If the only cannabinoids that you’ve heard of are THC and CBD, then you have a little catching up to do because they are only two of the 113 identified compounds in marijuana. Indeed, there is actually a ‘Big Six’ list of the most researched cannabinoids which include the two best known that we have just mentioned, along with CBN, CBG, THCV, and the one we are focusing on in this article, Cannabichromene, better known as CBC.
Details of research into cannabinoids are very exciting because we are learning more about their effect on the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). They are a diverse class of chemicals that result in the enormous range of effects associated with cannabis. While THC and CBD are known for their health benefits, other cannabinoids such as CBC also act on the ECS and promote homeostasis, or balance within your body, by interacting with its cannabinoid receptors.
What is CBC?
Although it is one of the Big Six, relatively few people know about the existence of CBC, let alone its effects on the body. It was first discovered in 1966, and is one of the cannabis and hemp plant’s naturally occurring phytocannabinoids. It is non-intoxicating just like CBD and believe it or not, is the second most prominent cannabinoid found in weed; only THC is more prevalent. This discovery was made in a 1975 study by Holley, Hadley, and Turner. In some cases, CBC has been known to make up as much as 64% of a plant’s cannabinoid profile. However, today’s plants are often selected for high THC content, so very few of them contain much in the way of CBC.
In terms of function, CBC has a few similarities to both THC and CBD. Like the two best-known cannabinoids, CBC is created through an enzymatic conversion of the precursor CBG (cannabigerol). What happens is that CBGA (cannabigerolic acid which decarboxylates to CBG) reacts with enzymes in one of the plant’s glandular trichomes. The resulting reaction forms CBCA (cannabichromene acid) which then decarboxylates to CBC. By the way, decarboxylation is merely a fancy scientific term for “a chemical reaction that removes a carboxyl group and releases carbon dioxide.”
What’s the Difference Between CBC & Other Cannabinoids?
If the molecular formula C21H30O2 sounds familiar to you, you’re right (and also a science nerd!). This is actually the chemical formula of THC, CBD, and CBC. The interesting thing to note is that the atoms within the molecule have slightly different arrangements, so while several cannabinoids have the same exact formula, the slight alterations in structure ensure they act in different ways. For instance, THC is different to CBC and CBD because of its ability to bind to the CB1 receptor, which helps to produce the famous psychoactive effect associated with smoking weed.
CBC is similar to CBD because it doesn’t bind well to cannabinoid receptors such as CB1 and CB2. As you probably know, the CB1 receptors are mainly found in the brain. THC is one of the cannabinoids that activates CB1, which causes the glorious feeling of euphoria. CBC does not bind well to CB2 receptors either, but it does interact with a variety of other receptors such as TRPV1 and TRPA1.
Activation of these receptors increases the level of endocannabinoids in your body such as anandamide, which is known as the bliss molecule. It achieves this by interfering with the processes that tend to degrade these receptors. In essence, CBC enhances the receptor activity of cannabinoids that occur naturally in cannabis, thereby indirectly activating the body’s cannabinoid receptors. In contrast, THC and other psychoactive compounds directly bind to and impact their respective receptors, particularly CB1 and CB2.
What is CBC Used For?
Although CBC has several benefits as a standalone cannabinoid, research suggests that it is most effective when working with other cannabinoids in what is known as the entourage effect. The basic idea of the entourage effect is that individual cannabinoids offer more as a group than they do by themselves. For example, THC and CBD combine well together and the CBD in marijuana actually works to prevent the intoxication caused by THC.
CBC possesses many of the same therapeutic effects associated with CBD, and as it is also non-intoxicating, it makes for an interesting alternative. Studies show that CBC can help with everything from chronic pain to acne!
This is unquestionably one of the most exciting aspects of CBC. One of the reasons why it is potentially effective against cancer is due to its interaction with anandamide. CBC may inhibit the uptake of the bliss molecule which enables it to stay in your bloodstream for longer. This makes for a useful alternative to THC, which is also effective but has potential side effects due to its intoxicating properties.
A study published by Izzo et al. in 2012, for example, discovered that CBC inhibits cancerous tumor growth in breast cancer. This is easily explained by the fact that anandamide is known to reduce the risk of breast cancer, so obviously, the longer it stays in your bloodstream the better. There was also a study published by Ligresti et al. in 2006 that initially showed the cancer-fighting properties of CBC. Indeed, only CBG has proven to be more effective against cancerous tumors.
Chronic Pain Relief
A study published in 2011 by Maione et al. showed that CBC was effective in blocking the pain associated with collagen-induced osteoarthritis. Like many other cannabinoids, CBC’s effect on inflammation is very different to that of NSAIDs. A study published in 2010 by DeLong et al. showed that when CBC was combined with THC, the ensuing entourage effect produced a far greater anti-inflammatory response than when either cannabinoid was used alone.
In the study, the research team analyzed the effects of CBC on paw edema, and discovered that the cannabinoid reduced overall swelling. Interestingly, the effect happened independently of the CB receptors (because antagonists prevented THC from working in the same way) but did not block CBC.
While CBC can’t transform a dunce into a genius, it does encourage neurogenesis according to one study published in 2013 by Shinjyo and Di Marzo. The duo analyzed the effects of neural stem progenitor cells (NSPCs) of adult mice outside the body, and it was observed that these special cells differentiate into numerous other cells which helps the growth and recovery of the brain. Results also showed that CBC improved the function of NSPCs.
Why is this significant? Well, one of the cells that NSPCs differentiate into are called astroglial cells, which are crucial for maintaining homeostasis in the brain. They perform an array of functions such as providing a defense against oxidative stress and neurotransmitter direction. Oxidative stress, toxicity, and inflammation create neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, so in theory, the presence of CBC improves the viability of NSPCs, which then differentiate into astroglial cells, which then counteract the issues that lead to neurological diseases. Phew… are you overwhelmed yet!?
For a long time, we’ve only heard about how THC and CBD can help with anxiety disorders and depression, but it seems as if CBC is capable of a similar positive impact. A study published in June 2010 by El-Alfy et al, for instance, showed that rats performed better on stress tests when dosed with CBC. Chronic stress is known to be one of the major trigger factors for depression. It also appears that CBC works best for depression when combined with THC and CBD.
It seems odd, but much of the best CBC research actually occurred in the 1980s. A study published in 1981 by Turner and Elsohly found that CBC possessed impressive antibacterial properties — it helped fight a variety of gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria, such as staph and E. coli. A more recent study, published by scientists from Italy and the UK in 2008, found that CBC and other cannabinoids were at least as effective against MRSA as were powerful medications like Vancomycin. Moreover, the cannabinoids did not punish you with a host of negative side effects.
If those expensive acne creams aren’t working, perhaps you should try CBC to get rid of those irritating pimples. In a study published by Olah et al. in September 2016, it was discovered that CBC was an excellent acne inhibitor. As you may know, excess sebum production and sebaceous gland inflammation are the chief culprits in acne development.
CBC fights acne because of its anti-inflammatory properties, plus it slows down the lipid production in the sebaceous gland. Arachidonic acid (AA) is needed to create the lipogenesis, but CBC reduces the rate of AA production. Although we need more data, it appears as if CBC could become one of the best acne treatments on the market.
Is CBC Legal?
Unfortunately, we have to provide you with the same vague answer as we do with practically every other cannabinoid! Marijuana itself is legal for use in nine states plus D.C, and medicinal use in another 20 states. However, it is federally illegal and the likes of Jeff Sessions wants DEA agents to enforce this law and arrest people in possession of cannabis, even in states such as California where it is legal for recreational use!
All we can say is that generally speaking, possession of cannabis and most cannabinoid oils is illegal in the United States on a federal level. Therefore, as CBC is a component of an illegal substance, it too can be classified as illegal. On the other hand, it is non-intoxicating like CBD, a cannabinoid that is widely considered legal. Yet the DEA’s official stance remains pretty clear: All cannabinoids are marijuana, which means they are all Schedule I substances and therefore illegal.
At the time of writing, there are patents for at least eight products comprising CBC type compounds. One of these products is designed to treat depression and it says that the CBC should either be pure or an extract from the cannabis plant that has greater than or equal to 30% CBC by volume. We wonder if Big Pharma will be able to ignore the rules once again as they have with Marinol, a synthetic form of THC that is somehow legal.
High CBC Strains
Back in the 1970s, it was discovered that landrace strains from India had by far the highest level of CBC and today it is generally found in younger plants. However, since most growers breed their plants to have high CBD or THC levels, it is hard to find marijuana which a significant CBC content. Here are a few that contain a little CBC:
- Maui Dream: 0.487%
- Blue Cherry Soda: 0.462%
- Purple Cadillac: 0.719%
- Bubba Cookies: 0.462%
- Charlotte’s Web: 0.432%
- Purple Candy: 0.511%
- Sour Tsunami: 0.486%
- Valentine X: 0.528%
Are There Any CBC Specific Products on the Market?
As there are no marijuana strains specifically bred to be high in CBC, it is difficult to find any products with a high CBC content. One option is to allow the marijuana plant to degrade its THC into Cannabinol (CBN) which has similar medicinal qualities to CBC.
However, while there is no CBC oil product that we know of, Mary’s Medicinals once again comes to the rescue! This brand offers a CBC topical compound, which contains 100 mg of cannabinoids and is activated with CBDA and THCA. Other ingredients include Sunflower Seed Oil, Jojoba, and Mango Butter. It is designed primarily to treat muscle soreness and inflammation. Also, it’s worth mentioning that most full spectrum CBD oils will also contain small amounts of CBC.
Final Thoughts on CBC
CBC was the second most abundant compound found in marijuana a few decades ago in a select few strains. Today however, relatively few strains contain the compound that appears to work best with THC, CBD, and others. Even so, research has shown that CBC on its own could be beneficial as an anti-inflammatory, and it is especially useful in inhibiting the growth of cancerous tumors.
The majority of useful CBC research was performed back in the 1980s and since then, THC and CBD have taken over the interests of the scientific community. It is a shame that federal law prevents further investigation of the marijuana plant, as it contains so many valuable treasures that could alleviate pain and help tackle an array of medical complaints. For certain conditions, preliminary research suggests that the entourage effect could be more powerful than the expensive pharmaceutical drugs that are polluting the landscape.
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