There are over 480 natural chemicals in weed, 86 of which are only found exclusively in the cannabis plant. These medicinal and psychoactive ingredients can work separately or together on cell receptors located throughout our body to achieve a healthy balance in your body. This network of cell receptors is known as the endocannabinoid system.
The endocannabinoid system interacts with natural chemicals in our body known as endocannabinoids. These endocannabinoids act on cannabinoid cell receptors in the body. The two major cannabinoid receptors are CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are typically located in the brain, while CB2 receptors can be found throughout the nervous system to aid our immune system. Chemical substances in cannabis like cannabinoids can help individuals in seemingly endless ways.
What Are Cannabinoids?
There are more than 80 active cannabinoid compounds in cannabis that have different effects on cannabinoid receptors in the body. Unlike an Herbal Blend of naturally-occurring endocannabinoids, cannabinoids are secreted in the tiny resinous hair (trichomes) in the flowers, leaves, and stems of the cannabis plant. While They resemble endocannabinoids by mimicking their therapeutic effects on multiple biological functions.
Studies into cannabinoids have shown that these chemicals in weed can help manage anxiety, movement disorders, sleeping issues, depression, nausea, chronic pain, inflammatory diseases, addictions, cancer treatments, and cancer itself. Depending on which cannabinoid you consume, you may experience a variety of short-term and mild side effects, as well.
THCA (Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid)
THCA is one of the most abundant non-psychoactive chemicals in weed. THCA can be found in raw cannabis that hasn't been heated or cured. Because it is a cannabinoid acid, it needs to be heated in order to convert to the psychoactive THC cannabinoid. In its natural form, THCA reduces inflammation and has neuroprotective benefits for people with dementia and Parkinson's. One study found THCA stopped the spread of prostate cancer cells. THCA also features anti-convulsant, antioxidant, and antispasmodic properties that can help people with movement disorders. THCA can be found in protein powders and tinctures to aid in tough workouts.
Once THCA has been heated or "decarboxylzed" it converts to the psychoactive THC cannabinoid. Out of all the chemicals in weed, THC is the most mind-altering of them all. THC features similar effects to the endocannabinoid anandamide responsible for the elevated feelings of happiness and creativity.
When consumed, THC enters the bloodstream and interacts with cannabinoid receptors in the brain to stimulate the release of dopamine, a feel-good hormone. While you may feel euphoric, taking too much can trigger anxious thoughts in people who suffer from mental illnesses. THC can be used as medicine for the following:
- Chronic Pain
- Mental Health
- Digestive Issues
CBDA (Cannabidiolic Acid)
CBDA is another type of chemical compound that can be consumed through raw cannabis. As a precursor to CBD, CBDA does not contain any psychoactive effects. Studies on CBDA prove that it's a powerful cancer cell inhibitor, not only by preventing the spread of these cells, but also reducing the inflammation in the affected areas. Reap all the health benefits and none of the cerebral experiences by consuming raw cannabis leaves, for example.
CBD is the second most commonly found cannabinoid, but unlike its counterpart THC, it won't get you high. Found in an endless amount of products including pills, tinctures, salves, and pre-filled cartridges, CBD interacts with the brain and immune system to achieve homeostasis, or an equilibrium of biological processes. Since CBD will leave you clear-headed, it's a worthwhile option for the following conditions:
- Chronic Pain
- Epilepsy and Seizure Disorders
When THCA ages, it turns into CBNA and CBN when heated. That means that cannabis that's been stored poorly can degrade over time due to exposure to light, moisture, and oxygen. When you smoke this dry flower, you'll feel sleepy due to CBN's strong sedative effects. For this reason, CBN can treat insomnia, stimulate appetite, inhibit cancer cell growth, and mitigate anxiety, and reduce symptoms of glaucoma.
CBGA is one of the most important cannabinoids mainly because it acts as a foundational building block of other cannabinoids like THCA and CBDA. CBGA converts to CBG, a non-hallucinogenic compound. One study found that CBG improves symptoms of Huntington's disease and treat colon cancer. CBG's therapeutic properties include:
- Antifungal effects
- Antimicrobial (helpful in Psoriasis)
- Reduces breast cancer tumor growth
- Inhibits MRSA in conjunction with CBD
- Antidepressant effects
Descendant from CBGA, CBCA converts into CBC after exposure to heat. CBC has an extensive range of therapeutic benefits including antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral effects. One study showed that CBC compounds reduced inflammation in the intestinal tract associated with diarrhea. Even more exciting, CBC has had a beneficial effect on brain health for individuals with Alzheimer's disease.
What Are Terpenes?
There are over 140 different terpenes found in the cannabis plant and thousands more found across the plant kingdom. These essential oils are secreted from the trichomes resin glands and emit a unique aromatic profile. Patients and recreational users can reap the medicinal effects by smoking or vaporizing terpenes. Every terpene contains different effects.
Reminiscent of pine trees, pinene features anti-inflammatory properties including helping improve lung airflow for patients with asthma. Pinene also mitigates memory loss from overconsumption of THC and features antibacterial qualities.
Linalool is the terpene associated with the smell of lavender. This minor terpene aids in multiple roles from relieving pain to reducing nausea, depression, and inflammation. For people with sleeping disorders, linalool offers a strong respite.
Found in black pepper, rosemary, and basil, beta-caryophyllene affects the CB2 cannabinoid receptor in the body. Interestingly, beta-caryophyllene reduced voluntary alcohol intake in animal models.Beta-caryophyllene also reduces the chances of contracting diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease.
One of the most commonly found terpenes in cannabis, myrcene exhibits an earthy smell. Myrcene not only aids in inflammation and pain, but it also helps in reducing the size of cancerous tumors. One study cites it's strong sedative qualities which can help patients that need adequate sleep.
Limonene has a strong citrus scent. Most importantly, linalool increases the chance for other terpenes to be absorbed through the skin and other tissues. The increase of medicinal benefits aids in acid reflux, acne, athlete's foot, bronchitis, and can halt the progression of cancer cells.
What Are Flavonoids?
Flavonoids may only comprise about 10 percent of the chemicals in weed, but play a huge role in the cannabis plant. Flavonoids are responsible for the aroma and flavor of your favorite strain. Not only that, flavonoids give strains their non-green pigmentation, all while protecting the plant from UV rays and common plant diseases like pests and fungi. Flavonoids are also found in fruits and vegetables, although one group, cannaflavins, are only found in marijuana.
Due to prohibition, studies into flavonoids are lacking. Cannaflavins, however, have been found to have anti-inflammatory properties. One study found that two varieties of cannaflavins (A and B) can limit inflammation caused by overactive prostaglandins. Cannaflavins were even more effective than over-the-counter medication for this condition.
Catechins aren't exclusively found in the cannabis plant. Catechins have been widely studied and are found in fresh fruits, green tea, red wine, cocoa beans, and legumes. Studies have confirmed that catechins feature antioxidant and heart-healthy properties. If you suffer from cardiovascular disease and hypertension, the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of catechins can help.
Apigenin is a naturally-occurring flavonoid found across many fruits, vegetables, and herbs. It's most commonly found in chamomile, parsley, and celery. Studies have shown that apigenin is helpful in reducing anxious feelings, inflammation, and breast cancer cell growth. Apigenin is a promising hope for the treatment of multiple forms of cancer.
Quercetin is an antioxidant found in a variety of fruits and vegetables like apples, leafy greens, berries, and citrus fruits. This abundant flavonoid is not only antiviral and anti-inflammatory, but also promotes heart health and reduces seasonal and food allergies. Quercetin can also improve skin health, reduce pain, improves leaky gut, and inhibit cancer growth.
Kaempferol can be found in broccoli, berries, tomatoes, almonds, teas, and wines. Kaempferol studies have focused on its effect on heart disease and cancer. As an antioxidant, kaempferol fights against free radicals, unstable molecules that can cause damage to cells. By limiting the oxidizing damage, kaempferol reduces the chance of developing tumors and cancer. Studies have also shown that Kaempferol may provide antidepressant effects.
Why Buy Whole-Plant Cannabis?
So far, we've discussed how chemicals in weed affect our system independently of each other. While THC and CBD may do wonders for people with debilitating conditions, research suggests that consuming the whole-plant cannabis is far more beneficial. Whole-plant cannabis refers to the synergistic effect experience when multiple cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids interact with each other.
The complementary therapeutic function of these chemical compounds is also referred to as "the entourage effect." For example, studies have shown that patients who suffer from anxiety disorders have a greater chance of exhibiting paranoia from marijuana that contains high levels of THC. Taking CBD along with THC not only amplifies the therapeutic effects of cannabis but also reduces the negative side effects like paranoia and anxiety. Flavonoids and terpenes are also thought to mitigate the psychoactive properties of THC.
Although some people may not be want to delve into the hallucinogenic experience associated with THC, there are many advantages to pairing isolated extracts like CBD with its psychoactive counterpart, THC. The natural and therapeutic chemicals in weed, including terpenes, flavonoids, and cannabinoids, all affect different areas in the body which makes their therapeutic qualities increase dramatically.