Cannabis has been known to contain more than 500 pharmacologically active compounds, something that has led many people to use it for medicinal purposes.
The psychoactive and medicinal effects associated with cannabis are caused by unique chemical structures known as cannabinoids.
To date, 86 cannabinoids have been identified while others have been chemically synthesized.
The main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis is called delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly referred to as THC.
Let’s have a look at some of the cannabinoids alongside other active compounds found in cannabis.
a). Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – This is the most common cannabinoid in cannabis and is known to contribute to the “high” or euphoric feeling when inhaled or ingested.
It has analgesic/pain relieving effects, anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective qualities, relieves nausea and helps stimulate appetite.
Furthermore, it is an anti-spasmodic and muscle relaxant.
Clinical studies have also proven that THC is able to reduce vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) levels in glioma/brain cancer cells.
This role is very important in the sense that the reduction of VEGF cells means cancer tumors in the brain are unable to grow new blood vessels necessary to sustain them, grow and even spread.
b). Cannabidiol (CBD) – It is a non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis and is known to reduce THC’s psychoactive effects.
It has anti-inflammatory, anti-arthritic, anti-anxiety and anti-convulsive properties among others.
Cannabis rich in CBD provides powerful therapeutic benefits without the lethargy or euphoria of most high THC varieties.
When CBD and THC are both present at therapeutic levels they have a synergistic effect, i.e. more effective together. CBD is known for its capability of counterbalancing anxiety, hunger, tachycardia and sedation caused by THC.
It is also effective in managing conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, epilepsy, cancer, alcoholism, antibiotic-resistant infections and neurological disorders.
c). Cannabinol (CBN) – Although there are still conflicting research findings on CBN between the human and animal models, what we do know is that it is commonly found in aging cannabis and is known to increase the effect of THC.
Apart from increasing testosterone production, CBN increases plasma concentration of hormone responsible with follicle stimulation.
It is also anti-inflammatory and anti-convulsant.
CBN has thrice the affinity for CB2 receptor, and as a result thought to have a significant effect on the immune system more than it does with the central nervous system.
d). Cannabichromene (CBC) – It is found in tropical strains of cannabis and is thought to be superior to CBD and THC in its antibacterial and anti-fungal activity, showing significant promise for internal and topical issues.
Although it inhibits cellular inflammatory response like CBD and THC, it is less effective in doing so.
e). Cannabigerol (CBG) – Cannabigerol is another active compound found in cannabis and is a powerful antibacterial that has been proven to be superior to CBD, THC and CBC in fighting mycobacteria, gram-positive bacteria and fungi.
Although cannabigerol exist in small amounts in cannabis, it acts as a biosynthetic precursor to CBD, THC and CBC, which means the body can change CBG to a different cannabinoid.
f). Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) – Tetrahydrocannabivarin is found in afagnica and indica varieties of cannabis.
Although THCV isn’t a primary cannabinoid, it is important in that it may be clinically effective in treating migraine headaches.
g). Terpenes – Terpenes are active compounds in cannabis known to modify the effects of THC and several other cannabinoids, hence affecting the medicinal impact of the strains.
They are used in fingerprinting and identifying each strain hoping that we can understand their physiological effects.
Below are a few terpenes and their roles:
- Pinenes: It increases focus, memory retention, energy, self-satisfaction and are known to counteract some THC effects. Furthermore, pinenes have antiseptic properties.
- Caryophyllene: Has anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects by activating CB2 receptors.
It is good for ulcers, arthritis and autoimmune disorders among other gastrointestinal complications.
- Linalool: Has anti-cancer effects and is known to cause severe sedation.
It is also anti-convulsant, anti-acne, anti-depressant and anti-anxiety.
- Limonene: Possesses anti-cancer, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial as well as anti-depression abilities.
It is known to dissolve gallstones and may be used to treat heartburn and gastrointestinal complications.
- Myrcene: It has antioxidant and anti-carcinogenic properties.
It is also good for muscle tension, depression, inflammation, pain and sleeplessness.
ConclusionIt is quite clear that cannabis contains a significant number of active compounds that play key pharmacological roles in the human body.
However, it seems more studies need to be done to have clear understanding of the effects of the lesser known active ingredients found in cannabis.
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