Cannabinoids are marijuana’s most important chemicals. They are responsible for giving the plant its medical and recreational characteristics. So far, scientists have found more than 120 cannabinoids. Cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are the two cannabinoids that are best understood.
Cannabinoids have also been used to help with addictions, sleep disorders, multiple sclerosis and more. Below are some of the most well known and beneficial compounds:
THC is responsible for the “high” that people experience after using marijuana. It has also been found to be a mild painkiller. This cannabinoid also has some antioxidant qualities, too.
CBD, in contrast to THC, does not give you that effect. In fact, using CBD can dilute the high feeling. CBD also has many medical benefits such as managing chronic pain and reducing inflammation. Relieving symptoms of depression and anxiety are other benefits that CBD has been shown to have for those who use cannabis.
Cannabigerol (CBG) is another cannabinoid that doesn’t give you that “high” feeling. CBG have antibacterial properties. Scientists think that CBG can slow or stop the growth of bacteria. And also reduces inflammation and encourage bone growth.
21 New Cannabinoids Discovered
For many of us, walking into a cannabis dispensary is akin to the experience a child has walking into a candy store. The sheer variety of cannabis strains is overwhelming, with names like Afghan Kush or Pineapple Express eliciting delightful feelings as we anticipate the varying highs we get to enjoy with each strain. A licensed dispensary would also provide the strain’s THC and CBD levels, the main compounds in the plant, offering insight on the therapeutic and recreational effects that smoking each of these strains would have. But science tells us that the chemical makeup of each strain, that we know of so far, might actually not have any truth to it at all. In other words, all weed could pretty much be the same.
Research into cannabinoids effects has been going on for decades. Researchers have only begun to understand the true benefits of cannabinoids. A brand-new study conducted by researchers at the University of British Columbia has just proven this. The researchers EM Mudge, PN Brown, and SJ Murch discovered that there are more cannabinoids in the plant, and that levels of the primary compounds, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) don’t differ as much in the hundreds of strains out there like we thought so in the past.
The study, which was published in Nature, involved the collection of 33 cannabis strains (both sativa and indica) from 5 licensed cannabis producers in Canada. The researchers extracted compounds from the plant and then used a UV spectrum to classify the findings. They didn’t expect to find 21 new compounds which resembled cannabinoids.
The extractions tested by researchers showed that the differences between the strains only accounted for 36% of their overall chemical differences. The remaining 64% of the statistical difference was attributed to other cannabinoids, including the 21 unidentified. There were signs of a complicated relationship between chemical compounds in cannabis: some cannabinoids are correlated with the production of THC while others, including a number of the unknown cannabinoids, were associated with the production of higher levels of CBD.
And that wasn’t even their goal, nor their primary finding. Authors E.M. Mudge, S.J. Murch, and P.N. Brown set out to test the hypothesis that the distinct effects of cannabis strains are not tied to just their THC or CBD content alone — nor the ratio of the two — but that the spectrum of possible effects is much wider than believed. Their findings confirmed this hypothesis and also indicated that breeding cannabis over the years specifically for THC has harmed the plant’s diversity in a condition known as “Domestication Syndrome.”
The research showed that there was a lack of diversity in the cannabinoid content of strains bred to be high-THC alone. In fact, strains with greater than 20% THC seemed to have completely lost the chemical pathways that produce CBD. There also seemed to be fewer of the unidentified cannabinoids in the THC-rich strains, indicating that it may not just be CBD production pathways that those plants have lost.
Ultimately, researchers found that most strains sampled in the study were closely related and that it’s too limited of a process to focus on one or even two single cannabinoids in an attempt to classify strains by their effect — in other words, CBD and THC are only one small part of the puzzle.
Researchers said that further research is needed to understand what the unknown cannabinoids are and how they shape the effects of cannabis.