Cannabis Basics

What Are Minor Cannabinoids?

Learn what minor cannabinoids are and how CBN, CBC and CBG are being studied for their potential in the wellness space.

What are minor cannabinoids?

Most people are aware of THC and CBD — but what do you know about CBG, CBC, CBN?

These are known collectively as minor cannabinoids, chemical compounds in cannabis that can be isolated for different uses. They’re called “minor” because they are found in relatively small amounts in cannabis, compared to the more dominant “major” compounds, THC and CBD.

Minor cannabinoids at a glance

Cannabis strains can contain more than 100 minor cannabinoids. Some are psychoactive (like THC), while others are non-psychoactive (like CBD). As the Canadian cannabis market matures, scientists and consumers want to better understand minor cannabinoids, both their benefits and potential risks.

Although the scientific community is still collecting evidence on the effects of minor cannabinoids, there is a growing belief that cannabis has the potential to deliver benefits to users through the “entourage effect,” described by the authors of a 2021 research paper published in The Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics as “all of the cannabis-derived cannabinoids, terpenoids and flavonoids acting in concert.” Simply put, it’s how minor cannabinoids enhance or alter the effects of THC and CBD.

How do minor cannabinoids work?

There’s been a lot of buzz around minor cannabinoids, notably CBG, CBC and CBN, and how they might interact with each other and with the human endocannabinoid system. Humans have cannabinoid receptors known as CB1 (mostly in the brain) and CB2 (mostly found in the immune system). When we consume cannabis, its cannabinoids bind to these receptors and cause the effects we may feel.

What are some of the most popular minor cannabinoids?

Three minor cannabinoids gaining popularity with consumers and the cannabis industry are CBG, CBC and CBN. Here’s what we know about them so far:

CBG: Research suggests the cannabinoid known as cannabigerol (CBG) interacts uniquely with the human body, including our adrenergic and serotonin receptors. Studies are looking at CBG’s potential to treat a number of neurological disorders, including Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis, as well as inflammatory bowel disease. Though much research and studying are still to be done to really uncover any true therapeutic benefit. Some researchers are investigating CBG's antibacterial properties, which so far show some promise in treating the bacteria staphylococcus aureus, which can be found in a wide range of infections, including atopic dermatitis and food poisoning. CBG is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid.

CBC: Otherwise known as cannabichromene, CBC is a minor cannabinoid that has so far eluded in-depth examination. Also considered a non-psychoactive cannabinoid, CBC has been used in a few experimental studies that show its promise in providing anti-inflammatory relief. Other studies have hinted at CBC’s potential to treat ileitis — a condition commonly associated with Crohn’s disease — as well as inhibit cell growth in certain cancer lines. It’s important to note that many of these studies are in the beginning stages and more research is still needed.

CBN: The little-studied cannabinol (CBN) minor cannabinoid is a product of THC oxidation. Its concentration typically increases as the cannabis plant ages, and researchers are investigating its usefulness in regulating sleep and relaxation.

Research on minor cannabinoids continues

Researchers around the world are working to better understand the potential benefits and risks of these and other minor cannabinoids, consumed on their own and in combination. A lot remains unknown about their positive and negative effects on the human body and may not be known for years to come.

Licensed Producers and growers are already paying attention to the minor cannabinoid content of their products. In Ontario, a number of Licensed Producers are already supplying edibles, topicals, oils and flower with CBG, CBC and CBN noted on the labels and in the product names.

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