Unlike THC, CBD, and other well-known cannabinoids, rare cannabinoids appear in tiny quantities in cannabis and hemp plants. This makes it challenging to extract them and study their therapeutic effects.
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Known as the mother cannabinoid, CBG is the parent molecule from which all other phytocannabinoids are made. It has been shown to have antibacterial, antifungal, and neuromodulatory properties.
Research suggests that CBG can potentially treat irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which causes abdominal pain, cramps, and bloating. It appears to help ease symptoms by blocking the uptake of the neurotransmitter GABA.
Another possible application for CBG is to treat pain and inflammation. The chemical has been shown to bind to vanilloid receptors, the same receptors activated by the active ingredient in chili peppers called capsaicin. When a person smokes or consumes cannabis, CBG can attach to these receptors and deactivate them. This reduces the sensation of heat and pain while also desensitizing the receptor so it cannot feel further irritation.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the psychoactive and most well-known cannabinoid. It is responsible for the euphoric effects of cannabis that many people enjoy recreationally and medically. The molecule is a member of the terpene family and is found in a variety of plants. THC is a chiral compound with six carbon atoms linked in a cyclohexane ring, connected to two hydrogen atoms through single covalent bonds. This allows for the formation of several double-bond isomers.
THC has a long list of potential clinical uses. It is currently approved as an antiemetic to increase appetite in AIDS patients. Several studies have shown that oral THC effectively reduces nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy.
The results of randomized controlled trials indicate that THC can effectively treat patients with chronic pain. However, more research is needed to determine which doses and formulations of THC are most effective. In addition, interprofessional communication is vital when discussing the risks and benefits of THC with patients.
CBD is a phytocannabinoid with the most biologically active effects and a broad therapeutic potential. It interacts with the ECS and modulates EC levels similarly to THC. It acts as a non-agonist for CB1R but is an allosteric antagonist and inverse agonist for CB2R. It also interacts with PPAR-g, which is linked to antioxidant actions.
CBD has anti-inflammatory properties due to its ability to decrease the levels of inflammatory cytokines. It has also been shown to reduce the activity of oxidative stress-related enzymes, oxidase, and xanthine oxidase, and to decrease the transcription of pro-inflammatory genes.
CBD has also been reported to be effective in several diseases, including psoriasis and atopic dermatitis, where it alleviates pruritus by modulating itchiness and inflammation. In a study of patients with refractory drop seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, CBD reduced seizure frequency more than placebo over 14 weeks of treatment (Sibson et al., 2021). However, in a small trial, CBD was found to cause gastrointestinal symptoms, tiredness and loss of appetite, and ALT elevations (>3 times ULN) in 17% of the patients; these side effects were resolved upon drug discontinuation.
CBN is a cannabinoid found in smaller concentrations in weed plants than THC or CBD. It looks very similar to delta 8, 7, and 9 THC (it has five carbons in its alkyl side chain) but has three double bonds instead of two. This makes it a weaker psychoactive than THC and only about half as vital.
It is a very soothing cannabinoid that is great for insomnia. When used with myrcene terpenes, it can be an effective sleep aid that promotes relaxation and longer sleep cycles.
Research shows that CBN has a variety of other potential applications. It stimulates appetite and has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. It also has pain-relieving effects, which could help with conditions like temporomandibular disorders and fibromyalgia. A 2019 study showed that a CBD/CBN mixture reduced muscle sensitization in rats.