Excerpted from Weed: A Connoisseur’s Guide to Cannabis
Cannabis is a complex plant that works through the interactions of various chemical components. While we’re continually discovering more about the compounds that make weed work—including things like terpenes, flavonoids and cannasulfurs—the OG elements of the plant’s therapeutic applications are the cannabinoids. Humans have receptor sites within our bodies that are configured to respond to cannabinoids. The ultimate goal of this interplay is to create stability and promote wellness. Here’s a rundown of common cannabinoids and their effects:
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the most well-recognized cannabinoid because it’s the one that’s primarily responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis, the “high.” Once the only measure of the quality of any given cannabis flower, this cannabinoid’s brilliance over all others is only now starting to dim slightly with the rise of CBD. THC can alter the functioning of the hippocampus, the area of the brain that stores memories. THC also impacts the brain’s areas associated with pleasure, concentration, movement, coordination, and time perception. It’s the most prevalent of the active ingredients in cannabis. The presence of THC, more specifically 0.3% THC, is the arbitrary measure that defines a plant as cannabis as opposed to hemp.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is the second most prevalent cannabinoid found in cannabis. This cannabinoid doesn’t make people feel “stoned” or intoxicated and can alleviate some of the adverse effects of feeling too high. Scientists and researchers are studying CBD to treat a wide range of illnesses associated with anxiety, chronic pain, depression, and inflammation.
THCA & CBDA
The acidic precursors of what becomes THC and CBD, these cannabinoids need the heat to become “active” in the traditional sense. In their raw form, these cannabinoids benefit the body by reducing inflammation and regulating the immune system.
Cannabinol (CBN) is what THC turns into as it ages. This cannabinoid has synergistic effects with THC, leading to enhanced sedative effects, meaning it’s useful for treating insomnia. The easiest way to find CBN is through aged flowers.
The “mother” of all cannabinoids, cannabigerol (CBG) is the main building block for what later becomes THC and CBD. As the plant matures, enzymes break down the acidic form of CBG, CBGA, into THCA, CBDA and CBCA (cannabichromene). The amounts of CBDA that remain after this process become CBG with heat. CBG is gaining increasing attention for its potential to treat things like inflammatory bowel disease, chronic pain and epilepsy.
Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) is a rare cannabinoid that acts as an appetite suppressant. This cannabinoid has shown an ability to treat diabetes and several other conditions, including anxiety and osteoporosis.
Cannabichromene (CBC) has potent anti-inflammatory effects and treats pain.
Memory and Depression
Cannabinoids can suppress memories, but they can also work to preserve them. The mood-altering abilities of cannabinoids show promise in treating anxiety and depression.
Cannabinoids can increase the appetite, which is a good thing with conditions that cause nausea, but they can also decrease the desire to eat and treat diseases like diabetes.
The primary function of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is to maintain a steady set of conditions within our bodies. In this way, the ECS is critical in regulating metabolic risk factors associated with obesity. Cannabinoids control glucose metabolism in several organs.
A negative response to stress stimuli can cause physical harm. The fact that cannabinoid receptors are highly assembled in the hippocampus, an area associated with memory, learning and emotional processes, suggests that ECS signaling prevents stress and worry.
Cannabinoids modulate our immune system’s reaction to inflammation and infection. Modulation of the endocannabinoid system interferes with cancerous cells’ proliferation in two ways: either inhibiting cell signaling or inducing the death of cancerous cells.
It’s common knowledge that cannabis can help with sleep. Studies suggest cannabinoids improve sleep quality, decrease disturbances and decrease the amount of time it takes to go from fully awake to sleeping.