A Snapshot Of the 5 Major Cannabinoids


Cannabis caught our curiosity long ago. For over three thousand years, some holy men in India drank a cannabis concoction called ‘Bhang’ to soothe the soul, while neighboring China used cannabis as an anaesthetic during ‘surgeries’ at the time.

Nowadays, researchers are confident that cannabinoids – naturally-occurring compounds in cannabis – are responsible for the effects that everyone’s so hyped about.

Today, about 120 cannabinoids have been identified, but the ones we know about are elusive, and there’s probably many waiting to be discovered.

For now, we’ll give you a snapshot of the ‘Big Five’ most common cannabinoids to look out for – CBD, THC, CBN, CBG & CBC – and explain why we’re so excited about them.

We’re not attempting to summarize every documented effect of cannabinoids, but rather, honing in on some effects we think you should know about. 

Cannabidiol (CBD) – A Rising Star In Wellness

By now you have probably come across Cannabidiol (CBD). It’s the second most commonly found cannabinoid after THC, and is probably the most heavily-researched cannabinoid.

Currently, CBD is legally approved in a handful of countries for some of the cruelest childhood epilepsy syndromes, such as Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome. Given that common anti-epileptic therapies fail in a third of patients, CBD’s anti-epileptic properties are nothing short of groundbreaking.

And in past years, CBD has also been touted as a promising candidate for a variety of other ailments, though the evidence isn’t solid yet. These include: chronic pain; anxiety; addiction; post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); schizophrenia and other neurodegenerative diseases. 

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If you’re keen to find out more on CBD, check out The Beginner’s Guide to CBD.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – A Stigmatized Cannabinoid 

THC is the only naturally-occurring cannabinoid that gets you high. As a general rule of thumb, you won’t get high from a cannabis product if its THC content is lower than 1%.

But don’t be fooled into thinking that THC’s unique purpose is to get high. It has important medical value as well. 

Dronabinol, for instance, is a synthetic form of THC that’s approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It’s usually prescribed to patients that experience nausea and vomiting as a result of chemotherapy, and in AIDS patients that suffer from anorexia.

Cannabinol (CBN) – Sexy to some, a turn-off for others 

The first cannabinoid was discovered as far back as 1899, and it wasn’t THC nor CBD. It was cannabinol (CBN). 

CBN is a breakdown product of THC that’s usually found in older plants, or badly kept weed that’s been exposed to excessive sunlight or air, according to the United Nations Office On Drugs and Crime.

And while consuming older weed, or badly kept weed, may seem like a turn-off to THC-lovers, CBN could curb inflammation, seizures or even sleep disorders, according to ongoing studies. A word of advice – store your weed in a dark, cool place.

Cannabichromene (CBC) – Neurodegeneration 

Cannabichromene (CBC) was once thought to be the second most abundant cannabinoid in recreational strains of marijuana. Today, however, we know CBC content rarely exceeds 0.3% in most plants.

CBC is an intriguing cookie because it’s the only cannabinoid that’s found in microorganisms as well as plants, including fungal parasites and some mushrooms. 

Related   The Beginner's Guide to CBD

Like most cannabinoids, CBC has a plethora of applications ranging from chronic pain to acne, as well as neurodegenerative diseases like schizophrenia or dementia.

In one study, CBC boosted cell growth in the hippocampus, a brain region that’s important for different kinds of memory, raising hopes it could slow neurodegeneration as we age.

Cannabigerol (CBG) – The Stem Cell 

Cannabigerol (CBG) can beis often called the cannabinoid ‘stem cell’ as it’s the precursor of common  cannabinoids like CBD, THC and CBC.

Given that most CBG turns into CBD or THC during plant growth, it usually accounts for about 1% of the cannabinoids content in plants.

While CBG hasn’t been tested out in clinical trials yet, in-vitro studies with rats and cells  suggest it may be useful for irritable bowel syndrome, glaucoma, cancer, as well as Huntington’s disease.

Cannabinoids – A Superbug Samurai?  

Scanning electron micrograph of a human neutrophil ingesting MRSA National by National Institutes of Health (NIH)

The five cannabinoids we’ve picked – CBD, THC, CBN, CBC and CBG – share another feature apart from being the most prevalent cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. 

All of them are potent antibacterials against a deadly superbug called methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which is ubiquitous in healthcare settings.

As the world grapples with increasing antibiotic resistance and dwindling R&D for antibiotics, researchers and public health professionals are eager to find new antibacterials before it’s too late. Perhaps cannabinoids will deliver their promise.

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