Cannabinoids are natural compounds found in cannabis plants – both in hemp (Cannabis Sativa L.) and in Cannabis Indica strains. Cannabis contains about 480 different substances, 80 of which are counted among cannabinoids. Most of the cannabinoids (and all of those found in fibrous-grade hemp) are deprived of any psychoactive properties, many show a variety of health benefits.
How do Cannabinoids Work?
In the parts of the human brain responsible for cognitive functions, memory, psychomotor skills, pain sensation or satisfaction there are the cannabinoid receptors (CB1, CB2, and others) constituting the endocannabinoid system. Depending on the type of active substance, its molecules will react with the receptors in question, causing specific reactions. Cannabinoid receptors are also an important part of the human immune system – yet their presence, be it in the brain, or in the said system, does not mean that humans are somehow naturally predisposed to cosume cannabis. That cannabinoids work on us is a simpe consequence of an interesting coinsidence: the endocannabinoid system is naturally attuned to react to endocannabinods, compounds produced by our own bodies – the best known of them being anandamide.
Other Plants Producing Cannabinoids
Cannabinoids cause a great deal of controversy primarily because they are commonly associated with the psychoactive effects of certain cannabis varieties. It is obviously a crude and detrimental simplification, especially given the fact that the vast majority of cannabinoids do not exhibit absolutely any of properties this kind, moreover – in the fibrous-grade hemp – the most common form of cannabis plant – only the safe and non-psychoactive cannabinoids can be found.
Although, as the name implies, it is cannabis plant that contains the highest ammount of cannabinoids, it is not entirely true that these substances occur exclusively in this plant. In fact, there are other compounds that activate the endocannabinoid receptors ca: apart of previously mentioned endocannabinoids, there are multiple plants, somehow quite surprising ones, that produce either cannabinoids themselves, or substances so similar to them that a human body cannot really tell the difference effectively allowing them to bind to the endocannabinoid system’s receptors.
Here are some examples of plants containing cannabinoids or substances that can activate cannabinoid receptors:
- Black pepper
- Truffles (trivia: they contain pure anandamide in pure form)
Moreover, endocannabinoids occur naturally in the body of most animals, including the human. It has also been shown that they can also be found in breast milk where they act as stimulators of neurogenesis, regulate appetite and the metabolism of the baby.
The Major Cannabinoids and Their Effects
Out of a group of nearly one hundred compound, few of the most prominent ones can be distinguished:
- CBD (Cannabidiol) – the second best known cannabinoid, abundantly found in cannabis. It does not exhibit psychoactive properties, but a wide array of health benefits: due to its analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties, cannabidiol can be found not only in the so-called medical marijuana but also in hemp oils. In addition, there are indications that because of its antipsychotic properties, CBD can help treat schizophrenia.
- CBG (Cannabigerol) – This cannabinoid is known primarily for its antimicrobial and relaxing properties – the latter can be helpful in relieving anxiety and neurosis. Studies also suggest that cannabigerol stimulates the development of bone and brain cells.
- CBC (Cannabichromene) is analgesic and anti-inflammatory. Research on CBC’s potential in supporting the regeneration of brain cells is underway. There are also some hints that CBC can be far more effective in relieving anxiety attacks thn the CBD.
- CBN (Cannabinol) – found in in cannabis only in trace amounts, CBN shows a very strong sedative effect, therefore it might be helpful in the treatment of insomnia; some of cannabis’ well-researched potential in treating glaucoma can be probably also attributed to cannabinol.
These are just a few examples of cannabinoids’ health benefits. There are many, many more compounds that interact with the endocannabinoid receptors, yet most of them have not yet been thoroughly studied and investigated.