CBD (cannabidiol) is but one of over 100 cannabinoids so far identified in the cannabis plant. While CBD and its inebriating cousin THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) have received by far the most research interest partly due to their abundance in the plant, there is emerging interest in lesser known but potentially very valuable cannabinoids like CBG (cannabigerol) and CBC.
While much less is known about the physiological effects of CBC a.k.a.cannabichromene emerging data suggest it produces some overlapping and some unique physiological effects when compared to CBD. If you use broad spectrum or full spectrum products, then while likely already be a small component of your product. However, should the science reveal the therapeutic potential that we think CBC possess then expect to see CBC-rich products in the future including products that use CBC isolate.
What is CBC – Cannabichromene?
Cannabichromene, abbreviated as CBC, is one of more than 120 cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. It is generally thought of as one of the ‘big six’ cannabinoids along with THC, THCV, CBD, CBN and CBG due to the larger amount of research interest surrounding these cannabinoids in comparison to the many others. CBC is a minor cannabinoid and is not typically found in large quantities in plants – roughly speaking, CBC content is equivalent to that of CBN, which is a psychogenic breakdown product of THC.
CBC has the same chemical origin as both THC and CBD. All three are derived from the acidic form of CBG, CBGa.
CBC, like CBD does interact with the brain so is technically psychoactive like many cannabinoids however it does not produce a ‘high’ is not considered inebriating like THC. The main reason for this is that CBC does not appear to interact meaningfully with the CB1 receptor, the primary receptor through which THC produces said high and it was believed to have poor affinity for the CB2 receptor although recent studies suggest otherwise (1) (As a side note this interaction with CB2 may allow CBC to modulate inflammation). Considering these are major receptors of the endocannabinoid system, how then does CBC produce its effects? CBC interacts with other receptor types which, while not strictly part of the endocannabinoid system, do play a part in signalling including the TRPV1 and TRPA1 receptor. The leading theory, back by some experimental release data is that interaction with these receptors increases the release of the endogenous cannabinoid anandamide which is a molecule important in the maintenance of some aspects of sleep, feeding, immune system regulation and pain signalling (2).
The Science of CBC
As with cannabinoids that aren’t CBD or THC, the current literature surrounding CBC specifically is fairly sparse although this will likely change in the coming years. What studies there are focus on very specific biological systems often using very specific animal models or cell lines. While the emerging data are very interesting and even promising, we require much more complete data before drawing decisive conclusions about how CBG may be used therapeutically in humans. Let’s take a look at some of these studies:
One of the few brain /neuron studies to focus largely on CBC showed interesting results. The research group demonstrated that neural progenitor stem cells isolated from mice, important as the source of new neuron growth and general brain health, are more viable when cultured in the presence of CBC (3). Interestingly this effect was not observed with either CBD or CBG. While this study is far removed from clinical relevance in humans it is intriguing that the mere presence of CBC improves neuronal stem cell viability and that this effect appears unique to CBC – studies which can demonstrate different physiological effects between the non-psychogenic cannabinoids are particularly exciting as they could help inform the creation of bespoke cannabinoid drugs in the future which are tailored to specific individuals with specific health complaints.
Inflammation & Analgesia
Cannabinoids in general possess anti-inflammatory properties and while this property has been demonstrated across numerous animal models with THC and CBD, less has been done regarding CBC. However, CBC does appear to share this trait with its brother molecules opening up potential therapeutic use in combination with other anti-inflammatory cannabinoids. One group demonstrated that i.v. (intravenous) injection of CBC significantly reduced experimentally induced inflammation in rodents (4). Additive effects were observed when THC and CBC were co-administered. Furthermore, the anti-inflammatory effect of cannabinoids utilises a different cellular mechanism to that of NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs e.g. paracetamol, ibuprofen, aspirin) and appear to avoid some common side effects associated with NSAIDs whilst retaining similar anti-inflammatory efficacy (5).
Other studies have shown similar anti-inflammatory effect while demonstrating that this effect is independent of both TRPA1 and CB1 and CB2 receptors (6); further highlighting that cannabinoids are likely to have many receptor targets outside of the frequently mentioned CB1 and 2.
While pain can be caused by inflammation these two responses are controlled by overlapping but different systems – much of the purported pain relieving effect of cannabinoids likely stems from their modulation of inflammation but some studies have demonstrated effects on pain signalling as well suggesting cannabinoids like CBC can directly interfere with the propagation of pain signals (7) – perhaps they could harnessed to be effective pain relief medications?
CBC may have some utility in combatting a number of mood disorders including Generalise Anxiety Disorder as well as clinical Depression. In one animal study, CBC as well as THC demonstrated marked anti-depressant-like effects which authors assume contributes to the mood elevating properties of cannabis as a whole (8). Naturally the phrase ‘anti-depressant-like-effect’ is used as it is difficult and not always reliable to experimentally create complex mood disorders like depression in rodents.
There is also growing evidence that a number of cannabinoids including CBC, in isolation but especially in combination can have positive effects on common symptoms of anxiety-based mood disorders (9, 10).
As with CBG, cannabinoids like CBC offer a range of potentially very useful therapeutic qualities but we need carefully thought out and conducted clinical studies to say this definitively. We have always said to be wary of companies making un-realistic medical claims about cannabinoids and CBC is a prime example of this. While this happens all the time with CBD, the fact that we know even less about CBC makes these claims even more laughable.
The bottom line is you should not trust an individual, brand or company that claims their cannabinoid product can cure/alleviate certain diseases unless this has been definitively proven in a high-quality clinical setting.
CBC is an interesting cannabinoid that despite being known for over 50 years remains somewhat at the beginning of its research journey, at least with regards to clinically relevant discovery. The literature remains sparse regarding its mechanism of action on mammalian systems. What evidence is emerging is certainly encouraging and will hopefully form a solid bedrock of data which will generate enough interest to warrant studies and eventual trials in humans for a range of diseases.
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