WHAT ARE CANNABINOIDS? EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW
The 20th century was rough for cannabis and the people who love to grow and use it. However, the truth is finally coming out: hardly anyone takes fears of 'reefer madness' seriously anymore, and the many positive uses of cannabis are coming to light. No one disputes that cannabis can be a life-changing treatment for people going through chemo, and all sorts of studies are coming out which indicate that may just be the tip of the iceberg. However, cannabis still exists in a legal grey area throughout much of the world. Ironically, these legal barriers have helped fuel the rise of cannabidiol (CBD) products.
CBD products only possess trace amounts of psychoactive THC, the controlled substance in cannabis, and won't make you high. Instead, CBD products are rich in cannabinoids, compounds produced in cannabis as well as the brain. From 1988 to 1995, a series of breakthroughs revealed that humans, rats, and thousands of species produce cannabinoids naturally. Even if you've never used a cannabis product, your body produces cannabinoids that are essential in maintaining your health and well-being. THC is the most famous cannabinoid, but does this have you asking 'are all cannabinoids psychoactive'? If so, the answer is no! The majority of cannabinoids are not psychoactive.
BENEFITS AND EFFECTS OF CANNABINOIDS
The science of CBD is something that's exciting and constantly growing. The benefits of cannabinoids aren't yet settled, but there's a growing body of evidence backing up the medical value of CBD. While studies on the health benefits of cannabinoids are not yet conclusive, there's interest in the possibility of using CBD for many afflictions, such as the following:
- Chronic pain
- Muscle pain
- Joint injury
- Chemo symptoms
The relationship between cannabinoids and inflammation points to the possibility that CBD could treat a wide range of ailments. With potent, anti-inflammatory qualities, there are many promising studies underway testing the value of CBD in treating chronic pain and joint conditions. Additionally, a Lancet study indicated that CBD can be extremely effective in treating epilepsy when combined with traditional drugs. Overall, the test group that tried CBD saw a median reduction of 36.5% in their monthly seizures.
Many CBD enthusiasts believe that CBD relieves their anxiety, and there are already several studies giving this idea some credibility. A trial performed on rats found that CBD alleviated the flight response by interacting with serotonin receptors, which boils down to decreasing feelings of stress, fear, and anxiety.
On top of that, a study tested the effects of a 600 mg dose of CBD on a group of patients with Generalized Social Anxiety Disorder. One group received the dosage, while the other group received a placebo: the patients who took CBD found it easier to engage in public speaking. In particular, they appeared more relaxed and spoke more clearly during their simulation public speaking test.
Marijuana is famous for helping people cope with the symptoms of chemotherapy. Many states and countries prescribe medical marijuana for chemo patients, and the FDA recognizes two marijuana-based drugs as treatments. In Canada and many countries in Europe, the CBD drug Nabiximols is showing great promise in treating cancer pain.
While animal trials aren't always of the greatest interest to the average person, what about animal trials on your beloved pets? Many dogs across America suffer seizures, and it's a heartbreaking thing to see. One study performed by the American Veterinary Association provides a strong correlation between CBD presence in blood plasma and a reduction in seizures in dogs. Every dog lover should be happy to hear that!
HOW CANNABINOIDS WORK
Cannabinoids achieve a variety of effects by interacting with a system in the brain known as the endocannabinoid system, or ECS. Prohibition has stifled research into this fascinating field for decades, and what we don't know is greater than what we do know. Despite this, scientific studies have successfully unearthed many facts about this brain system. As it happens, the brain naturally produces at least two types of cannabinoids. These are known as endogenous cannabinoids or endocannabinoids.
Your brain uses endocannabinoids to regulate aspects of health as diverse as mood, appetite, memory, and fertility. Cannabinoids work in the brain by transferring messages across the ECS and binding to cannabinoid receptors. This signals your ECS to respond, which entails an unknown number of actions. At the time of writing, credible studies have linked the ECS to inflammation, pain management, liver function, and much more. The role of the ECS is so expansive that some studies have reached the conclusion that the role of the ECS is to maintain homeostasis. Homeostasis refers to the internal environment in the body remaining in a stable, optimal state. According to this theory, the ECS goes into action when pain, fever, illness, or some other ailment strikes to help your body work properly.
When your body isn't producing enough cannabinoids, plant cannabinoids help fill the gaps. The fact that the ECS interacts with so many systems in your body helps explain why cannabinoids seem to have the potential to alleviate so many different ailments.
TYPES OF CANNABINOIDS
There are over one hundred different cannabinoids currently known, and it's likely there are many more to identify. While we've touched on endocannabinoids, these are a small minority of all cannabinoids. The majority are phytocannabinoids, found in plants such as Cannabis Sativa. However, scientific research has revealed many famously healthy foods that contain cannabinoids. Cloves, a delicious spice used in Ancient India and Persia for its medicinal properties contains cannabinoids. Black pepper, ginseng, carrots, and broccoli also contain cannabinoids.
Phytocannabinoids are cannabinoids that are synthesized by plants. To date, researchers have discovered 113 unique phytocannabinoids! THC and CBD are the most famous phytocannabinoids, while the other most prominent phytocannabinoids are CBN, CBG, and CBC.
While there may be more, the human brain produces two endocannabinoids. Anandamide seems to provoke a reward response while 2-AG interacts with both types of receptors in the ECS.
A LIST OF KNOWN CANNABINOIDS
Of the hundred-plus known cannabinoids, there are seven that are especially important. Two are endocannabinoids, while the other five are phytocannabinoids. The majority of the remaining cannabinoids are derivatives of these groups.
- Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
THC is the major compound in marijuana, although it's virtually absent from hemp. While hemp and marijuana are both strains of cannabis, hemp growers breed their strains to produce low quantities of THC. Concentrations in hemp can be as low as 0.1%, while marijuana may contain up to 40% THC.
- Cannabinol (CBN)
Cannabinol is not produced by cannabis under ideal circumstances. Instead, THC transforms into its mildly psychoactive cousin, CBN after being exposed to excessive light or heat. Generally speaking, only aged cannabis plants contain appreciable quantities of CBN.
- Cannabidiol (CBD)
Cannabidiol is the second most famous cannabinoid and the one typically used in marketing for cannabinoid products.
- Cannabichromene (CBC)
Cannabichromene is often one of the most highly concentrated cannabinoids. Like CBD, it has no psychoactive effects.
- Cannabigerol (CBG)
CBG serves as the progenitor of the other cannabinoids. Cannabis initially produces CBG and various biological processes convert it into other substances. New-growth cannabis is often harvested to procure and experiment with CBG, as older plants only contain small quantities.
- 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG)
2-AG is one of the two known endocannabinoids. Research indicates that this endocannabinoid plays the primary role in the functioning of the ECS.
Anandamide is an endocannabinoid that's something of a parallel to THC. It has a powerful impact on our emotional state and may be related to the brain's reward system.
With the incredible rise in popularity in CBD and marijuana products, there's an effort to develop synthetic cannabinoids. Known names of these synthetic products include Spike, Spice, K2, or 'synthetic marijuana.' Quality, synthetic cannabinoids may exist someday, but they certainly don't exist today. Synthetic cannabis is associated with a range of health risks and negative effects. One particular issue is that when people stop taking them, they typically suffer withdrawal symptoms such as headaches and fatigue, an effect cannabidiol has never been documented producing.
Synthetic cannabinoids are made in a laboratory and work by binding to the same neuroreceptors as CBD and THC. They may produce similar effects as CBD and THC products, such as relaxation, but frequently cause uncomfortable or life-threatening symptoms. The CDC is cautiously optimistic about the benefits of natural cannabinoids but has this to say about synthetic copies:
"Research shows that synthetic cannabinoids affect the brain much more powerfully than marijuana creating unpredictable and, in some cases, life-threatening effects including nausea, anxiety, paranoia, brain swelling, seizures, hallucinations, aggression, heart palpitations, and chest pains." Source
Tragically, many people die every year as a result of using dangerous, artificial CBD products using synthetic cannabinoids. For your own safety, stick to authentic CBD derived from cannabis. When you see synthetic cannabinoids for sale, steer clear.
The entourage effect is the theory that the various cannabinoids have a more potent effect when used together. Industry experts tend to be big believers in the entourage effect, and also cultivate cannabis with certain cannabinoid ratios in hopes of crafting a unique smoking experience. The science is still unclear, but we're beginning to see a picture of the way different cannabinoids interact with one another. It seems that CBD actually mitigates the effects of THC, for one thing, and that a cannabinoid ratio with more CBD than THC should have relatively light psychoactive effects.
KEEP YOUR EYE ON CANNABINOIDS
Scientists are constantly making exciting new discoveries about the benefits of cannabinoids. Who knows what breakthroughs are waiting right around the corner?