Cannabinoids & Terpenes
If you have spent time researching the reported health benefits of CBD oil, you probably have come across countless names of hemp cannabinoids and their abbreviations: CBD, THC, CBN, CBG and so on, which can all get quite confusing. What exactly are these things, and how or why do hemp plants produce so many? And what about the over 200 terpenes, a group of phytochemicals which are also produced by hemp?
Terpenes are a family of phytochemicals which are responsible for the aromatic properties of cannabis. There are many terpenes which explains why when you grow cannabis, different strains have distinctive aromas. Some terpenes are more common than others so there are some aromas which are characteristic of cannabis. Terpenes also play another role. In our bodies, terpenes act on a variety of neurotransmitters and receptors. As with the many cannabinoids in hemp, terpenes and terpenoids (slightly different things..) have only had a relatively small amount of research performed on them.
It may be surprising to know that all of the hemp cannabinoids and terpenes found originate from two phytochemicals known as DMAP and IPP (Image of chemical pathways here). To produce terpenes, three IPP molecules are joined together to form farnesyl pyrophosphate. This is then used to produce the terpenes known as sesquiterpenes, or converted to the terpene limonene, which has demonstrated positive effects on depression and cognition.
Some of this limonene is then converted to other monoterpenes, such as linalool, a substance that has demonstrated sedative, anti-anxiety and pain relieving effects. In traditional aromatherapy, there have also been reports of lavender oil, a rich source of linalool, healing skin burns with little to no scarring.
The sesquiterpenes include beta-caryophyllene, which has been shown to stimulate the CB2 cannabinoid receptors. It is therefore not only a terpene but also the first known cannabinoid that is non-exclusive to hemp; however, it will not cause a “high”. Limonene and the hemp cannabinoids also share a closer common origin, a substance known as geranyl pyrophosphate.
The major hemp cannabinoids found in cannabis
Over 113 cannabinoids have been isolated from the cannabis plant. Many are obscure and only found in trace amounts. We only have a basic understanding of how these cannabinoids interact with the human endocannabinoid system with much further research required to investigate the cannabinoid family in more detail.
Here are the most common hemp cannabinoids:
Cannabidiol (CBD) is the most common cannabinoid in most hemp plants, and has demonstrated the widest variety of potential medicinal uses. Many scientific papers and anecdotal reports detail possible pain relieving, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-seizure and anti-nausea effects of CBD.
Cannabidiol Acid (CBDA) is a precursor to cannabidiolate and acts as an enzyme which synthesizes cannabidiol.
Cannabidivarin (CBDV) is a homolog of cannabidiol. It is non-psychoactive. CBDV has been shown to have anti-epileptic and anticonvulsant properties. CBDV is being researched heavily for use in epileptic seizure management.
Cannabichromene (CBC) may possess anti-inflammatory, pain relieving and antidepressant properties, maybe partially due to its ability to slow the breakdown of the body’s own cannabinoids. CBC appears to have anti-fungal and anticonvulsant properties.
Cannabigerol (CBG) This reacts with another substance, olivetolic acid, with the help of an enzyme to form the “first” cannabinoid, cannabigerolic acid. Enzymes are produced by all lifeforms: bacteria, plants and animals, as they are needed to speed up vital chemical reactions that could otherwise take years. Cannabigerolic acid is the acid form of cannabigerol, a cannabinoid which may reduce the breakdown of the body’s own cannabinoids. It may also possess antidepressant, antianxiety and anti-inflammatory effects, with the latter possibly a stronger effect than that of THC. Cannabigerolic acid can then be converted to the acid forms of THC, as well as cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabichromene (CBC).
Cannabinol (CBN) is a product of aged THC, and it has demonstrated possible anticonvulsant and anti-inflammatory effects. On top of this, geranyl pyrophosphate is also joined to another substance known as divarinic acid to form cannabigerovarinic acid. This can then be converted to similar versions of THC, CBD and CBC called “propyl analogues”. One of these, THCV, has demonstrated anti-obesity effects, which may be of high importance to the health of many in our current society.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the psychoactive substance in plants of the Cannabis genus, and is therefore not present in the hemp oils and extracts. It is also a scheduled substance in many countries and therefore illegal to possess or distribute. To create THC, geranyl pyrophosphate and olivetolic acid react and are then catalysed by an enzyme, producing cannabigerolic acid (CBGA). The CGBA is then cyclized by the enzyme THC acid synthase to produce THCA. Over time, or when heated, THCA decarboxylates, producing THC.
Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) is a CB1 and CB2 receptor antagonist. It is a homologue of THC and has quite different effects. THCV is a non-psychoactive substance. THCV is being researched heavily for use in the management of type II diabetes.
Overall, you can see that hemp cannabinoids production by hemp plants is a complex process. Without it, we would not have hemp oil with its wide range of potential therapeutic uses. These pathways can also help to explain how it is possible to increase or decrease levels of certain cannabinoids. We already know about the removal of THC from hemp extracts to create a more potent solution for many ailments. As more research comes to light, different strains with different levels of certain cannabinoids may be produced in order to deliver specific health benefits more effectively.
Elixinol hemp oil is a full-spectrum whole-plant, organic oil. We use a CO2 extraction process to maintain maximum purity. This means our hemp oil products (CBD oil) contains a full spectrum of cannabinoids produced in the optimal way for your health and the health of the planet. Click to find out more about or purchase CBD Products.