The Alphabet Soup of Cannabis: THC, CBD, CBG, CBN
What are these letters, what do they really do, and why should you care?
I used to think the overabundance of claims regarding cannabis made it seem like a snake oil salesman touting his wares, but I am beginning to understand why and how this plant truly does touch every aspect of our health - both mind and body.
Research on cannabis has shown the plant contains over 400 different compounds. Two of the most widely researched compounds are Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD). Beginning in 1964, Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, an Israeli organic chemist, discovered and isolated THC. However, it was not until 1992, that Dr. Mechoulam and his colleagues at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem discovered the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a group of receptors located in the brain and throughout the central and peripheral nervous systems. Their research established that the cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant fit perfectly with the ECS receptors, CB1 and CB2. Studies show that the ECS affects most systems in the human body.
According to Dr. Dustin Sulak, the Director of Integrated Health in Maine, the primary function of the ECS activity is to maintain a stable internal environment despite changes in the external environment. One of the most exciting discoveries to come out of cannabis research determined how prevalent these receptors are. CB1 receptors are located throughout the brain, central nervous system, connective tissues, gonads, glands, and related organs. CB2 receptors, on the other hand, are located throughout the immune system and related organs, i.e.…the tissues of the spleen, tonsils, and thymus gland. Both types of receptors are also found at the intersection of the body’s various systems, allowing for communication between different cell types. For example, at the site of an injury cannabinoids decrease the release of activators and sensitizers from the injured tissue, stabilizing the nerve cell to prevent excessive firing and calming nearby immune cells to prevent the release of a pro-inflammatory substance.
The ECS appears to be a component of the health and healing of every human and almost every animal. Yes, your furry friends also have an ECS and can benefit from cannabis. Recent research found that dysfunction in human ECS often leads to disease and confirms the need to care and pay attention to this important system. It’s possible that the deficiencies in cannabinoids feeding the CB1 and CB2 receptors can be treated with cannabis; not unlike those of us in Washington needing more sun to assist in our vitamin D deficiencies. It’s also possible that increased cannabis intake will help with a lack of endocannabinoids.
Although the new research continues to pour in, a variety of misconceptions regarding cannabis still exist. One that continues today involves the idea that CBD and THC compounds can be isolated as either medicinal or recreational. However, even the U.S. government has approved synthetic single molecule THC (marinol) for treating nausea and lack of appetite. The idea that CBD is most effective without THC is also being proven inaccurate. Current research shows the benefits of the entourage effect (the interactive synergy between cannabis compounds) that whole plant cannabis provides the most benefit for treatment. Like other treatments, dose and ratio of cannabinoids is important.
Finally, while many believe that cannabis is a gateway drug, much of today’s research indicates that just the opposite is true. Cannabis acts as an exit drug because cannabinoids act on specific receptors that are not concentrated in the brainstem, where breathing and heart rate are controlled; this is the opposite of drugs like cocaine, heroin, and opioids.
Today, the scientific community generally accepts that cannabis has medicinal value, with many acclaiming its curative and palliative benefits. Both of my parents died of cancer and my grandmother suffered with dementia. I wish with all of my heart that I had known then what I know now and had been able to reduce their suffering and perhaps increased both their quality and quantity of life.
Article submitted & written by:
Annette Atkinson, Cannabis Herbalist
11493 Clear Creek Rd NW, Silverdale