CBD is widely available, but it’s hardly the only cannabinoid. Melissa Howsam explores what’s next.
The cannabis plant contains more than 100 cannabinoids, chemicals naturally in the plant. THC (which creates the marijuana high) and CBD (which has a host of healing properties) are the best known.
In full-spectrum cannabis extracts, all parts of the plant chemistry are present and work together. Broad-spectrum products go through an extra process to remove THC. And isolate products contain only one cannabinoid—usually just CBD. But that could be changing soon, as other compounds benefit from more research and enhanced extraction technologies. Here are some other cannabinoids to keep an eye on.
CBG is produced early in the plant’s lifecycle and is a precursor to other cannabinoids. Studies have shown CBG to reduce inflammation and nausea, combat pain, and even slow the spread of cancer cells. CBG may have promise for lessening symptoms of Crohn’s, bowel diseases, and even glaucoma. Preliminary studies have also indicated its benefits in fighting drug-resistant bacteria.
The most readily available CBG-rich products are oils, tinctures, and pills, as well as smokable CBG-dominant strains. Some CBD products are infused with CBG.
CBN is created naturally when THC ages or oxidizes. As withCBG, research for CBN is in its nascent stages, but there isexcitement about the possibility of this cannabinoid being a natural sedative. Many people have reported that CBN helps them get restful sleep. And in addition to insomnia, preliminary reports claim CBN as good for bacterial infections, arthritis, and as an appetite stimulant. CBN is also being researched for use as a neuroprotectant, especially for neurodegenerative conditions such as ALS.
CBN can be extracted and isolated to make tinctures and soft gels high in this cannabinoid. Strains of smokable cannabis are high in CBN but are usually not CBN-dominant.
Already known for its potential to fight cancer, CBC has indicated promising results with neurological diseases and acne, and early research has shown it to have a substantially higher antidepressant effect than CBD. Notes Clarence McSwain, licensed hemp farmer and owner of The Hemptender Dispensary in Durham, North Carolina: “It can’t be a coincidence that all of our top-selling smokable hemp strains happen to contain CBC.”
However, there are very few CBC-dominate tinctures, and CBC-rich products are hard to find because so little is fully understood about this cannabinoid. Look for full- or broad-spectrum tincture containing CBC if you cannot find a CBC-dominant tincture or vape, and always make sure to look at third-party test results.
Myrcene has sedative, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic effects, and allows other cannabinoids to act more quickly. Limonene has been show to produce feelings of wellbeing and improved mental focus.
AND MORE …
Beyond CBG, CBN, and CBC, look to be hearing a lot about cannabinoid Delta 8 THC in the near future. “It is a less psychoactive sister compound to Delta 9 THC from the marijuana plant—so think a more calm, less paranoid, lucid high—which will allow for multiple applications on the recreational side, as well as medical,” says McSwain. Since the cannabinoid only naturally exists in small amounts within the plant, the expertise on how to extract and concentrate it is still being built.
Terpenes are the compounds that give plants their unique scent, and work is being done on understanding the specific health effects of cannabinoid terpenes. McSwain explains that terpenes work in conjunction with cannabinoids, modifying how much of each cannabinoid is absorbed.
Cannabis plants have over 120 identified terpenes. Myrcene is the predominant one (it’s also found in hops, bay leaves, lemongrass, and eucalyptus), according to John Boccella, co-owner of The Hemp Company in Raleigh, North Carolina. It has sedative, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic effects, and allows other cannabinoids to act more quickly. Limonene is another terpene found in cannabis. It’s been shown to produce feelings of wellbeing and improved mental focus. This terpene also may be effective in protecting against various cancers, and has been shown to increase dopamine and serotonin levels, thus acting as an antianxiety and antidepressant agent.
Until we gain more knowledge of individual cannabinoids, it’s safe to say that full-spectrum remains king. “While it is our scientific mindset to break things down into their smallest parts, nature once again proves that the sum of its parts are greater,” says Boccella.