Major & Minor Cannabinoids
What are minor cannabinoids and why are they useful? In this article, we will break down the number of cannabinoids in the cannabis Sativa plant, highlight the major and minor ones and explain what their purposes are and how they can be used for patients worldwide.
The obvious first question to answer is when and by whom were cannabinoids discovered? The first discovery of a cannabinoid, Cannabinol (CBN), was made by British chemist Robert S. Cahn in 1940. It was not until 1942 that Cannabidiol (CBD) was discovered by American chemist Robert Adams. To date, more than 100 cannabinoids have been identified, some abundant in the Cannabis sativa plant and others more elusive in smaller quantities.
The most prominent or major cannabinoids are the two most well-known, Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the key psychoactive component of cannabis, and Cannabidiol (CBD) is another widely recognised cannabinoid. Its anti-inflammatory properties make it highly sought-after by medical cannabis manufacturers. As well as relieving pain and inflammation, CBD is used to treat anxiety, depression, and other neurological disorders.
The latest cannabinoid to gain some traction is Cannabigerol (CBG) and it has made big waves in the medical cannabis industry, with scientists exploring its potential as a pain reliever and sleep regulator. The cannabinoid is derived from Cannabigerolic acid (CBGA), which is often referred to as the “mothership” of cannabinoids.
Below is a visual that shows how each cannabinoid is synthesised in the plant and how each cannabinoid can be made by the plant in a chemical process. The synthesis of the cannabinoids involves two pathways located in two separate sites within the glandular trichomes. In the first pathway olivetolic acid (OA) is produced in the cytosol of the gland cells from hexanoic acid. In the second, geranyl diphosphate (GPP) is generated in the plastidial organelles via the mevalonate-dependent isoprenoid (MEP) pathway.
A majority of scientific research has focused on six phytocannabinoids in particular: CBD, THC, CBN, CBG, CBC, and THCV. These cannabinoids have earned the spotlight in research due to either their abundance in the cannabis plant or their sizable role in the impact of cannabis on the body.
CBG is known as the “mother cannabinoid” because it serves as the original form of many other cannabinoids, including THC, CBD, and CBC. Specific enzymes break CBG down and determine which direction it will go.
There are over 100+ cannabinoids identified to date but scientific research is only available in a small quantity as research and development have not been quick to advance due to the global legal status of the cannabis plant. With the introduction of Biosynthesis in cannabis, we will now be able to isolate the rarest cannabinoids, only available in minute percentage form, and use techniques such as fermentation to produce large quantities of each ingredient.
Like THC and CBD, CBG exists in the raw cannabis plant in its acidic form, CBG-A, until it is heated and converted to CBG. CBG is non-intoxicating on consumption much like CBD, due to the fact that both molecules work indirectly on neurological pathways, rather than directly binding to the CB1 receptors of the Endocannabinoid System like the high-inducing Delta-9-THC
Cannabichromene (CBC), is the third most abundant cannabinoid after CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). This cannabinoid is considered a “sibling” of CBD and THC because it’s made from the same precursor — CBG (cannabigerol).
Dubbed “diet weed” for its purported appetite-curbing and energy-boosting properties, delta 9 tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) is fast becoming one of the latest cannabinoids on the market.
CBN is a by-product of THC and is produced from overly-aged cannabis, temperature, and exposure to sunlight.
Similar to cannabinoids like CBN (cannabinol), CBL is a cannabinoid that forms when CBC (cannabichromene) degrades through exposure to UV light and oxidation. Research on this minor cannabinoid has been slow to progress, and little is known about the properties and therapeutic qualities of CBL.
Breakdown of cannabis s.sativa compounds.