The Cacophony of Medicinal Compounds in the Cannabis Plant

medical marijuana

When we think of medical marijuana and the controversy of marijuana legalization, we think about THC and CBD, THC being the psychoactive compound and CBD being the compound touted for offering THC’s other pain relief and anti-anxiety effects without the feeling of being “high”. But cannabis is far from that simple; why else would there be so many different formulations and strains available in medical marijuana products?

There are 3 other CBs besides CBD, and other compounds like terpenes. Overall, the cannabis plant has hundreds of bioactive compounds, some of which complement each other, others of which counteract each other. Finding the balance is key to targeting medical marijuana treatments. Typically called the entourage effect, many cannabis scientist and doctors tout these other CBs and medicinal compounds as a way to enhance the positive effects of THC and CBD.

Understanding THC & CBD Uses in Medical Marijuana

First, we need to understand what THC and CBD do – how they interact with your body once ingested. Even though the cannabis plant has enjoyed a 6-millennia-long relationship with humans, we’re just now figuring out the chemicals reasons why.

THC: The Powerhouse of Pot

THC, or Tetrahydrocannabinol, is the most well-known compound in cannabis. It’s the psychoactive one, but clinical research indicates it’s much more than that, and a synthetic derivative has even been FDA-approved for chemo and HIV-induced nausea/anorexia. THC interacts with the endocannabinoid signals our body already creates to:

  • Boost necessary signals for balancing neuronal activity. This acts to prevent the biological stress responses of overexcited neurons.
  • Suppress GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter. This helps keep more feel-good chemical activity in the brain.
  • Increases release of dopamine and acetylcholine in the brain. These neurotransmitters have a direct effect on anxiety, mood regulation and libido.

THC is a powerful cannabinoid that affects memory, mood, pleasure, perception, coordination, and satiation. Basically, THC hijacks some of your cannabinoid receptors for its own style of neurotransmitter modulation, and this is what makes you feel high. THC typically makes up ¼ of the dry weight of a marijuana plant.

CBD: The Calming Complement to THC

CBD, or cannabidiol, interacts with your brain at once in complementary, different, and opposing ways to THC, which is why there is such a range of CBD-high medical marijuana products available; the balance between the two will determine how both combine or fight to affect your wellbeing.

Notable, CBD differs from THC in that it:

  • Counteracts the psychoactive effects of THC, inducing a more calming effect.
  • Does not provoke transient psychotic symptoms in time, motor and attention tasks.
  • Does not interfere with inhibition mechanisms in the brain.
  • May have antipsychotic effects.

Interestingly, clinical research has found that ingesting only CBD before ingesting THC counteracted the transient psychotic symptoms typical of THC, while not seeming to interfere with THC’s other actions.

What are the Other Major Players in Marijuana’s Bioactive Compounds?

Our body naturally creates endocannabinoids and even has specific receptors for them, so any one of these cannabinoids can have an array of completely natural, biocompatible effects on your mental and physical well-being. So, what other compounds are we referring to when we discuss the entourage effect? There are a few major ones:

CBC: Cannabichromene

A derivative of CBG, this cannabinoid is thought to aid in digestive disorders and chronic pain, and it also has antifungal and antimicrobial properties and has been shown to regenerate brain cells. CBC mostly acts as a mechanism that boosts the effects of the other CBs.

CBG: Cannabigerol

Also called the “mother cannabinoid,” as all other CBs are a derivation of CBG, this cannabinoid is said to have a pain-relieving effect. When administered alone, it is also said to have a mind-clearing effect. CBG is also antimicrobial and has even demonstrated an ability to slow and/or kill cancer cells.

CBN: Cannabinol

This cannabinoid is the last synthesis of CBG, and is essentially a step in the decay of THC. As such, it shares many of THC’s psychoactive effects, including lethargy and hunger. In the world of medical cannabis, CBN is beginning to be utilized as a calming/anti-anxiety ingredient.

THCV: Tetrahydrocannabivarin

A THC molecule with a missing hydrocarbon chain, THCV is really hard to isolate, so there isn’t a tonne of research on it yet. However, it seems to interact with your brain the same way as THC, therefore offering similar benefits, but THCV doesn’t get you high. THCV is also much weaker than THC.


These compounds interact with the cannabinoids and almost direct how they’ll affect you… we think. Terpenes are thought to be responsible for why two strains with the same THC content can affect you completely differently. They may prove useful in the management of anxiety, depression and mood disorders.

As far as interacting with and enhancing each other’s medicinal effects, these are the main compounds scientists are isolating to formulate effective, targeted medicinal cannabis strains, tinctures, concentrates, pills, and more.

Do Your Research as a Patient & Go See a Medical Marijuana Doctor for Help

There’s a lot more to marijuana than chilling on the couch eating chips, and a lot more to medical cannabis than replacing aspirin or Xanax. Check the Ohio MMJ program’s official page for conditions currently approved for medical marijuana

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