A Quick Look Into a Lesser-Known Cannabinoid with a Bad Reputation
Milk is healthy and delicious. Even vegans know it. It’s why mammalian mothers create it. Mammals don’t produce thin water; they create a fully-substantive drink that nourishes tiny babies and helps them grow at a rapid rate.
Milk is delicious. But not if you let it set in the fridge for four months before drinking it. It begins to solidify. Let is set long enough and drinking milk will be like eating thin, runny butter that tastes like the bottom of a garbage can.
Things go bad. And bad things happen to good things that go bad. Milk is no exception. Cannabis is no exception, either.
Does cannabis go bad over time?
If left out on a window sill for long enough, do you think your cannabis will change? It’s a plant with a cellular structure that responds to light when it’s alive. When it’s plucked from its stalk, cannabis still responds to its environment. An environment of heat and light will slowly degrade the chemical compounds in the plant. As cannabichromene (CBC) breaks down under the heat and light, it converts into a new cannabinoid: cannabicyclol (CBL). While there is not much research done on this particular cannabinoid, it doesn’t seem to carry any psychoactive properties.
Interesting it was found in relatively high quantities in cannabis that was removed from a grave site dating back to nearly 3,000 years ago.  Its density in the flower is likely a result of CBC breaking down over the long period of time.
If someone were to smoke that cannabis, it’s unlikely that they would feel a significant psychoactive effect. The high levels of thermally-labile, oxidizable cannabinoids create a poor profile for modern consumers.
What is CBL good for?
At this point, it’s unclear what CBL is good for. In terms of research, CBD and THC still take up most of the spotlight.
Some time ago, CBL was shown to be one of the few cannabinoids that doesn’t inhibit prostaglandin production. Prostaglandins are biochemicals that stimulate responses to pain, inflammation, and fever, and also protect our stomach lining and intestines from the corrosive effects from acid. Inhibitors of prostaglandins help reduce pain, inflammation, and fever.
Because it’s normally found in old, rotten cannabis, and because it doesn’t deliver any psychoactive effects, CBL quickly gets a bad name for a cannabinoid.
But we shouldn’t overlook it so quickly. As scientists continue to slowly unveil the medical properties of the molecular bounty cannabis contains, it seems unlikely that CBL will be discarded as an irrelevant by-product, without some use.
- Russo EB, Jiang HE, Li X, et al. “Phytochemical and genetic analyses of ancient cannabis from Central Asia.” J Exp Bot. 2008;.59(15):4171-82. [Times Cited = 118, Journal Impact Factor = 3.32]
- Burstein et al. “Prostaglandins and Cannabis—II inhibition of biosynthesis by the naturally occurring cannabinoids.” Biochemical Pharmacology. 1973: 22;2905-2910. [Times cited = 55, Journal Impact Factor = 5.009]