A common question here at the dispensary is "What's the difference between THC & CBD?", as they are the most commonly known cannabinoids within the marijuana plant. Today we are going to answer that question as well as take a look at some of the lesser known compounds lurking inside your favourite bud.
Let's start off by defining what a cannabinoid is. These are naturally occurring chemical compounds found within the cannabis plant. They were first discovered in the 1960's, and each provides different characteristics and benefits to the users. There are at least 110 different cannabinoids in marijuana, but there are 6 which are considered the most common and which have been studied more extensively, and it is those 6 that we will take a closer look at today.
It is all these cannabinoids which interact with the terpenes and flavonoids also found in cannabis that create all the different effects, aromas, and flavours which we experience and love so much.
What's the Difference?
As you can see from the infographic above, there are two main families of cannabinoids (Psychoactive & Non-Psychoactive) with THC & CBD being the so-called heads of those families, and then we have CBG & CBC joining CBD on the non-psychoactive side, with CBN & THCv rounding off the list and joining THC on the psychoactive side.
Let's take a closer look:
The granddaddy of all the cannabinoids, THC or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, is by far the most common (and popular) compound within cannabis, renowned for its psychoactive effects and is most likely responsible for the widespread usage of the plant around the globe.
First isolated in the 1960's, scientists have since discovered many benefits to this widely-used compound. Humans naturally have cannabinoid receptors in our brains and bodies, and THC being similar to naturally produced chemicals, is easily accepted in to these receptors providing the effects felt by cannabis users everywhere.
These receptors, when exposed to THC, increase blood flow to the pre-frontal cortex part of the brain, the area that affects decision-making, attention span, and motor skills. Studies have shown THC's effectiveness at treating pain, lack of sleep, nausea, and more.
Tetrahydrocannabivarin. Now that's a mouthful. That's why we refer to this cannabinoid simply as THCv. Discovered in 1973, this psychoactive compound is said to be even more potent than THC, though its effects don't last as long. It is also said to be more hallucinogenic than its better known cousin.
This compound can actually be an appetite suppressant, quite the opposite from THC's usual effect. THCv has also been shown to have benefits for diabetics and for those suffering from Parkinson's & Alzheimer's.
THCv is more common in Sativas, and especially African Sativas. Strains like Durban Poison and Pineapple Purps are high in this particular cannabinoid.
Cannabinol was the first cannabis compound to be isolated by scientists back in the 1940's, and is created when THC is either combusted or exposed to oxygen. This means all the THC in your stash is slowly being converted to CBN as it ages and is exposed to the open air.
Shown to have sedative properties and to possibly aid bone growth, CBN certainly has its medical benefits, so don't feel too bad if you have some old weed lying around. It's likely high in cannabinol!
CBN has also shown to be an appetite stimulant, but without the psychoactive effects of THC, which makes it a perfect go to for those who do not want to get 'high' but need to increase their appetite. CBN can be found in larger quantities in the strain known as Ace of Spades as well as in Animal Cookies.
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is probably the part of the cannabis plant which has enjoyed the most growth in popularity over the last decade. This is due to the amount of recent research done that shows CBD can be beneficial for all kinds of conditions, such as PTSD, Anxiety, Epilepsy, Pain, and Insomnia.
First discovered in the 1940's (although rumour has it Queen Victoria used it to ease her menstrual cramps), it wasn't until studies done in the 1980's showed CBD's potential in the medical field that it really started to be taken seriously.
CBD is non-psychoactive, making it ideal for those wanting to use cannabis to deal with their various ailments but without the mind-bending properties of THC. In fact, CBD when taken with THC, cancels out some of the THC's psychedelic effects, and allows the body to absorb the cannabis in a more balanced way.
CBC, or Cannabichromene (not the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation), is an antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antifungal compound which has also shown promise in fighting skin conditions such as acne. When combined with THC and CBD, it has also shown promise for being an anti-depressive.
CBC is not that commonly found, but shows more prominently in strains like Three Kings, Maui Dream, or Charlotte's Web.
This cannabinoid, whose full name is Cannabigerol, is typically found in small amounts, but again has shown exciting promise for therapeutic uses. More study is needed, but it could possibly help with pain management and neurological conditions. CBG is non-psychoactive, but does help stabilize the bodies reaction to absorbing THC and creates a sort of harmony.
All these different compounds working together within the cannabis plant is known as the 'Entourage Effect'. More on that another time.
Oddly enough, despite its rarity, CBG is sometimes thought of to be the mother of all compounds as both THC & CBD are derived from this one cannabinoid. CBG, though somewhat rare, can be found in strains such as El Dorado, Exodus Cheese, and Purple Sun God as well as in more industrial style hemp.
As we wrap up, keep in mind that cannabinoids interact with other parts of the cannabis plant such as Terpenes which also play a major part of how the cannabis smells, tastes, and ultimately effects the user.
What are Terpenes? Check out this Blog post to find out more.
The Good Roots Gang