Cannabis has been used as a natural plant medicine for hundreds, if not thousands of years. It was found by our ancestors to treat a range of diseases and illnesses across many cultures, so it comes as no surprise when recent scientific discovery begins to back up these claims.
Now, if you’re at all interested in cannabis, natural medicines, or health and lifestyle, you’ve almost definitely heard of the various discoveries and developments around cannabis as a medicine.
CBD or Cannabidiol is a non-intoxicating substance which is naturally produced by the cannabis plant. It has been found to have great potential and efficacy in treating a range of illnesses and ailments from stress and anxiety to epilepsy, and even sleep and appetite issues, to name a few.
But what sets CBD apart from THC? And what are all these other variants we hear people talking about? In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at a few important chemicals created by the cannabis plant which work on our bodies’ cannabinoid receptors, how they work, and what their benefits are.
CBDa vs CBD and other Cannabinoids
The two most well-known cannabinoids are without a doubt, THC and CBD. THC (or Tetrahydrocannabinol) is the main intoxicating or psychoactive cannabinoid found in marijuana, which is responsible for most of the ‘high’ associated with the plant.
In addition to being a psychoactive substance, THC has analgesic or pain-killing properties – and as such is a large source of the proposed medical benefits of cannabis. THC, however, begins in its acidic form of THCA on the plant – it’s only converted to THC after exposure to heat, sunlight or time.
As one can imagine, this is achieved through harvesting at the right time, curing correctly, and then smoking/vaporizing the substance to complete the conversion. This is a little hint at how CBDa works.
CBDa is also the acidic parent of CBD, and is converted to the latter by the same means, to produce the cannabidiol we all know – a substance which has been shown to hold great potential for treating seizures, anxiety, stress, inflammation, and sleep issues.
Now, let’s take a closer look at some of the lesser-known cannabinoids, how they work and what their properties are, and where they come from or what they convert to.
CBDa Benefits and Properties
CBDa or Cannabidiolic Acid is found on the raw plant along with THCa, and both convert to their non-acidic forms during three stages: The final stages of flower, the curing stage, and finally when they are heated for consumption (this can include smoking, vaping, or edibles).
CBDa is one of the lesser-studied cannabinoids at the present, however studies have shown that CBDa has potential to reduce nausea and inflammation, as well as being non-psychoactive. In this way, it appears to be somewhat of an under-developed form of CBD.
Most high-CBD strains will not, in fact, contain a high CBD content, but rather a high CBDa content. They can then be cured and cooked to achieve the therapeutic effects of high-CBD cannabis for medicinal or treatment purposes. Most of the CBD oils and products on shelves around the world today has been made like this.
CBG Benefits and Properties
CBG is also known as Cannabigerol. It’s a very interesting cannabinoid, as it’s found only in very trace amounts in most strains – but it’s acidic form CBGa is the chemical precursor to the THCa and CBDa that we now know so well.
CBG is non-intoxicating, and in the few studies surrounding it, has been shown to contain a number of promising properties. Some of these include lowering pressure in blood vessels in the eye, treating ailments like glaucoma or migraines; decreasing inflammation in bowel-related issues; and containing great anti-bacterial properties.
These antibacterial properties are hypothesized to play a major role in cannabis’ seemingly very effective treatment of skin-related issues. While CBG is currently one of the very under-studied cannabinoids, there are many teams around the world working right this second to learn more about the compound and help turn it into medicine from which we can all benefit.
CBN Benefits and Properties
CBN or Cannabinol is another compound created through the degradation of cannabinoids. When THCa becomes THC, if left too long it can denature and become Cannabinol. It’s a mildly psychoactive chemical which is understood to play a large role in ‘couch-lock’ – a feeling that many experienced while stoned where you feel like you just can’t move.
As such, it’s the degradation of THC to CBN which has drilled growers into not harvesting their crop too late, to avoid the wrath of a majorly sleepy and lethargic high. In addition, it’s a mild antagonist to the CB1 and CB2 receptors. This sounds confusing, but let’s make it a little simpler.
THC produces its effects when it binds to our CB1 and CB2 receptors in our brain. CBD has the opposite effect, and as such, a strain of cannabis, or extract with a good balance of CBD and THC can regulate itself, making sure you don’t get too high and paranoid (thanks THC), nor too stoned and lethargic.
CBN is another cannabinoid which achieves this effect, albeit not as well, and as such a strain with a good balance of THC, CBD and CBN could be expected to be a lot milder of an experienced with consumed.
CBC Benefits and Properties
CBC or cannabichromene is a far less common cannabinoid only found in certain tropical varieties of weed. Many of these landrace strains have not been bred into common strains, and as such, most of the strains we know as ‘popular’ or ‘trendy’ don’t contain much, if any, cannabichromene. It also initially exists in the form of CBCa, which comes from CBGa.
CBC might not get as much attention as CBD and THC, but is still one of the more promising cannabinoids in terms of medical benefit, and such has gained a lot of attention in studies and scientific research. CBC is, of course, non-intoxicating, and has been shown to work a little differently to other cannabinoids.
CBC doesn’t bind as well to the cannabinoid receptors in our brain as other cannabinoids do, but it does bind well to pain receptors. As a result of this, our bodies then release some of our endocannabinoids (the cannabinoids our bodies produce) as a response in order to assist it.
It’s been shown that CBC can treat pain and inflammation, acne, depression, and assist in the health of the brain. This is quite a strange and varied range of effects, and as such, the compound will surely only be studied to a greater degree in order to discover how best to utilize these properties.
THCV Benefits and Properties
THCv or Tetrahydrocannabivarin is a lesser-known compound found in cannabis which we’ve listed here mainly for interests’ sake. It’s found in its highest natural concentrations in central-African sativa landraces such as Durban Poison and Red Congolese.
Similar to CBC, it has a strange array of properties and medical benefits. THCv has been shown to be both an appetite suppressant, and reduce panic attacks. These are of particular interest as the opposite of these two things are highly associated with weed: munchies and panic attacks. This is promising, as it shows that we could hypothetically develop strains that work against the negatives of cannabis that many people experience.
In addition, THCv has been found to promote bone growth, help with diabetes as well as Alzheimer’s. These are all promising medical benefits, although we’re sure you’re wondering, ‘Wouldn’t all the medical these medical benefits of different cannabinoids work far better together?’. Well, we’ll get to that.
What does CBDa Oil do?
As you can probably tell from the in-depth explanation of CBDa above, not all that much. You’re likely far better off using CBD for medicinal benefit, as it appears to have a wider range of efficacy, as well as being more bioavailable ( our bodies digest it better).
One school of thought, however, is that of the entourage effect. This hypothesis claims that because many different cannabinoids regulate, enhance, and counteract each other, any given cannabinoid would produce more benefits when taken with a spectrum of other cannabinoids too. This is known as a full-spectrum extract (ie. hash oil).
In less scientific terms, one could possibly develop a strain or extract of weed containing a variety of cannabinoids tailored to different uses and users. For example, if you wanted a less intoxicating effect you could include all the non-intoxicating cannabinoids, with only a small amount of intoxicating ones like THC and CBN to create a very mild high, with great medicinal properties.
Even more ludicrous, would be to do something like creating a THCv, CBN and CBD-only strain that could be used to counteract THC-induced panic attacks. The possibilities are endless, however the research is still in its early days, and we’re yet to discover the extent to which this is achievable, if at all.
It’s clear that all the various compounds in cannabis have a whole lot to offer each in their own right. There are positives and negatives to each, but with legalization movements taking over the world and regulations loosening, scientists are now able to study cannabis more easily and freely.
This will hopefully result in a wave of knowledge about cannabis, confirming what we know, and without a doubt, proving other things false. It would also help to move cannabis even further into the realm of natural medicine which can treat and cure a whole array of diseases.
For now, we’ll just have to wait and see.