The Unique Breakthrough Benefits of 7 Minor Cannabinoids

In our last article, we covered CBD, THC, and CBC, three known major cannabinoids. A major cannabinoid appears in higher concentrations than minor cannabinoids, which we’ll go over today.

Many minor cannabinoids like the acidic forms of CBD and THC have been overlooked for their therapeutic benefits or were assumed to be the same. And while all cannabinoids exhibit very similar effects, the ones you’re about to learn have been shown to do some pretty amazing things – even with the limited amount of research that’s been done.

In this article, we’ll go over CBGA, CBG, CBDA, CBDV, THCA, THCV, and CBN. While this may seem like a lot, remember this is only a tiny fraction of the cannabinoids discovered!

Let’s get started.

cbga

Cannabigerolic acid is where cannabinoids begin. It’s the first molecule to develop in trichomes that appear as tiny white crystals on the flowers and surrounding leaves. As the plant matures, enzymes will biosynthesize CBGA into CBDA, THCA or CBCA.

Besides it being first to form, what’s unique about CBGA?

Well, we’ve known that CBD is useful for regulating our metabolism, due to the restoration of homeostasis to our Endocannabinoid System. But recent studies show that CBGA might be even more beneficial in treating our metabolism, specifically for diseases like diabetes.

A recent study from 2019 looked at how certain cannabinoids interacted with peroxisome proliferator activated receptors, or PPAR’s. These receptors are fundamental in energy homeostasis and metabolism, and impairment to them can lead to a variety of metabolic diseases.

The cannabinoids were found to modulate the lipids associated with PPAR’s, making them an “attractive alternative” to treating metabolic disorders.

But since the study used CBG, CBD, and CBDA in conjunction with CBGA, we don’t know how large of a role CBGA played.

A second study from 2018 used the same combination of cannabinoids and found them effective at inhibiting the enzyme aldose reductase.

Aldose reductase is a key enzyme in diabetic complications, and most synthetic medications come with adverse side effects, making plant-based research very important.

The most notable finding was that the acidic cannabinoids (CBGA and CBDA) had a greater ability to inhibit aldose reductase activity than their non-acidic counterparts.

Interesting.

Even if CBGA doesn’t turn out to be directly responsible, it being the building block for all other cannabinoids must mean it’s pretty special and powerful.

cbg

Some CBGA will be biosynthesized into cannabigerol. This happens when a carbon atom is removed by light, heat, or age, in a process called decarboxylation.

The highest concentration of CBG is found in younger plants. After harvest, it usually only accounts for 1% of the total cannabinoid profile. This makes CBG extraction very expensive. You’d need to extract 20 times the amount of hemp biomass to get CBG as you would to get CBD.

cannabis closeup

A young cannabis plant begins to bud, forming trichomes where CBG will be biosynthesized from CBGA.

Yet this scarce molecule has been gaining a lot of popularity in the cannabis industry lately since it poses powerful therapeutic potential.

CBG has been found to be an effective regulator of endocannabinoid signaling and can produce physiological changes. It can regulate mood by its ability to boost anandamide, which is our bodies ‘bliss’ molecule, and by inhibiting GABA reuptake, which produces a calming effect.

To incorporate more CBG into our cannabis, the most cost-effective way would be breeding strains with a higher percentage in their genetics.

For more detailed information on CBG, click here.

cdba

You guessed it, cannabidiolic acid becomes CBD. And like CBD, evidence suggests it is a powerful anti-inflammatory.

In 2008, Drug Metabolism and Disposition found that CBDA was more effective than THCA at inhibiting C0X-2 activity in cell cultures. COX-2 is an enzyme that produces prostaglandins, which cause inflammation, pain, and fever [reference].

Then in 2013, the British Journal of Pharmacology conducted an experiment on shrews and rats to test CBDA’s effects on nausea. They found CBDA was more effective than CBD in inhibiting nausea, vomiting, and anticipatory nausea, for which there is currently no medication for.

And finally, in 2014, CBDA and it’s ability to inhibit COX-2 enlightened us to another healing potential, this time with breast cancer.

COX-2 is also involved in the metastasis (a term for the development of secondary malignant growths) of cancer cells, 40% of which are expressed in human breast cancers. The study found CBDA may possess the ability to suppress the genes involved in the metastasis of cancer cells.

CBDA may just be where CBD gets its magic from.

cbdv

Cannabidivarian is biosynthesized when CBGA reacts with the CBDA enzyme, creating cannabidivarin acid (CBDVA). Eventually, as the plant grows, heat removes the acid compounds to create a more concentrated and stable CBDV [reference].

It occurs in very trace amounts, with marijuana indica strains from Asia and Africa found to have the highest natural concentration [reference].

CBDV shows promise, especially with treating epilepsy. British company GW Pharmaceuticals, who created Epidiolex, a synthetic CBD intended for pediatric forms of epilepsy, is developing GPW42006 – and CBDV synthetic to reduce and prevent epilectic and other forms of seizures.

CBDV works a little bit differently than the other cannabinoids. A study from 2019 found it interacted with TRP channels, the receptors involved in pain and inflammation. The study looked at CBD and CBDV’s effect on Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) which causes chronic inflammation and irreversible skeletal muscle degeneration.

Via interaction with TRP channels, both molecules prevented the loss of motor activity, reduced inflammation, and restored autophagy in mice with DMD.

These findings supported those from a 2014 preliminary study that recognized TRPVI’s role in the onset and progression of epilepsy, and CBDV’s ability to desensitize them.

CBDV may also contribute to cannabis’ overall anticonvulsant effect through GABA interaction. GABA receptors are responsible for inhibiting or reducing nerve cell activity. When this balance is thrown off, seizures can occur.

Fortunately, research on cannabis and epilepsy is strong, and cannabis is becoming more widely accepted as a medicine.

There’s just one more benefit of CBDV we want to share before moving on. It involves Rett syndrome, a rare genetic mutation that affects brain development in girls. In Rett model mice, CBDV showed several promising effects:

  • Improved general health
  • Rescued deficit in sociability
  • Improved poor motor coordination
  • Normalized brain weight
  • Increased levels of GPR55 in the hippocampus – suggesting these receptors as a new potential target for treating the disorder.

thca

Like CBDA, tetrahydrocannabinolic acid is first formed from CBGA, and will become THC after decarboxylation. To find THCA (as well as CBDA), you’ll want fresh, or raw, cannabis flower that hasn’t been cured yet.

What’s cool about THCA is that it is secreted into leaf tissues as the plant grows. This process is called necrosis, and contributes to important physiological plant functions like aging, regeneration, and protection against microbial pathogens.

Besides THCA being good for the plant, research shows it shares many of the same therapeutic benefits as THC does – anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, antiemetic (anti-nausea), and analgesic. Unlike THC, it is not psychoactive.

cannabis on table

THCA is found in fresh cannabis flowers

In 2012, THCA and THC protected neurons against MMP(+) induced cell death. MMP(+) is a model compound in research for parkinsonism and acts as a mitochondrial inhibitor, resulting in radical formation and cell death – both of which are bad news for neurons. Mitochondrial impairment and consecutive oxidative stress are major contributors to neurodegeneration.

Remember how CBDA was shown to be more effective than CBD in treating nausea? The same is true for THCA. In 2013, the British Journal of Pharmacology found THCA was more potent than THC, and could be an alternative to THC in the treatment of nausea and vomiting because of its potency and non-psychoactive qualities.

For more information on this fascinating molecule and how to get it in your system, click here.

thcv

THCV, or tetrahydrocannabivarin, is a rare cannabinoid. Just like CBDV, it begins as tetrahydrocannabivarin acid and is broken down by enzymes to become THCV.

Steep Hill Labs found that THCV is more psychoactive than THC, but it’s effects only last half as long. Furthermore, it is a THC protagonist, meaning it can modify it’s intoxicating effects.

For example, THCV was found to suppress appetite, which contrasts to appetite-stimulating THC. It’s also been known as producing an ‘energizing’ and ‘clear-headed’ feeling when marijuana strains high in THCV were smoked.

While prevalent in marijuana landrace (meaning native strains with less genetic diversity) sativa strains from southern and central Africa, a mere 5% THCV is considered a lot. So, you probably won’t find but a trace amount in hemp.

cannabinoids leaf black and white

Marijuana sativa strains, with long, skinny leaves from Africa are highest in THCV

Still, THCV has medicinal benefits worth knowing. A study from 2013 found it to improve glucose tolerance and restore insulin signaling in mice, suggesting it too could be powerful in treating diabetes.

Click here for more information on THCV.

cbn

If CBG is the beginning of cannabinoids, cannabinol is the end.

It occurs from the oxygenation (which is literally the addition of an oxygen molecule) and decomposition of THC. In other words, THC breaks down into CBN. Live, growing plants do not have any CBN, it is only found in aged flowers after the THC breaks down [reference].

CBN is mildly psychoactive – about an estimated 10% the strength of THC. It’s most intriguing quality is it’s sedative potential. Another study by Steep Hill Labs found that 2.5-5 mg of CBN was the equivalent of 5-10mg of valium.

CBN shares many of the same effects as the other cannabinoids – anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anticonvulsive, and antibacterial – especially against MRSA (a type of staph infection), that is resistant to many antibiotics [reference].

weed table

CBN is only found in aged cannabis flowers, after the THC has broken down.

Despite this, there’s still a lot we don’t know about CBN, like how it works. Unlike CBD, it’s thought to have a low affinity to the CB receptors, meaning it doesn’t bind to them well. Instead, we think it works by increasing the production of endocannabinoids, but this has not been proved.

When we say cannabinoids, we technically are referring to phytocannabinoids. Phytocannabinoids are the molecules from the cannabis plant, compared to endogenous cannabinoids, which are produced by our Endocannabinoid System.

More research on CBN could reveal more about cannabis, as well as our own bodies, potentially creating medicinal breakthroughs.

Final Thoughts

There is still a lot to learn from cannabinoids, and a lot research has left to prove. But after examining some of the more well-known cannabinoids, it’s clear that they all can add value to our lives, either as a blueprint for pharmaceutical medicine, or in conjunction for modulating daily life.

Since they all seem to share so many of the same therapeutic benefits, like anti-inflammation, pin relieving, cancer preventing, anxiety relieving, and more, it makes more sense to us to leave them together than to isolate them.

Why else would they grow together so similarly?

By Willow Groskreutz

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