Understanding Your Major Cannabinoids: CBD, THC, and CBC

Cannabinoids are the molecules from the cannabis plant that are responsible for its physiological and therapeutic effects. While there are over a hundred discovered so far, we’re only going to cover the three major cannabinoids in this article; CBD, THC, and CBC.

First, let’s look at how these molecules form.

Cannabinoids develop in trichomes. Trichomes are the glands found on cannabis flowers, leaves, and stems, and act as factories for cannabinoid production. The first cannabinoid to form is cannabigerolic acid (CBGA), which then converts to either CBDa, THCa, or CBCa.

The “A” indicates the acidic form of cannabinoids. They won’t become CBD, THC, or CBC until after the plant is harvested and cured.

Trichomes appear as small white crystals on the buds as the plant matures.

After harvest, the molecules go through a process called decarboxylation. Decarboxylation is the process of removing a carbon atom through light and heat. It happens naturally as the plant ages and is exposed to UV light, or through combustion by smoking, vaping, or cooking.

The acidic form of these cannabinoids have their own therapeutic benefits and are referred to as minor cannabinoids. We will be covering those plus CBG and CBN in a future article.

Cannabidiol has quickly become the most desired cannabinoid for a reason. It offers all the benefits medicinal marijuana does without the intoxicating effects. It is one of the most abundant cannabinoids found, with the highest concentrations found in hemp.

It is commonly used for anxiety, pain, inflammation, and in skincare. It can also help to reduce some of the negative effects of THC (reference), like paranoia and a quickened heart rate.

CBD works by restoring balance, or homeostasis to our Endocannabinoid System (ECS). It interacts with it by binding to the CB1 and CB2 receptors, which are located all over the body. The ECS is a very significant system and acts as a communication link between the mind and body. For more details on how CBD and the ECS works, see our article CBD 101.

While there are still no guarantees with CBD, research has been moving quickly. The most advanced clinical trials have looked at its benefits for certain types of epilepsy. British company GW Pharmaceuticals has patented a synthetic form of CBD called Epidiolex for Lennox Gastaut Syndrome and Dravet Syndrome, two forms of pediatric epilepsy.

Though the FDA has not approved CBD for human consumption, the World Health Organization recently found pre clinical and limited clinical studies to be consistent with the anecdotal evidence that has moved CBD into mainstream popularity.

Here are those properties and effects the World Health Organization has supported:

  • Neuroprotective
  • Antiepileptic
  • Anxiolytic (anti-anxiety)
  • Antipsychotic
  • Analgesic (pain relief)
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anti-asthmatic
  • Anti-cancer
  • Anti-tumor

They also found it’s toxicity and abuse potential to be very low. The only concern is its ability to interact with other medications, much like how grapefruits can. Make sure you check with your doctor before taking CBD if you are on any prescription medications.

THC, or delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, is the cannabinoid of controversy. It’s ability to get people high is what got cannabis placed on prohibition for so many decades. But it is also the most researched cannabinoid, and evidence of its healing properties is compiling.

In fact, THC has existed as an FDA approved synthetic isolate called Marinol since the 1980s. It’s been used to treat nausea and weight loss in chemotherapy patients.

Since its legalization in select states, medical marijuana has been prescribed for patients with glaucoma, anorexia, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Tourette’s Syndrome, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease, and for general pain management and mental health (reference 1 and reference 2).

Medical marijuana is legal in select states for people 21 and over.

THC has many of the same health benefits as CBD, including,

  • Anti-inflammation
  • Antioxidant
  • Analgesic
  • Neuroprotectant
  • Antidepressant
  • Anti-tumor
  • Antibacterial

It is also acts as a muscle relaxant, appetite stimulant (reference), and has neuroprotectant properties. THC in cannabis has been shown to promote neurogenesis, which is brain cell growth, not depletion. These properties also help the prevention of Alzheimers, brain damage after strokes and trauma, and brain cancer treatment.

Note that THC in high doses does come with side effects. These include dry mouth, dry, red eyes, an increased heart rate, short term memory loss, and paranoia. As mentioned, CBD can help mitigate these effects, but for the THC present in Liquefy full-spectrum oil, there simply isn’t enough to be felt. Instead, you get the added benefits of THC without the side effects.

Cannabichromene is the third most abundant cannabinoid, but there is much less we know about it. CBC like CBD is non-intoxicating, but according to several different studies, CBD does not interact with the Endocannabinoid System the same as CBD and THC.

CBC has been a known antibacterial since 1981, when a study by Turner and Elsohly found it effective against infections like staph and E.Coli (reference).

A study from 2010 studied the effects of CBC and THC on intestinal inflammation in mice. They found two interesting outcomes.

The first was that CBC was effective in normalizing inflammation, but was not dependent on either CB receptor or transient receptor TRPA1 (part of pain and inflammation response). More study is needed to understand the precise mechanism of how CBC works.

The second interesting finding was that the effects of CBC were enhanced when taken with THC. This suggests CBC can be a powerful entourage molecule.

Another study from 2011 found similar results with CBC and CBD in rats. They found both stimulated the blockage of painful stimulus and caused analgesia. This was caused by modulating TPRA1 and TRPV1 which are transient protein receptors that facilitate endocannabinoid inactivation – meaning the cannabinoids brought pain and inflammation back down.

Final Thoughts

While very little is known about CBC, evidence suggests that it has very similar effects to the other cannabinoids.

This proves to us once again how powerful cannabinoids are, especially when taken together.

The biggest difference is how it doesn’t interact directly with the CB receptors. Once we know how it works, it could reveal even more wonders about Cannabis sativa and improve our understanding of medicine.

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