Cannabis cannabinoids – what makes medicinal cannabis work?
You may have read about the nutritional components of hemp, a non-psychoactive form of cannabis. It’s packed with antioxidant vitamins, is an excellent source of vegetable protein and has the perfect balance of Omega 3’s, and more. But when it comes to the use of cannabis as a medicine, cannabis cannabinoids are what makes it all work.
A selection of our products
What are cannabinoids?
Cannabis cannabinoids are among the more than 480 natural molecules found in the cannabis plant. These react with the human cannabinoid system, and it is believed that this effect accounts for the successful use of cannabis as a medicine. The most known (as well as the most demonized) of the cannabis cannabinoids is delta-9-tetrahydracannabidinol or THC. Although this cannabinoid has many medicinal uses, it is also highly psychoactive and, in many countries, remains illegal.
Interestingly, the effects of THC are said to be modified by the other cannabis cannabinoids found in the marijuana plant – although hemp itself contains so little THC, that it has no psychoactive effect. Other cannabinoid classes include:
Of these, psychoactive THC and non-psychoactive CBD have enjoyed the most attention from researchers.
How it works
As previously mentioned, cannabis cannabinoids affect specific receptors in the human body that are collectively known as the endocannabinoid system. These receptors are located throughout the central nervous system. Although little is as yet known about the endocannabinoid system, cannabis cannabinoids are known to react on the two types of receptors so far discovered, the CB1 and CB2 receptors. Anadamine, a substance that is produced in the brain facilitates the binding of cannabinoids to cannabinoid receptors.
Interactions are known to affect the limbic system, the mesolimbic pathway and areas of the central nervous system that are related to pain perception. Regretfully, most research to date has been focused on synthetic analogues of cannabinoids, although research suggests that the combination of cannabis cannabinoids found in hemp (or marijuana) has a greater effect than any single cannabinoid take in isolation.
What distinctions can we draw between different cannabinoids?
From a practical perspective, the primary area of interest remains whether specific cannabinoids are psychoactive or not. CBD, CBG and CBC are known to have no psychoactive effects at all, and interest in hemp as a potential medicinal plant appears to be centered largely around the cannabinoid CBD. Psychoactive cannabis cannabinoids include THC, CBN and CBDL.
CBD, the most abundant cannabinoid, is not only non-psychoactive, but also counteracts the psychoactive effects of psychoactive cannabinoids such as THC. As a result, growers of marijuana generally strive to reduce concentrations of CBD in their plants. However, CBD known to have positive effects on people suffering from anxiety and other psychiatric disorders.
Are cannabis cannabinoids recognized as medicines?
Interestingly, although plant-based sources of cannabis are not as widely recognized as medicinal, synthetic cannabinoids, including synthetic variations of psychoactive THC have been registered as medicines and are accepted by the FDA as such.
But because cannabis cannabinoids from herbal sources cannot be registered as intellectual property, there is little interest on the part of the pharmaceutical industry in achieving widespread recognition for their benefits. Despite this, a growing number of US states and countries outside the US are officially recognizing the medicinal benefits of cannabis through legalization.
Hemp, on the other hand, has finally escaped the stigma it incurred through looking very like the ‘drug’ marijuana, and is now widely recognized as being completely innocuous. Many people suffering from a range of illnesses are finding hope as a result of numerous studies that show that CBD from hemp plants has similar benefits to THC, but without the psychoactivity. As a result, the demand for high CBD hemp oils has grown considerably. However, there are few sources that are able to verify the CBD content of their oils.