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Cannabis produces a unique class of chemical compoundsA substance of two or more elements in fixed proportions. Compounds can be decomposed into their constituent elements. called cannabinoids, which are primarily, but not exclusively, responsible for the plant’s therapeuticOf, or relating to, the treatment of disease or disorders by remedial agents or methods. and psychotropicHaving an altered effect on perception, emotion, or behavior. properties. Cannabinoids are hydrocarbonsOrganic compounds containing carbon and hydrogen. that consist of bound atoms of hydrogen, carbon and oxygen. Cannabis has been shown to produce over 70 cannabinoids, with ongoing research uncovering new variations.
Due to its psychotropic effects on the human brain, THC (delta 9-THC) is the best-known cannabinoid. The amount of THC in Cannabis can vary greatly (< 0.3 - 25% dry weight) and the plant has been cultivated aggressively in the modern era to produce potent strains laden with THC. However, the therapeutic benefits of Cannabis are not limited to THC. For example, research has shown that cannabidiol (CBD) also plays a medically beneficial role as a powerful anti-inflammatory agent. The current scientific consensus is that cannabinoids other than THC and CBD have therapeutic applications.
THC delta (9)-Tetrahydrocannabinol. THC acts on the central nervous and immune systems of humans. It is the primary psychotropic ingredient in Cannabis, or the one that produces a high. While these psychotropic effects have therapeutic benefits, THC also acts as a painkiller, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbal (microorganisms e.g., bacteria) agent.
CBN cannabinol. Mildly psychoactive, CBN is the primary product of THC degradation. As a result, the CBN content of Cannabis goes up as THC is broken down during storage or when exposed to air and light. CBN interacts with the central nervous and immune systems, and may stimulate bone growth.
CBD cannabidiol. CBD does not interact with the human body like other cannabinoids, but has significant therapeutic effects. It appears to relieve anxiety, convulsion, depression, inflammation and nausea. Mildly psychoactive, it is also believed to moderate psychotic side effects of THC, such as schizophrenia-like symptoms. While unproven, CBD may exhibit anti-cancer activity, especially in breast cancer.
CBG cannabigerol. CBG is called the “parent” cannabinoid because it is the chemical precursor of the acidic forms of THC, CBC and CBD. While its biological action is not completely understood, CBG is believed to be a painkiller, muscle relaxant and anti-erythemic (redness of skin, often a sign of inflammation or infection). It is also being investigated for potential anti-cancer activity.
CBC cannabichromene. CBC is an anti-inflammatory and an analgesic. It is found in higher concentrations early in the lifecycle of a Cannabis plant and has been shown in to reduce THC intoxication in mice.
THCV tetrahydrocannabivarin. Nearly identical to THC, THCV acts on the human nervous and immune systems. It has anti-obesity properties and aids in memory.
CBDV cannabidivarin. Little is known about CBDV as it is uncommon in modern varieties of Cannabis. Cannabis chemotypes which express CBDV are relatively rare and should be moniitored closely.
In raw plant form, Cannabis contains the acidic compound THCA – not delta 9-THC – and therefore could be ingested with no pharmacological or psychotropic effects. Only when heated does the acidic compound THCA convert to biologically active THC (delta-9 THC) in a process called decarboxylation.The process of removing the carbon element (carboxyl group) of a molecule, usually by replacing it with hydrogen, which occurs when Cannabis is subjected to heat, light or both. (loss of carboxylic acid functional group). The rule applies to all cannabinoids: decarboxylation converts acidic CBDA to neutral CBD; CBGA to CBG; etc.