Cannabinoids are chemical compounds that are found in the cannabis plant. They interact with our endocannabinoid system (ECS) to produce a spectrum of physical and mental outcomes—such as pain relief, increased appetite, and enhanced perception.
You’ve probably heard of CBD and THC cannabinoids already. But there are estimated to be at least 60 cannabinoids that can be found in varying amounts in different strains of cannabis. However, it’s difficult for scientists to verify this with precision, especially when cannabinoids are present at very low levels in most strains.
As the years of state legalization pass and research slowly makes inroads, we’re discovering more of the benefits of these discreet cannabinoids.
Below is a guide to the most promising cannabinoids science has found so far.
What Is THCA (Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid)?
Decarboxylation is the process that takes place when you heat cannabis flower, or leave it out of darkness for long enough after it’s harvested. During decarboxylation, the chemical compounds in the plant change.
But what is THCA? It’s the raw compound that changes into THC when decarboxylation takes place. THCA doesn’t have psychoactive effects. This is why people cook, smoke, and use other methods when they’re trying to get high from cannabis—because they need to activate the THC from the THCA.
Products are being developed for the user who wants the therapeutic benefits of THC without the associated high. Research has found THCA has anti-inflammatory properties—demonstrating its potential for treating arthritis, bowel diseases, and countless other conditions. It also has neuroprotective qualities and can inhibit the growth of prostate cancer cells.
And much like THC, studies show THCA’s efficacy in helping patients reduce their nausea and appetite loss.
What Is CBDA (Cannabidiolic Acid)?
Much like THCA is to THC, CBDA is the raw and acidic precursor to CBD that presides in the plant before decarboxylation takes place.
For this reason, CBDA is a lot more common than most cannabinoids. It can most often be found in capsules, topicals, and tinctures. And unlike most cannabinoids, which bind to receptors in the ECS, CBDA instead inhibits the cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) enzyme, which is associated with inflammation after injury or infection.
Another cause of CBDA’s anti-inflammatory properties is its effects on the body’s 5-HT serotonin receptors. This makes it 1,000 times more potent than CBD for treating nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy, and 100 times more effective as an anti-convulsive. CBDA affects the 5-HT receptors in a similar way to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant medications, giving it the potential to treat depression.
During research for the drug Epidiolex, now used to treat seizures in severe epilepsy, scientists were required to test CBDA alongside CBD. They found that CBDA is potentially a better effective treatment for seizures than CBD.
What Is Delta-8-THC?
Delta-8-THC is chemically closely related to THC—after all, THC’s scientific name is Delta-9-THC. It typically produces less of a psychotropic effect than THC, although this can be affected by the strain and chosen method of consumption.
The outcome of this difference is new popularity with users who want a ‘smoother’ high while still medicating for other THC-typical benefits. And while Delta-8-THC is usually only naturally found in cannabis in tiny amounts, some manufacturers are now isolating this cannabinoid to produce in greater quantities and harness its full power.
Unsurprisingly, Delta-8-THC has a very similar therapeutic profile to THC. But while theories and anecdotal evidence show its benefits clearly, there hasn’t been much scientific research on Delta-8-THC yet. One study of child cancer patients was conducted in 1995, which demonstrated Delta-8-THC’s potential for eliminating post-chemotherapy nausea.
What Is THCV (Tetrahydrocannabivarin)?
THCV is another cannabinoid that isn’t present in high quantities in standard strains—unless you have access to modified plants or you opt for certain cannabis strains of African descent. THCV may have intoxicating effects in higher doses, although at lower doses it appears to instead inhibit some of the stronger effects of THC, much like CBD does.
The THCV and THC compounds differ by only a few atoms, and yet the therapeutic benefits of THCV are quite different from any other cannabinoid scientists have become familiar with.
In contrast to THC, THCV has been identified as useful in suppressing appetite, regulating blood sugar levels, and reducing insulin resistance. These qualities all make it a potentially useful aid for those with type 2 diabetes and obesity.
THCV has also shown evidence of helping to reduce anxiety attacks in PTSD patients, as well as several symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, and stimulating bone growth. Unfortunately, research in these areas is still fairly limited—but THCV’s future still looks extremely bright.
What Is CBG (Cannabigerol)?
CBG is the decarboxylated version of CBGA, a cannabinoid that you could think of as the parent molecular component in the raw cannabis plant. CBG itself is non-psychoactive and has been found to work effectively when treating specific conditions. It has a wide spectrum of potential uses and looks promising for medicating some conditions that other cannabinoids can’t touch.
Surprisingly, CBG has shown promise in managing glaucoma because it reduces pressure within the eye, has neuroprotective properties, and helps dilate blood vessels. CBG’s ability to protect neurons has been further proven in a study into Huntingdon’s, a disease that concerns nerve cell degeneration in the brain.
One thing CBG may have in common with other popular cannabinoids is its perceived potential for helping cancer patients. CBG has been shown in several studies to block receptors that cause cancer cell growth, inhibiting both tumors and chemically-induced colon carcinogenesis.
A study also found that purified CBG, used to remove THC from the system, effectively stimulated appetite. This could lend itself as a useful and non-psychoactive treatment for patients suffering from cachexia.
Looking for More Information on Cannabinoids?
If you’re interested to know which cannabinoids are in our medical cannabis products, speak to one of our budtenders at one of our VidaCann dispensaries. We’ll guide you through the details of each product in our range at each of our medical dispensaries and suggest different options based on your needs.
We operate online and in-person medical dispensaries across the state, selling a wide variety of VidaCann products.