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KNOW YOUR CANNABINOIDS

Updated: Aug 4, 2020


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With the recent discovery of THCP (potentially 30x more active than THC), there are now over 120 known cannabinoids produced by the cannabis plant. As conneseurs of all things cannabis, it is essential that we be fluent in the most important of these compounds. Let us walk through a primer on all things cannabinoid.

Understanding the active cannabinoids present within cannabis resin glands gives us a language for describing the dimensions of effect achievable via consumption. For the Bud Tender, this is an important tool in helping match products with customer expectation and preference. For the cultivator, these are important output testing variables that can guide nearly all horticultural inputs. While we can't possibly cover every cannabinoid here, and there is surely much discovery to come in this space, the following information should act as a guide in your cannabinoid conversations.


THC: Tetrahydrocannabinol

THC is the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis. First isolated in 1964, THC is a lipid found in cannabis, assumed to be involved in the plant's self-defense, putatively against insect predation, ultraviolet light, and environmental stress.


THCA: Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid

THCA is found in variable quantities in fresh, undried cannabis, but is progressively converted to THC with drying, and especially under intense heating such as when cannabis is smoked or cooked into cannabis edibles. THCA is often the majority constituent in cannabis resin concentrates, such as hashish and hash oil, when prepared from high-THC cannabis plant material, frequently comprising between 50% and 90% by weight.


CBD: Cannabidiol

CBD is a phytocannabinoid discovered in 1940. It accounts for up to 40% of the cannabis plant's extract. In 2018, clinical research on cannabidiol included preliminary studies of anxiety, cognition, movement disorders, and pain. Cannabidiol can be taken into the body in multiple ways, including by inhalation of cannabis smoke or vapor, as an aerosol spray into the cheek, and by mouth. It may be supplied as CBD oil containing only CBD as the active ingredient (no included [THC] or terpenes), a full-plant CBD-dominant hemp extract oil, capsules, dried cannabis, or as a prescription liquid solution. CBD does not have the same psychoactivity as THC, and may change the effects of THC on the body if both are present. As of 2018, the mechanism of action for its biological effects has not been determined.


CBN: Cannabinol

CBN is the primary product of THC degradation, and there is usually little of it in a fresh plant. CBN content increases as THC degrades in storage, and with exposure to light and air. It is only mildly psychoactive. Its affinity to the CB2 receptor is higher than for the CB1 receptor.


CBG: Cannabigerol

CBG is non-psychoactive but still contributes to the overall effects of Cannabis. CBG is the non-acidic form of cannabigerolic acid, the parent molecule from which other cannabinoids are synthesized. Cannabigerol is a minor constituent of cannabis. During growth, most of the cannabigerol is converted into other cannabinoids, primarily tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or cannabidiol (CBD), leaving about 1% cannabigerol in the plant.


CBC: Cannabichromene

CBC is non-psychoactive and does not affect the psychoactivity of THC. CBC acts on the TRPV1 and TRPA1 receptors, interfering with their ability to break down endocannabinoids (chemicals such as anandamide and 2-AG that the body creates naturally). CBC has shown antitumor effects in breast cancer xenoplants in mice. More common in tropical cannabis varieties.


THCV: Tetrahydrocannabivarin

THCV is prevalent in certain central Asian and southern African strains of Cannabis. It is an antagonist of THC at CB1 receptors and lessens the psychoactive effects of THC. THCV is a new potential treatment against obesity-associated glucose intolerance with pharmacology different from that of CB1 inverse agonists/antagonists. GW Pharmaceuticals is studying plant-derived tetrahydrocannabivarin (as GWP42004) for type 2 diabetes in addition to metformin.


CBDV: Cannabidivarin

Although cannabidivarin (CBDV) is usually a minor constituent of the cannabinoid profile, enhanced levels of CBDV have been reported in feral cannabis plants from the northwest Himalayas, and in hashish from Nepal. CBDV has anticonvulsant effects. It was identified for the first time in 1969 by Vollner et al. It is being actively developed by GW Pharmaceuticals (as GWP42006)[5] because of a demonstrated neurochemical pathway for previously-observed anti-epileptic and anti-convulsive action.



Having covered the most important cannabinoids discovered to date, you should be in a better position to speak intelligently about the complex world that these compounds inhabit.

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