The Medical Benefits of Cannabis Compounds
From insomnia to nausea, cannabis can be used as a natural remedy for a multitude of ailments. There are a few primary cannabinoids which provide most of the effects associated with the cannabis plant – THC, THCa, CBD, CBN, CBG, and CBC. Cannabinoids are a class of diverse chemical compounds that act on cannabinoid receptors in cells that repress neurotransmitter release in the brain. With the exception of THC, the other aforementioned cannabinoids are non-psychoactive – providing relief without the mental haziness. Specific cannabinoids can only be accessed during various windows of the plants life cycle, so if you have specific needs that relate to a given cannabinoid, you need to take note of the time period at which you'll reap the greatest return on your investment. You can also take advantage of different compounds through different consumption methods.
Note: CBGa is the acidic, raw form of CBG, therefore it's the genesis of the parent compound.
Cannabigerol is considered to be the ‘mother’ of the other cannabinoids – enzymes can change it into THC, CBD or CBC (from their acidic forms first). CBG is generally considered to be non-psychoactive.
According to Steep Hill Labs, studies show CBG stimulates the growth of new brain cells (neurogenesis), including in the elderly. Because neurogenic compounds are exceptionally rare, CBG continues to be heavily researched.
CBG has antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-proliferative properties. Additionally, CBG stimulates bone growth. CBG continues to be studied for treatment of Glaucoma, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), insomnia, depression, and epilepsy/MS/Dravet syndrome. The beneficial compound is derived from high-CBG strain whole plant extractions. For a full list of the medical benefits associated with CBG, see the chart below.
Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC for short, is the primary chemical responsible for most of the psychoactive effects associated with cannabis. THC, along with over 85 other cannabinoids, is found in the trichomes of the cannabis plant. The effects of THC are induced rapidly as the chemical binds to endocannabinoid receptors in the brain, central nervous system and the immune system. In addition to its psychoactive effects, cannabis provides a variety of physical health benefits. THC can be used to treat certain ailments, cancers, and diseases. THC aids in treating:
PTSD – Alleviates PTSD-related symptoms such as flashbacks, agitation and nightmares
Asthma – Can help calm asthma attacks (although no inhalers exist yet)
Glaucoma – Relieves eye pressure
Cancer – Inhibits cell growth
HIV/AIDS – Aids with treatment symptoms like nausea, loss of appetite and pain
Hepatitis C – Aids with treatment symptoms like fatigue, nausea, muscle aches, loss of appetite, and depression
Tumors – Inhibits cell growth
Anorexia – Increases appetite
Epilepsy / MS / Seizures – Suppresses muscle spasms
Arthritis – Anti-inflammatory
Alzheimers – Slows progression of disease, blocks the enzyme that creates amyloid plaques
Crohns/Ulcerative colitis/IBS – Prevents intestinal permeability, reduces flow of bacteria
Parkinsons – Reduces pain & tremors, aids in sleep
Stroke – Protects brain from damage by reducing size of affected area
Concussion – Lessens bruising of the brain
Dependency & Withdrawal - Combats withdrawal from dependency on benzodiazepines, opiates and alcohol
ADD/ADHD – Increases the availability of dopamine, the mental slowdown = concentration
Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, or THCa for short, is found in raw and live/fresh cannabis but is progressively decarboxylated to THC with drying and heating (like when smoked, vaporized, or cooked). THCa is the most abundant cannabinoid in the vast majority of freshly harvested, high-THC cannabis strains grown in the US. Because the conversion from THCa to THC begins immediately after harvest, there are fewer methods of application/ingestion. The popular methods include juicing raw, fresh cannabis and THCa transdermal patches.
Given that THCa is non-psychoactive, it can be metabolized in much larger doses than THC, making it an attractive option for medical users. Preliminary studies suggest THCa has strong anti-inflammatory properties and is especially helpful in managing the severe pain caused by inflammation in Lupus and arthritis patients. Other medical benefits of THCa include neuroprotective, antiemetic (anti-vomiting), and anti-proliferative properties.
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is another non-psychoactive cannabinoid with a wide scope of medical applications. Of the 85 known cannabinoids, CBD and THC are usually present in the highest concentrations, and are therefore the most widely studied. The medicinal properties of CBD are strong even in small doses. The ratios of THC and CBD vary among strains and crops; as a general rule of thumb, cannabis plants grown for recreational purposes are grown for high levels of THC, whereas high-CBD plants are grown for medical benefits and retain CBD to THC ratios ranging from 1:1 to 25:1 (Valentine X strain – known as ‘patron saint of epilepsy’). The right ratio for you depends on the relief you seek and your specific endocannabinoid system. For reference, industrial hemp plants contain primarily CBD with very low THC percentages, typically under 0.3%.
The combination of medical efficacy without the accompanying psychoactivity associated with THC makes CBD ideal for treating children, the elderly, and those who want to remain clear headed. In fact, several studies suggest that CBD actually counters the ‘high’ caused by THC. CBD can help moderate some of the negative effects of THC (paranoia, accelerated heartbeat, and short-term memory loss) while bolstering its medical benefits. CBD’s antipsychotic properties are currently being studied as an alternative treatment for schizophrenia, psychosis, and anxiety.
One of CBD’s most proven medical applications has been in the treatment of epilepsy/MS/Dravet syndrome. Animal research has suggested that CBD can act as an anti-convulsant without the further exacerbating seizures. Anecdotal evidence has shown CBD to have the same strong anti-epeleptic effects in humans. The most common treatment method for those suffering from extreme seizures is ingesting high-CBD cannabis oil concentrate in capsules. Because cannabis remains largely illegal and unregulated, it is difficult to recommend dosages and many utilizing medical cannabis are forced to conduct home trials – starting with low dosages (5mg) and increasing until the desired results are realized. Although more clinical research needs to be conducted, CBD as a natural, alternative treatment is extremely safe (overdose is impossible) and there are myriad medical benefits associated with CBD.
Cannabinol (CBN) is created over time when THC is exposed to oxygen and UV light/heat. Because CBN is the byproduct of prolonged exposure to air, it is not usually found in high concentrations in properly stored cannabis. For those seeking more CBN, leave your cannabis exposed in a cool (+/-70 degree) environment for a prolonged period – the THC will degrade to CBN. CBN is a very weak psychoactive cannabinoid – significantly less intense than when it was THC. In general, indica strains are found to have higher concentrations of CBN than sativa strains.
From a medical perspective, CBN is considered to be the strongest sedative of the known cannabinoids. Its sedative effects are so powerful that cannabis with concentrations of CBN approaching 1% by weight can be useful in treating insomnia. According to Steep Hill Labs, 2.5-5mg of CBN is as effective as 5-10mg dose of diazepam. For sleep inducement, CBN is synergistic with CBD and THC in the correct ratios.
Studies show that CBN reduces the intraocular pressure associated with Glaucoma, making it a viable alternative for those seeking relief without the psychoactive effects of THC. CBN also offers pain relief for those who want to remain clear headed. The most common concentrated CBN applications include transdermal patches, topical gels, and oral capsules. Cannabis flowers and concentrates with high (1%) concentrations of CBN can also be smoked or vaporized. See the chart below for a full list of the medical benefits associated with CBN.
Cannabichromene (CBC) is another non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in trace amounts in cannabis. CBC has not been studied to the same degree as other more prevalent cannabinoids. CBC has the same chemical formula and weight at THC and CBD, but differs in the arrangement of its atoms.
According to Steep Hill Labs, CBC has been shown to be about ten times more effective than CBD in treating anxiety and stress. Preliminary studies suggest that CBC has analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-proliferative, antifungal, and antiviral properties. In addition, CBC promotes bone growth. CBC is effective on its own and in conjunction with other cannabinoids. For a full list of the medical benefits associated with CBC, see the chart below.
WHICH ONE SHOULD I USE?
This depends largely on the effects you seek. Use the chart below to determine which cannabinoids will aid in achieving these effects. Remember, THC is the only cannabinoid that will get you 'high' – all the others will provide relief without the psychoactivity. Many of these compounds work in synergistic fashion, so feel free to try combining them via various consumption methods. For help in selecting the correct dosage of THC, click here.
- You can benefit from the relieving effects of cannabis without getting high
- Many cannabinoids can be combined for synergistic results
- All compounds exist in their acidic state prior to be converted to the active compound