Cannabinoids - The keys to cannabis as a medicine

By Saif Khan

Cannabinoids are a diverse class of chemical compounds that act on a variety of receptors in mammalian creatures, in both the central and peripheral nervous systems. Over 100 cannabinoids are produced in the resin of the cannabis plant species. These are known as ‘phyto-cannabinoids’ with ‘phyto’ being the Greek prefix for ‘plant’.

A number of these compounds have been studied closely, demonstrating a myriad of biological & chemical interactions in the human body. Different cannabinoids bind to, or activate different receptors, creating therapeutic effects when used scrupulously.

Below we will look at the 6 most well-studied phyto-cannabinoids and their applications in medical contexts.

CBD - Currently the most important medical compound found in the cannabis sativa species, Cannabidiol or CBD is the phyto-cannabinoid with the widest range of medical uses.

  • Anti-convulsant - (minimizes various forms of Epilepsy & relaxes muscle spasms)

  • Anti-inflammatory - (relieves & prevents swelling in internal & external injury)

  • Anti-oxidant - (reduces cell-damaging oxidative stress, slowing age-related deterioration)

  • Neuro-protectant - (preserves neuronal structure, limits & slows damage of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Dementia & Parkinson’s)

  • Anti-anxiety - (modulates signaling of serotonin receptors that play a role in anxiety)

  • Anti-depressant - (improves transmission & availability of serotonin and dopamine in the bloodstream)

  • Pain reliever - (interacts with receptors that regulate pain sensation)

  • Inhibitor of cancer cell growth - (shown in lab environment to prevent the spread of cancer cells, known as Angiogenesis)

  • Improves Immune system function - (can suppress an over-active immune response, a key factor in managing auto-immune based diseases)

  • Promotes bone growth & density - (enhances peak bone mass & regulates bone cells to decrease age-related bone damage)

 

CBDA - The phyto-cannabinoid Cannabidiolic Acid is the precursor to CBD, and is found in raw forms of the Cannabis strains that have high levels of CBD.

 

THC - Arguably the most well known cannabinoid, Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC is psychoactive compound sought out for its euphoric sensations. Besides its uses in a recreational context, it also demonstrates a number of significant benefits in medical applications.

  • Anti-emetic - (reduces nausea & vomiting, especially in patients undergoing chemotherapy)

  • Analgesic - (attenuates pain sensation through neurotransmitter signaling)

  • Anti-inflammatory - (reduces & prevents swelling in internal & external injury)

  • Appetite stimulant - (stimulates receptors that release hormones which dictate eating patterns & volume)

  • Suppresses muscle spasms - (binds with receptors in brain cells that down-regulate hyper-active signaling related to conditions of spasticity)

  • Anti-cancer properties - (Causes programmed cell death or Apoptosis in cancer cells, leaving healthy cells unharmed)

 

CBN - A mildly psychoactive cannabinoid, Cannabinol or CBN is best known for promoting drowsiness & aiding restful sleep. While it is most commonly used for helping to treat sleep disorders, it has a number of studied benefits.

  • Anti-insomnia - (has a sedative effect, helping to prime the brain for sleep & aids those with difficulty remaining asleep throughout the night)

  • Anti inflammatory - (reduces & prevents swelling in internal & external injury)

  • Pain relief - (similar to THC, CBN regulates pain signaling by partially binding with receptors in the brain)

  • Anti-bacterial - (potent activity against MRSA strains)

 

CBG - A cannabinoid that is present mainly in the early stages of plant growth, Cannabigerol or CBG is a non-psychoactive compound that has a promising medical potential, making it one of the most sought after phyto-cannabinoids.

 

CBC - A non-psychoactive compound commonly found in a variety of cannabis plant types. As with most other phyto-cannabinoids, Cannabichromene or CBC is shown to work synergistically with THC, improving its medical efficacy.

  • Neurogenesis - (promotes growth of new brain cells, reducing risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases)

  • Anti-inflammatory - (reduces & prevents swelling in internal & external injury, especially in tandem with THC)

  • Anti-Bacterial - (effective in eliminating E.coli & Staph strains of bacteria)

 

This overview highlights the specific therapeutic properties of the 5 most well-known phyto-cannabinoids, aiming to give a clearer idea of the ways in which these compounds can provide medical relief. As studies continue to explore the promise of cannabinoids and human cannabinoid trials begin to become a more common occurrence, we expect to see further developments in the field of phyto-cannabinoid therapy.