by Melissa Howsam: CBD is de rigueur—touted for its many health benefits and available in products from tinctures to toothpicks…
But what about its cannabinoid cousins? Which garden variety is next or best—and to what end?
Over recent decades, researchers have established 100-plus phytocannabinoids in the cannabis plant. Widely known THC and CBD are considered major cannabinoids, while others (CBGa, CBNa, CBCa, THCv and many more) are called minor cannabinoids. While sufficient research exists to support the therapeutic benefits of CBD, much less research has been done to date on its minor cannabinoid cousins. But that is starting to change—and quickly.
So what’s next for “CBX”? We chat up North Carolina industry experts Clarence McSwain, licensed hemp farmer and owner of both The Hemptender Dispensary in Durham; and John S. Boccella, DC, co-owner of The Hemp Company in Raleigh, on what hemp products will be on your nightstand next—and why.
Full-Spectrum Hemp Products
What it is: There are three types of CBD products: full spectrum, broad spectrum and isolate. In full-spectrum hemp extract, all parts of the plant chemistry are present (CBD, CBG, CBN, CBC, terpenes, and trace amounts of delta-9-THC (known for the cannabis high—but not in trace amounts), etc.), which work together synergistically, making these products the best choice according to our experts. Broad-spectrum products include all parts of the plant chemistry sans THC. And isolate products contain only one cannabinoid—to date, usually just CBD.
Potential benefits: Full-spectrum hemp extract products help bring the body back to homeostasis and balance by modulating the way our body processes stress. Therefore, Boccella believes “everyone would benefit from supplementing a daily dose of a full-spectrum hemp extract product much like adding a multivitamin to your daily routine.”
How would I consume or use it? The fun part is choosing your preferred delivery method: smokable flower, tinctures, vape, or gummies.
Where can I get it? These products are widely available, but as with every hemp-derived product, always make sure you know where the product is sourced, and that it is natural, has been third-party tested, and has a certificate of analysis (COA) readily available.
Why full-spectrum? Simply put, to experience the “entourage effect”— as the benefit of all cannabinoids working together is greater than isolating them individually. While CBD and delta 9-THC seem to be the powerhouse cannabinoids, they are more effective if they have the full complement of the other minor cannabinoids working together synergistically. And, since our body’s endocannabinoid systems are unique, different cannabinoids will have a greater therapeutic benefit for some compared to others.
CBG (aka the “Mother Cannabinoid”)
What it is: Perhaps next in line to be a star behind CBD is Cannabigerol (or CBG). Despite being considered a minor cannabinoid, CBG is known as the “Mother Cannabinoid” because all cannabinoids are derived from it.
Potential benefits: Early studies (mainly in animals) have shown CBG to reduce inflammation and nausea, combat pain, and even slow the spread of cancer cells. Promise has also been shown for CBG’s ability to lessen symptoms of Crohn’s and bowel diseases, and even glaucoma, and preliminary studies have indicated benefits in fighting drug-resistant bacteria as well.
How would I consume or use it? The most readily available CBG-rich products are oils, tinctures, and pills, as well as smokable CBG-dominant hemp strains that don’t include CBD. Smoking or vaping is generally considered the most viable consumption option for cannabinoids.
Where can I get it? You can find it at reputable online CBD companies or at a local brick-and-mortar hemp or cannabis dispensary such as the stores McSwain and Boccella own. Farmers are beginning to grow hemp flower that is rich in CBG. And more and more CBD products are being infused with extra CBG to further enhance the entourage effect of full-spectrum products.
Why CBG? Supplementing CBG to your daily CBD routine will increase the benefits of CBD, such as getting into a deeper sleep or reducing pain and inflammation faster.
What it is: Cannabinol (CBN) is another minor cannabinoid present in some cannabis strains that is naturally created when THC ages or oxidizes.
Potential benefits: As with CBG, research for CBN is in its nascent stages, but there is excitement about its potential as a natural
sedative, as many have reported that CBN helps them get restful sleep. In addition to insomnia, preliminary reports also claim CBN as good for bacterial infections, arthritis, and as an appetite stimulant. The cannabinoid shows promise as a neuroprotectant as well, especially in neurodegenerative conditions such as ALS.
How would I consume or use it? CBN can be extracted and isolated to make tinctures and soft gels high in this cannabinoid. You can also smoke strains of flower that contain CBN, but it is usually not CBN-dominant.
Where can I get it? CBN is harder to find, but there are a few companies making CBN-rich tinctures and oils, like the one pictured here.
Why CBN? CBN is commonly purchased to aid in sleep.
What it is: Already one of the more popular minor cannabinoids, Cannabichromene (CBC) is also positioned to possibly be the next big thing. Notes McSwain: “It can’t be a coincidence that all of our top-selling smokable hemp strains happen to contain CBC,” he says.
Potential benefits: Already popular for its potential to fight cancer, CBC, per recent research, is shown to inhibit the uptake of anandamide (an endocannabinoid, a cannabinoid made inside our body), which seems to promote the killing off of cancer cells. By itself, beyond cancer, CBC has indicated promising results with neurological diseases and acne, and early research has shown it to have a substantially higher anti-depressant effect than CBD.
How would I consume or use it? There are very few CBC-dominate tinctures, and CBC-rich products are hard to find because so little is known about it. So, for now, to obtain its benefits, if you cannot find a CBC dominant tincture or vape, look for full- or broad-spectrum tinctures containing CBC, and, again, always make sure to look at third-party test results. “You can also find some pretty solid [hemp] flower that contains CBC, but it is usually not the dominant cannabinoid,” adds McSwain.
Where can I get it? You can find it in the same recommended places as the other cannabinoids, but you will want to see test results to check CBC percentage.
Why CBC? This cannabinoid shows promise, but, to date, has been shown to work better when combined with other cannabinoids.
Delta 8 THC & Terpenes
Beyond CBG, CBN, CBC, look to be hearing a lot about cannabinoid Delta 8 THC, as well as terpenes, in the near future. (Note: At press time, Delta 8 THC is in the news.)
Delta 8 THC: “Delta 8 THC is going to be the next hottest cannabinoid that not many people have heard of,” says McSwain. “It is a less psychoactive sister compound to Delta 9 THC from the marijuana plant—so think a more calm, less paranoid, lucid high—which will allow for multiple applications on the recreational side, as well as medical.”
Since the cannabinoid only naturally exists in small percentages within the plant, processors are starting to extract and concentrate it. For now, the exact medical benefits are still being studied, and method of consumption includes only hemp-derived Delta 8 THC vape pens, says McSwain.
Terpenes: Also extremely important, and quite often overlooked as related to cannabinoids, are terpenes: the organic, aromatic compounds that give plants their unique scent (think lavender, orange peels, pine, and, of course, cannabis).
“Not only are terpenes responsible for flavor profiles in cannabis,” says McSwain, “but they also work in conjunction with cannabinoids to produce the entourage effect. A terpene can actually modify how much of each cannabinoid is absorbed, as they, too bind to the endocannabinoid system.” And cannabis plants have over 120 identified terpenes, some which even have been researched to have beneficial effects on the body in and of themselves, adds McSwain.
And, as with cannabinoids, hope springs eternal for this part of the hemp harvest. Due to advancements in the extraction processes, just as with individual cannabinoids, terpenes can be isolated. Myrcene is the most predominant terpene found in the cannabis plant (also found in hops, bay leaves, lemongrass and eucalyptus), says Boccella, producing strong sedative, anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects, and allowing other cannabinoids to act more quickly, thereby, for example, enhancing the psychotropic effects of THC.
And after consuming the terpene limonene, adds Boccella, study participants described feels of wellbeing and improved mental focus. This terpene also may be effective in protecting against various cancers, and, as a vapor, has been shown to increase dopamine and serotonin levels, thus acting as an anti-anxiety and antidepressant agent. “Fun fact,” says Boccella, “cannabis flower with higher amounts of limonene will carry a citrusy aroma much like lemons, oranges, and limes.”
So how will CBX shift the market—and your wellbeing? Will CBD keep its major market share? Time will tell. But, for now, full-spectrum remains true king.
“While it is our scientific mindset to break things down into their smallest parts, nature once again proves that the sum of its parts are greater,” says Boccella.
Full-spectrum products that allow for that entourage effect show the most promise and benefit. That said, there is plenty of cause for excitement. “The future beyond CBD is promising,” says McSwain. Adds Boccella: “The future of cannabinoid research should excite us all because the cannabis plant’s potential has yet to be fully tapped.”