So, you’ve heard incredible praise about CBD and its abilities? But what is it exactly and why is it so helpful? Well, it’s one of the significant cannabinoids in hemp. But, it’s not the only one. There are several major cannabinoids in this plant, and in this article, we’re going to unpack them one by one.
We’ll give you some background and a general explanation of cannabinoids, then dive into the details of each one individually. And we’ll cover a few of their health-promoting effects that are supported by science.
What Are Cannabinoids?
Cannabinoids are molecules or compounds found only in cannabis plants. The exact number of cannabinoids isn’t known because there are hundreds of strains and some of them only have trace amounts of certain cannabinoids. But, estimates are as high as 100 or more.
What matters for the sake of this article and for your sake as a consumer, are the major cannabinoids found in hemp. And the effects and properties they offer from a health perspective.
Why Are Cannabinoids So Important?
As we mentioned, cannabinoids have health-promoting properties. But so do vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. So what makes them special?
Well, the most phenomenal aspect of a cannabinoid is its ability to impact the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) in a positive way. This system may sound unfamiliar to you, as to be expected. Scientists only discovered it during the 1990s.
The role, or job if you will, of the ECS, is to maintain homeostasis. Another way to say this is internal equilibrium or balance. If it sounds like a pretty tough job, you’re right, it’s a major task and responsibility.
Given its difficult job, the ECS could use our help. One easy, yet extraordinary way we can improve its functionality is to consume cannabinoid-rich, hemp-based products. This is important because cannabinoids, like CBD for instance, interact with this system. More specifically, they indirectly influence the CB1 and CB2 receptors that make up a substantial part of the ECS.
Our CB1 and CB2 receptors exist throughout most of the body, yet there are high concentrations in our central nervous system (brain and spine), and within our immune systems. Pretty crucial areas, right?
The CB1 receptors control functions like memory, motor skills, appetite, and pain response. While the CB2 receptors have a direct impact on the health of our immune system, gut, bones, eyes, skin, and digestion. Among other things.
An Example That Explains the Link Between Cannabinoids & the ECS
This is all very scientific in nature. So, let’s use a simplistic example to make sense of the ECS and to drive home the point of why cannabinoids are vital to our existence.
Let’s return back to the immune system for a moment. Many of us hear that Vitamin C, Zinc, and Vitamin D make great allies for the immune system. This is along the lines of “common knowledge”.
When it comes to the Endocannabinoid System, common knowledge hasn’t been established yet. So for now, think of cannabinoids as the “supplements” you can take to strengthen and improve the functionality of the ECS. Just like you’d take Vitamin C to build up your immunity. Make sense? Hope so.
Now that we covered their importance, it’s time to highlight each of the major cannabinoids found in hemp and discuss their effects.
1. CBGa (Cannabigerolic acid): The Grandmother of All Cannabinoids
This is a fitting nickname because, without CBGa, the cannabis plant wouldn’t even exist. It’s the first molecule that hemp produces, which is why we chose to list it at the top. Then, as the plant enters the flowering stage of life, the chemical structure starts to change.
Besides being the (grand)mother of all cannabinoids, CBGa is also the acid precursor to CBG. And it produces THCa, CBDa, and CBCa. As the plant matures or goes through decarboxylation (exposed to heat or light), these precursors convert into THC, CB, and CBC, respectively.
2. CBDa (Cannabidiolic Acid): The Parent of CBD
Another major acid precursor that sits at the top of the cannabis chemical hierarchy is CBDa. It’s more common to see this cannabinoid in the hemp plant because this is the precursor that converts to CBD. And CBD, as you may know, is the most dominant molecule in hemp.
You may also hear CBDa being referred to as the “raw or unheated” version of CBD. And 5othis is true. Think about raw carrots vs cooked carrots for a second. The raw carrot has certain benefits that you won’t get from a cooked carrot and vice versa. You can think of CBDa and CBD in the same light.
In particular, CBDa has some powerful anti-nausea effects, whereas the heated version does not. However, CBD does have some pretty prolific attributes. Let’s get into those now, shall we?
3. CBD (Cannabidiol): The Chosen One
Without CBD, what would hemp be today? Sure, hemp has thousands (yes, thousands) of agricultural and industrial uses, which goes beyond comprehension sometimes. And that alone proves hemp irreplaceable value to us.
But, when we talk specifically about the therapeutic values of hemp, much would be lost to the history books without the huge boom of CBD. By 2018, or maybe a bit sooner it hit the scenes in full force. Now, the scientific community is catching up to what many people already knew and experienced from CBD.
Thank goodness, right? Some people need scientific proof and the community at large respects what the science shows. So, now that more and more studies are getting released to prove the therapeutic effectiveness of CBD, we can talk about some of these findings. Rather than saying wonderful things about it at the anecdotal level.
The most well-studied properties of CBD include its anxiolytic, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective effects. Another astounding feature of CBD is its safety profile. According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) 2017 Report on Cannabidiol, they found that “CBD is well-tolerated by most people, is safe, non-addictive, and has very few side effects.”
4. CBDV (Cannabidivarin): The Lesser Known
Cannabis strains, mainly hemp strains, with low concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) often have high levels of CBDV. Although cannabidivarin isn’t widely talked about in the cannabis community, it does demonstrate some positive traits.
So far, what the studies show is that CBDV has anti-epileptic traits and could be an effective anti-nausea agent with its ability to block or prevent the nausea response. Also, it may work well as an anticonvulsant.
5. CBG (Cannabigerol): Potential to Grab The #1 Spot
There’s lots of excitement buzzing around the hemp community. And this time it’s not because of CBD. It’s the hype around CBG that’s causing a stir.
Like CBD, cannabigerol is also non-psychoactive. As are the other cannabinoids in this article. As we learned earlier, CBGa converts to THCa and CBDa, and then to THC and CBD. This means very little is left over to convert into CBG. Therefore, most fully matured strains only have a small concentration of it.
However, expert breeders and scientists are learning the precise time to harvest the crops where they contain the highest levels of CBGa. Then later, through decarboxylation, they can convert it into CBG.
The benefits of CBG are still unfolding. But, from current research, this cannabinoid shows incredible promise in minimizing symptoms of glaucoma, Crohn’s disease, tumors, and Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
6. CBC (Cannabichromene): Loves a CBD & THC Pairing
It’s not surprising to see a hemp flower strain with about 1 percent CBC. The awesome thing about this cannabinoid is its impact on neuroplasticity — the ability to rewire your brain. And it also has other effects on brain health, particularly as it relates to mood.
When taken with CBD and THC (even in low doses), it can positively influence and uplift one’s mood.
7. CBN (Cannabinol): Nighty Night
This hemp plant cannabinoid comes to life as THC grows old. Said differently, when THC gets exposed to oxygen, and ages, the concentration of CBN increases. The research isn’t well established at this point, but there’s still evidence that CBN is sedative.