The cannabis species has been gathering quite a bit of fanfare and momentum in recent times. The medical uses of cannabis and its components so far have proved to be all but disappointing. The effect of the plant has exceeded what professionals and experts initially had in mind. Ranging from the effects of cannabinoids in treatment and alleviation of pain to the more exquisite effects of the individual components, cannabis could be said to have taken the world by storm. Treatment of phantom pain, pediatric seizures, not to mention its soothing effects on the nerves.
Times have changed and understanding of cannabis plant and its components has increased drastically. The major plant components are known as cannabinoids. The initial discriminatory attitude towards cannabis because of its less glorious past is now where it rightfully belongs, in the past. You might be wondering what exactly the allure of a plant with a "criminal" past is. To help understand how exactly cannabis is of importance today, we will be considering the concept of cannabinoids and a few examples medically important cannabinoids individually.
An Introduction to Cannabinoids
Cannabinoids are a major component of cannabis. There hundreds of cannabinoids. But so far, only about 90 cannabinoids have been noted for their medical significance. Cannabinoids are chemical compounds created or found in the cannabis plant. These chemical compounds vary in their effects when consumed. These chemicals when taken or ingested act by binding with various receptor sites all over the body. The effects of a specific cannabinoid can be inferred from the consideration of what receptor it binds to and where the receptor is located. These cannabinoids are mainly responsible for the medical effects we referred to earlier. These symptoms include nausea, pain, inflammation, and even anxiety. An interesting fact about the mechanism of action of cannabinoids is similar to that of the naturally produced compound, endocannabinoids. These endocannabinoids are activated to maintain internal stability and health. Instead of boring you with the intricate details, let us just say that endocannabinoids are responsible for mediating intracellular communication (between cells). Hence a complication with this system can manifest by way of a variety of physical complications and disorienting symptoms.
When cannabis is ingested, the major receptor types include CB- 1 and CB- 2. The receptor sites around the brain are the CB- 1 receptors while those located all around the body are the CB- 2 receptors for cannabinoids.
Nevertheless, the most popular two in recent times are CBD and THC. THC binds to receptors in the brain (CB- 1 receptors). This component is what is responsible for the psychoactive effect of the plant. While CBD could be referred to as a well-known representative of cannabinoids that bind to the receptors around the body (CB- 2 receptors) and hence have no psychoactive effects. The more popular cannabinoids include the following:
- Cannabigerol (CBG)
- Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
- Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV)
- Cannabidiol (CBD)
- Cannabichromene (CBC), etc.
Another cannabinoid of great importance is cannabinol (CBN).
What Does CBN do?
Cannabinol (CBN) unlike the other cannabinoids mentioned earlier is not a direct product of the cannabis plant. It is a product of THC breakdown. Due to the fact that it is not a direct component, it is of somewhat limited quantities naturally. But also due to the fact that it is a product of THC breakdown, CBN is found in higher quantities in older flowers of the cannabis plant species. The study done on CBN is somewhat limited, but even at this, the medical implications are numerous.
Before going into the medicinal benefits of CBN, there is a particular "sleepy" misconception about the cannabinoid that we would like to clear up. There is a common opinion that CBN is a powerful sedative. This is not supported by lab evidence. None of the people involved in the CBN test in the 1970s exhibited sleepy effects. So this sleepy effect is most likely due to the presence of THC. So the sleepy experience people have may be due to a combination of THC and CBN acting synergistically. Another possible reason for this sleepy effect is that, the older the cannabis the more the sedating oxygenated sesquiterpenoids (terpene). So, on its own, CBN is not sedating in any way. But if you need that sedating effect, a combination with THC can be done.
CBN has been discovered to be a very powerful neuroprotectant. This effect became even more pronounced after a study was conducted on it using mice as test subjects. The research was aimed at determining the effect of CBN on ALS. It was discovered that the use of CBN, delayed the onset of the ALS. Although further tests still need to be done before use by humans, this study has successfully implied that CBN has significant neuroprotection effects. Hence it will be very useful in the fight against neurodegenerative diseases and conditions such as ALS (as seen in the case of the mice).
CBN has been discovered to have a significant anti-inflammatory effect. CBN has been discovered to be able to aid those experiencing pain accompanying rheumatoid arthritis. While during another rodent test, CBN was able to alleviate arthritis. Although further research and more detailed studies need to be carried out in order to fully understand the anti-inflammatory effect of CBN, it has the potential to eventually alleviate arthritis-related pain.
CBN also seems to be useful for those suffering from glaucoma. This was inferred after a study was carried out on rabbits. Similar to its precursor THC, CBN has been found to possess a reducing effect on intraocular pressure. Intraocular pressure is the greatest risk factor for glaucoma. Regardless of the fact that the study is somewhat effective, it is still in its early stages and has no major edge over other medications for glaucoma. Nevertheless, with further research, it will become clear if CBN can replace other already established treatment methods for glaucoma.
CBN after a series of tests has been referred to as a potent antibacterial agent. This is to show just how effective the compound is in disinfection and sterilization. This potent effect has been tested in the lab using strains of MRSA bacteria which are usually resistant to most common antibiotic agents. After the test, CBN has proven to be effective against these MRSA bacteria. Considering this astonishing effects, it is speculated that most likely in the near future, CBN will be successfully used against bacteria strains resistant to the usual antibiotics.
Stimulation of Appetite
As part of its rodent study, another epic use of CBN was discovered. The rodents used were discovered to consume an increased amount of food than they usually would. Hence, CBN shows efficient appetite stimulatory effect. to this effect, CBN is being further researched to find out if it could replace THC in giving users the munchies without the accompanying high feeling (as is the case with THC).
So the effect of the cannabinoid-derivative is anything but negligible. Pure CBN is the favorite of many people because it has no psychoactive effect but still has a pain relief effect.