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Minor Cannabis Cannabinoids

Written by Heather Ritchie

When scientists began studying the complexities of cannabis decades ago, they found it contained more than 60 cannabinoid compounds. [1] As a result, Raphael Mechoulam and his fellow researchers discovered the endocannabinoid system in 1992. [2]This system is vital and its involved in maintaining the health of our bodies. Its receptors can be found in organs, glands, connective tissues, immune cells, and the brain. Cannabinoids react with these receptors, stimulating or inhibiting specific effects.

The two most common cannabinoids that everyone is familiar with are THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol), but there are additional minor cannabinoids that also provide therapeutic benefits.Research continues to isolate more compounds that can treat various symptoms and illnesses. Here’s a look at some of the lesser known cannabinoids.

Cannabigerol (CBG)

First, CBGA or cannabigerolic acid is the primary cannabinoid that is one of the reasons that cannabis is soexceptional. It’s found in the early development of the plant, and acts as the precursor to cannabichromenic acid (CBCA), tetrahydrocannabinolicacid (THCA), and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA).Cannabigerol or CBG is non-intoxicating, like CBD, and has antibacterial properties that balance the general effects of cannabis. Enzymes in the plant cause CBGA to go through several changes via a process called biosynthesis that begins when olivetolicacid and geranyl phosphate combine to create CBGA. [3]

Since it’s found so early in the plant’s development, its hard to obtain large amounts of CBGA. Studies have illustrated thatlarger quantities are found in industrial hemp, possibly as a result of a recessive gene that may be in control of making sure the plant doesn’t synthesize into a primary compound (CBCA, THCA, or CBDA).

Breeders can control the plant’s cannabinoid profile tochange how much of CBC, CBD, or THC that it produces. Over the years, breeders have learned to crossbreed a variety of chemovars dependent upon the natural effects that people want for recreational or medicinal purposes. Two plants with the recessive gene that prevents the synthesisof CBD, for example, would be bred for a chemovar that would produce more CBG.One popular exampleof a high CBG variety isMickey Kush. [4] Others include William’s Wondersand Allen Wrench.

CBG is an appetite stimulant, bone stimulant, brain cell stimulant and helps suppress cancer cell growth. CBG also helps insomnia, is an anti-inflammatory, and helps reduce seizures.

Cannabinol (CBN)

THC results from using heat or light to decarboxylate THCA, and over time THC can also oxidize to CBN. Thus, CBN is often considered an indicator of the freshness of the flower. CBN is attributed with cannabis’s sedative effects. It can also be used as an anti-bacterial. A 2008 Italian study illustrates its medical efficacy against MRSA. [5] This cannabinoid can also treat psoriasis and burns. More studies are needed, but CBN may also help heal broken bones and treat osteoporosis.

Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid (THCA)

THCA is typically the highest concentration cannabinoid in cannabis flower.It is not intoxicating, but when decarboxylated, THCA converts to THC.This is one of the many reasons for getting cannabis products tested at a quality analytical lab. If the THCA is not decarboxylated to THC prior to going in to an edible, the patient will not feel the desired effects of THC.

THCA serves acritical medicinal function in that it helps reduce nausea and vomiting even more successfully than THC. More research could help elucidate whetherit’s better for medical patients because it lacks the intoxication associated withTHC.

THCA may also combine synergistically with other cannabinoids to increase their anti-inflammatory benefits. An article by Kevin Treman for Elixinol discussed how THCA inhibits the enzymes COX1 by 50 percent and COX2 by 30 percent. These enzymes use omega-6 fatty acids to create inflammatory substances in the body. Tapping the current mantra, more research is necessary to understand just how much of a role these enzymes interrupt the body’s ability to heal bones so CBD may be a better choice for now.

Cannabichromene (CBC)

This little-known cannabinoid has many therapeutic benefits. Like the popular cannabinoids THC and CBD, it comes from CBGA. Initially discovered in 1966, CBC occurs as the result of decarboxylation. Like the other processes above, when subjected to high heat, CBCA loses a CO2 molecule thus producing CBC.

This minor cannabinoid is known to promote bone growth and help reduce pain and inflammation. It also successfully treats migraines. Most importantly, it may effectively treat cancer because of how it interacts with anandamide, inhibiting cancerous tumor growth. Studies on humans have shown that anandamide combats breast cancer. CBC works with the endocannabinoid keeping it in the bloodstream longer for maximum efficacy.[6] CBC often is at higher concentrations in tropical cannabis chemovars. Some varieties that are high in CBC are 3 Kings or Birthday Cake.

Cannabidiolic Acid (CBDA)

This cannabinoid also interacts with the COX2 enzyme promoting the reduction of inflammation. Just like THCA, CBDA does not stimulate feelings of intoxication, anddecarboxylates to CBD when heated. Its found to be even more successful as an antimicrobial than CBD.

Raw cannabis that is juiced or extracted from CBD rich plants like Cannatonic and Charlotte’s Web is often the best way to consumer CBDA. Increased research on CBDA to reveal more of its medicinal properties would prove very beneficial to people.

These are just a few of the lesser known cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. As more states legalize cannabis, enhanced research efforts will uncover this unique plant’s mysteries.


  1. Atakan, Zerrin. Cannabis, a complex plant: different compounds and different effects on individuals. Ther Adv Psychopharmacol2012;2(6):241-254. DOI: 10.1177/2045125312457586
  2. Devane et al. Isolation and structure of a brain constituent that binds to the cannabinoid receptor. Science 1992;258(5090):1946-9.DOI: 10.1126/science.1470919.
  3. Carvalho et al. Designing microorganisms for heterologous biosynthesis of cannabinoids. FEMS Yeast Res 2017;17(4):fox037. DOI: 10.1093/femsyr/fox037
  4. De Meijer and Hammond. The inheritance of chemical phenotype in Cannabis sativa (II). Euphytica2005;145(1-2):189-198.
  5. Appendino et al. Antibacterial cannabinoids from Cannabis sativa: a structure-activity study. J Nat Prod 2008;71(8):1427-30. DOI: 10.1021/np8002673.
  6. Petrocellis et al. The endogenous cannabinoid anandamide inhibits human breast cancer cell proliferation. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 1998;95(14):8375-8380.

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Heather Ritchie

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