There are two cannabis compounds you are likely to know a bit about. THC is the much-maligned compound responsible for the high associated with marijuana, and CBD — well, it is almost impossible to visit any store without seeing several products advertising CBD’s miraculous healing effects.

While THC and CBD are by far the most plentiful cannabis compounds, they are certainly not the only ones. In fact, as more funding is devoted to cannabis research, studies are finding that the less famous cannabinoids have more of an impact on the effects of different strains than many people might believe.


During your next trip to a Boston dispensary, you might see letters like CBG, CBN and CBC — here is what those acronyms mean.

Cannabigerol

Cannabigerol, or CBG, is like CBD’s younger cousin: non-psychoactive, present in small amounts and believed to be invaluable in the management of a number of health concerns. Already, a good amount of research has been devoted to better understanding CBG and its effects, and though so far studies have only used animal models, the results are somewhat promising.

In particular, CBG seems to be exceedingly beneficial in managing health concerns in the digestive system. In mice, the compound has been shown to decrease inflammation associated with inflammatory bowel disease and to slow the growth of colorectal cancers. There are signs that CBG helps manage painful bladder contractions, such as those experienced by interstitial cystitis sufferers. Finally, CBG appears to be an appetite stimulant, which has been useful in improving outcomes for cancer patients, AIDS patients and others.

Though more research is needed to understand the scope of CBG’s effectiveness in humans — and certainly regulation of CBG products is warranted to curb “miracle cure” products — CBG is another promising cannabis compound for medical application.

Cannabichromene

Cannabichromene, or CBC, is another non-psychoactive cannabinoid, but less is known about what CBC does in cannabis or in the human body. Many believe that CBC also has anti-inflammatory properties, making it useful in combating pain and managing a number of health concerns. CBC could also have antidepressant properties, which is why so many with depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions find using weed to be so beneficial.

Perhaps the most interesting effect of CBC is its role in neurogenesis, or the creation of new neurons in the brain. It is possible that CBC is helpful in encouraging neuroplasticity, or the ability for the brain to adapt in response to new experiences and protect itself from damage. Despite the oft-repeated belief that using weed kills brain cells, it seems that cannabis compounds could be critical in keeping the brain healthy and thriving.

Cannabinol

Cannabinol, or CBN, is one of the few cannabis compounds besides THC that is psychoactive, though to a much less degree than THC. CBN is present only in trace amounts in the cannabis plant, but because CBN develops as a byproduct of THC degradation, older weed is likely to have higher CBN concentrations. Most stoners believe that CBN has sedative effects, helping users induce sleep, but as yet, there is no scientific evidence to back up those claims.

Still, like other cannabinoids, CBN could be useful in medical applications as an appetite stimulant and anti-inflammatory agent. Recently, a study found that CBN might be helpful in managing the symptoms of ADHD, but more research is warranted to confirm this theory before ADHD sufferers should be advised to use CBN in spades.

Tetrahydrocannabivarin

Tetrahydrocannabivarin, or THCV, is a fascinating compound that could have important applications in American medical treatment. There is plenty of robust data to show that THCV lowers fasting insulin levels and improves glycemic control, which could make it invaluable in the fight against obesity and diabetes. Using THCV, researchers were able to improve the function of important pancreatic cells and balance hormones associated with diabetes. Though THCV isn’t present in high quantities in most cannabis strains, researchers and cannabis growers are working together to cultivate more THCV (and less THC) for enhanced study.

There is so much more to cannabis than THC and CBD. With more funding devoted to studying this funny little weed, we can unlock more information about compounds that could help manage or even reverse devastating disease.

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