rare cannabinoids

Unlocking the Power of Rare Cannabinoids

by | May 24, 2024

rare cannabinoids

Written by Daniel Gana

Daniel Gana is a versatile cannabis scientist, researcher, and content creator. He is deeply passionate about psychedelics education, cannabis science, technology, and cultivation. Leveraging his expertise in the field, he strives to educate users on various aspects of cannabis, including policies, usage, and scientific breakthroughs. Through his freelance work, Daniel disseminates valuable information to consumers, aiming to empower them with the knowledge needed to make informed decisions. His contributions have been recognized through features in numerous publications, reflecting his dedication to advancing understanding and awareness in the cannabis community.

How many compounds are there in the cannabis plant?

This is a question most scientists are trying to answer as scientific advances continue to identify rare cannabinoids, which are often more powerful than CBD and THC. Although the cannabis industry has shifted its attention to CBD and THC, it is important to note that there are other compounds that contribute to the overall effect of cannabis medicine. Recent statistics show that CBD is legal in 49 countries with more than 219 million users. 

As of this writing, scientists have identified over 568 compounds within the cannabis plant, with more than 144 of them classified as cannabinoids. These cannabinoids are synthesized in the secretory cells inside the glandular trichomes and possess structures similar to compounds like anandamide and 2-AG, which are naturally found in the body.

This structural similarity allows cannabinoids to interact with cannabinoid receptors in the endocannabinoid system, promoting internal balance. Other classes of compounds found in the cannabis plant include flavonoids, alkaloids, terpenes, alcohols, esters, and ethers. This is why cannabis medicine is beyond THC and CBD. Here is an article that summarizes the role of terpenes in cannabis medicine. 

Potent and rare cannabinoids

rare cannabinoids

CBDa

    Cannabidiolic acid (CBDa) is a naturally occurring compound found in the raw, unprocessed cannabis plant. It is the acidic precursor to cannabidiol (CBD), formed when CBDa undergoes decarboxylation through heat or prolonged storage. It is synthesized by actively growing cannabis plants and plays a crucial role in protecting the plant against insects and disease invasion. 

    CBDa has garnered significant attention since a 2022 study revealed its potential to inhibit the re-entry of COVID-19 viral particles into human host cells. Since then, scientists have uncovered more therapeutic potentials of the cannabinoid. Preliminary research suggests that CBDa may have stronger anti-inflammatory, anti-nausea, and anti-anxiety properties compared to CBD.

    Unlike CBD, which interacts indirectly with the endocannabinoid system, CBDa primarily inhibits the COX-2 enzyme and affects serotonin receptors, potentially offering more targeted therapeutic effects. It was found to be 1000 times more active than CBD and can serve as a perfect and more potent alternative to CBD in several medical applications. A side by side comparison between CBDa vs. CBD reveals more therapeutic benefits for CBDa than CBD. 

    CBGa

      Cannabigerolic acid (CBGa) is known as the mother of rare cannabinoids. it is the acidic precursor to cannabigerol (CBG) and several other cannabinoids including THC, CBD and CBC. CBGa is produced in the raw cannabis plant and serves as a foundational compound that transforms into various cannabinoids, including CBG, through a process called decarboxylation. It is abundant in young cannabis plants and type IV cannabis strains

      Cannabigerolic acid (CBGa) has shown potential in various therapeutic roles, including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and metabolic benefits. Its anti-inflammatory properties are similar to those of its decarboxylated form, CBG, making it a candidate for managing inflammation-related conditions. Additionally, CBGa’s antioxidant properties can help protect cells from oxidative stress, while preliminary research suggests it may also play a role in regulating metabolic processes, potentially benefiting conditions like metabolic syndrome or diabetes. When comparing CBGa to CBG, their mechanisms of action differ significantly. CBGa primarily affects enzymes and metabolic pathways, whereas CBG interacts more directly with cannabinoid receptors in the endocannabinoid system. 

      CBC

        Cannabichromene (CBC) is a relatively uncommon non-psychotropic cannabinoid discovered in cannabis plants. Strains high in CBC are rare and typically result from selective breeding efforts aimed at inheriting a recessive gene through extensive cross-breeding processes. While not as extensively studied as some other rare cannabinoids, CBC is gaining attention for its potential therapeutic properties, including its role as an antimicrobial agent. Research suggests that CBC exhibits promising antimicrobial effects against various types of bacteria and fungi. Its ability to inhibit the growth of pathogens makes it a potential candidate for combating infections caused by microbes.

        Studies have shown that CBC may be particularly effective against certain strains of bacteria, including those resistant to traditional antibiotics, highlighting its potential as a novel antimicrobial agent. Furthermore, CBC’s antimicrobial properties are believed to be mediated through multiple mechanisms, including its interaction with the body’s endocannabinoid system and its influence on other biological pathways. This multifaceted approach to combating microbial growth underscores the potential versatility of CBC as a therapeutic agent.

        CBC also offers promising therapeutic benefits, including anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties for conditions like arthritis and chronic pain. It also shows potential neuroprotective effects against neurodegenerative diseases and may act as an antidepressant and anxiolytic agent.

        THCV

          Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) is a lesser-known cannabinoid found in cannabis plants, characterized by its distinct pharmacological properties and potential therapeutic benefits. Unlike its more abundant counterpart THC, THCV is often present in smaller quantities in cannabis strains. However, recent research has highlighted its unique effects on the body’s endocannabinoid system.

          THCV has shown potential as an appetite suppressant, making it a subject of interest in obesity and weight management research. Additionally, THCV may possess neuroprotective properties and exhibit anticonvulsant effects, suggesting potential applications in neurological disorders such as epilepsy. THCV is often nicknamed as The Next Big Trend In Cannabis Innovation.

          THCa

            Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCa) is a precursor to the well-known psychoactive compound THC found in raw cannabis plants. Unlike THC, THCa is non-intoxicating, as it requires decarboxylation—typically through heat—to convert into THC. While often overshadowed by its decarboxylated form, THCa is gaining attention for its potential therapeutic properties.

            Research suggests that THCa may possess anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and antiemetic effects. It has also shown promise in managing symptoms associated with conditions like nausea, pain, and autoimmune disorders. Furthermore, THCa’s non-intoxicating nature makes it an attractive option for patients seeking the medicinal benefits of cannabis without the psychoactive effects. 

            Hexocannabitriol (HCBT)

              Hexocannabitriol was first reported in 2022 alongside three other rare cannabinoids. It was described as a promising chemopreventive and anticancer agent, particularly in laboratory settings due its minute concentration in the hemp plant. HCBT demonstrated superior antioxidant capabilities compared to CBD. It is formed through enzymatic conversion of CBD in the cannabis plant, featuring a functional group called 2-hydroxy-delta1,7 hexomethylene that enhances its interaction with oxidative stress regulators. 

              While HCBT is non-intoxicating, it shows potential in cancer treatment, surpassing CBD in chemopreventive and anticancer potential. Despite lacking interaction with CB receptors, HCBT acts as a powerful antioxidant, crucial in countering free radicals implicated in cancer development. Its structural variance from CBD influences its antioxidant potency, with higher OH and COOH groups correlating with greater antioxidant activity. Notably, HCBT’s role in activating Nrf2 components, vital in cellular protection against oxidative stress, suggests its therapeutic significance in mitigating inflammation, cancer, and degenerative diseases. 

              Cannabinerol (CBNR)

                CBNR (Cannabinerol) and its acidic precursor, cannabinerolic acid (CBNRa), represent geometric isomers of CBG (Cannabigerol). Initially detected in air-dried cannabis leaves from an Indian Hashish sample in 2016, these compounds have garnered scientific interest for their unique pharmacological properties. Recent research indicates that CBNR may modulate synaptic genes and genes associated with the cytoskeleton and ion channels, suggesting potential neuroprotective roles.

                The modulation of synaptic genes implies CBNR’s involvement in regulating neuronal communication and plasticity, vital for cognitive function and neuroprotection. Additionally, its influence on genes associated with the cytoskeleton and ion channels suggests effects on neuronal structure and electrical signaling, further underlining its neuroprotective potential. Note that CBNR is a rare cannabinoid and may not be available in commercial quantities. 

                CBDB and CBDP

                  Until 2019, CBDP (cannabidiophenol) and CBDB (cannabibutol) were regarded as a synthetic compounds. That year, Italian scientists who previously discovered THCP and THCB identified CBDP and CBDB as rare natural phytocannabinoids. They were isolated from cannabis using advanced techniques like high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and high-resolution mass spectrometry (HRMS).

                  A 2021 study suggested CBDP and CBDB may hold potentials for treating breast cancer in a more potent way than CBD. While CBDP was found to enhance the effect of some anti-cancer drugs already in use. The only challenge with these rare cannabinoids is the fact that they are in minute concentrations and may need to be synthesized from CBD in the laboratory thereby making their safety questionable. 

                  Bottom line

                  The cannabis plant is a vast reservoir of therapeutic compounds ripe for exploration. Beyond rare cannabinoids, it contains a rich array of terpenes, alkaloids, and flavonoids, each with potential therapeutic benefits deserving of study. These diverse compounds contribute to the plant’s holistic therapeutic effects, warranting comprehensive research into their individual properties and synergistic interactions for the advancement of medical cannabis science.