Updated: Mar 24
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Welcome to Cannabinoid Clinic, an education project powered by Higher Learning LV. This series provides cannabis and hemp industry professionals with easily digested cannabinoid profiles that ask little of your time—but provide plenty of science-based information.
There are two categories of cannabinoids: Phytocannabinoids and endocannabinoids. Phytocannabinoids are those produced by cannabis/marijuana/hemp, while endocannabinoids are made by the human body. This series covers both.
THCP molecular structure
What is THCP?
Tetrahydrocannabiphorol (THCP) was discovered only as recently as December 2019 when a group of Italian researchers published a peer-reviewed research study entitled "A Novel Phytocannabinoid Isolated From Cannabis Sativa L. with Cannabimimetic Activity Higher Than Tetrahydrocannabinol: Tetrahydrocannabiphorol," in the journal Scientific Reports.
"THCP was shown to feature a CB1 receptor binding affinity that is 33 times greater than that of THC and a whopping 63 times greater than that of its varin analog cousin, THCV."
The study also discovered a sibling molecule, cannabidiphorol (CBDP), giving a new member to the cannabidiol (CBD) family of analogs and homologs. However, the research included no mention of the discovery of phorol analogs for the cannabinoids cannabigerol (CBG) or cannabichromene (CBC).
This discovery signifies more than merely the addition of yet another cannabinoid to the pharmacopoeia of chemicals produced by cannabis and hemp. THCP was shown to feature a CB1 receptor binding affinity that is 33 times greater than that of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and a whopping 63 times greater than that of its varin analog cousin, THCV.
New Phoral Family
The researchers discovered not only two new cannabinoids, but an entirely novel family of cannabinoid analogs that they dubbed Phorol. This new category of phytocannabinoid features a unique molecular structure involving an alkyl side chain populated by seven carbon atoms. Neutral cannabinoid analogs (such as CBD or THC) are characterized by alkyl side chains featuring five carbon atoms, while varin analogs are populated by only three.
"THCP features a CB1 binding affinity that is 63 times greater than its varin cousin THCV and 33 times greater than its neutral analog THC."
Although an arguably simplistic model, the relationship between alkyl side chain length and endocannabinoid system (ECS) binding affinity with CB1 and CB2 receptors in the body is one in which affinity rises significantly as the number of carbon atoms in the alkyl side chain increases. Thus, THCP, with seven carbon atoms, features a CB1 binding affinity that is 63 times greater than its varin cousin THCV (which sports only three carbon atoms in its alkyl side chain) and 33 times greater than its neutral analog THC.
The Italian research was the first to discover, via molecular isolation, a naturally occurring cannabinoid featuring an alkyl side chain comprised of seven carbon atoms. It should be noted that similar molecular morphologies, or configurations, have been commonly concocted in laboratories around the globe for nearly a century.
Image courtesy Darryl Glubczynski
Although the chemical binding affinity of the newly discovered phorol cannabinoids CBDP and THCP was found to be significantly greater than that of their neutral and varin analog siblings (THC and THCV, respectively), this binding affinity does not necessarily translate into enhanced psychoactivity or greater potency. Proof of enhanced potency would require clinical trials involving human subjects—something that has yet to occur.
"The enhanced molecular binding affinity displayed by these newly discovered cannabinoids led the researchers to theorize that THCP, not THC, may be the source of psychoactivity in certain cultivars of cannabis."
Interestingly, the enhanced molecular binding affinity displayed by these newly discovered cannabinoids led the researchers to theorize that THCP, not THC, may be the source of psychoactivity in certain cultivars of cannabis. "In cannabis varieties where THC is present in very low concentrations, then we can think that the presence of another, more active, cannabinoid can explain [the psychoactive] effects."
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