There's no question that the U.S. market for CBD products is riding high — health analysts believe it could be worth an estimated $21 billion by 2022. But in a landscape that's becoming saturated with CBD-rich oils, balms, tinctures, and beauty products, how is any one brand expected to stand out? For many, it's now about looking beyond CBD and raising the status of other non-psychoactive hemp compounds — the several minor cannabinoids such as CBN, CBG and CBC.
The Popularity of CBD
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is the lesser-known child of the cannabis sativa plant; its more famous sibling, tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the active ingredient in pot that catapults users' "high." With roots in Central Asia, the plant is believed to have been first used medicinally — or for rituals — around 750 B.C., though there are other estimates too.
Cannabidiol and THC are just two of the plant's more than 100 cannabinoids. THC is psychoactive, and CBD may or may not be, which is a matter of debate. THC can increase anxiety; it is not clear what effect CBD is having, if any, in reducing it. THC can lead to addiction and cravings; CBD is being studied to help those in recovery. Extracting CBD results in a thick oily paste, which is then typically mixed with a carrier oil, such as hemp oil or coconut oil, to produce a product with a specific concentration of CBD. That product is CBD oil.
In a survey published in the July 2018 issue of Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, almost 62 percent of CBD users reported using it to treat a medical condition, the top three being pain, anxiety, and depression.
CBD gets the most attention because of its ability to reduce pain. In fact, it can reduce everything from the physical pain caused by arthritis to the neuropathic pain caused by multiple sclerosis. If you have an inflammatory disease which is causing you pain, then try some CBD oil and you should see that pain dissipating in no time.
Since cannabinoids work better synergistically, rather than individually, it's important to take the time to learn about all the different ways the compounds in hemp and cannabis work together. Keep in mind that cannabinoid research is in its preliminary stages, but what we've already discovered is extremely promising.
Although CBD, or cannabidiol, is the most abundant cannabinoid found in hemp, it's just one of many that are thought to be supportive in the face of mental or physical stress. CBC (cannabichromene) and CBG (cannabigerol) have been touted as anti-inflammatory agents. CBN (cannabinol) shows some promise as a sleep aid. While CBD is also believed to have these benefits, some product developers believe they can create more nuanced, targeted solutions by incorporating higher levels of these secondary cannabinoids.
There's more awareness about the perceived therapeutic benefits that THC and CBD have to offer, but cannabichromene (CBC) might be the more important cannabinoids you never knew existed. CBC is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid produced in the glandular trichomes of the cannabis plant. It binds to one of the body's cation channel proteins (TRPA1), which is less known than the more popular CB1 and CB2 receptors.
CBC has shown promise in addressing a variety of medical conditions, including pain, inflammation, cancer, depression, even acne. One study, published in 2011 in the British Journal of Pharmacology, found that this cannabinoid blocks pain processing in the brain in a way that is very similar to opioids and THC. A 2010 study published in the Elsevier journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence also demonstrated that anti-inflammatory responses in mice were enhanced when CBC was combined with THC, an example of the entourage effect in action.
CBN (cannabinol) is an interesting cannabinoid, as it is produced when THC is heated or exposed to oxygen. Unlike THC, cannabinol does not bind well to CB1 and CB2 receptors. Scientists classify CBN as non-psychoactive, and it is not an abundant cannabinoid. The CBN content found in the cannabis plant on average will be less than 1 percent.
When THC is exposed to heat or natural elements for a prolonged period of time, it will eventually break down into cannabinol (CBN), a mysterious cannabinoid that is rumored to offer sedative effects. Known as a "degradation" of THC, the presence of CBN can be accelerated when dried cannabis is exposed to oxygen and heat. It's considered to be mildly intoxicating, but research suggests that it's only one-fourth as potent as THC.
Like CBD, CBG does not produce a "high" like THC does. In fact, both THC and CBD start out as cannabigerol. It's an interesting process. Basically, cannabis plants produce cannabigerol acid. Specific enzymes in the plant then breaks down the CBGA into the the acidic form of THC and CBD (known as THCA/CBDA). Next, THC and CBD form as the acid burns off via decarboxylation.
CBG works by increasing anandamide levels. Anandamide is an endocannabinoid, a naturally occurring cannabinoid found throughout our bodies, that helps regulate biological functions including appetite, sleep, and memory.
CBG binds to and activates cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2. Strong scientific evidence indicates that CBG has antioxidative activity and inhibits neuroinflammation, which suggests a neuroprotective effect. In addition, CBG suppressed colonic inflammation in the preclinical model of inflammatory bowel disease.
Both CBG and CBD are currently considered non-psychotropic, meaning they won't alter your state of mind in a way that would inhibit your day-to-day function and mental clarity. They can, however, alter your mind in a way that could potentially relieve anxiety and depression. So perhaps a better description of this would be "non-intoxicating" — it won't get you high in the way THC can.