Cannabinoids Defined

Updated: May 7

Cannabinoids are one of the three families of wellness molecules produced by the cannabis/hemp/marijuana plant species that includes terpenes and flavonoids. Most of the attention of humans toward the plant—including formal research studies and other scientific investigations—have been about the major and dominant cannabinoids tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).

Endo vs. Phyto Cannabinoids

Two families of cannabinoids, both of which bind with the receptors of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) are produced throughout nature. Endocannabinoids are those that are synthesized by the human/mammalian/vertebrate body, while phytocannabinoids originate in the hemp plant. It should be noted that all phytocannabinoids are exclusive to the hemp plant. In other words, no other plant species on earth produces them

Interestingly, phytocannabinoids were discovered nearly a century prior to endocannabinoids. In 1896, a group of British chemists first identified cannabinol, or CBN, by isolating the molecule. This cannabinoid results from both a dedicated acidic precursor (CBNA) and also the lifecycle degradation of the most infamous phytocannabinoid in modern day, THC.

While THC is categorized as "strongly psychoactive," CBN is only mildly so.

While THC is categorized as "strongly psychoactive," CBN is only mildly so. However, because CBN is normally found in only trace amounts in samples of hemp, consumers rarely experience overt psychoactivity from this molecule. When they do, it is often mixed with the psychoactivity resulting from its cousin delta-9 THC, further confusing the issue for patients, consumers, and wellness professionals.

CBD Overview

CBD, was discovered in 1940 by U.S. chemist Roger Adams. Adams, the foremost expert on cannabinoids at the time, obtained a patent in 1941 for a method of mechanized extraction of laboratory-grade CBD.

This phytocannabinoid has been shown to be an effective therapy in the treatment of a variety of diseases and conditions, especially those involving anxiety (such as PTSD). It also provides significant anticonvulsant properties, making it of value to epilepsy patients. It has also demonstrated efficacy for autism and related conditions.

A 2019 study (literature review) entitled "Use of Cannabidiol in the Treatment of Epilepsy: Efficacy and Security in Clinical Trials" that was published in the journal Molecules explored the ability of CBD to reduce the frequency and severity of seizure activity in epilepsy patients, especially those suffering treatment-resistant varieties for which conventional drugs and therapies have proven ineffective.

The study noted the overall benefits of CBD as "antiseizure, antipsychotic, neuroprotective, antidepressant, and anxiolytic." It explained that the neuroprotective qualities of the molecule may be linked to "its excellent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties."

The study's authors concluded that previous studies on the topic indicate that "the use of CBD in clinical applications could represent hope for patients who are resistant to conventional antiepileptic drugs."

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