Regular visitors to CBD Informative are familiar with our CBD product reviews. Included within each review is the independent lab report we order from Level One Labs, our go-to third party analyst and Arizona’s top-rated cannabis testing lab. This report reveals much information, most particularly the CBD content of the product, which we then compare to the company’s own claims of CBD content and report to our readers.
However, astute readers have noticed other information included in the analysis, especially the presence of other cannabinoids. If you have ever wondered what exactly are those other cannabinoids and what purpose they serve, we’re here to bring you clear definitions of the different cannabinoids you may come across as you read the ingredients on the labels of your different cannabis products.
Comprehensive Glossary of Important Cannabinoids
Listed alphabetically for easier navigation between terms, here is a look at the main cannabinoids found in the cannabis sativa plant. Please note that related cannabinoids (such as THCa, Δ9-THC, and Δ8-THC) will be grouped together under the parent category. You may also learn a little about chemistry while you’re at it, but we promise to keep it interesting, informative, and understandable!
A Quick Note about the “a” Version of Many Cannabinoid Compounds: a second compound appended with a small case letter “a” refers to the acidic version of the same compound (i.e., CBD and CBDa); these compounds remain dormant until activated through decarboxylation, a chemical reaction which releases a carbon dioxide (CO2) and removes a carboxyl group. With cannabinoids, the application of heat (or even sunlight) initiates the decarboxylation process which then activates the various compounds naturally found in the cannabis sativa plant.
Cannabichromene (CBC and CBCa)
While a non-psychoactive cannabinoid, do not underestimate the power of cannabichromene (CBC). Through extensive and continuous studies, researchers have learned that CBC binds with certain receptors in the body linked to pain perception. When activated by the presence of CBC, our body’s own endocannabinoids are released at higher than normal levels. On top of this benefit, CBC works synergistically with other cannabinoids, contributing to the entourage effect so many CBD users seek.
Potential medical benefits for CBC and CBCa include the following:
- Acne – similar to CBD, CBC has proven to be a strong inhibitor of acne
- Brain Cells – CBC has shown to deliver positive effects to neural stem progenitor cells (NSPCs) which differentiate into astroglial cells, important for maintaining brain homeostasis
- Cancer – multiple studies point to a strong potential for CBC to aid in combating inflammation and tumor growths
- Depression – combined with CBD and THC, CBC proves the worth of the entourage effect in battling depressive symptoms
- Pain and Inflammation – as mentioned above, CBC binds well with receptors linked to pain perception
Chemical Formula: C21H30O2 (identical to CBD/CBDa)
Cannabidiol (CBD and CBDa)
The most famous of all the non-psychoactive cannabinoids, CBD is considered the “breakout” compound which brought a degree of legitimacy and respect to the much maligned cannabis sativa plant. It also opened the floodgates of research which ultimately revealed the wealth of over one hundred more cannabinoids, many of which are now undergoing the same intensive and exciting research as the tried and true original, CBD.
And what amazing discoveries research into CBD has produced, all in a relatively short period of time, with CBD serving as the base for such popular and important health treatments as:
- Acne – either with CBC (see above) or on its own, CBD is an effective acne treatment, thanks to it ability to reduce sebum production in tandem with its know anti-inflammatory properties
- Anxiety and Depression – mental health treatment by pharmaceuticals often result in dreadful side effects, with some medications leading to addiction and ultimately substance abuse; CBD has minimal or no true side effects, is non-psychoactive, and non-addictive, and seems able to positively act on our serotonin receptors, the neurotransmitter which regulates social behavior and moods
- Cancer Treat Side Effects – initial studies and research are showing great promise in aiding cancer patients in managing side effects produced through cancer treatments, with future prospects of discovering and applying cancer-fighting properties
- Heart Health – two ways in which CBD can aid in maintaining a healthy heart is by reducing blood pressure and even slowing heart disease thanks to its potent antioxidant properties
- Neuroprotective Properties – early research is showing great promise in treating and easing symptoms related to Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy; test-tube and animal studies have slowed the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, encouraging continuing studies
- Pain Relief – particularly when applied in combination with THC (see below), CBD has proven effective in managing and reducing pain, including diseases like arthritis and multiple sclerosis
Chemical Formula: C21H30O2 (identical to CBC/CBCa)
Cannabidivarin (CBDV and CBDVa)
As might be suspected based upon its abbreviated name of CBDV (and its inactive sibling, CBDVa), cannabidivarin is a close relative of CBD from a structural perspective. Also like CBD, CBDV is not psychoactive, but unique to CBDV is its apparent source deriving from cannabis indica landrace strains in Asia and Africa. (Landrace strains refer to either feral or selectively bred strains which then adapted to their new environment.)
The most focused studies to date have centered on its effect on seizures; there is already an FDA-approved drug, Epidiolex, which uses CBD and the same company (GW Pharmaceuticals) is now working on a CBDV-based medication intended to reduce or eliminate epileptic seizures. However, studies of CBDV aren’t limited to these specific conditions; other treatment studies include:
- Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) – already, CBDV is being tried as treatments for cognitive challenges, repetitive behavioral problems, along with dealing with communication and social functioning concerns
- Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) – chronic inflammation and irreversible skeletal muscular damage and degeneration are the trademarks of DMD; CBDV shows promise in reducing inflammation and improving locomotion, making it a promising therapy for DMD sufferers
- Memory Defects – a recent animal study indicated CBDV was able to rescue memory defects in lab mice affected with the same genetic defect as individuals suffering from Rett syndrome (see “Neurobehavioral Issues” below)
- Nausea – using rodents for research, results show CBDV acts as an agonist (i.e., initiates a physiological response when combined with a receptor) to CB1 receptors, effectively blocking the nausea reaction
- Neurobehavioral Issues – people who have Rett syndrom experience seizures, speech concerns, and muscle spasticity; CBDV is already helping those persons manage their symptoms better
Chemical Formula: C19H26O2 (identical to THCV/THCVa)
Cannabigerol (CBG and CBGa)
Cannabigerol (CBG) is the new kid on the block, but one that brings lots of new goodies for us to play with. Even though it was discovered in the 1960s and is considered to be mother of all cannabinoids (because it’s the precursor from which other cannabinoids are synthesized), it hasn’t gained much attention until recently. Now it seems to be gaining more attention for its own curative properties, but there is one catch: since such small amounts of CBG are harvested from each hemp plant (there can be as much as 20% CBD in a hemp plant as compared to 1% CBG), it’s one of the more expensive cannabinoids on the market today.
Cost is hardly an important factor where health is concerned, so lots of studies using CBG are taking place today, with plenty of potential health possibilities arising, such as:
- Appetite Stimulant – a recent study with rats showed that CBG stimulated their appetite, making it a viable possibility for patients treated for conditions like HIV and cancer and who commonly experience nausea as a result of the treatments
- Bacterial Infections – one study pointed to the ability of CBG to kill bacteria, most notably MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), known to cause staph infections which are difficult to treat and can be lethal
- Bladder Dysfunction – of the various cannabinoids which positively affect bladder contractions, CBG comes out as the most impressive in accomplishing this task
- Cancer – one study of colon cancer in rats showed CBG could reduce the growth of tumors and cancer cells
- Glaucoma – since the 1970s, there has been evidence that medical cannabis can ease the pressure of glaucoma, and now CBG is getting attention for this treatment because of its ability to reduce intraocular pressure
- Huntington’s Disease – this neurodegenerative condition may benefit from CBG, displaying a capacity to develop neuroprotective properties
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease – in another study with mice, CBG reduced inflammation associated with inflammatory bowel disease
Chemical Formula: C21H32O2
Unlike other cannabinoids, CBN appears as a cannabis plant matures; it is most abundant in aged cannabis plants where the THC has degraded in potency. It used to be people avoided old, stale cannabis, but now some users are specifically seeking out such plants precisely to gain its CBN benefits.
Although CBN tests are not as numerous as other more popular cannabinoids, the studies performed to date show lots of promise and opportunities, including:
- Antibacterial – similar to CBG, CBN has shown itself effective in battling MRSA bacteria which successfully resists other antibacterial agents
- Anti-Inflammatory – in one rodent study, CBN was successful in reducing the symptoms and pains of arthritis
- Appetite Stimulant – in several rodent studies, animals given CBN ate increasingly larger amounts of food than normal, suggesting it can stimulate appetites
- Glaucoma – studies have shown that CBN eases intraocular pressure, the same as THC and CBG
- Neuroprotectant – using CBN in a rodent study, it was found as an effective treatment for ALS, with the potential to delay its onset
- Sedative – on its own, CBN is not very sedating, but when used in combination with THC, it becomes highly sedative (studies using THC alone did not show the same sedative intensity as when mixed with CBN)
Chemical Formula: C21H26O2
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THCa, Δ9-THC, and Δ8-THC)
This compound, classically and commonly referred to as THC, is the culprit which caused early 20th-century American politicians and government appointees to go crazy, but not by consuming it. Those very people wanted the public to believe it would make them crazy if they partook of cannabis sativa. What is truly crazy are the thousands of lives harmed both through incarceration and prohibition of cannabis sativa.
This has been to most talked about and misunderstood cannabinoid of them all, merely because of its psychoactive properties which humankind has used and benefited from for more than 14,000 years. Fortunately, in the past decades, the paranoia has settled down to just a handful of entrenched disbelievers, while the majority of states have legalized it use and enjoyment in one form or another.
With the relaxation of unreasonable and arcane legislation meant to keep cannabis sativa in the Dark Ages, studies now abound with proofs of the many benefits realized by users of THC, bringing relief to multiple and various health conditions like:
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Appetite Loss
- Cachexia (Wasting Syndrome)
- Crohn’s Disease
- Eating Disorders (Anorexia, etc.)
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Muscle Spasms
You can see a lot of overlapping when comparing THC benefits with other cannabinoids listed in this glossary. That’s because most THC is still consumed in forms where the other cannabinoids are also present and used by the body. The fact is that many cannabis consumers are indirectly gaining other health benefits when their main objective in using cannabis products is to feel high. And now that the propaganda surrounding the “evils” of cannabis have been properly exorcized, millions of adults worldwide are realizing and admitting that being high is actually quite enjoyable!
For those curious about the “Δ” character… this is the delta symbol, and in the case of THC, it refers to the process of heating the compound. So Δ9-THC, and Δ8-THC are heated THC compounds (i.e., lighting it up!).
Chemical Formula: C21H30O2
Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV and THCVa)
Many people consider THCV the counterpart of CBN because, where the combination of CBN and THC produces sedative effects, combining THCV and THC tends to create a more energized, alert, and euphoric state of mind. Not surprisingly, you find THCV more prevalent in sativa strains of cannabis; because of the energy boost, it is excellent for daytime use or when creative juices need to be bubbling.
As you might imagine, its molecular structure is quite similar to THC, but not identical, which means it brings its own list of positive effects for the human body, including:
- Alzheimer’s Disease – classic symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, such as brain lesions, motor control, and tremors, show improvement with treatments including THCV
- Appetite Suppressant – for people who don’t like getting the “munchies,” THCV works just the opposite and dulls the appetite
- Bone Growth – THCV is able to promote the growth of new bone cells, making it a likely prospect to treat osteoporosis and other bone-related conditions
- Diabetes – current research indicates the potential to aid in regulating sugar levels and reducing insulin resistance, making THCV a promising new way of treating diabetes
- Panic Attacks – patients dealing with PTSD find anxiety attacks more manageable without dulling their emotions or senses
Chemical Formula: C19H26O2 (identical to CBDV/CBDVa)
So there you have it, your comprehensive reference guide to important cannabinoids which each cannabis sativa plant miraculously produces for the well-being of the human population!