In my lab, we recognize around 120 cannabinoids.
But there are papers that recognize around 140 cannabinoids. That’s not to say that the plant is producing all of them each time. But no matter what pattern of cannabinoids is in a particular plant- what matters in the end, is what is binding to your cannabinoid receptors.
Again, in one particular plant you don’t have all the cannabinoids- you have a pattern of cannabinoids. I would estimate that there are 30-40 cannabinoids are in a given specific plant in a given specific strain. And in regards to the 30-40 cannabinoids, it depends how many zeros after the point you are measuring. THC and CBD are basically traces you will find within every plant, but the other cannabinoids are not. We are able to look up to ten digits after the zero but I tell my students to send me up to five digits after the zero.
There are many receptors of the endocannabinoid system. There are over 30 receptors of which I’m aware. The cannabinoids can be agonists or antagonists to these receptors and can activate or block them.
In every cell in our body will express different types of receptors. If it’s a colon, the cell will express a variety of receptors but if it’s a neuron it will express different receptors and the cannabis will affect the cells to these receptors and every part of cannabinoid will bind or block different receptors and these cells will get different activation- the activity is almost endless.
So, when we take compounds together, we get a complicated reaction. A few cannabinoids will interact with a few receptors and will activate a few pathways. And in a different strain, if there is a different combination of cannabinoids, the reaction will be different.
We’re starting to understand. We’re starting to be able to look at compounds and understand which receptors are binding and what pathways have been activated.
It then starts to make sense to ask specific questions about specific conditions. If in epilepsy you need to block Calcium release- you can ask- which one of the cannabinoids bind with which one of the receptors that are interfering with the Calcium release? We said okay, we know that CBD binding PRPV-1 and blocking it and maybe- but we see that CBD alone is not working as good as the whole plant. Which explains the phrase the ‘entourage effect.’
THE ENDOCANNABINOID SYSTEM
There is no doubt the endocannabinoid system in our bodies interacts with other systems such as the nervous, immune and digestive systems- and for that reason it involves many, many, pathways in our bodies- from stimulating appetite to feeling joy. You can see that the endocannabinoid system is balancing the other systems. And for that reason, cannabis is actually affecting many actions that we have in our body- from memory, to helping sleep, to easing pain- all of them being affected by cannabis, which is quite amazing.
So, on the one hand it’s a moderate medicine. Let’s say when you’re giving birth- I’m not sure that cannabis is the one thing to reduce that particular perhaps extreme pain. If you’re in a car accident it’s better to give you morphine than to take cannabis. Cannabis is moderate- but there is a benefit for that because when you’re taking a medicine that’s not too strong, you can take it for a long time and balance yourself and not just shut down- or activate something very robust.
When you have an autoimmune disease, and you’re taking steroids you’re shutting down the immune system. But when you’re taking cannabis you’re just balancing it out. You don’t do something severe. The plus is that you can maintain a kind of a balance in your body as opposed to something that can be very harmful to our body.
WORK TO BE DONE
Having said all of the above- this is complicated and there is tons of work to do before we can depend on cannabis as medicine. Everybody wants to hear that cannabis is solving the problems of the world, start to use it next week and you’ll be healthy until age 120. This is not reality.