New Cannabinoids CBDP + THCP

Updated: May 7

In December 2019, a group of Italian 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 are characterized by alkyl side chains featuring five carbon atoms, while varin analogs are populated by only three.

The research study, entitled "A Novel Phytocannabinoid Isolated From Cannabis Sativa L. with Cannabimimetic Activity Higher Than Tetrahydrocannabinol: Tetrahydrocannabiphorol," was published in the journal Scientific Reports.


Although an arguably simplistic model, the relationship between alkyl side chain length and 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).


The researchers named the new phytocannabinoids cannabidiphorol (CBDP) and tetrahydrocannabiphorol (THCP).

According to Leafly, "A minimum of three links is necessary to bind THC to the receptor, with binding affinity peaking at eight links before it starts to decrease in activity again."


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.


The researchers named the new phytocannabinoids cannabidiphorol (CBDP) and tetrahydrocannabiphorol (THCP). The report included no mention of the discovery of phorol analogs for minor (secondary) cannabinoids such as cannabigerol (CBG) or cannabichromene (CBC).

The study’s authors noted the overall medicinal efficacy of the phytocannabinoids that have been identified to date. "A number of clinical trials and a growing body of literature provide real evidence of the pharmacological potential of cannabis and cannabinoids on a wide range of disorders—from sleep to anxiety, multiple sclerosis, autism, and neuropathic pain," reported the pioneering researchers.


THCP: More Active than THC

In the weeks following the publication of the research paper, many media outlets reported on the study with a focus on a single line from the 13-page report: "The biological results obtained...indicated an affinity for CB1 receptor [by THCP that is] more than thirty-fold higher compared to the one reported for THC…."


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 online magazine Live Science sprinkled even more clickbait on its coverage of the news with the chummy headline, "Newfound Cannabis Compound May Be 30 Times More Potent than THC." At least the publication included "may be."

As might be expected, some media outlets misinterpreted the study results. For example, High Times opened its article regarding the news with "A group of Italian researchers, led by Professor Giuseppe Cannazza of the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, has discovered a new cannabinoid more than 30 times more potent than THC."


While the SEO efforts of the magazine's marketing department can be appreciated, the publication unfortunately departs strict scientific credibility when it confuses binding affinity with potency (of psychoactivity). High Times, however, wasn't the only media outlet to misinterpret and hyperbolize the results of the pioneering Italian study.


The online magazine Live Science sprinkled even more clickbait on its coverage of the news with the chummy headline, "Newfound Cannabis Compound May Be 30 Times More Potent than THC." At least the publication included "may be."

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In like fashion, even Snoop Dogg’s MERRY JANE media project got it wrong, sporting a headline reading "Scientists Just Discovered a More Potent, Natural Form of THC." Not only does this article, like others, proclaim the enhanced potency of THCP versus THC, but it also—most likely in an unintentional grammatical faux pas—implies that THC is not a natural cannabinoid.


Not to be left out of the misinformation feeding frenzy, Weedmaps published an article in August 2020 entitled "An In-depth Look at the Study that Discovered THCP, a Cannabinoid More Potent than THC" in which it claimed that "THCP is 33-times [sic] more active than delta-9 THC." Despite its erroneous use of "more potent" in the article's title, points to Weedmaps for its description of these new phytocannabinoids as merely "more active" within the article itself.


To better understand the scope of this research, it should be noted that the above figures reflect the binding affinity of these newly discovered molecules for only CB1 receptors. The study identified a CB2 receptor binding affinity that is roughly 500-1000 percent (5-10x) greater than for neutral analogs of the cannabinoids (CBD/THC).

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 (CBD/THC and CBDV/THCV, respectively), this binding affinity does not necessarily translate into enhanced psychoactivity or greater potency. This is really the logical crux of this issue and the multiple mass media misinterpretations that have been published to date.


In other words, to state or imply any increase in the potency of psychoactivity based on the results of this particular December 2019 Italian study is an assumption—something distinctly frowned upon in the world of science.


To better understand the scope of this research, it should be noted that the above figures reflect the binding affinity of these newly discovered molecules for only CB1 receptors. The study identified a CB2 receptor binding affinity that is roughly 500-1000 percent (5-10x) greater than for neutral analogs of the cannabinoids (CBD/THC).


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."

Readers are cautioned to embrace the fact that these results, while obviously of great interest to any cannabis consumer or industry professional, are the result of only a single study. Until other research confirms (or denies) the claims of this study, a scientifically accurate understanding of the precise efficacy delivered by the new Phoral family cannabinoids CBDP and THCP simply cannot be determined.


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