The Compounds and Chemicals in Cannabinoids
Over the past decade, medical research has made intriguing discoveries about cannabis and its chemical makeup. While there’s still so much to learn about cannabis’ natural constituents, scientists have so far identified 483 different chemical compounds in cannabis22. In addition to containing over 100 cannabinoids, cannabis is a great source of terpenes, flavonoids, chlorophyll, vitamins, minerals, and omega fatty acids.
Studies indicate that the cannabinoids, terepenes, vitamins, and other natural constituents work with the body naturally and synergistically to produce therapeutic effects in what’s become known as the entourage effect17,23.
Interested in learning more about cannabinoids? Please visit our page explaining the major and minor cannabinoids found in cannabis.
Below you can learn more about the other compounds in cannabis, including:
- Fatty Acids and Vitamins
That distinct smell of cannabis comes from terpenes, fragrant essential oils that are found in highest concentrations within cannabis flowers, or buds. Terpenes are not unique to cannabis and are found in other plants, fruits, pine trees, and herbs, however so far over 100 different possible terpenes have been identified in the cannabis plant.
The type of terpenes a particular cannabis strain contains will influence its smell and flavor. Each has a unique aroma. The benefits of terpenes go beyond making cannabis taste or smell a different way, however, Research shows that terpenes bind to receptors and neurotransmitters in the brain to elicit various reactions, interacting synergistically with the other cannabis compounds21.
Some terpenes – including myrcene, cintronellol, and linalool – are beneficial for their sedation, relaxation, and calming effects. Others — like limonene and pinene – boost alertness and elevate mood. Other more widely recognizable terpenes that are still being scientifically explored include caryophyllene, bisabolol, and humulene.
Compared to cannabinoids, not much is known about the therapeutic effects of terpenes. However, research indicates that terpenes do possess several beneficial properties, including antiseptic, anti-bacterial, anti-cancer, antioxidant, antifungal, antiseptic, pain-relieving, anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety and anti-spastic effects3,4,9,13,14,15,16,19,20,21,24,28,29.
Flavonoids are a group of phytonutrients that are responsible for providing the non-green pigments to plant life, and for contributing to the taste and smell of fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Like cannabinoids and terpenes, flavonoids have been shown to offer a range of therapeutic effects.
While flavonoids are found in many of the edible plants that we’re familiar with, like tomatoes and blueberries, researchers believe that cannabis is also a flavonoid-rich resource and that they’re primarily found on cannabis’ cured leaves and flowers.
Flavonoids are among the largest nutrient families known to science, and researchers have so far identified over 6,000 ones that are unique. Flavonoids are famous for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory health benefits and have been associated with a reduced risk of a variety of diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and edema10,11,12,17,18.
Federal laws have prevented researchers from thoroughly exploring the flavonoids that are unique to cannabis, referred to as cannaflavins. However, the research that has been done indicates that cannaflavins are as beneficial as the flavonoids found in the more traditional fruits and vegetables we eat.
The flavonoid cannaflavin-A, for example, has been shown to possess anti-inflammatory effects. One study found that it inhibited PG-2, a prostaglandin responsible for inflammation, and proved to be more effective than aspirin2.
Depending on how you consume medical cannabis, it could contain chlorophyll, the chemical substance that gives all plants, like cannabis, their green pigment. When cannabis is harvested, it’s full of chlorophyll. Cannabis flower goes through a drying process, which converts the chlorophyll into glucose and in turn improves its flavor.
Pressed cannabis oil, however, still contain chlorophyll, which has been shown to possess several beneficial properties, including being an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent8,26,31. In studies, chlorophyll has shown to help suppress hunger and stabilize blood sugar levels, suggesting it could be beneficial in the treatment of obesity and diabetes25. Chlorophyll has also shown to be beneficial in the healing of wounds30. Multiple studies suggest that chlorophyll has anti-cancer properties1,5,7,8.
Fatty Acids and Vitamins
An imbalance of fatty acids promotes inflammation and encourages diseases, but raw cannabis contains the optimal 3:1 ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids to provide several therapeutic benefits. Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids possess anti-inflammatory and protective properties to help lower the risk of heart disease and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes,
Alzheimer’s disease and age-related brain decline27. Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are also essential in the process of producing endocannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors. The body doesn’t naturally synthesize Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, so you have to get them from foods and substances, like cannabis, that you consume.
Cannabis oil extracted from Cannabis or hemp is also rich in an extensive list of vitamins, giving users the nutrients they need to improve and maintain health. Cannabis naturally contains vitamins A, C, and E, as well as B complex vitamins like riboflavin, thiamine, and niacin. Cannabis also contains vitamins that are not typically not found in most people’s diets, like beta carotene. Cannabis oil is also an adequate source of several minerals, including zinc, potassium, calcium, phosphorous, iron, and magnesium.
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- Barrett, M.L., Scutt, A.M., and Evans, F.J. (1986, April 15). Cannaflavin A and B, prenylated flavones from Cannabis sativa L., Experientia, 42(4), 452-3.
- Bonamin, F., Moraes, T.M., Dos Santos, R.C., Kushima, H., Faria, F.M., Silva, M.A., Junior, I.V., Nogueira, L., Bauab, T.M., Souza Brito, A.R., da Rocha, L.R., Hiruma-Lima, C.A. (2014). The effect of a minor constituent of essential oil from Citrus aurantium: The role of β-myrcene in preventing peptic ulcer disease. Aromatic Science, 212, 11-19.
- Chen, W., Lu, Y., Li., Y., Li, M., Mao, J., Zhang, L., Huang, R., Jin, X., and Ye, L. (2015, March). Anti-tumor effect of α-pinene on human hepatoma cell lines through inducing G2/M cell cycle arrest. Journal of Pharmacological Sciences, 127(3), 332-338.
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- Chlorophyll and Chlorophyllin. (2009, June). Oregon State University: Linus Pauling Institute. Retrieved from http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/dietary-factors/phytochemicals/chlorophyll-chlorophyllin.
- Dingley, K.H., Ubick, E.A., Chiarappa-Zucca, M.L., Nowell, S., Abel, S., Ebeler, S.E., Mitchell, A.E., Burns, S.A., Steinberg, F.M., and Clifford, A.J. Effect of dietary constituents with chemopreventive potential on adduct formation of a low dose of the heterocyclic amines PhIP and IQ and phase II hepatic enzymes. Nutrition and Cancer, 46(2), 212-21.
- El-Sayed, W.M., Hussin, W.A., Mahmoud, A.A., and AlFredan, M.A. (2013, May 23). The Conyza triloba extracts with high chlorophyll content and free radical scavenging activity had anticancer activity in cell lines. BioMed Research International, 945638, doi: 10.1155/2013/945638.
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- Horváth, B., Mukhopadhyay, P., Kechrid, M., Patel, V., Tanashian, G., Wink, D. A., Gertsch, J., and Pacher, P. (2012). β-caryophyllene ameliorates cisplatin-induced nephrotoxicity in a cannabinoid 2 receptor-dependent manner. Free Radical Biology & Medicine, 52(8), 1325–1333.
- Ito, K., Ito, M. (2013). The sedative effect of inhaled terpinolene in mice and its structure-activity relationships. Journal of Natural Medicines, 67(4), 833-837.
- Kristiniak, S., Harpel, J., Breckenridge, D.M., and Buckle, J. (2012, November) Black pepper essential oil to enhance intravenous catheter insertion in patients with poor vein visibility: A controlled study. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 18(11), 1003-1007.
- Ma, J., Xu, H., Wu, J., Qu,C., Sun, F., and Xu, S. (2015, December). Linalool inhibits cigarette smoke-induced lung inflammation by inhibiting NF-κB activation. International Immunopharmacology, 29(2), 708-713.
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- Musonda, C.A., and Chipman, J.K. (1998, September). Quercetin inhibits hydrogen peroxide (H2O2)-induced NF-kappaB DNA binding activity and DNA damage in HepG2 cells. Carcinogenesis, 19(9), 1583-9.
- Okumura, N., Yoshida, H., Nishimura, Y., Kitagishi, Y., and Matsuda, S. (2012, February). Terpinolene, a component of herbal sage, downregulates AKT1 expression in K562 cells. Oncology Letters, 3(2), 321-324.
- Rohr, A.C., Wilkins, C.K., Clausen, P.A., Hammer, M., Nielsen, G.D., Wolkoff, P., and Spengler, J.D. (2002, July). Upper airway and pulmonary effects of oxidation products of (+)-alpha-pinene, d-limonene, and isoprene in BALB/c mice. Inhalation Toxicology, 14(7), 663-84.
- Russo, E.B. (2011, August). Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoids-terpenoid entourage effects. British Journal of Pharmacology, 163(7), 1344-1364.
- Russo, E.B. Cannabis and Cannabinoids: Pharmacology, Toxicology, and Therapeutic Potential. Routledge. 2002.
- Russo, E.B. (2008, February). Cannabinoids in the management of difficult to treat pain. Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management, 4(1), 245-259.
- Sabogal-Guáqueta, A., Osario, E., and Cardona-Gómez, G.P. (2016). Linalool reverses neuropathological and behavioral impairments in old triple transgenic Alzheimer’s mice. Neuropharmacology, 102, 111-120.
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