Exploring the Cannabinoid Spectrum

by | Aug 16, 2019

Written by Kristina Etter

A freelance writer and journalist based in Colorado, Kristi is a seasoned pro in cannabis industry content creation and reporting. Her career includes two decades of corporate IT roles at major firms like Maytag Appliances, Wells Fargo Financial, and DuPont Pioneer, which provided her with a unique perspective on the intersection of technology and cannabis.

Although CBD appears to be the next great thing for the hemp and cannabis markets, other markets continue to emerge as researchers uncover the seemingly unlimited potential of the various compounds in the plant. While whole-plant extracts are generally thought of as superior, isolation of particular cannabinoids and terpenes may allow for specific formulations for different health and wellness products, as well as, specialized medications designed for difficult to treat ailments and diseases. 

As extraction technologies continue to get more sophisticated, several cannabis producers are taking advantage of minor cannabinoid extractions. Likewise, in more advanced markets, savvy cannabis consumers are beginning to seek out minor cannabinoids as well.

What are Minor Cannabinoids?

As you probably know, THC and CBD garner the majority of the headlines and press time as they are the most abundant and most well-known of the active compounds found in cannabis. However, there are hundreds of cannabinoids we’ve only just begun to understand.

Through understanding each of the cannabinoids individually, researchers may unlock hidden secrets deep within the plant's leaves. Let’s examine some of the more popular cannabinoids gaining momentum in the cannabis and hemp industries.

Cannabigerol (CBGa)

Cannabigerol, or CBGa, is often called the “The Mother Cannabinoid” as it is responsible for the creation for both THC and CBD. Because of its biosynthesis abilities, researchers are attempting to harness that power in the lab.

A recent study published in Nature shows how students at UC Berkeley were able to produce cannabinoids in a lab environment using yeast. However, CBGa also played a significant role in that process. Current research suggests CBGa may be beneficial to consumers in treating disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, and other metabolic diseases.

Precision Plant Molecules recently announced their CBG product innovations. By harvesting hemp early, they can extract higher levels of the precursory cannabinoid than a later harvest.

Cannabinol (CBN)

If CBG is at the forefront of the spectrum, the CBN, or cannabinol, would be on the opposite end. Created through the natural degradation of THC, cannabinol has little psychoactive effect but is thought to be powerfully sedative. 

The National Cancer Institute also defines cannabinol as a cannabinoid with potential immunosuppressive and anti-inflammatory activity. CBN is also said to trigger apoptosis in individual cells, as well as, inhibit the production of cytokines. 

Research published earlier this year by Kanabo Research out of Tel Aviv, Israel shows a formulation of cannabinoids including CBN, which increases sleep duration by as much as 150 percent. 

Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCv)

Last month, Flow Kana, a cannabis cultivation giant located in California, announced a new cannabis cultivar specifically bred to be rich in THCv. What is driving the demand for this unique cannabinoid? The consumer. 

While most evidence at this point is anecdotal, many consumers claim cannabinoid include appetite suppression, anti-anxiety, and overall relaxation. An article from the Mercury News quoted one researcher, Dr. Michael Moskowitz, who stated jokingly about his research, 

“The only thing that THCV does is it's analgesic and anti-inflammatory, it’s neuroprotective, which means it protects the nervous system,” Moskowitz said. “It’s anti-nausea and vomiting. It helps with bone health and bone formation, it’s sleep-promoting, it’s anti-epileptic, it’s anti-anxiety. It’s a major anti-psychotic. And it helps with appetite suppression, it’s anti-diabetic, and it’s anti-cholesterol. Other than that it didn’t do that much.” 

Delta-8-Tetrahydrocannabinol (∆-8-THC)

Although this is a little-known cannabinoid, the National Cancer Institute defines delta-8-THC as having “antiemetic, anxiolytic, appetite-stimulating, analgesic, and neuroprotective properties.” While research is limited here in the United States, Dr. Raphael Mechoulam ran clinical trials in Israel in pediatric cancer using ∆-8-THC to reduce nausea and vomiting with positive results.

To date, it is rare to find delta-8-THC in most commercial markets. However, Guild Extracts out of California, has been successful with commercial extractions of the cannabinoid and offer ∆-8-THC specific products. The company’s website claims vaporizing the extract creates a calming euphoria without anxiety.

Cannabichromene (CBC)

CBC has also been garnering a lot of attention lately, as one of many cannabinoids that have been shown to help fight off superbugs such as MRSA. Additionally, according to Cresco Labs, CBC may play a role in the anti-cancer, anti-tumor potential of cannabis. 

CBC, like other cannabinoids, is thought to be a potent anti-inflammatory that could help in treating a variety of ailments. 

When we examine all of the potential held within these five tiny molecules and then remember that this is just the start, it's staggering to think of the promise that can come from one plant. Cannabis contains hundreds of active compounds such as these and many others. If the research finds even a fraction of these benefits to be accurate, we can undoubtedly expect significant medical breakthroughs in the years to come.