CHEMISTRY OF CANNABIS
Terpenes – One of the most unique things about cannabis as a plant is the smell. But what is it that causes the plant to have such a distinctive aroma? The answer is terpenes. Terpenes are aromatic oils produced by the trichomes, and are what causes the strong and distinctive smells associated with marijuana. Terpenes can be found not only in cannabis flower, but also in concentrates as they are produced by the trichomes that are extracted in the processing of cannabis concentrates.
Over 100 different terpenes have been identified in various cannabis varieties. This causes a difference in smell and taste between cultivars—some may tend towards citrus or pine, while others may be fruity, sour, or even smell faintly of gasoline. Terpenes have created a layer of cannabis preference beyond cannabinoid content or desired affect—think of the worlds of wine or coffee. As the cannabis industry continues to develop, we may see more focus on terpene distinction and a vast array of new cultivars with tasty, aromatic terpene profiles. Terpenes may also offer health benefits, and there is research being done exploring the wellness potential of these strong-smelling compounds.
Learn more about terpenes here, here, and here.
Cannabinoids – Cannabis, marijuana, ganja, weed, and more—this is a plant that goes by many names. You know that cannabis affects the mind and body: but do you know why? The answer is cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant, and they are responsible not only for the psychoactive effects of marijuana but for its health benefits. You may have heard of THC and CBD, the two most abundant cannabinoids, but did you know that cannabis contains at least 113 other cannabinoids? Some of these lesser-known compounds have shown promise for treating an array of health conditions in research studies.
Learn more about cannabinoids here, here, and here.
THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) – THC is the cannabinoid responsible for the intoxicating effect of cannabis consumption. However, it has other uses as well. It also has been shown to have a vast array of medical uses, providing relief from pain, inflammation, nausea, and insomnia. It has also been shown to have neuroprotective properties, help combat eating disorders, and provide relief from symptoms of AIDS, cancer, and addiction. It is worth noting that you can consume small amounts of THC without feeling the intoxicating effects, allowing for some medical benefits to be reaped even by those who wish to avoid intoxication.
Learn more about THC here, here, and here.
CBD (cannabidiol) – CBD is generally the second most abundant compound in the cannabis plant and is non-intoxicating. In recent years, the therapeutic benefits of CBD have been explored. It has been shown efficacy in treating autoimmune diseases, neurological conditions (like dementia, Parkinson’s’, MS, and epilepsy), diabetes, autism, ADHD, PTSD, Crohn’s disease, and some skin conditions like dermatitis and psoriasis.
CBD products are available over the counter in most places—however, there are many misleading products that appear to contain CBD when they actually contain none. Products that say that they contain “hemp extract” or “hemp oil” are not claiming that they contain CBD, and typically contain little or none.
Additionally, there are different types of CBD available. Full spectrum CBD includes trace levels of THC, terpenes, and other cannabinoids. Broad spectrum CBD includes trace levels of other cannabinoids and terpenes, but no THC. CBD isolate include almost pure CBD with no other cannabinoids or terpenes.
THC and CBD often have a synergistic effect. Together, they have been found to have anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective properties. Almost cannabis products are available in varying levels of each cannabinoid. Work to your doctor to figure out which proportion is right for you and your needs.
Learn more about CBD here, here, here, and here.
Aside from THC and CBD, cannabis contains at least 113 other compounds, some of which have been seen to have medicinal uses. Check out these other major cannabinoids and learn about the potential benefits!
Learn more about Other Cannabinoids here and here.
THCV (terahydrocannabivarin) – THCV is similar in structure to THC. It has potential intoxicating effects but is found in such small amounts that it has little real intoxicating effect when you are consuming cannabis. It has been shown to be an appetite suppressant, making it potentially helpful in treating individuals with type 2 diabetes by controlling glycemic levels.
CBDV (cannabidivarian) – CBDV is similar in structure to CBD. It appears in larger amounts in high-CBD products. It has been shown to effectively reduce and treat epileptic episodes due to its anticonvulsant properties.
CBG (cannabigerol) – Both THC and CBD begin as CBG—when combined with certain enzymes, it becomes THCA and CBDA, the acids that are converted to THC and CBD upon exposure to heat. It has been shown to have neuroprotective properties and potential for treating conditions like Huntington’s Disease. It has also shown promise for treating glaucoma and Crohn’s disease.
CBC (cannabichromene) – CBC is the third most abundant cannabinoid in marijuana—in some cultivars, it even takes the second-place spot. It is non-intoxicating and works synergistically with other cannabinoids. It has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and to encourage cell growth in the brain.