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What Are Minor Cannabinoids?

Feb, 2022
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By now, most patients have heard of marijuana’s major cannabinoids THC and CBD. But cannabis contains over 100 other less abundant cannabinoids known as minor cannabinoids, which play an important role in achieving specific medical benefits and effects when consuming marijuana. Minor cannabinoids include CBG, CBN, CBC, and THCA – to name a few. Although scientists have deemed these cannabinoids minor, they could have a major impact when treating patients.

Research shows that minor cannabinoids may have potential benefits in the treatment of neuropathic pain, neurodegenerative diseases, epilepsy, cancer, and skin disorders. As researchers discover more about minor cannabinoids, the role they may play in the future of medical marijuana expands. Patients could be seeing the focus shift from THC and CBD levels in cannabis products to what valuable minor cannabinoids the product contains. First of all, how does it all work?

minor cannabinoids

How Cannabinoids Work

All cannabinoids work with the endocannabinoid system in the body, which regulates and controls many of the body’s most critical functions. The body’s main cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, are stimulated by endocannabinoids produced by the body itself and, of course, cannabinoids found in cannabis. So basically, our bodies are made for this.

But what cannabinoids are best for you and the benefits you desire? Cannabis cultivators often separate cannabinoids for consumers to enjoy, while they filter other cannabinoids out. Now, researchers have found that looking at the bigger picture, which places importance on consuming products that maintain the compounds of the whole plant, may be more beneficial.

Studies show that the combination of major and minor cannabinoids (as well as other compounds present in the whole cannabis plant) provides greater medical benefits and effectiveness than consuming these compounds separately. This phenomenon is called the entourage effect.

What is the Entourage Effect?

The entourage effect is the theory that various cannabis compounds work together to create specific effects and benefits. Using this theory, combining minor cannabinoids (CBC, CBG…) with major cannabinoids like THC and CBD allows for more medicinal benefits upon consumption, like pain relief. Although patients will see better efficacy when combining various compounds of the whole plant, patients will still experience benefits upon consuming separated compounds. So let’s get into the benefits of some of the most prominent minor cannabinoids. 

Prominent Minor Cannabinoids

In the cannabis plant, cannabinoids are naturally in their acidic form before they convert into active cannabinoids through heat or UV. Minor cannabinoids provide just as many health benefits as major cannabinoids and are not psychoactive on their own. Although there are over one hundred minor cannabinoids, patients are likely to only encounter a few when searching for cannabis products.

CBG

CBG, or cannabigerol, is the original cannabinoid produced early in the cannabis plant’s growth cycle. From CBG, all other cannabinoids are synthesized through different metabolic processes as the plant matures. Like CBD, CBG is non-psychoactive because it works indirectly on neurological pathways, rather than directly binding to the CB1 receptors of the endocannabinoid system. 

Along with other minor cannabinoids, CBG may reduce the severity of inflammatory diseases and peripheral pain, protect against neuroinflammation and oxidative stress, help prevent neuronal cell loss, and may even suppress cancer cell growth. Some experiments show that anti-cancer activity is enhanced when CBG is combined with other cannabinoids such as CBD, further supporting the entourage effect. 

CBG also inhibits the uptake of GABA and anandamide (the “bliss molecule”) which provides benefits like a boost in mood and anxiety relief. It is also known to be an alternative to THC to stimulate appetite.

CBC

CBC, or cannabichromene, is one of the most abundant minor cannabinoids found in cannabis. We know this unique cannabinoid for its anti-inflammatory and immune-supporting functions. In one study, high doses of CBC were more effective than the NSAID phenylbutazone in treating inflammation. CBC has also been shown to support the effects of major cannabinoids, increasing the pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory benefits of THC through the entourage effect. 

CBC also supports the function of our own natural endocannabinoids by inhibiting the uptake of anandamide. This allows anandamide to stay in the bloodstream longer, which can elevate mood and might allow anandamide to fight cancer cells. In one study that examined the anti-tumor effects of various minor cannabinoids, only CBG was more effective than CBC at inhibiting the growth of several cancer cell lines.

CBN

minor cannabinoids

The cannabis plant produces CBN, or cannabinol, through the degradation of THC over time. This cannabinoid isn't synthesized in the cannabis plant but is derived during the degradation of THC. CBN is an anti-inflammatory agent and studies report it to relieve chronic muscle pain disorders. The compound also “shows promise as an antibacterial agent and an appetite stimulant.” CBN is highly successful in fighting multiple antibiotic-resistant bacteria, including MRSA, making it a potentially viable treatment for staph infections.

Some studies show that when administered along with THC, CBN produces greater sedation compared with either cannabinoid alone. Otherwise, cannabinol doesn't appear to have any sleep-inducing effects.

CBGA

CBGA is the acidic form of CBG in the cannabis plant. As previously mentioned, all cannabinoids are first naturally found in an acidic form. So if all cannabinoids come from CBG, this means that they really begin with CBG’s precursor, CBGA. Since CBGA decarboxylates over time to CBG, you'll rarely find it in high levels in mature cannabis flowers. Cultivators may harvest the plant early or increase CBGA through selective breeding to obtain it in significant amounts.

CBGA may play a role in controlling diabetes mellitus and preventing the cardiovascular complications that can accompany Type 2 diabetes. CBGA may also be beneficial in treating certain types of cancer. One study reports that cannabis containing high amounts of CBGA had the potential to damage or kill colon cancer cells. These effects were even stronger when patients received a cannabis fraction high in THCA along with the CBGA. This combination prevented the growth and proliferation of adenomatous colon polyps – colon cancer precursors.

THCA

THCA is the acidic form of THC within the cannabis plant. Also known as tetrahydrocannabinol acid, this compound is non-psychoactive before you heat it and convert it into THC. In a recent study, THCA treatment reduced the expression of inflammatory molecules. THCA may also be an alternative to THC for treating nausea and vomiting.

THCA is most effective when combined with other cannabinoids and terpenes. When combined with THC, this THC derivative may reduce seizures. In treating seizures, formulations of THCA containing high levels of the terpene α-linalool were more beneficial than formulations containing low levels of the terpene. This is another example of the entourage effect.

CBNA

CBNA and THCA are closely linked, but CBNA is less prominent in marijuana plants. This compound is CBN’s precursor cannabinoid, otherwise known as CBN in its acidic form. The levels of CBNA and CBN increase as cannabis plants begin to age, making mature cannabis the most common home for high amounts of both cannabinoids. 

Researchers found that CBNA is just as effective as CBN, if not more effective in fighting certain types of bacteria, like MRSA. CBNA is also good for stimulating appetite, relieving pain in combination with CBD, and reversing bone loss.

The Benefits of Full-spectrum Cannabis Products

minor cannabinoids

Full-spectrum cannabis products maintain the full profile of the cannabis plant, including the above minor cannabinoids. Patients can experience the powerful benefits of the entourage effect when consuming full-spectrum products, rather than consuming products that single out certain compounds. Full-spectrum benefits could make all the difference for patients consuming cannabis to treat specific medical ailments.

When searching for full-spectrum products, look for terms like:

  • Live resin: Extractors produce live resin using fresh — rather than dried — cannabis plants. 
  • High terpene full-spectrum extract (HTFSE): High terpene extracts contain a higher level of terpenes than most products.
  • High cannabinoid full-spectrum extract (HCFSE): High cannabinoid extracts produce a high cannabinoid concentration.

Even when these terms are used, you cannot be fully certain a product is full-spectrum without running a lab test – but it’s a good place to start.

Avoid Synthetic Cannabinoids

Synthetic cannabinoids, like “spice” or “K2”, are man-made chemicals that some people may use as an alternative to marijuana. Compared to marijuana, synthetic cannabinoids may affect the brain in different and unpredictable ways. Synthetic cannabinoids are unsafe, can cause illness, and even death. 

Synthetic Cannabinoids List

Sellers typically advertise artificial, manufactured cannabinoids by a brand name or street name. Here’s what to watch out for.

  • K2
  • Spice
  • Mr. Happy
  • Mr. Smiley
  • Bliss
  • Black Mamba
  • Scooby Snax
  • Fake/legal weed
  • Kronic

Similar to a synthetic cannabinoid, you will not find the newly discovered cannabinoid THC-O naturally in the hemp plant. Unlike typical synthetics, THC-O shares a similar chemical profile to delta-8 and delta-9 THC. THC-O is a powerful, psychoactive cannabinoid that is lacking research to determine its safety. It is best to avoid THC-O.

Get the Cannabis Treatment You Deserve with Elevate Holistics

It’s a lot to take in, but it’s important to keep in mind what your cannabis products contain when treating any type of medical issue. This could be the difference between getting the help you deserve from your cannabis products and not properly treating your symptoms. What’s the first step in getting legit medical benefits from marijuana? Applying to get your medical marijuana card.

Elevate Holistics is a fully online, simple way to receive your MMJ card. Elevate connects you with a certified cannabis physician via video chat and helps you every step of the way. Get the most out of your cannabinoids: book an appointment with Elevate Holistics to get your MMJ card now.