There are more than 700 chemical constituents produced within the cannabis plant, of which phytocannabinoids and terpenoids are the principal active ingredients. Over 200 of these are phytocannabinoids even though only a few are produced in any significant quantity.
The body produces its own cannabinoids in the form of endocannabinoids. By contrast, phytocannabinoids are cannabinoids that are produced naturally in plants, in the form of carboxylic acids (THCA, CBDA, etc.) . Chemically speaking, phytocannabinoids are hydrocarbons, which means that they are chemical compounds made of only hydrogen and carbon.
Phytocannabinoids work by acting directly or indirectly on cannabinoid receptors that are expressed throughout the body (see our previous blog "Endocannabinoid System"). All phytocannabinoids have corresponding receptors that they are compatible with; similar to a lock and key.
Until very recently, phytocannabinoids referred solely to those cannabinoids that are produced by the cannabis plant. More recently, however, it has been discovered that compounds produced by other plants, including lichens, copaiba, and even black pepper, interact with cannabinoid receptors as well; therefore the definition of phytocannabinoids has been expanded to include any natural plant compounds that interact with cannabinoid receptors.
THCA (Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) is the acidic parent of THC found in the raw cannabis plant. When exposed to heat, sunlight, or time, the THCA in the harvested plant will convert to THC. THCA is non-psychoactive. For many years, researchers overlooked THCA, due to a lack of psychoactivity. However, more recently, it is being discovered that THCA is very pharmacologically active with potential anti-inflammatory, immuno modulatory, neuroprotective, and antitumor applications. It is particularly useful for reducing nausea, reducing seizures, reducing muscle spasms, and fighting tumor and cancer cells.
THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) is the primary psychoactive component in cannabis. Most cannabis strains are bred to contain a high THC content while other cannabinoids occur in small amounts. THC is more than simply psychoactive. It exhibits potent anti-inflammatory and analgesic activity, is neuroprotective, and reduces intraocular pressure, spasticity, and muscle tension. It binds to the CB1 receptors in the brain, creating a multitude of effects and possible treatments.
THC is known to help with pain relief by reducing pain caused by damaged or inflamed nerves. It can work as an appetite stimulant, which is important for people suffering from wasting diseases or undergoing strong chemotherapy. THC can work as a sleep aid depending on the dose and the patient's tolerance. THC acts as a strong anti-inflammatory. This property is especially helpful for fighting autoimmune diseases where inflammation, as an expression of diseased genetics, causes severe pain.
THC also works effectively as an anti-toxin. Amyloid beta proteins are the root cause of Alzheimer's disease according to the National Institute on Aging. These proteins build up in brain cells and block communication. THC removes these proteins from damaged brain cells, preventing amyloid plaque from building up. THC is also used to combat cancer. Studies have shown that THC enters the cancer cells and causes them to commit suicide. THC does not have the same effect on normal cells.
THC helps with stress and anxiety by boosting the brain's own natural system for stress reduction by mimicking endocannabinoids (a natural brain chemical). While THC is non-toxic, some physicians have characterized the unpleasant effects of an excessive THC overdose as “psychotoxic”, because excessive doses of THC can produce panic, anxiety, sedation, and rapid heartbeat in novice users.
CBDA (Cannabidiolic Acid) is the acidic parent of CBD found in raw plant. CBDA is the most common phytocannabinoid produced by hemp varieties. CBDA converts to CBD when it is exposed to heat, sunlight, or time. Like THCA, CBDA is non-psychoactive. Preclinical animal testing has shown that CBDA shows great promise as an anti-nausea treatment. It is also effective in reducing inflammation and fighting tumor and cancer cells.
CBD (Cannabidiol) is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that is starting to be bred back into cannabis strains now that its benefits are being recognized. CBD primarily binds to CB2 receptors in the body and is non-psychoactive, thus creating great potential for medical use without impairing cognitive function. CBD even counteracts psychoactivity of THC.
CBD interacts with a very wide range of receptors, more than THC, which explains its broad effects. CBD has been shown to help with treating anxiety, sleep loss, pain, multiple sclerosis, inflammation, stress disorders, epilepsy, muscle spasms, strokes, acne, and many other health issues.
A study conducted with cancer patients using a CBD/THC tincture spray demonstrated that patients suffering from intractable pain, a combination of CBD and THC reduced the pain significantly more than THC alone, or CBD alone. This effect, called the “entourage effect” is important for medical marijuana, as the phytocannabinoids in the plant have a special harmony with each other and boost the medicinal values of each other, especially when dealing with CBD. The presence of even small amounts of THC will boost the effects of CBD.
CBN (Cannabinol) is a product of oxidized THC that typically occurs in only trace amounts in cannabis. As harvested cannabis ages, THC will gradually be converted to CBN. CBN is mildly psychoactive but appears to be synergistically sedative with THC, and is known to be particularly useful for aiding sleep, reducing pain and muscle spasms, and helping to treat glaucoma.
When administered orally, CBN is converted by first-pass liver metabolism into 11-hydroxy-CBN, which binds more effectively to the CB1 receptor, making it more effective than an inhalation delivery method.
CBGA (Cannabigerolic acid) is an analgesic, non-intoxicating cannabinoid and it is a precursor molecule that is turned into THCA and CBDA as the cannabis plant develops, so it is found only in tiny amounts in the mature plant. In the harvested plant, remaining CBGA converts to CBG with exposure to air and light.
Recent preclinical research has shown that CBG is a potent appetite stimulator, even in animals that have been recently fed. Preclinical evidence also supports the potential for CBG as a treatment for chemotherapy-induced cachexia.
CBG (Cannabigerol) is useful as an antidepressant, a muscle relaxant, and antibiotic and antifungal agent, and as a blood pressure reducer. Beyond its effects on CB receptors, this cannabinoid also regulates amino acid GABA which is involved with other neurological functions. CBG is non-psychoactive, has been found to stimulate brain cell and bone growth, and demonstrates promes as an anti-bacterial and anti-insomnia medicine. CBG is unique among the primary cannabinoids, since it appears to interact predominantly with a range of receptors other than those of the endocannabinoid system.
CBGis an antiseptic and antibiotic as it is an extremely potent antibacterial agent against pathogens, such as MRSA.
CBC (Cannabichromene) is rarely found in substantial quantities in mature cannabis flowers. It has been shown to decrease pain and inflammation and to have strong antimicrobial effect.
THCV (Tetrahydrocannabivarin) has some psychoactive properties and has been found to suppress appetite and can aid weight loss. Recent human studies with oral doses of THCV in the UK, have conclusively shown that THCV increases connectivity in brain networks that have been shown to be impaired by obesity. It also has anti-seizure benefits. THCV can be strongly psychoactive in relatively high doses. THCV can have energetic effects on mood, and can be used to counter anxiety, stress, and panic disorders without suppressing emotion. THCV can reduce tremors associated with Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and other neurological disorders.
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