The world of cannabinoid medicine is bright and booming, but that also means there’s a lack of comprehensive, qualified advice. We have a great post on Cannabis Basics 101. Much of this has to do with cannabis’ recent history as an illicit drug – during this prohibition period, plants were selectively bred for their recreational (as opposed to medicinal) attributes, meaning that the levels of THC skyrocketed where other cannabinoids all but disappeared. THC can be a vital and valuable component of cannabinoid therapy, but it is good to keep in mind that it’s far from the only medicinal compound in cannabis. There are treatment options on the market (and a lot more in development) for those seeking specific cannabinoids and non-psychoactive formulations.

As the market grows and the use of medicinal cannabis cannabis becomes more accepted and widespread, new isolated cannabinoid medicines are likely to appear for the treatment of specific symptoms or conditions. Whether in isolated preparations or part of full-spectrum botanical extracts, it’s important to be armed with information about all the possible treatment options medicinal cannabis can provide – this will empower you to make the most informed decisions about your health.

Cannabis based medicines are usually understood to be psychoactive, and the majority of cannabinoid medicines produced to date have been. However, only 4 of the 113+ cannabinoid molecules identified to this date produce psychoactive effects (those being Δ-9 THC, Δ-8 THC, THCV, and CBN). To the extent of our knowledge, all the other cannabinoids produced in the cannabis plant are non-psychoactive, and many of those non-psychoactive cannabinoids have tremendous medicinal value.

Before we begin, it’s important to understand some of the complexities of the cannabis plant. All cannabinoids start as acids. If you’ve purchased medicine from a licensed producer before, you may have seen compounds like THCA or CBDA referenced – these are the acid, neutral, or “unactivated” forms, of THC (Δ-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (Cannabidiol). Although their function in the cannabis plant isn’t entirely understood, their anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and antifungal properties suggest that cannabinoid acids play an important role in protecting the plant from pests and environmental stressors.

All cannabinoids start as the mother cannabinoid – CBGA, or Cannabigerolic Acid. Cannabigerolic Acid is then converted into CBDA (Cannabidiolic Acid), THCA (Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid), and CBCA (Cannabichromenic  Acid), mainly. When exposed to heat, these compounds are decarboxylated.

Some may compare decarboxylation to “activation,” based on the relationship of THCA and THC. THCA is non-psychoactive, but when decarboxylated to form THC, it becomes moderately psychoactive, producing the recognizable euphoric and hallucinogenic effects. However, this explanation can be more than a bit misleading. First of all, cannabinoid acids exhibit a unique profile of potent medicinal benefits comparable to their decarboxylated forms. In some cases – as is the case with CBD and CBDA – the acid form is actually more psychoactive. CBDA has a much higher affinity for serotonin receptors in the brain, producing more pronounced antidepressant effects than decarboxylated CBD.

One last thing – In some cases, CBGVA (Cannaberigivaric Acid) is produced instead of CBGA. As opposed to CBGA, which possesses (and produces other cannabinoids possessing) a 5-carbon or “Pentyl” tail, CBGVA posses a “Propyl” or 3-carbon tail. These cannabinoids may also be known as -varic cannabinoids. The small structural difference produces very distinct effects. CBGVA produces THCVA (Tetrahydrocannabivaric Acid), CBDVA (Cannabidivaric Acid), and CBCVA (Cannabichromevaric Acid); these go on to form Δ-9 Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), Cannabidivarin (CBDV), and Cannabichromevarin (CBCV).

Primary Cannabinoids:

CB1 Receptors: These receptors are present in many areas of the central nervous system, playing an important role in physical sensation, experiences of pain, mood, and appetite,  as well as in the domains of memory, sense of time, and sense of temperature.

CB2 Receptors: These receptors are found throughout most of the body, and modulate the body’s immune and inflammatory response. Cannabinoid activity at CB2 receptors produces the bulk of cannabis’ anti-inflammatory activity.

THC (∆9-Tetrahydrocannabinol)

[THC is a CB1 and CB2 receptor agonist, meaning it “activates” them. THC has a much greater affinity for CB1 receptors than CB2, and in turn produces psychoactive and euphoric effects.]

Most strains are purely or predominantly THC-rich.

THC:

Is strongly psychoactive.
Can induce a euphoric high,

Can have a notable impact on situational awareness, reaction time, behaviour, perception, and/or cognition.

Is neuroprotective (it protects and preserves the function of nerve cells)

Is anti-inflammatory

Commonly reported positive effects of THC consumption include:

Euphoria

Physical relaxation

Feeling care-free; sensations of well-being

Enhanced physical, visual, and auditory sensations

Enhanced appreciation of stimulating arts including music, dance, and humour.

Abstract thinking and Creativity

Appetite Stimulation

Enhanced aroma and flavour of food

Alleviation of nausea

Commonly reported negative effects of THC consumption include:

Anxiety

Panic

Impairments in cognition and short-term memory

Altered perception of time

Dry Eyes

Dry Mouth

Increased heart rate

Sensations of hot or cold

In rare cases, THC may:

Exacerbate psychotic symptoms in individuals with a personal or family history of psychotic disorders

Trigger an acute episode mimicking psychosis in those without a personal or family history of psychotic disorders

Symptoms THC may help to treat include:

Chronic pain, especially neuropathic pain and breakthrough pain associated with cancer

Nausea, loss of appetite, and vomiting

Autoimmune diseases (including Lupus, Arthritis, Diabetes, and more).

Neurodegenerative conditions (Huntington’s, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, etc)

Inflammatory Bowel Diseases and Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Epilepsy

Cramps, tremor, and spasticity

Sleep and Stress disorders

Mood Disorders

Glaucoma

Boiling point: 315 °F (157 °C)

∆8-Tetrahydrocannabinol

∆8-THC is a degradation product of ∆9-THC possessing many of the same properties but less psychoactive potency.

∆8-THC may help to:

Reduce nausea, loss of appetite, and vomiting

Manage pain and anxiety.

Is neuroprotective (it protects and preserves the function of nerve cells)

Primary Metabolite: 11-Hydroxy-THC

When processed through the liver, THC is metabolised to form 11-hydroxy-THC, a more potent form.

11-H-THC may be more psychoactive than THC, with a similar profile of effects.

THCA (Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid)

THCA is:

Neuroprotective (it protects and preserves the function of nerve cells)

Non-psychoactive

Antimicrobial

Antibacterial

Anti-inflammatory

THCA may help to treat:

Tremor and spasticity.

Nausea, loss of appetite, and vomiting

Chronic pain

Neurodegenerative diseases (Huntington’s, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, etc)

THCV (Tetrahydrocannabivarin)

[THCV’s relationship with CB1 and CB2 receptors is unique, and its mechanisms of action haven’t been elucidated to the same degree as those of THC and CBD. At low-mid doses it seems to act as a CB1 receptor antagonist, the opposite of THC (an agonist), yet appears to be a powerful CB1 receptor agonist at high-very high doses. Through low-very high doses, THCV is a CB2 receptor agonist.]  

THCV is:

A Propyl variant of THC.

Euphoric (at higher doses)

Energetic and Clear-headed (at higher doses)

THCV may help to:

Control panic attacks (at lower doses)

Reduce anxiety and stress levels (at lower doses)

Anorectic (at lower doses) – THCV diminishes appetite.

Relieve seizures

Reduce tremor and spasticity

inhibit glucose tolerance in diabetics. There is an active pharmaceutical research patent on THCV as a potential treatment for Type II Diabetes.

THCV appears to stimulate bone growth, and help to maintain bone density.

Commonly reported negative side-effects of THCV include:

Anxiety and paranoia (at higher doses).

Dry eyes

Dry mouth

Rapid heart rate
Sensations of hot or cold.

Boiling point: 428 °F (180 °C)

CBD (Cannabidiol)

[CBD doesn’t have a strong action at CB1 or CB2 receptors. Instead, it exerts its effects indirectly though its interactions with serotonin and dopamine receptors, as well through its interactions with enzymes. CBD inhibits FAAH, the primary enzyme responsible for breaking down cannabinoids, and will increase circulating blood levels of naturally produced and plant-derived cannabinoids.]

CBD is:

Non-psychoactive

Neuroprotective

Antioxidant

Antimicrobial

Antibacterial

Neurogenic, meaning it promotes the growth of new nerve cells.

immune-regulating, helping to correct under or overactivity in the immune system.

CBD may help to treat:

Epilepsy

Inflammation

Autoimmune diseases

Cancer – CBD is antiproliferative (meaning it interferes with the spread of cancerous cells) and pro-apoptotic (meaning it triggers the destruction of cancer cells).

Diabetes – CBD reduces blood glucose levels while improving insulin sensitivity, inhibiting cell death and reducing arterial inflammation caused by an excess of glucose.

Bacterial Infections – CBD is mildly antibiotic.

Chronic Pain

Nausea, lack of appetite, and vomiting

Spasms, tremor, and tics – CBD is anticonvulsant and anti-spasmodic.

Functional gastrointestinal conditions like IBS and Functional Dyspepsia.

Psoriasis

Heart Disease and High Blood Pressure – CBD is anti-hypertensive, meaning it lowers blood pressure, and anti-ischemic, meaning it can reduce the buildup of plaque in arteries.

Neurodegenerative Conditions (Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s, etc)

Psychosis

Anxiety

Depression

Mood swings experienced by individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder, Bipolar Affective Disorder, and Cyclothymia.

Autism Spectrum Disorders.

CBD and THC:

Co-administration with THC seems to improve the outcome of CBD’s anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting, pro-apoptotic, and anti-proliferative effects.

When taken before consuming THC, CBD may delay the onset of the THC and prolong its effects.

CBD can help to offset negative side-effects of THC, including anxiety, paranoia, appetite stimulation, and rapid heart rate

Boiling point: 320-356 °F (160-180 °C)

CBDA (Cannabidiolic Acid)

CBDA is:

Antimicrobial

Antibacterial

Anti-inflammatory

CBDA may help to treat:

Nausea, lack of appetite, and vomiting

Cancer – CBDA is anti-proliferative

Depression – CBDA is a more potent antidepressant than CBD.

Inflammation

Chronic Pain

Boiling point: N/A

CBDV (Cannabidivarin)

CBDV seems to have a similar therapeutic profile to its homologue CBD, with a much less impressive body of research on the books.

CBDV is:

Neuroprotective

Anti-inflammatory

A Propyl variant of CBD

CBDV may help to treat:

Epilepsy – CBDV may be more antiepileptic as compared to CBD.  There is an active pharmaceutical research patent on the potential of CBDV as a primary agent in treating epilepsy.

Nausea, lack of appetite, and vomiting

CBDV may be gastroprotective, helping to treat gastrointestinal inflammation.

CBDV appears to stimulate bone growth and help to maintain bone density.

CBDV is found in higher concentrations in many Himalayan/Nepalese Indica strains, and may contribute to the sedative effects of these strains.

The boiling point of CBDV is not currently known.

CBN (Cannabinol)

[CBN has a stronger affinity for CB2 receptor sites than CB1 receptor sites. At both CB1 and CB2 receptor sites, however, CBN’s actions are altogether weaker than those of THC. It seems to show most promise when co-administered with other cannabinoids.]

CBN is a degradation product of THC. Because of this, CBN is typically only present in the cannabis plant in trace quantities.

CBN is:
Very mildly psychoactive, reportedly about 10x less so than THC.  

Sedative

Anti-inflammatory

Antipyretic – CBN lowers body temperature

CBN may help to treat:

Sleep disorders (especially when co-administered with CBD and/or THC)

Anxiety (in one study, 5mg of CBN was found to be as effective as 10mg of diazepam [Valium])

Glaucoma

Pain

Autoimmune conditions and inflammatory disorders.

Cancer – CBN appears to be pro-apoptotic and anti-proliferative (anti-cancer).

CBN may stimulate bone growth and help to maintain bone density.

Lower doses may be necessary for daytime symptom management, as higher doses may cause daytime drowsiness and early sleep.

Boiling point: 365 °F (185 °C)

CBNA (Cannabinoiic Acid)

Very little is understood about the activity of CBNA. It appears to be analgesic (painkilling).

Boiling Point: N/A

CBG (Cannabigerol)

[Cannabigerol is, to the extent of our current understanding, entirely non-psychoactive. It is a minor CB1 and CB2 receptor antagonist, and may reduce the psychoactivity of THC.]

CBG is typically only found in trace amounts in the cannabis plant. This is because of the way cannabinoids are produced – all cannabinoids start as CBGA; throughout the life cycle of the plant, CBGA is slowly converted to THCA, CBDA, and/or CBCA.

Higher yields of CBG may be obtained from young plants (harvested between 5-8 weeks), before most of the CBGA is converted. As well as this, there are new high-CBG genetics being developed, with some plants producing up to 5% CBG by weight at harvest.

CBG is:

Sedative

Anti-inflammatory

Antibacterial

Antimicrobial

Neuroprotective

Neurogenic – CBG promotes the growth of new nerve cells

CBG may help to treat:

Anxiety

Depression

Inflammatory Bowel DIsease – CBG has displayed gastroprotective qualities

Glaucoma

Autoimmune Disorders

Spasms, tremor, and tics – CBG is antispasmodic. In one study, CBG was found to be most useful among all tested cannabinoid at reducing bladder contractions, which may make CBG a treatment for incontinence.

CBG stimulates bone growth and helps to maintain bone density.

Heart Disease and Stroke – CBG inhibits platelet aggregation, reducing the risk of blood clots

Neurodegenerative Conditions or other conditions associated with the death of or damage to nerve cells.

Cancer – CBG has exhibited anti-proliferative effects in early studies.

Boiling Point: The boiling point of CBG is not currently known.

CBGA (Cannabigerolic Acid)

CBGA is the “mother cannabinoid,” from which all other cannabinoids are synthesized in the cannabis plant. It is non-psychoactive, and is presumed to carry at least some of the healthful qualities of CBG.

CBGA appears to be analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and somewhat strongly antibiotic. Very few studies have been conducted on the properties of CBGA.

Boiling Point: N/A

CBC (Cannabichromene)

[CBC appears to inhibit the enzyme FAAH in a similar manner to CBD, increasing circulating cannabinoid levels.]

CBC is:

Non-psychoactive

Anti-inflammatory

Neurogenic

Possibly Antiviral (inhibiting the spread of viruses in the body)

CBC may help to treat:

Acne – CBC reduces sebum production, the oily substance primarily responsible for producing acne.

IBD, IBS and Functional Dyspepsia – CBC may help regulate movements of the stomach and small intestine.

Neurodegenerative Conditions

Pain – CBC seems to be one of the stronger analgesics present in cannabis.

Anxiety – one study found CBC to be almost 10 times more effective than CBD in treating anxiety and stress!

Depression

CBC stimulates bone growth and helps to maintain bone density.

CBC has been demonstrated to be anti-proliferative in early studies.

Boiling point: 428 °F (220 °C)

CBCA (Cannabichromenic Acid)

Very little is known about CBCA, aside from the fact that it is the only phytocannabinoid currently understood to be anti-fungal. It seems to also be anti-inflammatory.

Boiling point: N/A