are constantly growing in the CBD industry and in the medical world. Specialized strains of hemp are being cultivated to make the most of the entourage effect and to tailor the experience to meet your body’s needs.
More medications are being explored that contain cannabinoids, new cannabinoids are being identified. This is a very exciting time, historically speaking, for the research of cannabinoids.
Cannabinoids Can Deteriorate in Plant Material
This fact may come in handy if you are someone who uses cannabis or CBD flower, providing that it is legal where you live and you are using it responsibly. If you leave plant material out, the cannabinoids can slowly deteriorate as the plant dries out.
Scientifically speaking, this is interesting because it gives researchers an inside look at the composition of cannabinoids and the plant itself. On the other hand, it is the sole perpetrator of ruining your flowers. If they are not properly stored in an airtight container, cannabinoids like THC turn into CBN when they oxidize, which is not psychoactive. Consuming oxidized cannabis is what leads to headaches during use.