Natural Chemical Compounds, Different Sources
July 1, 2020
When you hear the word, “cannabinoid,” it’s easy to quickly think “cannabis,” and then jump directly to “marijuana.” While the hemp plant and marijuana are both part of the cannabis family of plants, they are not the same. What they have in common, however, is that they both contain many cannabinoids, chemical compounds that may bind to cannabinoid receptors located in our brains. You read that correctly: our brains are wired to interact with cannabinoids.
Not all cannabinoids cause the hallucinogenic (or more technically, the psychoactive) effects of THC—in fact, most do not! Cannabidiol (CBD), one of the primary ingredients of CBD oil, cannot get you high. CBD is a cannabinoid that is being studied clinically for a variety of potential health applications, from epilepsy to anxiety to pain management.
THC and CBD, the most commonly recognized cannabinoids, are just the tip of the cannabinoid iceberg. Three categories of cannabinoids have been classified, which contain over a hundred distinct, identified cannabinoids.
As we know, many are derived from plants and are all called phytocannabinoids (phyto = from a plant.) Cannabinoids can be found in many common plants, like some varieties of echinacea, for example, but are most associated with plants in the cannabis family like hemp. The hemp plant, from which CBD for CBD oil is derived, is a source of phytocannabinoids, but CBD is not the only cannabinoid that is contained in hemp. Here are few of the many hemp-based phytocannabinoids worth getting to know:
Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) may have inhibiting effects on the hallucinogenic nature of THC. It is being investigated for use in many ways, including as treatment for motor problems (like seizures or tremors), as well as PTSD.
Cannabinol (CBN) can be found primarily in aged cannabis plants, although it occurs in lesser amounts in fresh plants. Cannabinol is being studied for potential antiinflammatory effects, as well as its possible promotion of bone growth through interaction with stem cells.
Cannabigerol (CBG), is non-psychoactive (it will not make you high), and aside from THC and CBD, may be the cannabinoid you hear about the most. It may hold antifungal and antibacterial properties, along with promoting bone growth and potentially inhibiting tumor growth of certain cancer cells. Additionally, CBG is a phytocannabinoid which works in tandem with the second category of cannabinoids, endocannabinoids.
Endocannabinoids are made by our bodies for our use by our endocannabinoid system. That’s right—we have a system of naturally made endocannabinoid and receptors which help the body to maintain vital systems throughout the central and peripheral nervous systems, as well as endocrine functions such as fertility, hunger, and mood, to name a few. When phytocannabinoids (like CBG) interact with endocannabinoids, they may enhance or lengthen the natural work of our endocannabinoid system.
Synthetic cannabinoids are exactly what they sound like: cannabinoids produced in a lab to mimic the chemistry of phytocannabinoids and bind with our endocannabinoid systems. Scientific development of synthetic cannabinoids focused primarily on exploring creating substances to provide the benefits of naturally occurring THC. Outside of clinical research or medical application, synthetic cannabinoids may also be the key compounds in products marketed as “synthetic marijuana.”
As we learn more about the body’s endocannabinoid system, as well as identify the specific properties and applications of the multitude of cannabinoids found naturally, effective natural supplements to our health may be the result.