For years, THC content in cannabis was all anyone cared about. Then came cannabidiol or CBD, the second-most common compound after THC. CBD is well-known for its powerful therapeutic effects, treating everything from anxiety and sleep disorders to pain management, and has now become the new poster child for the marijuana movement in the United States.
But did you know there are actually more than 100 known compounds in cannabis? So far, we’ve identified six major ones (referred to as “the big six”) that are believed to have unique and exciting properties.
Thankfully, it’s remarkably easy to apply online.
First, make an appointment with your doctor or visit a marijuana-friendly physician to get a recommendation. They will need to sign off on your application to confirm your qualifying condition. Qualifying conditions in Michigan include:
CBG content in most plants very low – often less than 1% - and is found in higher amounts in hemp strains than in flower. Like CBD, CBG is non-psychoactive, so it won’t “get you high,” but it’s thought to have multiple medicinal properties, helping with anxiety, loss of appetite and inflammation. It’s also believed to possess the greatest antibiotic, antibacterial and antifungal effects of all the major cannabinoids. Interestingly, when combined with the terpene limonene, it may also efficiently repel insects. Following CBD’s lead, some cannabis chemists are just now beginning to develop CBG extracts and concentrates.
Discovered more than 50 years ago, CBC’s potential benefits are extremely promising. This non-psychoactive compound is thought to have a number of therapeutic applications. Some studies suggest CBC, due to its anti-inflammatory properties, might be a powerful inhibitor of acne. Another 2013 study found CBC promotes brain cell growth. In conjunction with THC and CBD, CBC may also work well for treating symptoms of depression.
CBN was the first cannabinoid discovered by scientists, even before THC. It’s the primary product of THC degradation, making it more potent as the plant ages. Indeed, cannabis found in a 2,700-year-old grave in China contained higher amounts of CBN than any other cannabinoid in the bud, including THC and CBD!
Famous for its relaxing, sedative properties, CBN is thought to be a powerful sleep aid, especially when combined with THC. Preliminary studies have shown that 5 mg of CBN is as effective as a 10 mg dose of pharmaceutical diazepam, also known as valium. Other research with mice suggests CBN can prolong sleep time. Remember, CBN becomes more potent as THC breaks down (often from air and light exposure), so if you want to avoid its sedative effects be sure to store your cannabis somewhere dark and in an airtight container.
Although THCV sounds like THC, they’re actually quite different. Granted, THCV is one of the few cannabinoids other than THC that may also have intoxicating effects. But where THC is thought to increase appetite, THCV does the opposite, and can actually work as an appetite suppressant. Research shows THCV can also help in regulating blood sugar levels and reducing insulin resistance. Found in several African sativa-dominant strains, products high in THCV result in a stimulating, clear-headed, energetic high that tends to be shorter in duration.
What about terpenes?
Touted as the “essential oils” of cannabis, terpenes are aromatic, organic compounds that give different strains their signature scents. Just like a fingerprint, each strain has its own unique terpene profile. Like essential oils, they could have therapeutic uses as well; linalool, also found in lavender, is thought to be calming, where limonene, found in lemon, has more energizing results. Get to know your terpenes with our handy guide.
So there you have it: The “big six” of cannabinoids (plus terpenes). We’re only now beginning to understand the unique properties of these compounds and how they interact with THC, CBD, and each other. Keep in mind most of these compounds are typically found in extremely low levels and have amplified results when combined with the other major cannabinoids (known as “the entourage effect.”) A lot of research still needs to be done, but preliminary work suggests cannabis’ lesser-known compounds could have more therapeutic benefits than we originally thought.